‘That does stick to us a little bit’
They seem to be nice records. Feyenoord took the most points this season of any club in the premier league after falling behind, and also struck often with goals in the closing stages.
However, it also says that the leaders do fall behind very often and have to fight for points until the end.
Before the start of the 26th playing round of the Eredivisie, in which frontrunner Feyenoord plays today against pursuer Ajax, NOS delved into the figures of statistics agency Opta. Rotterdammers fell behind in no fewer than ten games this season. A painful observation, coach Arne Slot agrees.
“That is a shortcoming that we would like to get out of our game. We try everything to avoid going behind and actually I think we do that as well. We give away very few chances and have the ball a lot ourselves.”
The problem: many of those few given away chances go in. Why is that so? “I’ve thought about that many times,” Slot ponders. “It could be that you are so often in attacks that when you are defending you just miss a few percent sharpness. I’m just trying to look for something too, but for myself this is quite a logical explanation.”
Then that resilience that Feyenoord is so praised for. Because of those ten games in which the team fell behind, it lost only one. Only away against PSV did it go wrong (4-3 defeat). In six cases the team even managed to pull out a victory.
Feyenoord took 21 points after falling behind. That’s two more than RKC Waalwijk and eight more than Ajax and Fortuna Sittard. Feyenoord’s club record is 24. That was achieved last season, also under Slot. “That does stick to us a bit,” he believes.
Discouraged by all the lags, Slot is proud of the many times things still turned out (reasonably) well. And that is no coincidence, according to the coach. “It’s a quality of the group and the whole organization.”
Feyenoord not only often struck after falling behind, it often struck late. And that happened especially this calendar year. Feyenoord scored five goals after the 85th minute. In the ten biggest European leagues, only Paris Saint-Germain and Sporting Portugal scored so many late goals.
However, those two teams also conceded two goals, while Feyenoord managed to keep their own goal clean in that closing period. As a result, the late goals earned Feyenoord an extra six points. Only Arsenal earned as many points by goals after the 85th minute in 2023.
Feyenoord picked up another point against FC Utrecht and PSV after falling behind. Against AZ and FC Groningen, a tie was turned into a lead. Without those late goals, Feyenoord would have been in fourth place this weekend.
‘We do it together’
Slot has a clear conclusion after hearing the above figures: “It says the boys are incredibly fit. They and the staff are responsible for that. In addition, they are mentally so strong that when things go against them, they don’t feel the fatigue. And we still have the support of our supporters.”
To break the premier league record, Feyenoord still need to survive the necessary backlogs. Ajax picked up as many as thirty points after falling behind in the 2017/18 season, nine more than Feyenoord so far.
That Feyenoord now two seasons under Slot picked up so many points after falling behind is remarkable. However, the coach does not want to take credit for the resilience. “I don’t want to underestimate my own contribution, but I don’t want to overestimate it either. It really is something you do together.”