Category Archives: PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Can Van Aanholt solve Sunderland’s left-back problems?

Left-back has been a defensive quandary for Sunderland for the past few seasons, seeing loanees or others playing out of position being temporary solutions. However, Black Cats boss Gus Poyet has employed Chelsea’s Patrick van Aanholt for the next four years to try and solve the left-sided problem.

North-East football fans may remember that name, as Van Aanholt did spend a month over the Tyne at Newcastle United during their Championship winning season in 2009/10. Then Magpies boss Chris Hughton was full of praise for Van Aanholt and it was reported that the Irishman asked Chelsea if the loan could be extended, meanwhile the then 19-year-old had more ambitious ideas. He rejected a return to St. James Park to challenge Ashley Cole’s spot in the Chelsea defence. Unfortunately for the young Dutchman, only two full appearances materialised and strangely enough, one of those games was a 4-3 League Cup defeat to Newcastle at Stamford Bridge in August 2010.

With lack of chances at the London club, Van Aanholt consequently was farmed out onto Leicester City and later returning to his homeland to play for Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie. Spending the next two and half seasons in Arnhem, playing regular first-team football is where the young man has matured into a 23-year-old very secure in a role that Sunderland so badly need filled. You can say it has been a successful time at Vitesse for Van Aanholt, that led Sunderland’s new man being named in Louis van Gaal’s 30-man provisional World Cup squad this summer.

I cannot see Van Aanholt blowing the roof off the Premier League, but expect a firm defender with some impressive offensive expertise. He is courageous in a tackle and solid when marking, but Sunderland will see more positives in his attacking than his defending. In Holland, like a modern full-back you see nowadays, he showed the confidence and ability to take his opposite number on, although the defenders in the Eredivisie are not as tough as some he will come across in the Premier League. Strong on the ball, he uses his speed along with his ingenuity to get past his challenger and whip a ball into the box. He produced three assists last term, while in fairness, his distribution could be stronger. Furthermore, in the 67 appearances made Van Aanholt has provided Vitesse with goals too, delivering five with four of those coming last season. Opposition goalkeepers will need to be aware of the powerful left-foot he has behind him, that could leave their fingers stinging from distance.

Though great going forward, getting back to defend could cause a problem leaving his team-mates exposed, but he does have pace in his arsenal to use when needed. For Sunderland fans, the burning issue regarding this signing will be whether or not the player can be seen as a permanent fixture in the starting line-up at the Stadium of Light. Time will tell, but with two years of great experience in the Dutch top flight under his belt, he is certainly worthy of being given a chance to prove himself in the red and white shirt of Sunderland.


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The Dutch prodigy targeted by Tottenham and Man Utd

Memphis Depay is a name on everybody’s lips after he showed himself to be one of the brightest talents in football at this summer’s World Cup with two goals and one assist. During the tournament he became the youngest Dutch player to score at a World Cup at the age of just 20. He was nominated for the best young player of the tournament award, but was beaten to the accolade by Paul Pogba, but it’s clear that Depay is one of the most exciting young players in the world.


It’s not surprising that he has been linked with a move to England as Tottenham and Manchester United have both been linked, but it is believed it would take a fee upwards of £15m to get him, with PSV keen not to miss out on a big pay day for the player that needed a lot of development, especially when it came to the mental side of the game.

Although he is now known by some as the ‘Dutch Cristiano Ronaldo’, he had a lot of problems in his teenage years. He was a complicated child and was designated a life coach by PSV, who referred to Depay as ‘very angry’. The World Cup star struggled to adapt to the set up at the Dutch club, mainly due to his problems with authority. This developed from the problems he went through with his parents, who divorced when the winger was only four years of age, causing a great deal of emotional stress. It remains evident to this day as he wears ‘Memphis’ on the back of his shirt as he doesn’t feel a connection with his father or his name. Every great footballer normally has a troubling story and Depay is no different.

He overcame his personal issues to focus on football, and featured for Holland in several age groups, highlighting how he was always ahead of children of the same age when it came down to ability. In 2011, he was part of the under 17 side which won the European U17 Championship, scoring in the final. His experience at youth tournaments will have helped him a lot this summer when he excelled at his first senior tournament and nobody would doubt his ability to shine at more major tournaments in the future. He is often seen as a character who sometimes becomes over confident and even cocky when it comes to his own ability, but self belief is crucial in reaching the top of the game, and that is exactly where Depay is headed.

Depay was only 17 when he made his PSV debut in the Dutch Cup during an 8-0 demolition of WSB Noordwijkerhout, making his name with two goals. Yet he didn’t make his Eredivisie debut until he was a year older, making a cameo appearance against Feyenoord in 2012. His first league goal came against Heerenveen in a 5-1 victory, despite only being brought on for the closing stages of the match. It was clear he was going to become a key player for PSV very quickly, playing in 20 league matches during the 2012-13 season, but it was last season that he became a consistent starter, featuring in 32 matches.

