Even faster than Saka: Should Micky van de Ven play against England?

Isn’t Micky van de Ven the ideal man to defuse the danger of English right winger Bukayo Saka? The Wormer defender already played twice last season in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt against the quick and agile Saka of Arsenal, Spurs’ arch-rivals in north London. That suited Van de Ven well.

“Yes, I know him from the Premier League, but now it is up to the national coach to decide whether I play or not. Saka is a very good footballer, with a lot of speed, but I am sure Nathan and Virgil can also defend him well,” says Van de Ven. He is referring to Aké and Van Dijk, two other defenders who make a living in England, at Manchester City and Liverpool.

Despite his strong performance against Turkey, Van de Ven will probably be back on the bench at Dortmund. And yet, who is faster, him or Saka? “If you start looking at the data, you already have the answer.” Cody Gakpo adds: “The data showed Micky as the fastest player in the Premier League. If you go too far, he always comes back. He is strong defensively and also good on the ball. Micky is very difficult to play against.”

Frimpong grew up in England

During the Euros, Gakpo did have contact with Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold, two English internationals with whom he regularly plays in the Liverpool dressing room. On Wednesday evening, Gakpo will meet up in Dortmund with three Englishmen with whom he won the championship with Manchester City: Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and John Stones. In total, seven players from the Dutch national team earn their living in England. This summer, Ian Maatsen (Aston Villa) will join them, as will probably be Joshua Zirkzee and Matthijs de Ligt (Manchester United). In addition, Blind, Depay, Bergwijn, Wijnaldum and Weghorst have all played in the Premier League. Jeremie Frimpong grew up in England.

Wout Weghorst is currently a bit of an obsession for the English football press. How is it possible that one of Man United’s biggest failures, who barely hit a ball properly at Old Trafford, can play such a role in a major tournament? There is also a slight surprise regarding Gakpo. He seems to be doing better in the Dutch national team than at Liverpool, where he joined from PSV in 2022.

“My move has changed a lot in my life,” says Gakpo himself. “I went to live in another country, Liverpool is a really big club with amazing fans and very good players. I learned a lot from the coach there (Jürgen Klopp, ed.) and I was able to play a lot of games. I think that has made me progress as a footballer and as a person.”

“I’m impressed but not surprised”

Gakpo says this in a room where many English journalists are also present. Gakpo knows that nowadays every word he says could end up in the tabloids. That is why he is on his guard, as are the other ‘English’ internationals in the Dutch national team. They are particularly praising the English team, which has been criticised for its calculated play at this European Championship. Gakpo: “England have a fantastic group with very good players. They took the penalties very well against Switzerland. That was quality. I am impressed but not surprised. I know how good they are.”

Van de Ven: “I get some feedback from the English media. But England are in the semi-finals. It’s true that they play very defensively, but you can also see the quality they have.” Van de Ven expects a match in Dortmund like in the Premier League. “With high intensity. There is a lot of quality on both sides.”

Read also:

Koeman on then and now: ‘We called ourselves bastards’

As national coach, Ronald Koeman (61) adapts to a generation that can still achieve the same thing in a completely different way than in 1988. “The tough approach of thirty years ago no longer works.”

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