Louis Van Gaal decided this summer to go against the perceived footballing wisdom of never going back by taking over as manager of the Dutch national side once again. Van Gaal is a tactical innovator, who despite last Wednesdays defeat to Belgium, is desperate to put the record straight after his disastrous first spell in charge of Oranje.
Van Gaal successfully rebounded from this spell and rebuilt his reputation with league wins in the eredivisie with AZ and the bundesliga with FC Bayern. Van Gaal also put Bayern back on the European map, leading them to the European Cup Final, where they lost to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the 2010 final.
Liverpool’s recent pursuit of Van Gaal for the job of Director Football illustrates that the Dutchman’s stock remains high despite a less than satisfactory end to his time reign in Munich.
Indeed, Van Gaal’s determination to prove the doubters wrong has been a significant factor in nearly all of his managerial successes. Van Gaal fuelled by a desire to prove that his success at Ajax was not a fluke, drove Barca to back to back titles in the 90’s.
At AZ, his belief in the power of his philosophy and his own coaching methods led him to smashing the traditional powerbase of Dutch football by winning the League title with AZ. AZ went on a run of twenty eight games without losing and also had the best defence in the league.
Van Gaal used the crushing pressure at Bayern to motivate himself and his players to not only live up to these expectations but to exceed them. This shows that, his ego and temperament, far from being negatives as many say, are in fact key components of his managerial make up. Van Gaal shrugged off the pressure to lead the German side to a domestic double and to the final of the European Cup in a glorious season for the Bavarians.
There is no doubt that his desire to wipe away a big blot on his CV will help Van Gaal as he attempts to return the glory days to the oranje. There are, however, also other indicators that point towards a more successful spell in charge this time around for Van Gaal.
Van Gaal enters after a disastrous European Championship, where the lacklustre Dutch infuriated the Dutch public back home. The Dutch fans also crave and yearn for a team in the mould of the swashbuckling 1974 side.
While it may be a tall order to replicate one of the finest sides to ever play the game, Van Gaal has rightly got a reputation as a manager whose teams play attractive and attacking football. His brand of football will provide the Dutch fans with a welcome change from Van Marwijk’s team and will buy him some vital time.
Another factor in his favour is his willingness to go with the unknown or lesser known. His squad for the recent friendly against Belgium shows his willingness to implement almost immediate changes. Indeed, he has gone as far dropping as many as four out of the seven defenders selected by Bert Van Marwijk for Euro 2012.
Van Gaal has also added youth to the attacking area of his squad by including both Bas Dost and Luciano Narsingh. Luke De Jong was left out of his first squad but he is almost certain to be given a chance to prove himself in the famous orange shirt. Van Gaal has also made a statement by naming Wesley Sneijder as his captain.
This shows that the gifted playmaker will be central to Van Gaal in the coming months and years. Van Gaal has also made it clear to Robin Van Persie that he is not guaranteed anything and that his performances for the national team will determine whether he is selected or not.
The challenge for Van Gaal is twofold. Firstly, as last week only reinforced, the Dutch need to start winning games and fast. Van Gaal need to find the correct balance between youth and experience players such as Van Persie and others if the Dutch are to hit the ground running in the qualifiers. Secondly, he must unite the dressing room and create a harmonious environment where the team and winning are all that matter.
This will perhaps be the deciding factor in whether Van Gaal succeeds where he failed so badly before. Van Gaal, however, will know better than anyone that the best way to get fans, media and players on board is by winning games. He must start soon if he is to keep the notoriously demanding Dutch fans off his back.