Eredivisie 2020/2021 analysis: used formations and their perceptions

The Eredivisie 2020-2021 season is coming to a close. The champion has been known for quite some time now, but the battle for relegation and the European play-off spots are widely entertaining. And you should definitely look at the two last matchdays. Joy and heartbreak are close companions. How much I would love to chat about the emotions behind one of the most fun leagues in the world, this article will contain an analysis.

In this article, I will look at the formations used by every single club in the Eredivisie 2020-2021 season until matchday 33. I’m looking at matchday 1 till 32. In this analysis, I will look at the number of different formations used, which one is the most popular, and whether the formation changes when dealing with stronger/weaker opponents. In the last part, I will analyse whether these most-used formations can be seen as progressive or conservative.

One little disclaimer, this analysis is purely based on data from Wyscout and therefore doesn’t deal with certain roles. For example, a 4-4-2 can be with two strikers, but also with two false 9’s – this is not something I go into, I’m basing myself purely on the data. I have excluded the formations which are employed when receiving a red card, this and the fact that Wyscout doesn’t give all the percentages (when you add every it’s not 100%) – but I still wanted to go forward, to give an idea of the formations used.

Ajax
Ajax are league leaders and crowned champions of this season. From the 32 games played this season, Ajax has won 26, drew 4 and lost 2 games. They have accumulated 82 points, scored 96 goals and conceded 21.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-144%
 4-3-333%
 4-2-1-33%
 4-1-4-13%
 4-2-2-22%
 4-4-21%

If we look at the table above we see that in 79% of the time, Ajax play in either a 4-2-3-1 formation with a double pivot and four attackers or with a more traditional 4-3-3 – which features one holding midfielder and two more advanced central midfielders/attacking midfielders. Ajax loves to play the majority of its games with wingers, as that utilises their philosophy the most.

PSV
PSV currently are second, but that place has not been confirmed yet. From the 32 games played this season, PSV has won 20, drew 8, and lost 4 games. They have accumulated 68 points, scored 69 goals, and conceded 32.

FormationPercentage used
 4-4-261%
 4-2-2-29%
 4-3-39%
 4-2-3-15%
 4-5-12%
 4-4-1-12%
 4-3-1-21%
 5-3-21%
 4-1-3-21%

If we look at the table above we see that in 61% of the time, PSV play in a 4-4-2 formation and 9% of the time in a 4-2-2-2 formation. These two formations can be merged in percentages, as the 4-4-2 often represents itself as a 4-2-2-2 on the field, which together makes 70% of the games played in the Eredivisie. The 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 are used with 14% combined, but the favourite formation for PSV is with two strikers up top.

AZ
AZ currenly are third, but still battling for place two. From the 32 games played this season, AZ has won 20, drew 7 and lost 5 games. They have accumulated 67 points, scored 70 goals and conceded 41.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-160%
 4-3-310%
 4-4-26%
 4-4-1-16%
 3-4-32%
 4-3-2-11%
 4-3-1-21%

If we look at the table above we see that in 60% of the time, AZ play in a 4-2-3-1 formation and 10% of the time in a 4-3-3 formation. These are the most used formations by AZ and make up for 70% of the formations used in the Eredivisie this season. They love to play with wingers and a striker, which can be seen in those two formations. The 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 are used as well, but then AZ play with wide midfielders down the line.

Vitesse
Vitesse currently are fourth, trying to secure that place. From the 32 games played this season, Vitesse has won 18, drew 6 and lost 8 games. They have accumulated 60 points, scored 48 goals and conceded 32.

FormationPercentage used
 3-4-1-243%
 4-3-1-215%
 3-5-214%
 5-3-25%
 3-4-32%
 4-1-3-21%

If we look at the table above we see that in 43% of the time, Vitesse play in a 3-4-1-2 formation and 14% of the time in a 3-5-2 formation, and 2% of the time in a 3-4-3 formation. We can state that in 59% of the games, Vitesse loves to use a back-three. 5% of the games are played in 5-3-2, which means that only 16% of the games has been played with a back-four.

Feyenoord
Feyenoord currently are fifth, and their objective is to reach fourth place, but that would prove to be incredibly hard. From the 32 games played this season, Feyenoord has won 15, drew 10, and lost 7 games. They have accumulated 55 points, scored 60 goals, and conceded 35.

FormationPercentage used
 4-3-333%
 4-1-4-120%
 4-2-3-116%
 4-3-1-24%
 5-4-12%
 5-3-21%
 3-5-1-11%
 4-5-11%
 4-4-21%
 4-4-1-11%

If we look at the table above we see that in 33% of the time, Feyenoord play in a 4-3-3 formation and 20% of the time in a 4-1-4-1 formation, and 16% of the time in a 4-2-3-1 formation. We can state that in 69% of the games, Feyenoord plays with a back-four and occupies wingers/wide midfielders.

