With European disappointment behind us, we set out to achieve our goal for the season: qualify for Europe. Again.
The theme of unusual signings continues and we say goodbye to another flop…
We made just one signing in the winter transfer window, a loan move for Daniel Sturridge (STC/West Ham) until the end of the season. I’ll admit this is a controversial move – firstly because he joins an ever Anglicising team but secondly because Sturridge will cost us the princely sum of £400k/month while on loan. The end of season run-in is where we always tend to falter so I’m hoping he will be our creative spark up top and it will justify the outlay.
The story of the transfer window was undoubtedly Inter Milan’s pursuit of our rising midfield star Tomas Suslov. Inter met his £6.25m release clause but Suslov turned down their offer on the promise that Groningen would qualify for Europe this season. No pressure.
The Suslov Saga aside, there were three departures in January. Gary Cahill (DC) left after making 3 appearances in his six months at the club, SK Sturm Graz (Austria) parted with £165k up front to ensure we profited nonetheless. Samir Memisevic (DM) had lost his place in the team due to the emergence of some younger options in midfield and more tactical meddling, he has joined PEC Zwolle for the sum of £950k initially. With the loan signing of Daniel Sturridge and the good form of Taiwo Awoniyi, Neven Blazevic has not been able to establish himself in the first team as yet so moves on loan to Antwerp (Belgium) for some first team experience.
August gave us a good start in the league with 10 points from our first four games. September was less fruitful as we dropped points to PEC Zwolle and Feyenoord in the league before crashing out of the cup to second tier VVV-Venlo. The match with AZ provided the reaction we required and the month was rounded off with a steal against FC Utrecht.
A respectable draw with Ajax before PSV stole the points late on kicked off October for us. Heracles Almelo and SC Cambuur were seen off with aplomb as Juan Foyth was drawing the plaudits.
November was almost a perfect month – if it hadn’t been for that goal conceded to FC Emmen. Goals arrived from all over the squad and the team looked confident and in control.
If November was confidence then maybe December was complacency. We relied on an 89th minute Taiwo Awoniyi goal against Fortuna Sittard and Willem II to rescue a point – 17 year old Levy Smith scored his first goal for the club in the Willem II fixture. Majetschak missed a penalty in the loss to FC Twente as Awoniyi scored his fifth goal in four games. sc Heerenveen blew us away in the Noorden Derby to end off 2021.
Slovakian side Trnava were our winter friendly victims in a 5-1 result. 2022 got off to a poor start on the competitive front due to our profligacy in front of goal against NAC Breda but victories over Sparta and PEC Zwolle have us looking positive as we enter the final months of the season – a Daniel Sturridge brace on his first start for the expensive loanee.
We finish January in a healthy 4th place! 3rd place (and guaranteed Euro qualification regardless of the KNVB Beker) is a realistic aim for us this season with 12 games to go in the league. You could suggest that 2nd or even 1st is within reach, however, I’ve come to learn that Ajax and PSV never fail to steam ahead in the final months of the season so we will put that thought out of our minds.
February is a tough month for us as we face Feyenoord (7th), FC Utrecht (6th), Ajax (2nd), AZ (3rd) and PSV (1st). It’s a chance to either make serious gains in the table or fall significantly behind. That said, it means the 7 fixtures that remain for March and April are all fixtures we should expect to do very well in. It’s setting up to be an exciting run-in for the Eredivisie!