2020 Eredivisie Race: Week 1

Here in the United States, the country is already looking forward to next year’s national presidential election. For many, it is a chance to remedy the pain felt over the past couple years (or entire lives) by virtue of one vote at the ballot box. For others, time is better spent stressing over things like family, school, or sport. I’ve luckily managed to bridge that gap in recent months; I have become much more informed politically while maintaining and growing both my relationship to others and to the sport I love dearest.

While many prefer to watch the Premier League, Bundesliga, or La Liga, I have quite enjoyed being one of the very few international Eredivisie watchers. The Netherlands’ largest league rose to prominence in the 1970s with the success of Feyenoord Rotterdam and Ajax Amsterdam. Other spells of success followed (Ajax: 1990s, PSV Eindhoven: 2000s), but the league itself has been relatively unsuccessful since the days of Johan Cruijff. Ajax’s historic Champions League run — only put to an end with a last-minute concession against Spurs in the semi-finals — has given prominence once more to the Netherlands and its top football league. As someone who watches the Eredivisie consistently, I’d like to think of myself as being in a good position to spread the word about just how damn fun it is to follow a relatively unpopular competition.

The Eredivisie kicked off last weekend, but I want to make it a habit of posting a weekly wrap-up for this 2019/2020 season. In the past, I have written in both a tactical and traditional reporting voice. This year, I plan on writing about whatever comes to mind that week: anything that lights that passionate fire in my belly that just makes me want to write. However, for Matchweek 1, let’s cover the two most recent Champions’ opening matches.

Vitesse 2–2 Ajax

Ajax are the reigning Eredivisie champions and the wealthiest of Dutch clubs by some margin. Despite losing teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt and magic midfielder Frenkie de Jong to Juventus and Barcelona, respectively, the squad is still the most talented in the nation. Dušan Tadić and Hakim Ziyech are two of the most purely talented players the league has seen in some time, while youngsters David Neres and Donny van de Beek have thus far remained at the club despite interest from Real Madrid and the like. If all goes to plan, Ajax won’t be expecting anything less than a repeat of last season’s triumph.

Arnhem was the site of a vicious battle during World War II. Its beloved football team, Vitesse Arnhem, have been fighting their own battle in the domestic league for a few seasons now. With Ajax, PSV, and Feyenoord near-guarantees for 1st through 3rd, clubs like Vitesse have been looking to pounce on the chance to take fourth. Last year, Vitesse missed out on this achievement by a few points — ceding the position to AZ Alkmaar — but were nevertheless positive.

As is custom, Ajax controlled the affair but struggled to cap off a nice away performance. The Amsterdammers twice fought back from a goal down but could not convert their 9 shots on target into a winner. Riechedly Bazoer marked his first match against his former club with a goal and a red card. Donny van de Beek’s goal and assist will leave Ajax supporters with a great impression if he is to depart this week. Overall, 2–2 is a fine result for both clubs; although Ajax will feel hard done, an away draw to a top-five club is not a poor result.

Twente 1–1 PSV

Enschede’s beloved club has risen from the depths of the Keuken Kampioen Divisie (second division), prodding their way back into the Eredivisie after a miserable relegation. Twente’s supporters unveiled a tifo and packed the house against the country’s 2015, 2016, and 2018 champions. Donning their classic red kits, the home side made it a night to remember by holding PSV to a draw.

The squad of Twente has changed quite a bit since their last venture in the top league. Keeper Jöel Drommel is probably the only recognizable name from their 2017/18 campaign, but it was the young Keito Nakamura who stole the headlines in Twente’s return. His incisive attacks at the heart of PSV’s defense resulted in an early goal: a thunderbolt of a strike from distance that skipped off the grass and over Jeroen Zoet’s outstretched hands.

PSV did manage a comeback, as per, but not a winner. Magisterial right-back Denzel Dumfries rose above the crowd to head in a second-half goal but the Pride of the East held on for a 1–1. My initial assessment of a PSV side without Luuk de Jong is that it looks like…a PSV side without Luuk de Jong. No presence atop the attack means that Mark van Bommel’s men need to find more creative ways to create consistent chances close to goal. Look out for changes to the starting eleven at home against Den Haag this weekend.

Featured image pulled from ajax.nl. 

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