FC Utrecht
FC Utrecht currently are sixth, and in theory could overtake Feyenoord if everything goes their way, but that would prove quite the challenge. From the 32 games played this season, Vitesse has won 13, drew 12, and lost 7 games. They have accumulated 51 points, scored 51 goals, and conceded 40.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-156%
 4-3-317%
 4-4-210%
 4-3-1-23%
 4-4-1-13%

If we look at the table above we see that in 56% of the time, FC Utrecht play in a 4-2-3-1 formation. We can also see that FC Utrecht doesn’t deviate from their set formation, as the 4-2-3-1 formation, 4-3-3 formation, and the 4-4-2 formation – are 83% of the games.

FC Groningen
FC Groningen is on their way back to compete for the European places and are currently seventh. From the 32 games played this season, FC Groningen has won 14, drew 7, and lost 11 games. They have accumulated 49 points, scored 40 goals, and conceded 36.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-126%
 5-3-210%
 3-4-1-29%
 3-4-2-19%
 5-4-17%
 4-4-25%
 3-4-33%
 3-5-23%
 3-5-1-11%
 4-1-3-21%

If we look at the table above we see that FC Groningen has played 10 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with 25% of the games played with a back-three. This not-traditional approach is quite remarkable, but most games have been played under the 4-2-3-1.

Sparta Rotterdam
Sparta Rotterdam currently are eight and are doing very well. Considered to battle against relegation they are up there to battle for the European play-off places. From the 32 games played this season, Sparta Rotterdam has won 13, drew 12, and lost 7 games. They have accumulated 43 points, scored 47 goals, and conceded 47.

FormationPercentage used
 4-4-230%
 4-2-3-121%
 4-4-1-116%
 4-3-1-28%
 5-3-27%
 4-1-4-12%
 3-4-1-22%

If we look at the table above we see that Sparta has played 7 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with 77% of the games played with a back-four. The foundation is a back four with in most cases a midfield of at least four players.

Heracles Almelo
Heracles Almelo are on the nineth place and are having an average season. Too good for relegation football, but not good enough to challenge a lot more. Still they are in the race for European football places. From the 32 games played this season, Heracles Almelo has won 13, drew 12, and lost 7 games. They have accumulated 43 points, scored 41 goals, and conceded 47.

FormationPercentage used
 4-4-224%
 4-2-3-123%
 4-4-1-114%
 4-3-38%
 5-3-27%
 4-3-1-23%
 4-3-2-12%

If we look at the table above we see that Heracles Almelo has played 7 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with 74% of the games played with a back-four. The foundation is a back four with in most cases a midfield of at least four players. The majority has been played with a four-man midfield with a form of two strikers.

Fortuna Sittard
Fortuna Sittard are on the tenth place and are having a good second half of the season after starting with some troubles. They are also in the conversation fror European football and that would be a huge achievement. From the 32 games played this season, Heracles Almelo has won 12, drew 14, and lost 16 games. They have accumulated 40 points, scored 46 goals, and conceded 53.

FormationPercentage used
 4-4-1-128%
 4-2-3-120%
 4-3-311%
 4-4-210%
 4-3-1-28%
4-1-4-17%
 5-3-22%
 3-4-1-22%

If we look at the table above we see that Fortuna Sittard has played 8 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with 69% of the games played with a 4-4-11, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 formation. The formations that haven’t been played with a back-four only make up for 4%.

SC Heerenveen
SC Heerenveen are in eleventh place and are having a disappointing season. A club like Heerenveen should battle for European places, but at the moment they seem to miss out on that. From the 32 games played this season, SC Heerenveen has won 9, drew 12, and lost 11 games. They have accumulated 39 points, scored 41 goals, and conceded 44.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-146%
 4-4-219%
 4-4-1-111%
 5-4-18%
 4-3-34%
 4-3-1-22%

If we look at the table above we see that SC Heerenveen has played 6 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with 76% of the games played with a 4-2-3-1, a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 formation. The formations that haven’t been played with a back-four only make up for 8%.

FC Twente
FC Twente are in twelfth place and are having a season of mixed emotions. The former title winner is looking to restore its former glory, but is also just a few years back in the Eredivisie. From the 32 games played this season, FC Twente has won 9, drew 11, and lost 12 games. They have accumulated 38 points, scored 44 goals, and conceded 46.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-145%
 4-3-337%
 4-1-4-110%

If we look at the table above we see that FC Twente has only played 3 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with variations that resemble the same sort of formation: 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1.

