The good news for Schmidt is that Gakpo is ready to start in the starting line-up at 9pm on Thursday evening at Leicester’s King Power Stadium. “Normally he starts. We are a few days further and he now has the 45 minutes of FC Twente in his legs. We’ll see how long he can play against Leicester.”
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Gakpo is the man looked at in England. the boulevard magazine The Sun Wednesday morning came out with a big interview with the PSV player with the headline ‘Code Red’, in which his love for the Premier League and especially Arsenal was discussed in detail.
“The Premier League is a big competition. I often watch it and learn a lot from it,” Gakpo said in the interview. “Everyone wants to play in the Premier League. I don’t have a specific preference for one team, but Arsenal are very popular. As a young boy I looked to Arsenal to see a great player on the wing: Thierry Henry.”
Cody Gakpo with Schmidt during the press conference.
Gakpo confirmed in Leicester that he had given the interview to the English tabloid magazine and at the press conference, narrowly replayed his shot across the bow and once again declared his love for the Premier League. At the same time, the Eindhoven resident indicated that he was focusing on the season, in which there is still much to be gained and that he is not already working on a transfer. “I try to shut myself off from it. There are still some great matches to come. I would like to win something this season. There is more focus on that than a possible transfer.”
The PSV player indicated that he enjoys the high intensity that is played in England. That is something PSV can also expect against Leicester. And so the people of Eindhoven, who are in the quarterfinals of a European tournament for the first time since 2011, will have to start sharper than last Saturday against FC Twente, when the team was swept away by the home team in the first half hour. “We have all come to the conclusion that we were not sharp enough in the first half and that we did not deliver enough. The good thing is that we came back well in the second half. We try to hold on to that feeling and build on that,” said Gakpo, who contributed to the comeback as a substitute with a goal.
After an injury period, a base place against FC Twente was still too much to ask. “We also have to listen to the medical team. I was only supposed to fill in for twenty minutes or not. It went completely different than expected and that’s why I came into it at halftime.”
Gakpo expects PSV to be a lot stronger in Leicester. “I expect a lot from our team. I think we have a very good team that can certainly do this,” said the attacker, who briefly mused about the possibility of adding a European trophy to the Eindhoven trophy cabinet. Something that would have extra value for him as a former youth player of PSV, who has been with the club since he was seven. “That would mean a lot to me. PSV is a big club in the Netherlands and we want to achieve something at an international level.”
Schmidt is pleased to have Gakpo back at his disposal and believes the attacker has developed strongly in the two seasons under his leadership. “He has developed a lot in the past two years. He has become a top player. Unfortunately, he has been injured a few times this season, so that he has not been able to get into the rhythm completely. After an injury you always need a few games to be completely top notch again. But it is clear that he is a very good player.”
Roger Schmidt trains with PSV a day before the match against Leicester City.
In addition to the good news about Gakpo’s recovery, Schmidt is concerned about his goalkeeper Drommel, who continues to perform erratically. After his lesser performance against FC Twente, he took the time to talk to the keeper. “We talked about it together. Joel was very disappointed. It was a big game for him. The first time he returned to his old club FC Twente. In these situations you always want to perform at the top level and he was not. He was disappointed. My job is to build players in these situations. I did and now we are looking ahead. As a goalkeeper you have to be mentally strong. That is one of the great challenges for a keeper. As a PSV goalkeeper you often don’t have much to do in the game, but you have to be there when necessary. Joël will also have to develop in this area.”
Schmidt, who briefly replaced Drommel with Mvogo earlier this season, kept the option of a new goalkeeper change emphatically open in Leicester. “It is always an option to change players and that also applies to a goalkeeper. That’s part of football. There is always a lot of fuss about when a keeper is substituted, but if a keeper is shown red or is injured, he must also be replaced. That’s nothing special. My job is to assess the options and performance within the team and then make a decision.”
Schmidt realizes that PSV will have to reach a much higher level against Leicester than last Saturday against FC Twente. “We had a good run, but a match like that can also be in between. It will have to be better. If we defend like against FC Twente in the coming weeks, we will not win any prize. That is clear,” said Schmidt, who expects the opponent to give a lot of gas. “We can expect an intense match. It’s a Premier League team. They are not at their top level this season, also due to injuries, but they are one of the top teams. I expect a tough game. It’s no surprise that they have more individual quality. We have to make the difference with our team spirit and team tactics.”