HomeLettersThe Dutch striking “head ache”

SMS The Independent

The strength and depth of the Oranje army is personified by the fact that within their forward ranks they possess two of Europe’s most prolific strikers in Robin van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar.

With 104 goals — and counting — between them this season, both players could make a significant impact at the European Championships in June.
But, the fact that they each have a tendency to play the lone striker role for their respective clubs — Arsenal and Schalke — twinned with Van Marwijk’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, which deploys a solitary out-and-out striker supported by two wingers, could leave one of them out in the cold.

While some may regard playing Van Persie and Huntelaar together as a risk, the former Feyenoord and Borussia Dortmund coach laughed off suggestions that questioned the duo’s combined capabilities, but did admit that he faces a difficult decision, and is still considering his options.

“Of course Huntelaar and Van Persie can play together,” Van Marwijk told Voetbal International.

“Robin is an all-round attacker, but he showed he is also a killer in the box. Klaas-Jan is a goal-getter and is always getting better with the squad. However, I’m not sure if they will play together at the Euros.”

FC Twente strikers Ola John and Luuk de Jong — a reported target for numerous Premier League clubs this summer — also made the provisional cut, alongside Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt, Siem de Jong, Jeremain Lens, and Luciano Narsingh.

The most high-profile attacking omission is Narsingh’s Heerenveen strike partner Bas Dost, who is currently the Eredivisie’s leading goalscorer this season with 32 goals.

“I’m also happy that Wesley Sneijder is fit again and Arjen Robben is doing great things at Bayern Munich,” added the Netherlands coach.
“I believe I have chosen the squad which I can have the most success with.”

Van Marwijk will trim his selection down to 27 players after a two-day training camp in Hoenderloo on May 14 and 15, before announcing his final 23-man squad on May 29.

They have international friendly games against Bulgaria, Slovakia and Northern Ireland to come in the next four weeks, before kicking off their Euro 2012 campaign on June 9 alongside Germany, Denmark and Portugal in Group B.

Both Huntelaar and Van Persie are certain to make the cut for the finals, but as the tournament edges ever closer, so too does Van Marwijk’s unenviable task of having to pick between two talismanic strikers. GiveMeFootball assesses the options…

Robin van Persie Age: 28 Club: Arsenal

The Gunners skipper has netted an impressive 37 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions this season, and sits at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts with 30 goals in 37 appearances.

Van Persie capped a wonderful campaign when he was recently named PFA Player of the Year by his fellow professionals – an accolade that was soon followed up by the Football Writers’ Player of the Season for 2011-12.

It’s by far and away the Dutchman’s most prolific spell in north London — form that has coincided with an extended run in the first-team, having rid himself of the regular injury problems that threatened to plague Van Persie throughout the early part of his career.

After enjoying a successful World Cup with the Netherlands in 2010, Van Persie went from strength to strength in 2011, matching the Premier League record for goals scored between January 1 and the end of a season, netting 18 times in 19 appearances in the second half of 2010-11.

Earlier this campaign he also set a new mark for scoring in consecutive away matches, and has moved up to eighth in Arsenal’s list of all-time top goalscorers.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Age: 28 Club: Schalke

With 61 goals for club and country this season, including 48 in 47 appearances for Schalke, there is arguably no better striker in all of Europe at the moment.

Huntelaar’s heroics are not only restricted to the Bundesliga — a league where he has already scooped the 2011-12 Golden Boot, after his brace in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Werder Bremen – the 28-year-old has been equally prolific in the Europa League, having helped Schalke to the quarter-finals this year.

A reported target for a host of Premier League clubs this summer, the former Real Madrid, AC Milan and Ajax hitman is in the form of his life, and is certain to be on the plane to Poland and Ukraine this summer.

Having chipped in with 12 goals for Netherlands in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, Huntelaar finished as top scorer. He started the first four qualifiers before picking up a knee injury which ruled him out of the double header against Hungary.

Van Persie netted in both those games, and kept his place for the glamour friendly against Brazil last June, prompting Huntelaar to ask for “a little more faith” from Van Marwijk, and 12 months later he will once again be pressing his claims for a starting spot after being forced to settle for a place on the bench at the World Cup two years ago.

Netherlands squad:

Goalkeepers: Maarten Stekelenburg (Roma), Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Michel Vorm (Swansea City), Erwin Mulder (Feyenoord), Jasper Cillissen (Ajax)

Defenders: Vurnon Anita (Ajax), Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart), Wilfred Bouma (PSV Eindhoven), Urby Emanuelson (AC Milan), John Heitinga (Everton), Hedwiges Maduro (Valencia), Joris Mathijsen (Malaga), Erik Pieters (PSV Eindhoven), Nick Viergever (AZ Alkmaar), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord), Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord), Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven)

Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona), Mark van Bommel (AC Milan), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Adam Maher (AZ Alkmaar), Stijn Schaars (Sporting Lisbon), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan), Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven), Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven)

Forwards: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Ola John (Twente), Luuk de Jong (Twente), Siem de Jong (Ajax), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Jeremain Lens (PSV Eindhoven), Luciano Narsingh (Heerenveen), Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) —  Givemefootball.com

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