It may not have been the best of matches to watch, but VVV will definitely be happy coming away with a point after being 2-0 down at half time. Heracles easily dealt with VVV’s split 4-4-2 team in the first half, as they simply regained possession every time the ball was played up to VVV’s strikers who missed any connecting midfielders. In the second half VVV did connect to their forwards and imposed a physical direct game that proved too much for Heracles to deal with in the end.
It may not be entirely due to coincidence that Heracles has not featured on 11tegen11 before in this season. In spite of the black-and-white contrasting on their striped shirts, their performances have been quite grey so far. Manager Peter Bosz has had a hard time facing the difficult task of succeeding Gertjan Verbeek after last year’s most successful season in the club’s history led them to a sixth place.
On top of that, Bosz has to do that without last year’s top scorer Bas Dost who was sold to Heerenveen in the past summer transfer window. Samuel Armenteros regularly features in the striker role now. He possesses the rare combination of a Swedish and a Cuban passport and was picked up, ironically, from Heerenveen on a free transfer in the summer of 2009.
Bosz plays a 4-3-3 system with Heracles with split wingers upfront. On the right, Darl Douglas plays a classic outside winger role, aiming to run at his marker and provide crosses into the box. On the left side Brazilian striker Everton plays more of an inside forward role, aiming to connect with and provide support to the lone striker where possible. This regularly opens up space for Heracles’ left-back Mark Looms to run from deep and double up on the wing.
VVV’s direct 4-4-2
VVV manager Jan van Dijk traded the 4-2-3-1 of the beginning of the season for a two striker formation. Where the 4-2-3-1 seemed more fit to suit the trio of Portuguese talents loaned from Porto (Josué, Chula and Viana), the 4-4-2 and the direct playing style that VVV lent to it, seems to suit the another trio better. Nigerian youngsters Nkume, Uchebo and Musa all featured nearing the end of the Heracles game, offering a physical advantage rather than a technical which would have been the case with the Portugese players.
The first half
The match was clearly influenced by the dire state of the artificial pitch in Almelo. Players experienced all sorts of trouble to stay upright during any turns and running at speed was an awkward situation indeed. Heracles, the home team, dealt best with these circumstances at first. VVV took a rather deep stance, keeping their midfield four very close to the back line. This led to the problem of a ‘broken team’ as there was an immense distance to the two strikers, which hampered their plan of launching high balls forward in search of the aerial presence of Ruud Boymans of the speed of Nigerian youngster Ahmed Musa.
Heracles simple regained possession almost as soon as they’d lost it and the sheer quantity of possession in their opponents half was going to create chances anyway. To enhance this process Bosz regularly had his full-backs involved as VVV’s wide midfielders were tucked in anyway. Shortly after VVV’s Musa missed a one-on-one opportunity in a rare successful break, Heracles took the lead. Left-back Looms illustrated his offensive presence with a cross that found the head of Everton who expressed his striker qualities with a good header to put his team in front.
Heracles were quick to add to their tally as striker Armenteros scored a blasting volley after controlling the ball on his chest himself. VVV were definitely in need of some tactical refreshment as their unsupported striker pair was never able to hold onto the ball and Heracles’ dominance of possession in VVV’s half of the pitch rightfully saw the home team 2-0 up at half time.
Second half chances for VVV
And chances there were. Not only did VVV push up quite a bit higher in search of a connecting goal and a chance to get anything out of this match, they also advanced the stance of the wide midfielders and gave central midfielder Van Kouwen more of a license to go forward with Balasz Toth keeping an extra eye on defense. As a result, Boymans was all of a sudden able to connect his headed lay-offs to his teammates rather than ending up giving the ball away time and again.
It was no surprise that if VVV would score that it would be through one of those headed Boymans lay-offs. The strong VVV striker used all of his physical abilities, even so that his marker Van der Linden came away from the challenge with a broken nose, and completed the move himself. With Heracles’ captain Van der Linden now out, Boymans became even more of a physical threat and VVV aimed to captitalise on this by adding tall Nigerian striker Uchebo, 1.94m / 6’4”, to the strike force.
In the dying seconds of the match it was exactly that man, Uchebo, who came up with the equalizer to give VVV a point in the end. Manager Van Dijk saw his tactical choice for physical presence and a very direct game on this terrible pitch rewarded with VVV’s first draw of the season.
In the end
At half time Heracles never looked like losing. In full control of the game they looked ready to work on the goal difference instead. But it was quite frankly the chance in VVV’s approach that seemed to take them by surprise. VVV battled their way through, sometimes literally, as Van der Linden could tell, but were able to come away with a draw in the end.