Having now reached mid-season in my second year at ADO Den Haag, it’s probably time that I did a proper update on the club and the various alterations that have taken place since my last update at the end of the last campaign.
As you would expect at this early stage in the save, we are still very much a club in transition and certainly not to be considered a title challenger. Instead, I foresee this year, and probably next too, being spent slowly building a side using the scant resources at my disposal.
Unfortunately, we are still very much a selling club and every so often our efforts at building a squad will be undermined by the necessity to sell a big name. This has already proven to be the case with two big players leaving this summer – requiring some difficult decisions and a little unorthodox thinking to ensure they are adequately replaced.
Read on to find out more.
Also, I made some new kits… a new season, new kit.
As this year is not really about results, instead simply looking to tread water and placate the board whilst I build a foundation for future success, I’ll leave current results to the very end. Instead, we’ll dive straight into the biggest change from last season – the transfers in and out of the club.
As alluded to above, we had to sell a couple of players that I would really have rather kept at the club. Partly, this is my fault for failing to renew contracts at an appropriate time and taking a gamble that didn’t pay off.
Last year, I identified that both Danny Holla and left midfielder Meijers were out of contract at the end of 2014. Prioritising other players, I believed that I would free up sufficient funds at the end of 2013 to renew their contracts during the summer – with 29 players leaving on free transfers I had a lot of money to play with.
What I didn’t foresee, though, is that their demands would increase massively at this time, meaning that I couldn’t afford to renew their deals even with the additional funds at my disposal. Rather than lose them for free transfers in 12 months time, I decided to cash in and raised a not-insignificant £5.5m from their sales.
What really rankles is that Holla, who wouldn’t sign a new contract when I offered him upwards of £5.5k a week, signed on at PSV as a squad rotation player for just £3.8k a week and has hardly played since.
These were 2 players that I had considered to be integral parts of the team and so did not have ready made replacements for either. However, with the additional funding that their sales brought, not to mention the enormous wage budget I now had after releasing all those players, I had a fair wad with which to do my summer shopping.
Probably the most significant transfer there is the loan deal for Ryan Bertrand – not because he is the best player to have arrived at the club but because he isn’t costing me a penny, being part of our deal with parent club Chelsea.
This has not only saved me a huge sum of money in sourcing a ready made replacement for Meijers, it has also given me a full 12 months to then find a long term option at a price which suits me. Which is where this young brazilian comes into the equation:
Dirt cheap and only 18, bringing Édio Jacinto onboard in January allows me to rotate him with Bertrand for the second half of the season to develop his obvious potential without exposing my team to the continued use of an inconsistent youngster.
It also gives me 15-20 games to decide whether he’ll be good enough to step up to the first team next year or whether I need to look for another loan deal as cover again in the summer.
The other truly significant transfer is that of Brazilian centre half / sweeper / defensive midfielder Paulo Miranda.
His significance comes with his versatility and ability to play at sweeper. As I had detailed in my last update, I really didn’t trust my flat 3 centrebacks and I wanted to play with a libero in an ideal world but was happy to settle for an orthodox sweeper if I couldn’t find the appropriate personnel.
What Miranda offers that others didn’t / don’t is the ability to also play in the centre of defence and at defensive midfield which allows me to be incredibly flexible with my tactics. The starting set-up of a 3-4-1-2 has now merged into a slightly Germanic version of total football with a mid-90’s 3-5-2 influence clear in the employment of wingbacks and a Matthäus / Sammer -esque libero.
Further changes are implemented depending on the opponent’s formation and / or how the game is developing with Miranda and the MCL being key to the changes. Miranda can move forward from his sweeper position to form a flat back 3 again or, more likely, into DMC as a more modern ‘advanced sweeper’. This is typically what I do where the opposition is deploying an influential AMC.
