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Can Roger Schmidt fend off Erik ten Hag and lead PSV to Eredivisie glory?

Sackrace

Erik ten Hag continues to bolster his burgeoning reputation in the managerial arena which has only fuelled rumours that he could become Man Utd's next permanent manager.

Ajax took maximum points en route to booking their spot in the Champions League knockout stages, where they'll draw swords with Benfica in the last-16.

Domestically, Ten Hag’s free-scoring side have fired in a whopping 56 goals in just 18 Eredivisie games, conceding just four goals at the half-way stage.

However, as the Dutch top-flight prepares to return from the winter break, it’s not Ajax who top the table but rivals PSV, who are led by German tactician Roger Schmidt.

The former Bayer Leverkusen boss, 54, was linked with a return to the Bundesliga last month after RB Leipzig dismissed Jesse Marsch, and is now reportedly a target for Galatasaray following the exit of Fatih Terim.

But league leaders PSV will hope to cling onto the manager - his contract expires in the summer - who is bidding to step out of Ten Hag’s Ajax shadow and wrestle the title back over to Eindhoven…

Feyenoord
WIN PROB: 36%
1
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Ajax
WIN PROB: 31%
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1/1
PSV Eindhoven
WIN PROB: 23%
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Odds correct as of 2023-01-29 23:52 Odds subject to change.

How has Schmidt fared in management?

After spells in the German lower leagues, Schmidt moved to Austria in 2012 where he worked under sporting director Ralf Rangnick at Red Bull Salzburg. Schmidt led them to the league and cup double in his second season, overseeing a staggering 110 goals in just 35 league games.

His big break then came back in his homeland at Bayer Leverkusen where he replaced former Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia; David Moyes was reportedly linked after leaving Man Utd.

In his two complete seasons Schmidt finished 4th and 3rd, leading his side into the Champions League on both occasions; they were edged out in extra-time of their last-16 clash against Atletico Madrid.

During his tenure he emerged as one of the most exciting new managers in Europe. He won plaudits for implementing a demanding, attack-minded and ultra-aggressive pressing style of football, complete with quick-fire transitions. 

“We’re happy when the game is intense,” Schmidt told the Guardian in 2016.

“Even against teams that are supposedly better than us, like Bayern Munich or Barcelona last season in the Champions League, we try and make them play our football – that’s what we demand of our opponents, and if it works we normally win the game."

Unfortunately, results and performances tailed off in his third season and he was sacked following a 6-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

Schmidt would then go on to lift the Chinese FA Cup during a two-year spell at Beijing Guoan, where he altered his style to a more possession-based approach, before signing a two-year deal with PSV in the summer of 2020. 

Last season PSV finished as the ‘best of the rest’ albeit in a distant 2nd, 16 points adrift of runaway winners Ajax. They were, however, beaten just four times and were the only team Ten Hag’s men failed to beat (PSV led both encounters but had to settle for two draws).

Winter Champions 2021/22

PSV may have been difficult to defeat last term, but it was the high volume of draws which cost them in the title race (nine), something that they have so far rectified this season, having claimed 14 wins from 18 wins to date which includes just the one draw.

PSV may not be as electrifying or headline-grabbing as free-scoring Ajax and their buckets of talent, but their perseverance and resolve saw them top the table as Winter Champions, while back in August they hammered Ajax 4-0 to win the Johan Crujff Shield - see video above.

Given Ajax’s impressive form this season, it’s a testament to Schmidt and his side that they lead the way at the half-way stage, especially considering that they lost top scorer Donyell Malen - 27 goals in all competitions in 2020/21 - to Dortmund back in the summer.

Instead the focus has been on the collective, goals have been spread throughout the team. Yorbe Vertessen and Cody Gakpo both have six goals on the board, eight other players have 3+ goals to their name, while former World Cup winner Mario Gotze will be looking to improve his attacking output in the second-half of the season.

Throughout his managerial career Schmidt has won plaudits for his development of young players; in fact only one player in his PSV squad - Eran Zahavi - is over 30. The excellent Ivorian midfielder Ibrahim Sangaré, 24, has been the stand-out performer. "Sometimes he is just unstoppable," beamed Schmidt earlier this season.

Gakpo (22) has thrived and English teenager Noni Madueke (19) continued his impressive development at the start of the season before he got injured, now Schmidt will be looking to elevate intelligent midfielder Joey Veerman to the next level after signing the Dutchman from Heerenveen.

Eredivisie Table
League Pos Team P W D L GF GA GD PTS
1. Ajax 34 26 5 3 98 19 79 83
2. PSV 34 26 3 5 86 42 44 81
3. Feyenoord 34 22 5 7 76 34 42 71
4. Twente 34 20 8 6 55 37 18 68
5. Az Alkmaar 34 18 7 9 64 44 20 61
6. Vitesse 34 15 6 13 42 51 -9 51
7. Utrecht 34 12 11 11 51 46 5 47
8. Heerenveen 34 11 8 15 37 50 -13 41
9. Cambuur 34 11 6 17 53 70 -17 39
10. Waalwijk 34 9 11 14 40 51 -11 38
11. Nec Nijmegen 34 10 8 16 38 52 -14 38
12. Groningen 34 9 9 16 41 55 -14 36
13. Go Ahead Eagles 34 10 6 18 37 51 -14 36
14. Sparta Rotterdam 34 8 11 15 30 48 -18 35
15. Fortuna Sittard 34 10 5 19 36 67 -31 35
16. Heracles 34 9 7 18 33 49 -16 34
17. Willem II 34 9 6 19 32 57 -25 33
18. Pec Zwolle 34 7 6 21 26 52 -26 27
Show More

Can Schmidt win PSV the title?

Heavy defeats to rivals Feyenoord (4-0) and Ajax (5-0) have raised concerns, and unlike their rivals they do lack a prominent goalscorer - something Schmidt could look to change this window. Stiffening up a defence that has already conceded 24 goals is also a priority.

“We have already scored a lot (46 goals) but in my view this is not enough,” Schmidt said at the half-way stage.

“But with the lead in our hands, we have a good foundation to build on.” 

PSV’s lead is slender, with Ajax just the one point behind, whereas Feyenoord are three points further afield. It all points to an intriguing three-horse race between the three big guns. Bookmakers are still backing Ten Hag’s Ajax as the odds-on 1/2 favourites to retain the gong, while Schmidt’s PSV are priced at 2/1. In his first season at the helm Arne Slot is impressing at Feyenoord who are well worth keeping an eye on at 12/1.

Schmidt deserves credit for turning a 16 point deficit at the end of last season to a one point lead at the summit this term. PSV are bubbling along nicely and heading in the right direction, if they can beat Ajax on 23rd January - which is followed by games against AV and Vitesse - it will only fuel both confidence and excitement that they can go all the way and claim the title.

With 18 games remaining, there’s everything to play for.

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Odds correct as of 2023-01-23 15:51 Odds subject to change.
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