PEC Zwolle
PEC Zwolle are in thirteenth place and are done. They haven’t had any form of outstanding performances this season, but are safe from relegation. From the 32 games played this season, PEC Zwolle has won 8, drew 11, and lost 13 games. They have accumulated 35 points, scored 41 goals, and conceded 49.

FormationPercentage used
 4-3-363%
 4-2-3-113
 4-1-4-110

If we look at the table above we see that PEC Zwolle has only played 3 different – just like FC Twente – formations during the 2020-2021 season, with variations that resemble the same sort of formation: 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1.

RKC Waalwijk
RKC Waalwijk are in fourteenth place and are anything but done. They are in the best position to escape direct relegation or relegation play-offs, but are still not there yet. From the 32 games played this season, RKC Waalwijk has won 6, drew 9, and lost 17 games. They have accumulated 27 points, scored 35 goals, and conceded 51.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-163%
 4-4-1-18%
 4-1-4-17%
 4-3-34%
 4-3-2-13%
 4-4-21%

If we look at the table above we see that RKC Waalwijk has played 6 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with all games playing a formation with a back-four with a strong preference for the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Willem II
After RKC Waalwijk, Willem II are the most fortunate to get out of the relegation troubles, in fiftheenth place. But it’s tight. From the 32 games played this season, Willem II has won 6, drew 7, and lost 19 games. They have accumulated 25 points, scored 34 goals, and conceded 66.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-156%
 4-4-218%
 4-4-1-15%
 4-3-33%
 5-4-12%
 4-1-4-12%

If we look at the table above we see that Willem II has played 6 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with all games playing a formation with a back-four with a strong preference for the 4-2-3-1 formation. The only formation that hasn’t got a back-four is the 5-4-1 formation.

FC Emmen
FC Emmen looked dead and burried, but are still in the race to stay up, in sixteenth place. But everything comes down to these last two games. Right now they stand on the place for the relegation play-offs. From the 32 games played this season, FC Emmen has won 5, drew 9, and lost 18 games. They have accumulated 24 points, scored 33 goals, and conceded 67.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-157%
 4-4-215%
 4-1-4-14%
 4-4-1-12%
 4-3-31%
 4-5-11%

If we look at the table above we see that FC Emmen has played 6 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with all games playing a formation with a back-four with a strong preference for the 4-2-3-1 formation and the 4-4-2 formation.

VVV-Venlo
VVV-Venlo had a very good position to stay up in January but has to do everything they can do not get relegated directly, in seventeenth place. From the 32 games played this season, VVV-Venlo has won 6, drew 5, and lost 21 games. They have accumulated 23 points, scored 42 goals, and conceded 84.

FormationPercentage used
 4-1-4-122%
 4-2-3-117%
 4-4-216%
 4-3-313%
 4-3-1-26%
 4-4-1-15%
 3-4-2-13%
 3-4-1-22%
 4-1-3-21%

If we look at the table above we see that VVV-Venlo has played 9 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with four formations being used a lot: 4-1-4-1 formation, 4-2-3-1 formation, 4-4-2 formation and the 4-3-3 formation. There have been two formations with a back-three, but they make up only 5% of the used formations in games.

ADO Den Haag
ADO Den Haag really looked they were finished, but in the last two games they had back to back victories, and still have a chance to stay up. From the 32 games played this season, ADO Den Haag has won 4, drew 10, and lost 18 games. They have accumulated 22 points, scored 26 goals, and conceded 69.

FormationPercentage used
 4-2-3-117%
 4-1-4-116%
 4-3-312%
 4-4-210%
 4-4-1-19%
 3-4-1-24%
 5-3-24%
 3-4-2-13%
 4-3-1-22%
 5-4-12%

If we look at the table above we see that ADO Den Haag has played 10 different formations during the 2020-2021 season, with all formations being used quite equally. They have also used formations that have a back-three of a back-five, which can be seen in the table above.

Conclusions
If we look at all the formations used by the teams we can conclude a few things. The 4-3-3, the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-4-2 are the most used as the all use wingers/wide midfielders – which is something that is coached and encourages a lot in the Netherlands. This is considered to be the default.

If you play with a back-five, you are considered to have a defensive approach and your emphasis lies on defending rather than attacking. It doesn’t matter how the roles/positions are in these formations – it’s considered to be defensive and used when confronting a stronger opponent.

On the other hand if you play with a back-three you are seen as very progressive and an attacking-minded side, which is different from the default of four at the back, three midfielders and three attackers. The 4-3-3 might be a little bit outdated, but the idea of playing with wingers is very present in the Netherlands, especially with Dutch coaches.

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