Since the last Eredivisie Catch-Up, Ajax have moved up to second in the table, but what has been going on around the Amsterdam side? Michael Statham (@EredivisieMike) takes a closer look at the Dutch top flight and the highs and lows of the current campaign so far.
PSV lead the Eredivisie by a clear eight points after winning 10 out of their first 11 matches, an issue Marcel Keizer and co will want to address before Christmas. The fixture against the Eindhoven side in December now looks even more tantalising – between the two highest goalscoring teams after 11 games. PSV’s 4-3 win over Twente before the international break demonstrated the resolve being rebuilt by Phillip Cocu, signalling reminders of the title-winners of 2015 and 2016.
Perhaps even more surprising than PSV’s almost perfect start to the campaign is Feyenoord’s slump. The champions sit in a highly unexpected sixth place following numerous defensive injuries and key players such as Tonny Vilhena and Brad Jones seemingly out of form. More dropped points to mid-table ADO Den Haag (2-2) last weekend showed that the poor run of games is not over for the Rotterdammers yet.
Amongst the chasing pack include surprise package PEC Zwolle. Managed by John van ‘t Schip, PEC are exuding confidence in their play and are fully justified for their current third place in the standings. In fact, Ajax’s 3-0 win over Zwolle has been their only defeat thus far. A 0-0 draw away at 5th position Vitesse showed how far PEC have come seeing as the away side were fancied to win.
Also in form are AZ. Full of vibrant youth, Alkmaar, who meet Ajax before the winter break, are back to scoring goals again after a patchy start. A 3-2 win over Willem II has lifted them into the top four. Excelsior, who sit seventh, are another opponent pre-Christmas, but have won an astonishing 13 out of a possible 15 points away from home.
Meanwhile, as for those in mid-table, Utrecht’s 1-2 win in Amsterdam last Sunday was a shock given how inconsistent Erik Ten Hag’s side has proven to be this season. Heerenveen have fallen to tenth after leading the table after six games. Their fifth match without a win saw them draw 0-0 with lowly Sparta.
Ajax meet relegation threatened NAC Breda, Roda JC and Twente in their next three fixtures. All three have barely shown the quality needed to beat Ajax, although fans should note that NAC did recently beat Feyenoord in De Kuip. NAC’s 0-0 draw at VVV sees them winless in five and Roda are struggling for goals. Twente hired former AZ manager Gertjan Verbeek this week in the hope of turning their fortunes around.
Other strugglers include Willem II, who hope to have star striker Fran Sol back next week from his cancer surgery, and Groningen, whose boss Ernest Faber has been feeling the pressure the last month or so due to some poor results – a 2-1 defeat at Heracles proving to be their third defeat on the spin, a side which should really be pushing the top seven as opposed to fifteenth.
Stand Out Performers
Jürgen Locadia – Locadia is the country’s top goalscorer at the moment with nine strikes to his name, along with fellow PSV winger Hirving Lozano. The Dutch striker has played well coming in off the left-wing and looks a changed man following some close work with first-team coach Ruud van Nistelrooy. It’s only a matter of time before we see Locadia wearing a Netherlands shirt.
Wout Weghorst – The reason why AZ are currently fourth is down to their best players performing week-in, week-out. Weghorst is a prime example, having scored seven times already this season and playing a big role in the side’s build-up play, laying on several goals for teammates.
Frederik Jensen – Another attacking player to complete my three stand-outs, but I can justify the midfielder’s selection. The Finnish international has enjoyed an uninterrupted run of games in the Twente first team and has played a key role in the Tukkers’ season so far. I met Jensen in the summer and found him to be a modest guy with big expectations of himself in future. If he is to be the Eredivisie’s next big player, he’ll hope to continue his influential form of recent weeks which included goals and assists against Excelsior and PSV.
Join Michael next month as he gives another Eredivisie Catch-Up. Michael writes for Dutch football website Football-Oranje, so if you want more Eredivisie in your day, check out their website football-oranje.com or the site’s YouTube channel – with regular Dutch football videos every week including podcasts and interviews with players.