PSV fails to take ‘that next step’: ‘Title perhaps impossible’
Follows PSV on behalf of NOS Sport
Follows PSV on behalf of NOS Sport
There was still optimism in Eindhoven a little before the start of the premier league weekend. “When two dogs fight over a leg, the third runs away with it,” there was a look ahead at the PSV press conference on Friday.
With the Klassieker and Vitesse-PSV on the horizon, the Eindhoveners could do good business. Ruud van Nistelrooij laughed: “Yes, but then we have to show it ourselves.”
After this premier league weekend and the draw in Arnhem (1-1), a completely different saying was appropriate: shooting yourself in your own foot.
“A missed opportunity to get alongside Ajax,” sighed a defeated Xavi Simons shortly after the match against Vitesse. With half an hour left on the stadium clock, the Eindhoven side cashed in the equalizer.
While the team still created a number of chances in the first half, after the goal the team suddenly looked beaten and simply lacked resilience. The hunger to fight back was lacking, not for the first time this season.
Watch the summary of Vitesse – PSV
“This is unacceptable,” Simons spoke afterwards. “It’s down to many things, but the effort has to be better. PSV has to play for the prizes.”
Believing in the impossible
Not only did PSV fail to get next to Ajax, but it seemed to definitively lose sight of the title. Although coach Van Nistelrooij did not go along with that conclusion, with eight games left on the schedule.
“That conclusion is too harsh, I think. You have to stay realistic, but at the same time always keep believing in maybe the impossible.”
Not worried, the former top striker was mostly disappointed after the match in what he saw from his team. “You achieve five wins in a row, the semifinals of the cup,” Van Nistelrooij summed up. “But because of this draw you still can’t catch up.”
“You want to advance at some point. Get to the next level. And then you still get another setback.”
Van Nistelrooij kept calling it “that next step.” But how do you take that step in such a stroppy season? “That’s something I’m constantly working on. We are working with each other on how to do it better and differently. I continue to believe in this approach. I invest in that with the players and then you want to build on it. Now, towards the end of the season. But also towards the new season.”
That last comment suggests that Eindhoven boardrooms are already looking at next year’s team with a slanted eye – and perhaps more than that.
Pressure on the closing stages
In the catacombs of the GelreDome there was amiable chatter, by the likes of Vitesse and PSV assistants Theo Janssen and Fred Rutten. A few minutes earlier an amicable conversation between old acquaintances Phillip Cocu and André Ooijer.
But no cozy small talk for Van Nistelrooij. After his obligations, he quickly boarded the bus to deal with the disappointment, at this crucial stage of the season.
“This is a phase where it has to be. You have to be able to play under that pressure,” he said before the weekend. But, he told after the points loss, “I don’t talk to the guys like that about pressure on the game. No, we just have to play good soccer.”
“We have to make strides as a team, then I’m not concerned with that pressure myself. The focus is on the game, but the level we achieved is disappointing and too little.”
After the international period, PSV will have to focus on that precious second spot. Leaders Feyenoord are eight points ahead, but Ajax are in their sights with two points difference. PSV also still plays the Amsterdam rival at home. AZ is also still in the race for second place.
A scenario in which PSV still grabs the top prize is, after this weekend, as Van Nistelrooij himself says, “perhaps impossible.”