How Phillip Cocu got PSV Eindhoven firing again

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When Phillip Cocu took over the PSV Eindhoven reigns from Dick Advocaat in July 2013 he was faced with the daunting task of over-throwing Ajax at the summit of the Eredivisie. 

Although Ajax went on to collect their fourth successive title in Cocu's first season in charge at the Philips Stadion, he has since overseen a dramatic turnaround in fortunes, with PSV currently 10 points ahead of the Amsterdam club with only five games left to play.

So how exactly did Cocu revive PSV's fortunes so quickly?

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Experience matters

Cocu took over a talented squad as he led PSV to fourth in his inaugural campaign as Rood-witten boss but there was undoubtedly a need for more experience in what was a very young side.

The 44-year-old set about changing this with two important additions in Luuk de Jong from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Andrés Guardado, on loan from Valencia.

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At 24-years-old De Jong is still young but he has plenty of Eredivisie experience with FC Twente, and has played the lone striker role to perfection this campaign, with 16 goals in 27 games. 

The 112-cap Mexican Guardado is arguably the best signing in Dutch football this season, having developed from an energetic winger into an orchestrator in midfield under Cocu. 

He may not add many goals or assists to the team but his composure allows the likes of Memphis Depay, Adam Maher and Georgino Wijnaldum to burst forward in attack. 

Pace, Pace, Pace 

In Cocu's set-up pace is a key attribute to breaking down the opposition defence, which has seen PSV score 77 goals, already 17 more than last season. 

Depay and Luciano Narsingh possess raw pace and acceleration to stretch defences whilst the former's ability to cut inside from the left and shoot has released Jetro Willems to fly forward.

Depay is Eredivisie's standout player, with 19 goals in 25 appearances, and has become the fulcrum around which Cocu builds his sides.

The 21-year-old has shown increased maturity this season as well as taking on a more senior role with the Dutch national side.

The midfield trio of Maher, Wijnaldum and Guardado isn't lacking in pace and power either, making PSV incredibly effective on the counter-attack.

Defensive stability   

As well as being Eredivise's leading scorers this season, PSV also boast the tightest defence having only conceded 25 goals. 

The defensive structure hasn't changed from last season, with Jeroen Zoet in goal, Willems and Santiago Arias as full-backs and Jeffrey Bruma and Karim Rekik playing centre-back. 

Zoet is the oldest of the five at 24, so it is clear that playing together consistently from a young age has allowed them to flourish as a unit this season. 

Trouble on the horizon? 

Whilst everything is sitting pretty for Cocu and PSV at the moment, it could be a very different picture come the start of the next Eredivise campaign. 

Depay has been linked with Europe's elite clubs since the 2014 World Cup, and his form this season will only have strengthened the desire to prize him away, with Louis van Gaal said to be a particularly strong admirer.

The same goes for PSV's captain Wijnaldum, whose pace and power in midfield is said to be interesting the likes of Napoli, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Rekik's future is also unclear with the 20-year-old Dutch international still contracted to Manchester City, whilst Willems' name is forever linked with moves away from the Philips Stadion. 

One name hardly mentioned at all this season is Zakaria Bakkali who burst onto the scene with a hat-trick aged 17 but has been banished to the reserves for his refusal to renew his contract and will definitely be on his way out of PSV this summer. 

Cocu can, however, rely on a strong academy with 17-year-olds Steven Bergwijn and Kenneth Paal both highly rated at PSV and expected to break into the first team in the coming seasons. 

For now PSV supporters will be revelling in the present and enjoying watching their side win a first Eredivise title since the 2007/08 season. 

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