Last season’s Eredivisie was quite the coliseum for quality football. Feyenoord’s years of despair came to an end with their league championship, Ajax gave hope to Dutch football continentally by making it to the Europa League Final, and there was plenty of superb talent on display across the country, both young and old. Like any football league, when the season comes to a close there is little time to get things in order for the next season. What should each team try to do over the summer (in order of last year’s finishing position)?
After such a great season in the Eredivisie, it’s difficult to say exactly how Feyenoord can improve this summer. That being said, one part of the team that has emerged as having somewhat of a gap is the attacking flanks. Dirk Kuyt retired after lifting the Eredivisie title, and recent reports have stated that Eljero Elia is on his way to Turkey this summer. Both players were large parts of the team’s success domestically, so there needs to be at least one replacement if not two or more. There isn’t much young talent on the wings either, so it wouldn’t hurt the Dutch champions to bring in a good, young winger.
Peter Bosz’s departure to Borussia Dortmund has been greatly covered over the past week or so, but the remaining question for Ajax is who will take over Bosz’s efforts. Bosz took Ajax from a bland, unstylistic team to a young and vibrant one that challenged some of Europe’s best clubs. Now that he has decided to move to pastures anew, another manager must take the reins of Holland’s historically dominant club and try to achieve success domestically and continentally. Jong Ajax manager Marcel Keizer has been rumoured to be taking over after his successful season with Ajax’s ‘B-Team’, finishing 2nd in the Eerste Divisie, but the board may want someone with more big club experience. However, the way this plays out will likely be to be a major factor into how Ajax finishes in the Eredivisie next season.
After selling Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum almost two years ago, PSV were tapped to struggle more with a depleted attack. Instead, the signings of Héctor Moreno and Gastón Pereiro propelled the club to a back-to-back Eredivisie titles. PSV weren’t able to make it three in a row this season and the main reason behind this was a lack of goal scoring. The Eindhoven club were level with Ajax for least goals conceded but scored 11 less than Ajax and nearly 20 less than Feyenoord. Luuk de Jong scored only 8 in the league and Jürgen Locadia was sidelined for much of the year. While Pereiro continues to produce goals, it may be time for PSV to look elsewhere for other attackers.
Sébastien Haller’s Replacement
For the past 2-and-a-half seasons, Sébastien Haller has been the focal point of Utrecht’s attacks. The 22-year-old has now made the move to Germany after Eintracht Frankfurt bought the target man for a reported €7 million. With Richairo Zivkovic, Haller’s backup, only having been on loan for the season from Ajax, there emerges a large gap in the middle of Utrecht’s final third. Bringing in a striker is imperative; it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a young or experienced player, just one that has the ability to work with his teammates and finish chances when they are given.
Non-Loaned Young Talent
Vitesse are famously tied at the hip to Chelsea, England’s best club last season. The partnership entails Chelsea loaning its youngsters to Vitesse for playing time in Holland’s top division and players like Lewis Baker, Matt Miazga, and Nathan featured often in the lineup. We can expect Chelsea to send more players over the English Channel next season, but Vitesse should be looking to develop more of their own youngsters as well. Milot Rashica is the top option on the right wing and Kevin Diks featured a lot at right-back, but there are plenty of positions across the pitch that need young, talented backups. Ricky van Wolfswinkel is in great goal-scoring form up front but is ageing and most of the backline is nearly 30 years old. If Vitesse can bring in some young talent to play in the first team (not from Stamford Bridge) then they should be competitive at the top of the table for years.
Stave off Transfer Bids
The club from Alkmaar had a pretty decent domestic season. A lot of young players seem to be growing into their own, such as Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Dabney dos Santos, and Ridgeciano Haps. After narrowly missing out on Europa League football next season, some of these AZ stars may be looking to move on. Jahanbakhsh and Haps are good enough to play for good Bundesliga or Premier League clubs and dos Santos, Fred Friday, and Stijn Wuytens may be looking to take their careers elsewhere. Can the AZ transfer committee forestall the transfers of these players and keep them for one more Eredivisie push next year?
After absolutely terrorising Eredivisie defences at Twente for a season, Enes Ünal ended his loan spell and re-joined Manchester City, only to be sold to Villarreal for a major profit. It’s no wonder why the English club received a reported €14 million for the player; his positional awareness and pure finishing ability allowed him to score 18 goals for Twente last season. Now Twente are in need of a replacement. The club has some good young talent in the midfield and defence, but there is now virtually no senior player who is prolific up top. Signing a striker is a must if Twente want to challenge for a European place again next season.
Groningen had a decent season, finishing in a respectable 8th place. The team scored a good amount of goals and kept the conceded figures down, so there’s really not too much that it needs to do to take the next step of challenging the bigger clubs. Adding depth across the pitch is a must to compete in multiple competitions, and if that’s the ambition of the club’s members then they should start building that depth as soon as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if Groningen brought in some young defenders and midfielders this summer as its only quality young talent is up front in the attack.
