Vitesse have never been one of the super powers in Dutch football but they are a real threat for the title this year despite losing their two prolific strikers in the summer. Based in Arnhem, in the centre of the Netherlands, Vitesse are team that have traditionally been satisfied with challenging for one of the Europa League places but over the past two years the yellow and black stripes have upped the ante and are now fighting for their first title. Last year the side finished fourth, their highest ever finish, thanks to the work of Wilfred Bony and Marco van Ginkel who now play in the Premier League, with Swansea and Chelsea respectively. After their departures many thought that they would be unable to battle at the top but they currently sit two points ahead of favourites Ajax after 14 games.
The side has won eight of their fourteen matches, with goals not being a problem (they sit fourth in overall goals) and last weekend recorded a comprehensive 3-0 victory away at the Go Ahead Eagles. They have lost just two of their last eight matches and their run into Christmas looks relatively comfortable if you consider PSV Eindhoven’s current form in the mix of that. The club is a feeder team for Chelsea and has worked closely together over the past two seasons. The deal was initiated by Vitesse chairman, Merab Jordania, and Blues owner, Roman Abramovich, who are close friends and have forged a strong link between the two teams that is benefiting Vitesse greatly. In the summer, Chelsea agreed to loan a host of youngsters to Vitesse with Gael Kakuta, Christian Atsu, Sam Hutchinson, Patrick van Aanholt, Cristián Cuevas and Lucas Piazon all making the move across to Holland. With the exception of Cuevas and Hutchinson, they have all been influential for the team with the Brazilian Piazon in particular, commanding a starting place in the centre of midfield, scoring seven goals in his last twelve appearances.
When he arrived at Chelsea he was touted as the next Kaka and many fans were excited by this prospect but unfortunately he didn’t get the game time that he wanted. Moving across Europe, Piazon has been able to put his mark on the Eredivisie, working at the heart of Vitesse’s attacking engine. Having spent the tail end of last season on loan to Malaga in La Liga, Vitesse recognized his potential and head coach Peter Bosz was a key driver in securing the talented Brazilian on a season long loan. His brace in last Sunday’s 3-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles was his third of what is turning out to be a successful season for the player. Playing alongside Piazon is Ecuadorian winger Alex Renato Ibarra who is another young player who has stepped up his game this season with the Gelredome outfit. The 22 year old winger signed from Ecuador side CD El Nacional in the summer of 2011 and played a major part in the clubs success last season, making him a key fixture in Peter Bosz’s side. Keeping tight to the by-line, the South American has the ability to whip in a curved ball from the wing and create opportunities. Vitesse have scored 33% of all their goals in the last 15 minutes of the game which is testament to players like Piazon and Ibarra who run constantly until the final whistle has blown. There is a genuine belief in the team, driven by Bosz and enforced by captain Guram Kashia that Vitesse can go above and beyond expectations this season and shock Dutch football.
Although the side had a premature exit from this year’s Europa League, the domestic season is going well and after beating Ajax at the start of the month, courteously of a 90th minute goal from substitute Valeri Qazaishvili, Vitesse have little to fear. The face competition for Dick Advocaat’s AZ Alkmaar, who were the league’s early leaders and aren’t far off top spot. However AZ are well engaged in their European campaign with qualification from their Europa League group almost secured, they find themselves battling on several fronts. Similarly fellow challengers Ajax have secured European football beyond Christmas after their crucial win over Barcelona which kept their dreams of making it to the knockout stages of the Champions league alive. A winner takes all match between Ajax and Milan next month will determine who continues in the Champions League and who drops into the Europa league knockout rounds. With Vitesse no longer competing in Europe, could they take advantage, defy the odds and become Eredivisie champions for the first time in their history?
Written by Richard Waterhouse