Waking the Red’s Charlie O’Connor-Clarke, Jeffrey P. Nesker, Tej Sahota, and Benedict Rhodes sat around the digital table to debate Toronto FC’s right-back situation and what Greg Vanney’s optimal lineup might look like.
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke: Alright, we’ll start off with a pretty simple question: what have you thought of Gregory van der Wiel through two games?
Jeffrey P. Nesker: Dude just moved to Canada, had his first child, etc, etc. His first showing was shades of Chris Mavinga vs. Atlanta last year.
Benedict Rhodes: While he hasn’t been bad, he hasn’t played to his full potential yet. He looked out of place for a large chunk of the match against Columbus, especially when linking up with Ager Aketxe, but against Tigres he looked sharper, and showed more of his attacking abilities.
JPN: I agree. To be fair, the whole squad looked better in the 3-5-2.
Tej Sahota: I think VDW may be closer to a Ahmad Kantari or Armando Cooper signing than a Seba, Mavinga, Victor type.
There’s some underlying stuff that is off-putting. He talks a lot about choosing North America because it was good for his brand. And then there’s comments in the last week that suggest he didn’t do all his homework on MLS prior to signing. I’m concerned that the level of play from him thus far is indicative of why he fell out of favour with his previous teams, and the off field image just confounds it
COC: Last year Mavinga admitted he underestimated MLS then got better, but you think VDW’s disregard is on another level?
TS: Mavinga is an interesting example, because he had a horrible first game and then talked about the challenge and how hard he would work and spend extra time in the video rooms and with the coaches.
VDW had an interview with John Molinaro, and his self awareness is limited imo. He talks in vague platitudes of soccer, I think his foremost reason was the lifestyle change, and he may lack the discipline or desire that helped Mavinga reach this level of play.
From a technical standpoint, he hasn’t been good. The right side is getting routinely picked on, and his possession and defensive numbers don’t suggest that he’s a player who’s an upgrade over Steven Beitashour. The offensive spark he was supposed to bring shows no signs of life. He’s kind of a holding wing.
COC: I 100% believe he’s a much more talented player than Beitashour, we just haven’t seen much of it yet. I don’t know if that’s a product of the formation, or just trying to fit into a new team with new tactics and a different league
BR: MLS has a lot more access to the behind-the-scenes of their clubs than Italy and Turkey. We knew something was off there, but maybe now it’s truly getting revealed.
JPN: I agree with Charlie — this is a VERY small sample size. And Benedict raises a point has come up lots in the YYZ since at least Voldemort Defoe. Euro players are not prepared (or trained) for the relationship with the media that exists here
BR: I also believe that he’s better than Beitashour. I think the tactics might have something to do with his difficult beginning but I’m willing to give him a chance to figure himself out like we gave Mavinga.
COC: Do you think he’s better than Auro? What would be your ideal right side?
JPN: Auro is younger — and with VDW on his heels — he may be hungrier
TS: In my ideal right side, it’s Auro and Delgado. The offensive punch of Auro and the defensive marking of Delgado gives you a much more balanced right side than Ager and VDW do.
BR: I believe Auro is better at running at defenders, but VDW is a better physical presence and a better crosser. Both haven’t looked good defensively, but TFC haven’t conceded in a match that Auro’s started. As mentioned above, Auro could be hungrier, and therefore could challenge for a starting role. He’s definitely good enough in my opinion.
I personally would like to see Aketxe and VDW on the right if they’re both playing to their full potential
COC: I know the Columbus game was a bad example, but honestly I’d prefer VDW as a proper right-back but Auro as a wingback in a 3-5-2. I’d even like to see Auro play as a straight-up winger in front of VDW in a 4-4-2; that would probably be a pretty well-protected flank.
BR: I agree with the VDW in 4-4-2 and Auro in 3-5-2 idea. VDW is a right back but Auro is a wingback i think. Just like how i prefer Delgado in a 3-5-2 and Osorio in a 4-4-2.
JPN: Benedict has it right — on paper — in real life I worry about the constant switch between formations and teams playing havoc with form.
BR: Indeed — we commit to commit to a formation and perfect it like last year. I think in an ideal world, whether we play with four or five in midfield, Aketxe, Vazquez and Bradley will all start, just adding Osorio if we play the diamond. Maybe Delgado for Aketxe in the 3-5-2 if Ager needs a break.
COC: Alright, since we’re already getting there anyway:
What’s your ideal lineup right now, and do you think that’ll be different in like 6 months’ time?
TS: Problem unlike last year is we interchanged players only into a 3-5-2. If you want to take advantage of this depth and play to maximize matchups, you’re going to have to revert to a 4-4-2 at times to get the best out of certain players. I don’t think we get the consistency of last year. My lineup:
In 2-3 months, I could see Ager replacing Delgado and VDW taking Auro’s spot in a 4-4-2.
JPN: Same lineup as Tej.
COC: I’m toying with the idea of having Seba-Vazquez-Aketxe as a line of AMs with Altidore as the pure striker. Something like:
TS: Damn I like that a lot.
BR: My ideal lineup:
I’d love to see Nick Hagglund break out and steal a starting role and see VDW and Osorio earn their start, if not, bring in Auro and switch to the 3-5-2. Osorio has earned it so far.
COC: I honestly think that Hagglund ends up taking over for Moor, possibly sooner than we think. Right now I think he’s much fitter and probably better than Moor, but he lacks the organizational leadership Moor brings.
And I think Seba’s going to become an absolute assist machine, which he already basically is.
TS: I wrote two pieces on this last year, but don’t have the will to do it a 3rd time. In almost every advanced stats analysis, Hagglund comes out as better than Moor or Zavaleta. He’s a monster in the air, and in one-on-one defending. But intangibles and nephews or something like that.
COC: Okay here’s your chance Tej. Any last words on the Auro/VDW debate?
TS: I think we need to have Delgado back in the 3-5-2, so he can... Link... the defence to offensive transition alongside Bradley.