Straight after last week’s loss in Amsterdam, Erwin Koeman was keen to talk about the 75 minutes of the game that went well. But by Friday the coach was prepared to admit that he’d had a tough talk with his players. although he didn’t want to do it in the public domain. ‘No one has anything to gain from me laying into my players publicly in the press. Of course things can get heated behind closed doors, but it’s not my way to make it public.’
Koeman is especially critical of the number of goals his side allows itself to concede. ‘Clearly, our biggest problems are at the back. You cannot score three goals yourself every game, so I’m trying to solve the defensive problems in a number of training forms. It’s all about personality and the ability to read the game. I’m hoping the penny will drop soon.’
The coach is not going to mess with his game plan for the time being at least. Koeman started the season with a 4-4-2 formation, but the home defeat to Ajax triggered a switch to wingers, which delivered results against Feyenoord’s subsequent opponents. But with Feyenoord back in a mini slump, the coach is not considering a return to 4-4-2. ‘It’s important for the players to have a formation to hold on to, so we’ll continue to play in the same formation in our matches. But we do have to swap things around on a match by match basis, because players are suspended or injured.’
On Sunday that means that Koeman is without Serginho Greene (suspension), Sebastián Pardo, Nicky Hofs and Dwight Tiendalli (all injured). He may also have to do without Henk Timmer and André Bahia. Timmer hobbled out of training Friday with what was subsequently diagnosed as a groin strain after landing awkwardly, while Bahia missed training all together with a light ankle injury.
NEW ELAN AT THE ARKE
When FC Twente were dumped out of the Intertoto in the summer against Swedish minnows Kalmar FF there was little to suggest that the Dutch side would be pushing for a Champions League place in February. A new coaching duo did move in at the Arke Stadium (Fred Rutten and René Eijkelkamp) and a number of players were also contracted, but a 0-3 hammering at the hands of local rivals Heracles Almelo in the season opener did not bode well. The turning point came against PSV in week two when the champions were beaten 1-0.
FC Twente owed much to its new arrivals for the revolution in fortunes. Orlando Engelaar has looked at home in Enschede from his first appearance, bagging a couple of impressive goals and making plenty too. His performances have caught the eye of national coach Marco van Basten. Another player that has fit right in is Bakkal. The delicate-looking striker has scored few since arriving on loan from PSV, but his skill on the ball and reading of the game mark him out as someone with a big future. FC Twente have already admitted to wanting to make the deal a permanent one.
The good start to the season meant that the club could aim higher in the January transfer window. The main arrival was midfielder Ismail Aissati from PSV, who again came in on loan. Otherwise under 21 international defender Edson Braafheid came from FC Utrecht, adding depth to the squad.
The team’s real strength is not individuals but the collective however. Rutten and Eijkelkamp have devised a way of getting the most of their players. Blaise N’Kufo is finding himself in a scoring position a lot more frequently for instance and he’s replied with seventeen goals already this term, compared with twelve for the whole of last season.
Impressive victories against AZ (3-0), SC Heerenveen (5-1) and FC Groningen (7-1) stand out, but firmly anchored in the top four – five points ahead of Feyenoord – FC Twente will be looking to kick on during what’s left of the winter to cement their place in the Champions League playoffs. Three points against Erwin Koeman and Co Sunday would certainly help the cause.
FC Twente – Feyenoord
Sunday 9 February 2007, 12.30 at the Arke Stadium
FC Twente: Boschker (Paauwe); Wellenberg, Wielaert, Zomer, Heubach; El Ahmadi, Aissati, Engelaar; Bakircioglu, N’Kufo, Touma
Feyenoord: Timmer, Buijs, Vlaar, Lucius, Drenthe; Schreuder, Derijck, De Guzman; Vincken, Charisteas, Huysegems
LAST TEN LEAGUE MEETINGS
26/10/2006 Feyenoord – FC Twente 2-1
02/04/2006 Feyenoord – FC Twente 4-2
12/09/2004 Feyenoord – FC Twente 3-1
01/02/2004 Feyenoord – FC Twente 3-2
02/02/2003 Feyenoord – FC Twente 4-2
25/09/2005 FC Twente – Feyenoord 1-3
29/01/2005 FC Twente – Feyenoord 0-0
13/12/2003 FC Twente – Feyenoord 4-2
14/09/2002 FC Twente – Feyenoord 1-5
19/12/2001 FC Twente – Feyenoord 3-2