Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Preview: Eredivisie 2019/20 Season

The new season of football in Holland is just days away as the Eredivisie makes its return. Ajax will be looking to defend their crown with PSV and Feyenoord looking to recapture the glory. Utrecht, AZ Alkmaar and Vitesse will be looking to spring a surprise. While FC Twente, Sparta Rotterdam and RKC Waalwijk all make triumphant returns to the Dutch top flight with the latter two securing victory via the dreaded play-offs.

Ajax had a tremendous 2018/19 season after securing their first title in 4 seasons as well as a brilliant run to the semi-finals in the Champions League. That vibrant, exciting, attacking team won admirers and plaudits across Europe. Matthijs De Ligt and Frenkie De Jong have left for a combined fee of £132M while the futures of Donny Van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech and David Neres remain in doubt. Erik Ten Hag will want to keep that squad together but conceded that De Jong and De Ligt were bound to departure the club this summer. But despite those departures, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited in the Dutch capital right now. They will fancy their chances of retaining the title and cause more waves in the Champions League. Ajax have brought Quincy Promes back to Dutch football after a disappointing year in Spain. He is determined to bring the continued success while Edson Alvarez looks a very astute replacement for Matthijs De Ligt.

Despite being top of the tree for most of the campaign, the season ultimately ended in disappointment for PSV Eindhoven. Mark Van Bommel's first season in charge brought plenty of positives but they were pipped to the title by a red hot Ajax side. That disappointment has seen PSV add to their squad as they gear up for another title challenge and potential Champions League campaign. However, the club have also seen a few departures most notably Luuk De Jong who has joined Sevilla and Angelino who has returned to Manchester City. PSV's marquee signing so far is the exciting Portuguese attacker Bruma who arrives from RB Leipzig. The young attacker will add pace and creativity to the PSV side and Van Bommel will be ready to unleash him this season having struggled in Germany. Van Bommel is also shifting to a much younger squad with highly-rated defenders Olivier Boscagli and Timo Baumgartl joining the club. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic at PSV this season as Van Bommel targets silverware for the first time as a manager. 

It seemingly looks like a two-horse race for the Eredivisie title but could a summer of change at Feyenoord bring success this season. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst has departed after a terrific spell in charge in which he brought Feyenoord's first title since the late 1990s. Big-name players Robin Van Persie and Tonny Vilhena have left the club while the future of other players remains in doubt. Van Bronckhorst's replacement is former Dutch international Jaap Stam who arrives following a brief spell at Zwolle. Stam is tasked with bringing success back to Rotterdam after a flat couple of seasons since their title success in 2016. Stam has been actively looking to improve the squad he has inherited and has brought back a former fans favourite Leroy Fer who left on sour terms during his first spell but he is delighted to be back at his boyhood team. Others to arrive include Liam Kelly from Stam's former club Reading and former Dutch international Luciano Narsingh. The pacey winger returns to Holland after a disappointing spell at Swansea City.  Feyenoord have been flat for too long, can Stam ignite them into title contenders? Only time will tell.

Feyenoord weren't the only club to change managers this summer as 6 other sides will begin the new season with a new man at the helm. John Van der Brom is the new man at Utrecht after he left AZ Alkmaar at the end of his contract. He replaces Dick Advocaat who left at the end of his contract. Utrecht are in the Europa League qualifying rounds after winning the Europa League play-offs last season. Van der Brom will be hoping to get Utrecht into the group stages. Meanwhile, Arne Slot who was Van der Brom's assistant at AZ Alkmaar has been promoted into the top job. Slot inherits a team which finished 4th last season and he will be looking to push them further in the season. Jaap Stam's replacement at Zwolle is John Stegeman. Stegeman arrives from the Go Ahead Eagles who were beaten in the promotion play-offs. Stegeman brings experience having managed Heracles for 4 years. He will be tasked with pushing Zwolle towards the top half having finished 13th last season. A surprise departure at the end of the season was Rene Eijer leaving Fortuna Sittard having secured survival in their first-ever Eredivise season. His replacement is the little known Sjors Ultee and like Eijer, he will be tasked with ensuring Fortuna Sittard remain an Eredivisie club. VVV-Venlo were sprung a surprise in June when Maurice Steijn left to take over at Al Wahda in the UAE. His replacement is Robert Maaskant who left his role as director of football at second-tier club Almere City to take the job. Maaskant has lost last season's top scorer Peniel Mlapa but despite that loss, he will be hoping to improve on last seasons 12th place finish. Despite promotion back to Eredivisie at the first attempt, Marino Pusic was sacked as boss of FC Twente. Pusic went down with them but brought them straight back up but it ultimately wasn't good enough. His replacement is Pusic's assistant Gonzalo Garcia Garcia. The spaniard is known to Dutch football having played for Groningen and Heerenveen. He will be tasked with ensuring Twente establish themselves in the Eredivisie and avoid relegation.

Joining the Eredivisie this season along with FC Twente are Sparta Rotterdam and RKC Waalwijk. Sparta Rotterdam conquered the play-offs beating De Graafschap over two legs. They will be looking to cause a few surprises this season under the experienced Henk Fraser who is an excellent manager at this level. Sparta are back after two years away and they will be looking to seize their chance. RKC Waalwijk are also back and a spell away and like Sparta, they also conquered the play-offs beating the Go Ahead Eagles in a thrilling second leg securing a 5-4 win. Waalwijk will be looking to establish themselves back in the Eredivisie and Fred Grim will be well aware a difficult season lies ahead to secure safety. But all three promoted sides bring confidence, momentum and a determination to seize their opportunity.

The 2019/20 Eredivisie season promises to bring excitement, quality goals and surprising results. Can Ajax retain the title? Or will PSV take the title back? Which team is gonna be the surprise package? Only time will tell but one thing for sure the Eredivisie is gonna be an exciting league to watch this campaign.

My Picks: Ajax to be Champions, PSV as runners-up, therefore, securing the second Champions League place. Feyenoord, Vitesse and Utrecht to be in the Europa League qualifying rounds. RKC Waalwijk to be automatically relegated. Emmen and Fortuna Sittard to be in the relegation play-offs.

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