Remember Dick Advocaat? The journeyman Dutch manager has managed the likes of Feyenoord, PSV, and Holland throughout his extensive career. Now, at the age of 70, Advocaat is taking on a new challenge following his resignation from the Dutch National Team. Sparta Rotterdam is one of the Netherlands’ most historic clubs but has found itself in some trouble. With only eleven points from seventeen matches, Sparta find themselves in serious relegation trouble. However, Advocaat has an age-old plan that may just prove enough to save them from the drop.
Sparta Rotterdam’s Temporary Fix
After joining on Christmas Day, Dick Advocaat was launched into a position of much pressure. However, it seems he’s taking the pressure in stride, especially considering how high-stakes his previous employment was. When the January transfer window opened, Advocaat looked to the loan market to improve his underperforming squad. More specifically, he looked to a former club of his in AZ Alkmaar.
Only two weeks into the transfer window, Sparta have announced two new loan signings from AZ: flashy winger Dabney dos Santos and physical forward Fred Friday.
Under former manager Alex Pastoor, Sparta played in a classic 4-3-3 with an emphasis on pumping the ball down the flanks. This did little in terms of winning points, so Pastoor changed the formation to a 4-4-2 variation in the months preceding his sacking. Sparta are a team in desperate need of an identity and, more importantly, a clear path forward.
Dabney dos Santos, a 21-year-old Dutch left-winger, has appeared in 8 Eredivisie matches this season for a combined 246 minutes. However, the winger does have over 100 appearances for AZ in his career, showing that he was once a promising prospect who has perhaps fallen off the pace a bit. Dos Santos’ direct play style could be just what a club like Sparta needs – when on the counter, his pace can terrorize opposing full-backs.
Dos Santos is right-footed, which makes it easier for him to cut inside and rip a long shot at goal when space affords. Still, his left foot is very strong and makes for threatening crosses when he gets to the byline. With another young, skilled player named Sherel Floranus currently occupying the left-back position at Sparta, he and dos Santos could form a physically imposing and threatening duo on the left flank.
When Nigerian forward Fred Friday moved from Norwegian club Lilleström in 2016, he was seen as the natural replacement to Vincent Janssen. Unfortunately for both the club and player, the now 22-year-old hasn’t panned out nearly as well as expected. The tall and athletic forward is great at pressing defenders, but his faults seem to lie in the box. Friday has scored a mere 9 goals in his 42 club appearances, giving little reason to believe he’s any sort of phenomenal finisher.
Yet, the struggling Sparta Rotterdam could be the perfect club for the Nigerian to recover his abilities. Sparta are 14th out of 18 clubs in terms of expected goals, indicating a decent amount of chances created (Tussendelinies.nl). Hopefully these chances will be taken in stride by Friday, who was able to score some magnificent goals during his three years in Norway.
Both Sparta Rotterdam loanees, Dabney dos Santos and Fred Friday, are two promising attackers struggling at a competitive Dutch club. Dick Advocaat has shown that he wants to improve the squad in the short-term by signing them on loan until the end of the season. If Sparta are to stay up, which is more than possible, they’ll need quality, consistent performances from the winger and forward. Dos Santos and Friday have experience together and know each other’s tendencies, which should help them adapt quickly. It’s a quick fix, but the dynamism and flair of dos Santos combined with the skill and speed of Friday could be extremely dangerous to more Eredivisie teams than not.