From tears in Tirana to scale in De Kuip
Follows Feyenoord on behalf of NOS Sport
Follows Feyenoord on behalf of NOS Sport
Feyenoord’s championship year in pictures
Great was the sadness after the lost Conference League final, painful the departure of players who had given Feyenoord color. Nevertheless, coach Arne Slot managed to put the Rotterdam team back in his hand this season. The championship trophy seemed a utopia, but became a reality in nine stages from Tirana to the national title.
1. Defeat in Tirana
Feyenoord played a strong second half in Tirana, but could not polish off the 1-0 defeat to the effective AS Roma in the final match of the new Conference League. The European dream season ends in a minor way. Yet all is not lost. “We have brought pride back to the supporters,” says Slot.
With a positive and attractive style of play, the smile is back at Feyenoord after several difficult seasons. The Rotterdammers finish third in the Eredivisie, twelve points behind champions Ajax, but the Legion knows: with this coach, there is still much beauty in store.
2. Vacancy in the summer
Slot and the supporters then already know that, after the European successes, there will be interest in a number of important players. However, no one knows how big the renovation should be. Of the sixteen players who will be in action in the final, eight will leave.
Sinisterra, Dessers, Nelson, Aursnes, Til, Malacia, Senesi, Toornstra and Linssen are closing the door behind them at De Kuip. Slot gets relatively expensive players like Timber, Hancko, Dilrosun and one Giménez in return, but can start building again after a year.
3. A false (practice) start
In the middle of that eventful transfer summer, Slot already has to start working with his team. That goes with considerable growing pains. In preparation, Feyenoord loses 7-0 to FC Copenhagen at Varkenoord. The Danes are angry that the Rotterdammers are “not as good as agreed” in terms of quality.
The extenuating circumstance for Feyenoord is that it is indeed not playing with the team that should start the premier league season a few weeks later, but things also go wrong against Union Sint-Gillis (0-4), Olympique Lyon (0-2) and Osasuna (1-2).
4. Volatile start
Expectations are not high. Feyenoord will compete with AZ and FC Twente for third place behind Ajax and PSV. The convincing 5-2 victory at a defenseless Vitesse is therefore a pleasant surprise. That happens with players like Rasmussen, Dilrosun and Walemark in the starting lineup.
This is how Feyenoord became champions of the Netherlands
A week later, little is left of the joy. Feyenoord drew 0-0 at home against sc Heerenveen. The following month saw difficult wins at RKC Waalwijk (0-1) and Go Ahead Eagles (3-4). The club says goodbye to technical director Frank Arnesen, who has been out of the running for a while due to a bacterial infection.
5. Three painful defeats
The most difficult months of the season are dawning. Feyenoord was beaten in the Europa League in Rome by Lazio (4-2), had little luck against PSV (4-3) and lost unnecessarily at Sturm Graz (1-0). Points are also lost against NEC and Fortuna Sittard.
Feyenoord’s play is not as convincing as a season earlier and substitutions are not always successful. On social media, #slotout is even trending for a while. Slot himself finds the hashtag “laughable,” but seems to be looking forward to the long winter break with the World Cup so that he can further polish his team.
6. European success and winter champion
It was by no means all doom and gloom. In the ‘fifth phase’, Feyenoord also won convincingly at AZ (despite the fuss about the One Love band) and at home against FC Twente. The real turnaround follows later. Feyenoord take revenge on Lazio (1-0) thanks to a goal by Giménez. In a pool where all teams finished on eight points, Feyenoord became group winners just like that.
Then in the premier league, FC Volendam, SC Cambuur and Excelsior are swept aside quite easily. Feyenoord are suddenly winter champions with a three-point lead. What a luxury, just before Slot’s entire World Cup break just about got his complete squad together. Only Bijlow, Szymański and Jahanbakhsh are going to Qatar.
7. Strong in closing stages
Timber gets injured and Zerrouki cannot be released at FC Twente. Slot starts the second half of the season with a problem in midfield. At least, so it seems. Indeed, it is the starting signal for Wieffer’s unexpected and stormy development.
Feyenoord has a difficult schedule of about a month and a half immediately after the winter break. However, the results are fine, mainly thanks to late goals. The likes of FC Utrecht (1-1), PSV (2-2) and AZ (2-1) have something to say about that. As rivals continue to lose points, Feyenoord maintains its lead.
8. Win in Classic
The soccer is not always good yet, but Slot’s hand is becoming increasingly visible in the style of play this season as well. After beating Shachthar Donetsk 7-1 in the Europa League, the Klassieker against Ajax awaits. Feyenoord have not won at the Johan Cruijff Arena since August 2005.
A shot by Kudus, a great save by reserve goalkeeper Wellenreuther and a crisp header by Geertruida. Within minutes, Ajax did not come alongside on the league table, but Feyenoord ran out to a six-point lead. It becomes 3-2 for the visitors. Could it just happen this season?
9. We are going to win, only by how much is the question
Feyenoord burst with self-confidence and put attractive soccer with good positional play and high pressure on the mat. Led by captain Kökcü, field boss Hancko and the now undisputed Giménez, it is curing the ‘trouble with the little ones syndrome’. For years, Feyenoord stumbled over clubs like Sparta, RKC and Cambuur. Now it wins easily.
The cup elimination against Ajax, Davy Klaassen’s head injury and the European defeat against Roma are quickly forgotten.
The Legion, meanwhile, breathes new life into Cock van der Palm’s “Feyenoord, Feyenoord. It will be the song inextricably linked to this season. “Feyenoord, Feyenoord, what are we going to do today? We are going to win, only with how much is the question.” The lyrics could not be more apt in the final phase of the season.
There is championship fever in Rotterdam, but not championship stress. Feyenoord show every week that they are the best team in the Netherlands, with the championship match against Go Ahead (3-0), already the twelfth victory in the Eredivisie in a row, as the ultimate highlight.