What are the new-look FC Twente like? Exactly the same as the old one. An onlooker with only a fleeting interest in Dutch football would be forgiven for having such an opinion. From Steve McClaren, the English title-winning coach who packed his suitcase and headed to Wolfsburg in the summer, to Michel Preud’Homme, the Belgian charged with continuing McClaren’s work, things appear the same as ever for the Tukkers.
Preud’Homme has deployed the same tactical system as his predecessor; a 4-3-3, with a number 10 behind the three strikers, two attacking full backs and only a single holding midfielder; the same approach to the game and style of play, trying the blend attacking philosophy of Dutch football with a desire for clean sheets.
However, a silent revolution is under way in Enschede. Preud’Homme is giving Twente a new identity, while showing that the Tukkers are still able to continue competing at the top of the Eredivisie despite constantly selling their top talents. In the Champions League, where Twente find themselves in a group with holders Inter, English side Tottenham Hotspur and Germans Werder Bremen, Twente took to the pitch against the Italians in their first game with only five players who could be classed as regular starters from the last, title-winning, campaign: Central defenders Peter Wisgerhof and Douglas, midfielders Wout Brama and Theo Janssen and attacking all-rounder Bryan Ruiz.
Others on the pitch against Rafael Benitez’s men were newcomers (right back Roberto Rosales, forward Marc Janko, left winger Nassim Chadli), a substitute for an injured regular (Dwight Tiendalli for former Zulte Waregem left back Bart Buysse) and players who have been given a new lease of life under Preud’Homme (Nikolay Mihaylov and Luuk de Jong). Bulgarian keeper Mihaylov has become the Belgian coach’s first choice, leaving 39-year-old Twente icon Sander Boschker, who has 543 Eredivisie starts to his name, on the bench. De Jong meanwhile has become key to Preud’Homme as the attacking midfielder in the coach’s 4-3-3.
De Jong, the 20-year-old brother of Ajax’s Siem de Jong, appears to have just as bright a future ahead of him as his brother. Twente swooped for the forward in the summer of 2009, buying him from De Graafschap. The Tukkers were on the lookout for a youngster to develop as a replacement for club legend Blaise Nkufo, who was about to begin his last season at the Grolsch Veste. With Preud’Homme, De Jong began as a striker, scoring the winning goal against Ajax in the Johan Cruyff Schaal (the Dutch Super Cup), but was soon deployed as a number 10, vacating his original position for Austrian hitman Marc Janko, the most expensive player in Twente’s history.
Two years ago, Janko was producing the goods with Red Bull Salzburg, making clubs from across Europe sit up and take notice with 39 goals in just 34 games. Twente made their move for him this summer, paying the Austrian side €5.5M. The Alps Bomber, as he has been labelled, is physically strong, but perhaps let down a little by his technique. Janko needs time to adapt to Dutch football and Preud’Homme, to his credit, has realised that the 27-year-old can only do that on the pitch, and not from the bench.
When Preud’Homme arrived at Twente in the summer, he was faced with the retirement of Danish star Kenneth Perez – the team’s traditional number 10. The Belgian coach at first did not intend to fill Perez’s position, deciding instead that more solidity should be added in the shape of a second holding midfielder, the favoured pairing being Brama and Ivory Coast star Chiek Tiote. In this way, Preud’Homme hoped to allow free-kick master Theo Janssen to pay more attention to his attacking duties. The Dutch club seemed set for the season, at least they did until Newcastle United mounted a swoop for Tiote. €3.5M proved too good for the Tukkers to turn down and Preud’Homme was forced to rethink his midfield
The Belgian began to play with a playmaker once again, Chadli taking the role at first, but then De Jong made the position his own, pushing the former AGOVV talent onto the left flank, providing competition for Swedish star Emir Bajrami, another new signing.
Since the season began, the Tukkers have kept six clean sheets from their ten competitive games and are once again looking to be a force in this season’s Eredivisie. A 2-2 home draw with Ajax over the weekend once again proved that Twente can compete with the best Holland have to offer. In the Champions League, Preud’Homme’s side troubled champions Inter, who counted themselves lucky to return to Milan with a point. With Werder Bremen and Tottenham Hotspur also yet to learn about the Tukkers first hand, progression is more realistic than many might think.
Twente will be a tough opponent for anyone this season, as Preud’Homme has settled into the dugout with the minimum of fuss. In the Eredivisie there remains a level of expectation; yet in Europe, the Dutch side have no pressure, praised for simply reaching the Champions League. It is this which makes them a dangerous side to underestimate.
Fonte: Inside Futbol