KINGSMEN – Halfway Through Season Two

After securing promotion on the final day of last season, over at Willem we began preparation for our return to the Eredivisie. The first task of the summer was to acquire a new Head of Youth Development as I felt that an update was needed. The opportunity to bring in a legend of the game and well known Dutchman was too difficult to refuse, so welcome in Patrick Kluivert. As HOYD he will be responsible for bringing through our future youth intake’s of course and he will also be tasked with the responsibility of being in charge of team training for our Under 19s.

Transfers:

As the approach to this save is to have a playing squad comprised solely of players with Dutch passports (first or second nationality) there was a need to see some players who didn’t fit the requirements leave the club. As you can see, everyone who was not of Dutch first or second nationality has now left the club. There were a couple of notable exists as we received a substantial €2.5 million fee for Spaniard Pol Llonch, Kostas Lamprou returned to his native Greece with PAOK paying €875k for his signature. The toughest departure was easily Max Svensson, the Swede played an integral role in our promotion and was a significant player within out attack, finding a replacement for him was top priority.

Fortunately for me, we found a replacement to fill the void left by Max Svensson’s departure rather quickly – Marco Van Ginkel was available after being released by PSV. It’s been very well documented that injuries have blighted the former Chelsea man’s career, probably fair to say that he has never reached the potential he was thought to possess. However, he is a player I’m more than happy to sign. Injury worries aside, he is available on a free, has perfectionist personality and European pedigree. Welcome in Marco!

Next through the door at Willem were highly rated PSV youngster Jeremy Antonisse for a fee of €475k. There is a great opportunity to develop Antonisse and potentially sell him on for a reasonable fee. Nordin Bakkar joins from Almere City to provide us with some backup in goal. A name you will recognise up next – Gullit, not Ruud but his son Maxim joins for €600k from Cambuur to provide some depth in defence as we had to say goodbye to our entire Left Back contingency (Lesquoy, Schroijen and Tel). Another well known name, Ki-Jana Hoever joins on loan from Premier League side Wolves.

Continuing to look for bargains, highly rated youngster Gloire Kachala signs on a free transfer from fourth tier German side Aachen. Kees de Boer (no relation to Frank or Ronald) set us back €600k but I feel that he could be a great signing for us, already a well rounded midfielder and still only 23 years old. Next up, a player I had never actually heard of but I am more than happy that my scouts found him – Shayne Pattynama moves to Willem on a free transfer from Viking, starting Left Wing Back, sorted. Former Sheffield United man Richairo Zivkovic (who I can’t believe is still only 26) bolsters our attack whilst former Wednesday man Joost Van Aken provides some much needed defensive experience. 21 year old Dutch-South African forward Simon Van Duivenbooden comes in to be an understudy to our target forward Maarten Pouwels.

Our best transfer business though, was also our final signing of the summer, goalkeeper Michael Verrips. A vastly experienced and very well rounded keeper for this level, he set us back €1 million from Fortuna Sittard but I am confident he will prove to be well worth the outlay.

The 2023/24 Willem II Squad:

Goalkeepers: Michael Verrips (26), Nordin Bakkar (25), Connor van den Berg (22).

Defenders: Wessel Dammers (28), Erik Schouten (32), Joost Van Aken (29), Lucas Woudenberg (29), Maxim Gullit (22), Ki-Jana Hoever (21), Leeroy Owusu (27), Shayne Pattynama (24), Amine Lachkar (18).

Midfielders: Jesse Bosch (23), Kees de Boer (23), Wesley Spieringhs (21), Dani Mathieu (22), Gloire Kachala (19), Thijs Oosting (23), Ringo Meerveld (20), Juan Castillo (23), Marco Van Ginkel (30).

Forwards: Maarten Pouwels (25), Richairo Zivkovic (26), Nick Doodeman (27), Jizz Hornkamp (25), Simon Van Duivenbooden (21), Jeremy Antonisse (21).

Tactical Approach:

Our tactical approach for this season changed from our preferred 4-4-2 to a 3-4-1-2 which is easily adapted into a 3-4-3 system. Using Van Ginkel as a playmaker seems to be the best use of his skillset. Ideally I would like him to be the creative driving force for our attack. The ball winner is hopefully going to help prevent us being caught on the counter, the idea being he can step in and limit the oppositions ability to move the ball up the pitch when we have surrendered possession. The regista role for Jesse Bosch is something that I am not completely sure of but I want to see how it goes for a while first.

Fixtures & Results:

Heading into the season the new additions saw our season preview prediction rise from 13th to 9th. I would be more than happy to secure a mid-table finish this season, as it is our first campaign back in the top flight I couldn’t wish for a better return should we be able to achieve that.

Preseason went very well for us as we won all seven of our games and the players were adapting to the new tactic very well. The season began with a disappointing loss away to Excelsior which I feared may be a precursor for what was to follow. My fears were put to rest when we picked up a victory in our next outing at home to TOP Oss, Pouwels and Zivkovic opening their accounts for the season.

September was a difficult month as we picked up two points from a possible nine. The PSV result I wasn’t surprised at however Go Ahead Eagles are a team that I did expect us to beat. October started with a drubbing at the hands of Vitesse but we did then manage to find some form and went on a run of four consecutive victories. Van Ginkel and Hornkamp began to show their worth during this month as the pair both chipped in with two goals and three assists.

November saw Jizz Hornkamp continue his good form, we played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Cambuur and also picked up an unexpected win against FC Utrecht. As December rolled around, we grabbed a 1-0 win against FC Twente thanks to a well worked set piece being headed home by Joost Van Aken. Richairo Zivkovic single handedly secured our place in the third round of the cup and finally, we closed out the month with a hard fought draw against FC Groningen on Christmas Eve.

The table at Christmas looked like this:

Overall, I can’t complain we are sitting in 8th just two points away from the European places. I will look closely at the data hub in the next blog to see if any tactical tweaks can be made to give us more of an edge but on the whole, a very pleasing first half of the season. Are we ready for European football? Absolutely not, but if we can still be in the fight at the end of the season I will consider that a massive overachievement.

To close this update, we also received our youth intake preview – let’s just hope it’s as good as the preview suggests!

Thank you for reading this blog – hope you are enjoying following the save so far. In the meantime, check out my fellow DPFM bloggers who are all engaged in some unique and interesting saves.

Take care and thanks,

Beth.

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