After establishing himself at PSV, he quickly became one of the best players in the Eredivisie. Last season he netted 12 goals and managed to get 7 assists, while he also managed to score his first ever European goal. This summer saw him add his first international goal against Australia in a very nervy match for the Dutch, clearly showing his determined character. He wasn’t struck down by nerves, which happens to a lot of established players at international tournaments, let alone young players finding their way in the game. It’s clear Depay is only going one way and he may need to leave the Eredivisie to achieve his goals, the only question is whether that will be this summer, or at a later date.

For those who are unfamiliar with Depay, he is a player who can play all across the attacking positions, but it best suited to playing wide left. He is somebody who likes to dribble with the ball and has excellent ball control. His pace is crucial to his game as he can often use it to beat defenders of to make runs in behind the opposition defence, while he is also very skillful which makes him difficult to defend against. Depay is most dangerous from range as he has a terrific long shot, which resulted in a lot of goals last season. He is equally dangerous from free kicks. His main weakness is his decision making as he can often shoot when he has better options around him, but that is a trait common in young players and it will start to fade with experience.

It’s is unquestionable that the Dutch international is an exciting talent, whose reputation has been enhanced after his impressive performances at the World Cup, but it would be a gamble for a side to pay a big transfer fee for him. He has only had one full season as a first team regular and still has a lot to develop, in order to become a consistently good performer. It may be in his best interest to remain in the Eredivisie for another season to develop further, before making the move to a bigger league. It would do him no good to make a move to early and stagnate on the bench at a club like Tottenham who have a lot of attacking talent. A move to Manchester United may be perfect as he will be working with a manager he knows and the competition will be less fierce. He clearly has the right character to progress in the game, but a young player relies a lot on timing when it comes to his first big move. Is this summer the right time to leave for pastures new? The jury is out on that one.


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Introducing Daryl Janmaat – Newcastle’s new signing

Newcastle United has signed a fourth Dutchman to their ranks with Daryl Janmaat joining from Feyenoord for a reported £5m. But Geordies may be asking, who is Daryl Janmaat, well… Will Burns reveals all.


– Janmaat was born on 22nd July 1989 in a small town called Leidschendam in the south of the Netherlands.

– As a child, he played in the Feyenoord Academy till he was a C-Junior (age 13/14) but in 2007, he was later released after not proving himself sufficiently.

– He was signed up by ADO Den Haag and made his full debut in 2007 against FC Zwolle, he went on to score twice in 25 appearances.

– At the end of that season, Heerenveen signed Janmaat to a four-year deal and he appeared in 84 games for the Friesland club.

– He eventually returned to Rotterdam in the summer of 2012 and starred in 63 games over the last two seasons for Feyenoord.

– At time of writing, he has earned 19 international caps and recently starred in four of the Dutch’s games in the World Cup campaign in Brazil.


Janmaat is an attacking right-back that Toon fans will notice instantly that he is a similar player to the outgoing Mathieu Debuchy. The 24-year-old (25 next week) always has the desire to surge forward, and will look to overlap the winger or cut inside to look to play the best ball possible.

However, unlike most forward thinking full-backs, Janmaat can cover well in defence. His great pace helps him catch the opposition if the possession has been lost, and he has been known to slide in a great recovery tackle to halt tricky playmakers in their stride.

If needed, he is also quite capable in the air to cut out those long balls. He is physically strong, so he should cope well with the hustle and bustle of the Premier League and keep the ball when battling shoulder to shoulder with the opposition’s winger.

Attacking is where the Magpies will see the benefits of Janmaat. Last season for Feyenoord, he created 36 chances for Feyenoord, in which five of them became assists and as well as notching twice in 40 appearances.

A fantastic defender he is not, although he is solid and very reliable and if a partnership is created a cautious right wide man, we could see a successful career on Tyneside.

All statistical information used in this article is courtesy of Martijn Hilhors.


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What will Graziano Pellè bring to Southampton?

Big Italian striker Graziano Pelle is heading to Southampton to once again work with Ronald Koeman for a reported snip of €8million. Will Burns discusses on what the striker has in his arsenal as he is set to replace the outgoing Rickie Lambert…


– Pellè was born on 15 May 1985 in San Cesario di Lecce, Italy.

– The Italian started out at a hometown club Lecce in 2001. As a youth player, he helped his team to win the 2002/03 Coppa Italia Primavera and the Campionato Primavera twice (in 2003/04 and 2004/05).

– He made his professional debut in a Serie A game against Bologna in January 2004. Failing to settle in, between 2005 and 2007, Pellè played out on loan at Catania, Crotone and Cesena.

– In the summer of 2007, Pellè made the move to the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar scoring 14 goals in a total of 72 games.

– After a stint of four years in Holland, he returned to his homeland as he moved to Parma.

– Again failing to click in the team he went on a loan to Sampdoria from Parma in January 2012. While in Sampdoria, Pellè managed to find the net four times in 12 games.

– Once again looking for a new start, Pellè returned to the Netherlands on a season-long loan to Feyenoord.

– Pellè became a goal machine scoring 11 goals in his first ten appearances.