The MCL, ordinarily Kevin Jansen, is the second player who is commonly altered to influence the tactic in one direction or another. Against weak teams he’ll be used as an offensive runner; in the majority of games he’s an aggressive ball-winner; against strong sides he’s used as a conservative, screening midfielder alongside the deep-lying playmaker.
I hadn’t anticipated needing to strengthen central midfield but with Holla’s sale forced upon me, I really needed a new first team option to play alongside Jansen. The intent to use Jansen as the flexible MCL meant that I needed a replacement DLP. Eventually, I settled on this man.
£900k from Romanian club Brasov should represent good value for a player that I expect to sell-on in 2-3 seasons. He’s very much a very decent all-rounder rather than exceptional at one particular role but I found the combination of teamwork, work rate and decisions particularly hard to come by. In the end, I’m rather pleased with Mateiu and he’s performed admirably after a short settling in period.
Successfully re-signing targetman Sven Schipplock was a bit of a coup – not least because I managed to put a future fee in there this time. I can sign him for £2.1m at any time, although Hoffenheim have taken the rather strange decision to transfer list him so I’m currently weighing up whether to sign him on a free transfer.
One player who has signed on a free is young German Bernd Tschauner.
Released by Bayern at the end of last season, Tschauner has clear potential but is really lacking in a few areas to make him useful to me in a variety of positions – jumping for centre half, passing for midfield. So I decided to loan him out for some first team football and hope that one or t’other would increase sufficiently to make him useful on his return. He still has some way to go.
With loans to cover deficiencies in the squad, the only other significant transfer is yet another one for the future with young American centre half Phillip Foose a real prospect in line with the way I wish to develop the squad.
As opposed to my typical centre half, Foose is not a giant brute who simply kicks people off the ball and then gives it to the libero to do something interesting with. I want all my players to be comfortable on the ball and capable of making an incisive pass – or at least of not giving it away dangerously when we rotate the ball across the back-line.
Foose fits that mould well and also has strong mental and defensive attributes for his age. A definite prospect.
So what does all that transfer activity mean? Well I’m aiming at a process of slow, continuous improvement with a couple of additions a year into what should now be a solid mid-table team. There’s still a clear focus on youth and, although I haven’t been able to bring quite the level of player I had hoped, we still give priority to mental attributes and players capable of fitting into the Germanic total football system.
We’ve also made a transfer profit of around £4m whilst reducing the wage budget quite considerably, which has in turn allowed me to improve the junior coaching and training facilities at the club – the latter costing us a cool £1.8m. That infrastructure is necessary to adequately develop the youth that I’m investing in so should provide a handsome return in future transfer fees.
Unfortunately, it had a negative impact on our early fixtures as squad gelling became a clear problem:
After 7 games, VVV had scored 4 goals – all of them against us.
Drastic action was required and, along with dropping the defensive wingers back into a slightly more defensive wingback position, I had to drop young ‘keeper Mike ten Kroode and allow Gino Coutinho back into the fold. Fortunes immediately improved and we’ve put together a couple of decent runs:
I really feel like we should be challenging for a Europa League slot this year and, with the slightly odd playoff system in Holland, an 8th placed finish is the absolute minimum requirement. Another disappointment in the cup, going out on penalties to feeder club FC Dordrecht, means that we have no distractions.
Injuries, though, could cost us with Coutinho and Mateiu both out for at least 10 weeks. The former isn’t too much of an issue as it allows me to re-instate ten Kroode who am I convinced will ‘make it’. His second pell in the first team is going better than his first so fingers crossed.
Mateiu could prove to be quite a miss though with no real ability in reserve. Rather than seek an immediate replacement, though, I’ve decided to just take the hit and invest my money in long-term Bosman signings – once again, short term pain should lead to long term gain.
However, I’ve written more than enough for just now and the future transfers can wait until the end of season review, when I also plan to do a little more on the tactic.
Suffice to say that we are still playing some beautiful football at times but that the defence is improving slightly.
Thank you, once again, for reading and let me know if you have any comments.