Dutch Eredivisie Review
Winner – Ajax
Champions League – Ajax, PSV
Europa League – Feyenoord, Vitesse, Utrecht, AZ Alkmaar
Relegated – Willem II, VVV Venlo
Promoted – SC Cambuur, Go Ahead Eagles
With the Europa Play-offs ending with Utrecht defeating Twente, another Eredivisie came to a close. Ajax secured a 32nd title, but with five games to go it was anyone’s. PSV, Feyenoord and Vitesse were all close behind but thanks to the likes of Christian Eriksen and captain Siem de Jong, they won by seven points. The battle for the five places below though went to the final day.
Vitesse, led by Fred Rutten, tailed off and lost the last two games to VVV and RKC, effectively ruling them out for the Champions League spot. Feyenoord looked favourite to pip PSV to 2nd again for the second consecutive season, but lost the penultimate game to Den Haag, leaving PSV with 2nd, as long as there was not a 32 goal swing. They ended level on 69 points, but PSV’s goal difference was +60, compared to Feyenoord’s +26.
There was a point between 5th placed Utrecht and 6th place FC Twente, and Groningen and Heerenveen were 19 points back but separated by the same amount. Both Utrecht and Groningen will be happy with those positions, in 2011/12 they finished 11th and 14th respectively. Heerenveen will be disappointed, finishing 5th the previous season. More worryingly, rising Serbian star Filip Djuricic, who chipped in with seven goals and four assists, is leaving for Benfica for £6m, as well as centre back Jeffrey Gouweleeuw also leaving for AZ.
AZ Alkmaar were the disappointment of the season. After a 4th place finish last season, there were high hopes of a title challenge. Despite the best efforts of Jozy Altidore, the league’s 3rd top scorer with 23 goals, they dropped as low as 14th early in the season, eventually recovering to 10th. The only saving grace was winning the KNVB Cup, beating PSV 2-1, qualifying for the Europa League.
At the other end of the table, Willem II were relegated, going straight back down after one season. In the rather complicated play-offs between the Eredivisie and Eerste Division’s which involves eight teams (16th/17th in Eredivisie, 2nd/3rd in Eerste, and 4 best teams (deducting teams who have already qualified, from the 4 splits of the season – game 1-7, 8-15, 16-22 and 23-30). After many a two-legged tie, it came down to Roda vs Sparta Rotterdam and Volendam vs Go Ahead Eagles. Roda won and stayed up, and 6th place Go Ahead won to return to the top flight for the first time in 16 years. Roda saw off a strong Sparta side to remain in the Eredivisie. Volendam will be distraught, having lost the automatic promotion spot on the final day of the season.
The other promoted team from 2011/12 was PEC Zwolle. They fared much better than the other promoted side, Willem II. They ended the season in 11th, thanks to some astute buys. Heracles Almelo and NAC Breda finished in precisely the same positions as last season, 12th and 13th.
RKC Waalwijk and NEC Nijmegen will both be slightly disappointed, having taken 9th and 8th position respectively during the previous season, ending May 2013 in 14th and 15th. Roda JC finished in the final relegation play-off place, but snuck through the semi-final and final vs 2nd division opposition to remain in the top league.
Some top youngsters emerged this season. Vitesse’s Mike Havenaar scored 11 goals and contributed 5 assists. Team-mate Marco van Ginkel, at just 20, had 8 goals and 8 assists in just his second full season in the first team. Renowned future super-star Adam Maher of AZ had a good season, despite his side’s poor form, with 7 goals and 5 assists.
The top scorer this season was Wilfried Bony, with 31 goals. In a close 2nd, Feyenoord striker Graziano Pelle with 27. 3rd was AZ’s Jozy Altidore. A notable mention goes to Dries Mertens of PSV, who ended the season with 16 goals and 17 assists. Mertens was top of the assists chart, closely followed by Dusan Tosic with 15 and Christian Eriksen with 13.
Bony picks up our player of the season award. Vitesse were a mid-table side up until now, and his efforts have propelled them into Europe. Dries Mertens was a close second, 16 goals and 17 assists was an incredible effort from the Belgian.
Interestingly, there were only two managerial changes during the season, the least of all the top European leagues. John Karelse, who had a short stint with Newcastle in the late nineties, was sacked by NAC, and Steve McClaren, who resigned in February, were the only casualties
The 2012/13 season was full of goals, with 964 goals in 306 games, at an average of 3.15 goals per game. Unlike a lot of European Leagues, there is rarely a game without at least 2/3 goals. PSV scored 103 goals, but no individual scored more than 16. The competitiveness really showed, with 10 points separating 7th from 16th. Teams who have dropped several positions over the season can’t be too disheartened, knowing that one or two more points could have meant a higher position.
One of the admirable things about the Eredivisie is the development of talent. In England, youngsters are often left to play poor standard reserve football or play in lower leagues, leading to a distinct lack of talent.
The likes of Feyenoord this season have played the likes Tonny Vilhena, J.P Boetius and Bruno Martins Indi at very young age, and have reaped the rewards. The same applies for Vitesse with Marco van Ginkel and Rajiv van La Parra, PSV with Jurgen Locadia, Memphis Depay and Jetro Willems and Ajax with Jody Lukoki, Lesley de Sa and Viktor Fischer. Their persistence with youth is why Holland are so much better and have endless pools of talent, whereas England leave players in the Under 21’s until their mid-twenties before they are given a sniff of an opportunity, bar the odd few like Wilshire, Rooney and Oxlaide-Chamberlain.
Although the Eredivisie may not produce Champions League winning teams, it is one of the best leagues around for entertainment, goals and intense battles where teams do not settle for draws. With Vitesse and Utrecht improving vastly this season, Ajax going from strength to strength and Feyenoord promoting so many talented youngsters, we have no doubt that next season will be an intriguing one!