– After impressing, on 5th January 2013, Pellè signed a four-year contract with the Rotterdam club.

– In 2012/13 season he notched 27 goals in 29 games and then last season scored 23 in 28 appearances.

What Pellè brings to Southampton?

Graziano Pellè is a player I have admired for the past two seasons and I feel he is a perfect fit for the Premier League. At 6ft 4 inches, even though he is tall and physically strong, he is a delight to watch on the ball.

Playing as a target man, he can overpower any defender to keep the ball at his feet to feed into any overlapping player or better still, create a chance for himself. With great ability of playing with both feet, he moves real good for a big guy, which can provide source of goals when his back is to goal.

If Southampton can find two great crossers on their wings, then the Italian will deliver goals. Inside the box, Pellè is always looking for the ball, losing his marker to usually head home from either near or far post. The power in the 29-year-old’s legs makes him leap like a salmon and defeat the tallest of defenders. So from any cross whether it be in-play or from a set-piece, Pellè is a real aerial threat to the opposition’s goal.

One downfall could be his temperament. The Italian is a bit of explosive when things to do not go his way and has been known to sulk if his side are losing an important games. Please check out this link which explains some incidents from last season that got Pelle in hot water with the KNVB and Feyenoord management.

Despite the behavioral issues, I personally think this can add to his game as the passion he shows, displays a great will to win. With great finishing with both feet and his head, I see goals from Pellè and successful tenure under Koeman on the South Coast.

Anyways, don’t take my word for it Saints fans… take a look for yourself


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Ronald Koeman has made FC Twente winger Dušan Tadić his first signing at Premier League side Southampton. The Dutchman has parted with up to £11million to bring the winger to the St. Marys Stadium. Earlier this month, Southampton saw their player of the season, Adam Lallana leave for Liverpool in a massive £25million move. Tadić will be set to fill the England international’s boots, for almost a third of the price and he may turn out to be the perfect replacement writes Will Burns.

Dusan Tadic 2


Dušan Tadić started out in his hometown with local side FK AIK Bačka Topola and was quickly picked up by top Serbian SuperLiga side FK Vojvodina in 2002 at aged 12. After moving through the youth ranks, he made his full debut at aged 18.

Tadić’s life in the Netherlands began in the summer of 2010 when he joined FC Groningen for just over €1 million. By the time he had turned 21, the left winger had impressed Groningen’s sporting director Hans Nijland scoring 29 goals in 107 outgoings over four seasons, and also making his international debut just 19-years old.

Nijland was the man that signed a little known Uruguayan striker called Luis Suarez a few years earlier and had reportedly seen off Sampdoria, CSKA Moscow and even Marseille for Tadić’s signature.

Tadić rapidly adapted to life in Holland and repaid the transfer fee over the two seasons playing 68 games notching 14 times. A star was born and in the April of 2012, FC Twente, then managed by Englishman Steve McClaren, made a huge €7.7 million bid for the Serb. The move was made official in the summer transfer window in July of that year.

In a dream start for Tadić, he scored twice against his former club Groningen on his first appearance, becoming an instant hit in Enschede. However, it was last season where the winger made his strongest impact. He was named Twente’s player of the season after scoring 16 goals in 33 games adding 14 assists in the process.

After missing the opening day of the 2013/14 season due to injury, his finest performance of the campaign may well have been the week after. It was a match at the rabid venue called ‘De Kuip’, the home of Dutch giants Feyenoord. Twente walked out of Rotterdam that day 4-1 winners against a Ronald Koeman managed side. Mr. Tadić was named man of the match after scoring two penalties and creating the other two. That result and performance may very well establish why Koeman wants to make the Serbian international his first signing at Southampton.


A technically gifted left-winger, the two greatest talents at Tadić’s disposal is his exceptional passing and accurate crossing. Throughout his career in the Dutch top flight, his deliveries from corners and free-kicks have resulted in many goals being scored. Combine this with the capability to cut inside and carve up any defence with a killer ball, provides you of the main reasons for his many assists.

He will find space with his great movement and also has the uncanny talent to trick his opponent into the other direction, to gain that extra yard to accelerate past and supply the cross. If he cannot find a way to navigate past a full-back, he will look to swerve the ball past the player and into the box.

Tadić also has the benefit of being a good decision maker and is considerate with his play. If he sees a colleague in a superior position, then the ball will be played into his team-mate, no doubt about it. If he sees trouble ahead, then the ball will be turned around and played behind him so that his team keeps the possession.

Koeman may make the decision to drop Tadić into the middle of the park, behind the striker and the Serbian will feel right at home in the no. 10 role. He will keep the ball on the grass, feeding into his striker’s awaiting feet or patiently holding up play for the wingers to overlap and approach the area.

One thing is for sure is that I can see Dušan Tadić creating chances for the Saints. If Southampton go ahead and sign Graziano Pellè too, then the Italian will certainly thrive off the crosses that will be heading his way.

THE STATS (provided by OPTA’s Martijn Hilhorst)

Let’s see how Tadić compares with the rest of Europe when creating chances?



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