It isn’t just Ajax who have a talent for producing and developing young prospects in the Eredivisie. Throughout the division, young talent can be found featuring for their clubs on a regular basis – a refreshing and exciting notion. While most of the clubs discussed in this data analysis would potentially jump at the chance to cash in on their young stars, their ability to nurture and develop them seems to be of a very high standard. This data analysis will look to gain a stronger insight into the potential that exists in the role of a creative midfielder within the Eredivisie, examining five key areas to highlight any players who stand out as potential future Champions League figure.
For this analysis, statistics of Eredivisie players who were under the age of 23 and have played 500 league minutes or more in the 2019/20 season were considered. Players who have contributed from an attacking midfield or central midfield role have been included – those who have played more as a defensive midfielder were excluded from the data. Additionally, while the data comes from players’ seasons during the 2019/20 campaign, players who have since left the Eredivisie (Steven Bergwijn who moved to Tottenham, for example) have also been excluded from the data. The same rule applies for players who spent the campaign on loan at an Eredivisie club but from another league. However, players who were on loan at an Eredivisie club from another Eredivisie club were included.
An essential tool for a creative midfielder, the skill doesn’t just lie within the execution of dribbling. Knowing when and where to dribble are other important factors, as well as which dribbling technique to use – close control, the use of skill moves, dribbling at speed etc. The graph below lets us take a look at the average number of dribbles per 90 next to the dribbling success rate of the players.
PSV teenager Mohamed Ihattaren is the standout player overall. While his success rate isn’t the highest, he is only beaten on that front by two others, but is way ahead with the number of dribble attempts per 90. 54.97% of 8.25 average dribbles is an incredibly impressive stat for the 18-year-old. He has also contributed in wide positions for PSV, which comes as no surprise given his obvious dribbling capabilities.
Daniel van Kaam has also displayed some promise in this area, with an impressive 60.61% success rate from an average rate of 3.45 dribbles while taking up a central role with Groningen.
Feyenoord teenager Orkun Kokcu has impressed many this season, resulting in transfer rumours surrounding him – Arsenal being one team considered to be interested in the midfielder. Having proven his worth in a central role as well as a more attacking midfielder, he has also shown that he is capable on the ball, with a success rate of 58.21%: an impressive ration from an average of 3.34 dribbles per 90.
Spending the season on loan with Heracles Almelo from Feyenoord, 21-year-old Brazilian Mauro Junior does have the lowest success rate of this group of players with 39.31% success from an average rate of 5.77. However, it is worth noting that his position for Heracles has been a more advanced one than the more successful dribblers listed above, playing as an attacking midfielder and even a centre forward at times. This is important to consider as a good number of his dribbling may have taken place in tighter, more crowded areas closer to the opposition goal.
The first of three examinations based around the passing capabilities of these players, this section considers their total passing stats. While we are looking to identify the top creative midfielders in this report, even the passing which doesn’t come from a creative origin is still an important part of any player’s game as they will never reach a high level if they have a tendency to give the ball away easily. The graph below gives a representation of the players’ accuracy as well as how often they pass per 90 minutes.
The player who boasts the highest passing accuracy in this set of players is AZ Alkmaar’s Dani de Wit, who has completed 85.27% of his passes during the 19/20 season. With an average of 28.95 passes per 90, the Dutchman has been present for a large amount of his club’s campaign, either in the middle or to the right of an attacking midfield role.
Orkun Kokcu impresses in this category as well as the dribbling one, with the highest passes per 90 in the group at 49.32, with 84.11% of his season passes finding their target – which also happens to be the second highest success rate of the group.
With the lowest rate of passes per 90 at 26.47, and the second lowest success rate with 76.93%, Mike Trésor Ndayishimiye has a clear area to improve upon. The attacking midfielder, contracted to NEC, spent the season on loan with Willem II, playing 20 matches to gain some valuable experience.
