With the Netherlands having abandoned their trusted 4-3-3 ahead of the World Cup, winger Arjen Robben says that the players have brought into manager Louis van Gaal’s new system.
Van Gaal has introduced a new-look 5-3-2 over the past month, which the former Chelsea star believes will serve the team well when they take on Spain in their Group B opener on June 13.
‘The coach came up with the idea of playing 5-3-2 and I bought into it,’ he told De Telegraaf. ‘We've always been on board with the Dutch school and intricate football and I believe our strengths still lie in positional play and going forward, but we mustn't be too open.’
While the loss of defensive midfielder Kevin Strootman to injury is thought to have played a role in the tactical switch, Robben noted that Van Gaal and the players first conceived the idea after the 2-0 friendly defeat to France in March.
‘We were overrun by France and we knew we would have to be mindful of that against Spain, because otherwise we would have a problem,’ he said. ‘If we leave big gaps against Spain we will be in trouble.
‘We mustn't give it away at the back and we have enough training days now to ensure the team at the World Cup stays together as a unit. We are working really hard on it, including using videos to see where potential problems lie.’
Appointed in 2012, Van Gaal is in his second spell as Netherlands manager, having been in charge for the side’s ill-fated 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, when they failed to even make it to Japan and South Korea.
The legendary coach is better known, however, for his Champions League-winning success with Ajax in 1995, as well as for clinching back-to-back La Liga titles with Barcelona in 1997-98 and 1998-99.
Having been confirmed last month as the man to succeed David Moyes at Old Trafford, Van Gaal is set to manager Manchester United after the tournament, joining his national team captain Robin van Persie at the club.
With a three-year contract already signed, fans of the club will no doubt be watching the Dutchman’s side closely over the coming weeks and, should his new system prove a success in Brazil, may even wonder whether it’s worth introducing to a Premier League audience.