Maintain Best Players
I predict that Heerenveen will struggle, much like AZ, to keep hold of their best players this summer. Swedish-born wingers Sam Larsson and Arber Zeneli (Kosovo international) are attracting a lot of interest, and defender Jerry St. Juste and prolific journeyman striker Reza Ghoochannejhad had great seasons domestically. Heerenveen traditionally have some great youth products coming through the academy, but it would be tough to replace some or all of these players while still challenging in the league next year. It will definitely be interesting to look back at the beginning of September and see how many of these players decided to take their talents elsewhere.
If it wasn’t for Samuel Armenteros’s heroics this season, Heracles definitely would’ve been much worse off on the final table. The Swedish striker looks to be in his prime at 27 years old, but what about his supporting cast? What if he decides to leave Almelo this summer? Heracles should look to bring in some young attacking talent either way and most likely from some eastern European clubs (where young talent is cheaper). Who doesn’t love the occasional wonderkid from Poland or a speedy winger from Georgia? After a successful season, Heracles should be looking to keep improving the ability of its squad, but the focus should definitely be on their attack.
ADO Den Haag
Japanese forward Mike Havenaar was a solid option up top for Den Haag this season, but at 30 years of age, ADO ‘The Hague’ need to be buying a backup/replacement this summer. Havenaar only scored 9 Eredivisie goals, the highest at the club, so a goal scoring threat from somewhere else on the pitch is needed. Even if that threat is found on the wing or in the midfield, there should be some incoming transfer that is able to fill in up front, even if Havenaar remains the 1st-choice striker. ADO struggled earlier in the year and found themselves in last place at one point. A prolific striker that will finish chances and bag 15 to 20 goals next season will help the club improve a lot.
Excelsior have a good mix of young and experienced talent. This was on show against Feyenoord and Ajax near the end of the season, gaining a win and draw against two of the league’s best clubs. Excelsior have some good depth, especially at the back, so the only way the club can improve is by adding top talent. As a relatively underdog-ish team, Excelsior does a lot of counter-attacking. Adding a midfield general to compete with Hicham Faik and Ryan Koolwijk, neither of these midfielders is very creative, so an intelligent passer would do wonders to Excelsior’s attack.
Willem had an okay season by finishing in 13th, but the club will want to move further up and away from the relegation zone next year. The main weakness this team possessed last season was goal scoring; Willem was the second-lowest scoring team in the league, having scored fewer goals than both relegated clubs. Young striker Obbi Oularé should be given a chance to prove himself up front, but the creative supporting cast should be improved upon. There are solid players all over the pitch for Willem II but no real star. Signing a rotational player from a big Eredivisie club or a foreign player ready to make the step up to a bigger league should be the priority for Willem this summer.
Zwolle’s issue last season wasn’t goal scoring like Willem; it was, in fact, the opposite. Leaking in the second-most goals in the league isn’t a great accomplishment, but the structure of a good team is there. If Zwolle can just buy a defensive stalwart or two in the off-season, as well as some smart loan signings like last season, it could make a push for an upper-mid-table position come May of 2018.
Sparta Rotterdam barely escaped finishing in the relegation playoff places recently. Overall, however, it was a respectable season for a newly-promoted club. The key now is to continue to improve each season starting as soon as possible. There is plenty of young talent at Rotterdam’s smaller club, such as Ricky van Drongelen, Denzel Dumfries, and Iván Caleiro. Just make a couple of big-ish-name signings this summer, along with keeping hold of stars Craig Goodwin and Martin Pusic, and Sparta is golden.
Whew. That was close for Roda. After staving off Helmond Sport 2-1 in the relegation playoffs, Roda snuck by promotion-hopefuls MVV 1-0 to stay in Holland’s highest league. The mission now must be to stock up on talent to prevent the same scare from happening next time around. The priority signing, amongst others, must be goal-scoring talent. Roda were the lowest scoring team in the entire league last season; bringing in someone, anyone, to put the ball into the net is absolutely imperative. I don’t care who he is, how old he is, or where he’s from: someone must be bought that can score a damn goal.
After a superb Eerste Divisie campaign that saw them win the league with 80 points, VVV-Venlo are back in the Eredivisie. That being said, there seems to be a slightly large gap in talent between the Netherland’s two best divisions, so the team can’t be complacent with its recent championship. The Eredivisie, despite not being as powerful as it once was, is a tough league to compete in. VVV will need to bring in experienced players to help its younger ones adapt to Eredivisie football. Besides that, it’s possible that VVV will make a good showing next season and finishes around mid-table.
NAC Breda (Promoted)
Manchester City’s Youth Players
NAC Breda just barely scooted into the Eredivisie via the playoff system, condemning NEC Nijmegen to relegation on the way there. NAC have a solid squad, having enjoyed 15 straight seasons in the Eredivisie before their relegation in 2015. NAC has been aided over the past couple seasons by Manchester City youth players on loan, seeing players such as Enes Ünal and Brahim Díaz enjoy successful spells on loan in Holland’s second division. If NAC wants to compete with top Dutch clubs, it needs to not only make smart transfers, but also add some quality youth players from England to the squad.