Passing to Attack
As mentioned, the primary focus of this data analysis is to highlight potential stars in the creative midfielder realm. A key element of being a creative player is passing with an attacking intent, looking to progress the attack where possible. The following set of data shows the accuracy rates of passes into the final third and passes into the penalty area.
While the accuracy within passes into final third is very close between all involved players, Mauro Junior appears as the most reliable in being accurate in taking his team’s attack into the final third, with 76.92% of such passes resulting in an accurate attempt. This is a strong indicator of his composure and his attacking thread going forward.
It is the accuracy of passes into the area which really separates the players in this area. Daniel van Kaam and Dean Huiberts both have an impressive rate of 69.23% – a show of their attacking danger and vision in areas that can represent huge chances to create and produce goals.
A player who has some progress to make in these sorts of promising areas of the pitch is Lindon Selahi of FC Twente. The young Belgian, who does play a little deeper than some of the attacking midfielders on the list, has 63.16% accuracy for passes into the final third, and 38.46% accuracy for passes into the area – both of these stats are the lowest in each category for this group.
While the previous segment of data analysis focused on any and all passes in certain areas of the pitch, we now look at the players’ rate of key passes per 90. A ‘key pass’ refers to a pass which leads to a clear chance on goal as a result of that pass. This action is vital for a creative midfielder as they are expected to be one of the main sources when it comes to chance creation. Having the vision for such a skill at a young eye is a good indicator of potential and talent. The graph below displays the average rate of key passes made per 90 by each player.
Dean Huiberts is the player that catches the eye immediately here. Making an incredible 0.85 key passes per 90, he seems to possess areal talent as a young creative midfielder – this isn’t the first set of data where his name has appeared due to his impressive numbers.
While still some way off the top rate on the list, Ihattaren’s average of 0.48 key passes per 90 still shows a keen eye for chance creation going forward – if he can really master this craft, he will be a great asset for any side.
While van Kaam’s name does appear near the bottom of the rankings, seeing Dani de Wit with a low average in this area is somewhat surprising, given his more advanced position and his natural talent within the passing department – he makes just 0.11 key passes per 90, an area of his game he may look to improve upon if he is to remain a more advanced creative player.
The final set of data to be presented shows the number of goals and assists provided by each player through the 2019/20 Eredivisie season. While goal scoring isn’t the primary role of a midfielder, an attacking one will be expected to add a few goals throughout the season, as well as setting them up too. The following chart shows a total contribution of goals and assists for each player.
Not for the first time, Mauro Junior is a standout player in this data. With six goals and six assists, he displays a threatening eye for goal, but also the creativity and vision to make the goals too. Contributing to so many goals at such a young age will turn the heads of big clubs if he carries such form on in the near future.
A player we haven’t yet mentioned is Heerenveen player Joey Veerman, has a satisfying set of numbers – four goals and five assists in 22 games is a show of great potential. At the age of 21, the next season for him is crucial – he must continue with these sorts of numbers with goals and assists as well as improving his numbers in other departments.
However, one player in this area who would expect more from himself is van Kaam, who has failed to register a single goal or assist all season. While the lack of goals can be understood due to his age of role, there is still a heavy expectation to provide assists for his teammates – something he will surely want to rectify next season.
In one area or another, every player on this list has shown a potential in their game as a creative midfielder. This is an example of the hard work done by the clubs in the Eredivisie to develop their young talents carefully. There are, however, a certain few players who look to have a big future in the game, based on this data analysis. Mauro Junior is one of those: with an eye for goal, and the vision to create chances, expect to see more from the young Brazilian in the next few years. Another player who has impressed is Orkun Kokcu, and it is no surprise that he has attracted the interest of clubs such as Arsenal. Kokcu has demonstrated a composure while passing the ball, and a remarkable level of comfort while dribbling the ball. A player who has the ability to carry the ball through midfield before releasing a pass can be a tough player to defend against. Dean Huiberts and Dani de Wit have also had strong 2019/20 campaigns, showing that they possess a good level of potential – they both look to nail down a regular starting place over the next season or two at their respective clubs to further their development.