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Tijjani Reijnders has fixed Netherlands’ midfield – but Koeman has one big decision to make

Tijjani Reijnders has fixed Netherlands’ midfield – but Koeman has one big decision to make

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Somehow, despite all the obstacles in their way and the fact they are a world away from the finest era in their history, Netherlands have made it through to the last four at Euro 2024. This is a team of contradictions, of mixed messages and surprising answers, but into the semi-final they have strode, their first major men’s semi-final in a decade, their first at the European Championship in two decades.


By Karl Matchett


Look at the names in the squad and consider the seasons they have each had, and Netherlands have a pretty clear split: elite talent and great form in defence, potential talent but streaky, injury-hit, and plenty of rescue acts required in attack.

And yet it’s the defence which has been questionable, the attack keeping the Oranje in the Euros and manager Ronald Koeman who has managed to keep finding a way, keeping finding the answer, keep coming up with another plan to tilt matters in his favour. All this, and they finished third in their group. In another era, they’d have been out; this time fortune favoured them with a last-16 clash against Romania, easily won, before a more impressive comeback win over Türkiye last time out.

Much of the decisive work by Koeman has come with fixing his midfield. The pre-Euros injuries to Teun Koopmeiners and Frenkie de Jong, plus the difficult tournament of Joey Veerman has meant a real midfield muddle to solve. He has done that by moving one attacking component deeper since the start – Tijjani Reijnders, back from No. 10 into the double pivot – and by having a succession of alternatives who can impact higher up instead.

Look around the names who appear in the Dutch squad’s top two or three for a range of stats and you might not see Reijnders appear. But look across the board at the entire Euros and he’s everywhere: better than most at almost everything, not quite the best at anything. That’s not a damning assessment of him – it’s an indication of him being of paramount importance to Koeman’s reshaped, reshuffled middle of the pack.

Reijnders is ranked higher than 82% of midfielders at the Euros, for example, for touches in the opposition box. If that’s a legacy of his initial games at No. 10, can the same be said for him beating 88% of them for interceptions? And where’s the bias between him winning 86% of his tackles, completing 94% of all his passes and completing three dribbles – not a huge volume, but in a pass-heavy tournament with few moments of real individuality, still good enough to place him just outside the top 20%.

In short, he has been the key to the team finding a link between defence and attack, the man who can do both sides of the game to the extent Netherlands need him to and, most importantly, do it all consistently. He hasn’t put together an elite showing, but that’s not what Koeman needed there – he needed fewer errors, more reliability and good supply line to the front four.

Reijnders has provided precisely that and how Kobbie Mainoo and Declan Rice deal with him will determine a lot of who has the upper hand when England face the Dutch on Wednesday night.

But ahead of Reijnders there’s still another decision to be made: the right wing role, and by extension, the No.10. Xavi Simons has played across both and will surely be a starter, but which one he occupies will depend on how tempted Koeman is to really take the game to England, how much damage he thinks he can do between brute force and how much by guile.

Steven Bergwijn has started right wing in two knockout games but been subbed at the break in both – more tactical than due to performance level. He can play narrow, keep control and run defenders all over the pitch, but one replacement in Donyell Malen is more direct, faster on the counter and more of a goal threat.

The option is more likely as an in-game switch: Wout Weghorst into the striker role, Memphis Depay deeper, Simons from the right as a scheming, roving runner.

Whichever way around the Dutch opt to line up the attacking line – and it’s likely to change to incorporate at least two and perhaps all three of those options – there will be one constant: Reijnders as the lynchpin behind them, PSV’s Jerdy Schouten beside him, plenty of technique and tenacity between the pair.

This isn’t a Dutch team completely shorn of star names, but the unheralded, unfancied and initially unpaired duo in the centre have the best chance of setting the platform for Netherlands to reach a first final since 2010, and a first at the Euros since that legendary class of ‘88.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Tijjani Reijnders has fixed Netherlands’ midfield – but Koeman has one big decision to make

Somehow, despite all the obstacles in their way and the fact they are a world away from the finest era in their history, Netherlands have made it through to the last four at Euro 2024. This is a team of contradictions, of mixed messages and surprising answers, but into the semi-final they have strode, their first major men’s semi-final in a decade, their first at the European Championship in two decades.


By Karl Matchett


Look at the names in the squad and consider the seasons they have each had, and Netherlands have a pretty clear split: elite talent and great form in defence, potential talent but streaky, injury-hit, and plenty of rescue acts required in attack.

And yet it’s the defence which has been questionable, the attack keeping the Oranje in the Euros and manager Ronald Koeman who has managed to keep finding a way, keeping finding the answer, keep coming up with another plan to tilt matters in his favour. All this, and they finished third in their group. In another era, they’d have been out; this time fortune favoured them with a last-16 clash against Romania, easily won, before a more impressive comeback win over Türkiye last time out.

Much of the decisive work by Koeman has come with fixing his midfield. The pre-Euros injuries to Teun Koopmeiners and Frenkie de Jong, plus the difficult tournament of Joey Veerman has meant a real midfield muddle to solve. He has done that by moving one attacking component deeper since the start – Tijjani Reijnders, back from No. 10 into the double pivot – and by having a succession of alternatives who can impact higher up instead.

Look around the names who appear in the Dutch squad’s top two or three for a range of stats and you might not see Reijnders appear. But look across the board at the entire Euros and he’s everywhere: better than most at almost everything, not quite the best at anything. That’s not a damning assessment of him – it’s an indication of him being of paramount importance to Koeman’s reshaped, reshuffled middle of the pack.

Reijnders is ranked higher than 82% of midfielders at the Euros, for example, for touches in the opposition box. If that’s a legacy of his initial games at No. 10, can the same be said for him beating 88% of them for interceptions? And where’s the bias between him winning 86% of his tackles, completing 94% of all his passes and completing three dribbles – not a huge volume, but in a pass-heavy tournament with few moments of real individuality, still good enough to place him just outside the top 20%.

In short, he has been the key to the team finding a link between defence and attack, the man who can do both sides of the game to the extent Netherlands need him to and, most importantly, do it all consistently. He hasn’t put together an elite showing, but that’s not what Koeman needed there – he needed fewer errors, more reliability and good supply line to the front four.

Reijnders has provided precisely that and how Kobbie Mainoo and Declan Rice deal with him will determine a lot of who has the upper hand when England face the Dutch on Wednesday night.

But ahead of Reijnders there’s still another decision to be made: the right wing role, and by extension, the No.10. Xavi Simons has played across both and will surely be a starter, but which one he occupies will depend on how tempted Koeman is to really take the game to England, how much damage he thinks he can do between brute force and how much by guile.

Steven Bergwijn has started right wing in two knockout games but been subbed at the break in both – more tactical than due to performance level. He can play narrow, keep control and run defenders all over the pitch, but one replacement in Donyell Malen is more direct, faster on the counter and more of a goal threat.

The option is more likely as an in-game switch: Wout Weghorst into the striker role, Memphis Depay deeper, Simons from the right as a scheming, roving runner.

Whichever way around the Dutch opt to line up the attacking line – and it’s likely to change to incorporate at least two and perhaps all three of those options – there will be one constant: Reijnders as the lynchpin behind them, PSV’s Jerdy Schouten beside him, plenty of technique and tenacity between the pair.

This isn’t a Dutch team completely shorn of star names, but the unheralded, unfancied and initially unpaired duo in the centre have the best chance of setting the platform for Netherlands to reach a first final since 2010, and a first at the Euros since that legendary class of ‘88.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.