It’s international break time across the European leagues. Seven weeks into the Eredivisie season, I feel it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on what has transpired thus far across the country. The Boers of PSV have steamrolled the competition and are top of the division; others, such as Ajax and Utrecht, haven’t fared so well. By no means have these opening Eredivisie fixtures been typical. With that said, here are 5 takeaways from this season thus far.
PSV’s hot start is no fluke
Failing to qualify in the Europa League playoffs seems to have been a blessing in disguise for the lesser of the big three (in last season’s table, at least). Six wins and a loss is certainly nothing to scoff at considering their opposition – the one blemish on an otherwise perfect record owing to an away match against an in-form SC Heerenveen. Top wins over AZ Alkmaar, FC Utrecht, and champions Feyenoord (despite the largely lacklustre performance) earned the Boers crucial points and a top-of-the-table beginning.
New signing Hirving Lozano, a 22-year-old left-winger, has been no less than immaculate for PSV. Six goals and two assists in only six matches has gained the Mexican plenty of plaudits from Eredivisie pundits – for my money he’s at least a top three player in the league already. The likes of Marco van Ginkel and Jürgen Locadia have been in fine form as well. Also, young attacker Steven Bergwijn looks poised to breakout this season.
All is well and good in Eindhoven; don’t be surprised if PSV maintain this lead into the winter break.
Ajax look bereft of ideas
In June, AFC Ajax were competing for a European title. In a matter of months, that same squad has seemingly morphed into one completely different, and not in a good way. Superstar manager Peter Bosz left for Dortmund and the two top players, Davinson Sánchez and Davy Klaassen, left for the Premier League pastures. At the moment, Hakim Ziyech’s sensational form is all De Godenzonen have to hang their hats on. Even a 4-0 win at Heerenveen – what should’ve been a hope-inducing result – was an unconvincing performance by Ajax’s standards.
If Marcel Keizer wants to keep his job, the Dutchman needs to change his train of thought. The team looks completely out of ideas going forward and defending, which seems completely contrary to the exciting and sturdy team Bosz dispatched throughout last season’s dazzling Europa League run. It’s hard to predict what will happen from this point, but a finish outside the top three is not out of the question for Ajax.
Vitesse may struggle with a European schedule
I must say, watching Vitesse is quite the interesting experience. They aren’t a particularly talented team compared to the upper echelons of Dutch football, but they are a nearly unstoppable attacking machine at moments – moments that can often win three points. Speedy winger Milot Rashica, in-form target man Tim Matavz, and new signing Bryan Linssen make up an efficient attacking force that spearheads an already sturdy back line and midfield. That being said, I think they’ll struggle with the commitments in their Europa League group.
Let’s also look at Vitesse’s schedule to this point. The only real “big” teams they’ve come up against are Ajax (win), Utrecht (draw), and AZ Alkmaar (loss). Away fixtures against Heracles and Heerenveen followed with a home match against leaders PSV will test Vitesse’s fortitude, especially with an away trip to Belgium for the Europa League sandwiched between them.
Heerenveen and Feyenoord are building platforms for success
Bar a loss to Ajax (which could’ve easily been a draw), Heerenveen haven’t lost a match this season. Two early draws saw Jurgen Streppel take some criticism, but they’ve rebounded well. The young squad is packed with talent: Denzel Dumfries, Arber Zeneli, Morten Thorsby, and on-loan star Martin Ødegaard lead a pack of talented teammates. Going forward, Heerenveen are one of the best in the league. If they can improve on defending and protecting a lead, a top three finish is not out of the question.
Feyenoord came into the season with high expectations. I think it’s fair to say those haven’t quite been met, but the Rotterdammers are still in second place. Sam Larsson, Steven Berghuis, and Jean-Paul Boëtius are all competing at the highest level on the flanks, while Jens Toornstra has done a good job controlling the midfield. A loss against NAC Breda was the only truly poor performance of the young season thus far, which leads me to believe that (also taking into consideration the injury problems) Feyenoord have a great shot at winning the league once again.
Nobody is safe
It’s the classic line used by most Premier League fans: “Our league is the best because any team can beat any other team on any day anywhere…” you get the point. While the likes of Willem II and Roda JC seem to be set on relegation, basically every other club has the ability to compete with teams in European spots on their day. Twente’s wins over Heracles and Utrecht proved that they aren’t completely hopeless (along with the fact that they have some incredible young players). Newly-promoted side NAC Breda beat Feyenoord away in a phenomenal performance.
However, the real surprises are from those smaller clubs fighting in European spots. Another newly-promoted side, VVV-Venlo, have climbed up to seventh on the back of big results against the likes of Twente, Vitesse, and Zwolle. Perhaps the most surprising rise has been that of PEC Zwolle: last season’s 14th-placed side is all the way in fourth and not looking back! That being said, a loss against Ajax has been their only real test thus far; a visit to Feyenoord this weekend should give us a better picture of their true ability.