We’ve become submerged in a football environment where league winners are completely dominant week-in-week-out. Bayern München have launched away from the Bundesliga crowd as per usual. Manchester City have lost only once in their phenomenal Premier League campaign. Even Barcelona, usually enveloped in a heart-churning war against rivals Real Madrid, have little doubt of a league victory. Clubs are winning titles because of weekly dominance, not weekly valor. Perhaps the quirkiness of the sport in the Netherlands is apparent in this case – PSV Eindhoven are on track to win the Eredivisie by doing just the opposite of their continental counterparts.
Last week, I dispelled the myth that Ajax – despite remaining a full seven points behind league leaders PSV – are favorites for the Eredivisie title. Whether it be judged by expected goals, player outputs, or simply the eye-test, Ajax have been better than PSV (for the most part). Yet, as previously mentioned, it doesn’t matter how a team plays at the end of the day if the opponent nicks a late goal to condemn defeat upon you. In Luke Wilkins’ The Inner Geek of Football, the author proves that – at least in the top European leagues – league champions usually don’t grind out big results, as the media leads us to believe. Instead, champions typically dominate on most weekends. That’s why Feyenoord’s championship last season and, even more so, PSV’s supreme run this season are perplexing.
Over the weekend, young PSV attacker Steven Bergwijn’s brace helped the league leaders come back against bottom-of-the-league Sparta Rotterdam. In what has become the new normal for Phillip Cocu and his young squad, the visitors conceded first. Only minutes into the match, the major underdogs had split open the Boers and looked to cause an upset. Yet, as always, PSV Eindhoven found a way to snatch a victory from an extremely compromising situation.
Steven Bergwijn – the scorer of both – can compare his career to the trajectory of PSV’s season. A young, promising winger, Bergwijn has been touted as the next great Dutch star to emerge from southern Holland for years on end. It’s been difficult for him to break into such a strong attack, though, with this season shining as his major breakthrough. Bergwijn, like PSV Eindhoven, has phenomenal potential as a player, whereas PSV clearly have the potential of European competitors when at their best. Steven has been written off as overhyped and unsubstantially talented; PSV have been written off by many, including me, due to their unorthodox style in picking up three points.
At the end of the day, though, Steven Bergwijn is a phenomenal Dutch talent. I’m sure he’ll get a chance to become a club legend at PSV, or likely traverse to a larger European league and take some of the world’s best defenders to school. Either way, this season is one in which Bergwijn is proving his detractors dead wrong, especially with everyone’s attention focused on the likes of Hirving Lozano and Santiago Arias. If you thought PSV were dead in the water after an embarrassing Topper defeat before the winter break, you’re also dead wrong.