Van Bronckhorst masterminding better days at Feyenoord

Ryan Benson

There are some players who, even before their retirement, you expect to go on to have a coaching career. Successful or not, that’s impossible for outsiders to know, but some just have that aura and attitude.

Throughout large parts of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s career, certainly towards the end, he was one of those he had such a presence. An admirable professional, a smart and adaptable player brought up in a country which educates youngsters properly in football, and someone who played for big clubs under excellent managers.

Van Bronckhorst’s football education couldn’t have been much better. Guus Hiddink, Dick Advocaat, Arsene Wenger and Frank Rijkaard were just some of the renowned coaches he played under for the Netherlands, Rangers, Arsenal and Barcelona. He would have had to have been extremely dim not to pick some things up.

And, judging by his acclimatisation to coaching, he’s obviously picked up quite a bit.

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Van Bronckhorst took over at Feyenoord at the end of the 2014-15 season and, although their third-placed finish saw them end the campaign some way off the pace of Ajax and PSV, it set the foundations for what would come next and they still managed to lift the KNVB Cup.

This term, though, they aren’t the ones playing catch-up. They’re setting the pace at the top of the Eredivisie. After 23 matches, Feyenoord have 60 points and that is five more than second-placed Ajax. It has been a remarkable swing and Van Bronckhorst is getting the very best out of his players.

Nicolai Jorgensen has been particularly vital, scoring 15 goals and setting up another eight in the league. He has been both their focal point and main creative spark – Van Bronckhorst has harnessed that and continued to develop him.

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Jorgensen’s ability to score and create has meant that Dirk Kuyt’s deployment just behind him hasn’t impacted negatively. The experienced attacker doesn’t have the creativity to be a truly effective playmaker and Van Bronckhorst could perhaps have an even better side if he were to sacrifice the ex-Liverpool man.

But his energy and frequent spreading to the flanks have been essential to Van Bronckhorst’s setup, with Eljero Elia and Steven Berghuis as wingers representing key cogs in their machine. The coach is showing he has fine tactical awareness and the nous to know which player combinations work best.

But there have been criticisms aimed at Feyenoord and Van Bronckhorst for being predictable, particularly with respect to using the flanks and incessant crossing, while at centre-back they are less than impressive.

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Regardless of criticism, one fact remains; Feyenoord are five points clear at the top of the table. Of course things can change between now and the end of the season, but if Van Bronckhorst can stave off Ajax’s pressure and secure a first title for the Rotterdam club since 1999, then ‘Gio’ will have proven himself to be the real deal.

Next stop; Arsenal?

If Wenger does step aside, replacing him with his former player wouldn’t be too bad of an idea. But if the Gunners board aren’t keen on that, there’s 12 other potential candidates to consider.

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