The coming of modern football has caused the evolution of several positions on the field into much more specialised and technical roles, not many more so than the wide-men; wingers, wide-midfielders, inside forwards, or just a wide advanced playmaker are all several roles for the same ‘position’. But every now and then, a special player comes along, someone who ticks all the above mentioned boxes. It seems as if the Netherlands may just have one such player in their ranks – Memphis Depay.
At the tender age of 20, this left-winger has already broken into the national squad and is one of the key players for his club (PSV) in the Eredivisie. 43 appearances in all competitions, with just five from the bench, 12 goals and seven assists is a decent return for a young player in the third season of his professional career – but the whole isn’t the sum of the parts. His real value lies in the threat he poses in attack; whether it is a slow build-up or on the break. The most astonishing aspect of this player is his growth, though, as he’s become in integral part of the PSV squad in a mere three years. And he’s only going to get better.
At first glance, Andre Marriner would think Oxlade-Chamberlain is ripping up the Eredivisie. Yes, there may be a resemblance, but the playing style of both players are somewhat similar. Brilliant with the ball at his feet and always looking to attack – Depay is really a special player. The lad’s got some decent skills in his locker, and relishes a battle against the opposing fullback. His best quality, surely, is his Messi-esque dribbling ability and the ease with which he can beat opponents. But even though he sounds like a good Andros Townsend, he brings so much more to the table. Drifting centrally, he pulls defenders to make space for teammates, and on top of that, he can also produce the final ball. According to Squawka, he’s already created 75 chances this season. He is a direct player, not one to diddle-daddle about, and will never shy away from the opportunity of going for it from range. He may be frustrating to watch at times, and may seem selfish, but didn’t they say the same of players such as Ronaldo in the beginning?
However dangerous he may be in attack, his game has one single, big flaw. “He did so well until the finish” is a line that could have been written for this player. He can beat four players while dribbling his way into the box, get the ball onto his right foot... and then fire straight to the keeper or horribly wide/over/[insert not ideal place here]. Even though he’s scored 12 already, it could have been much more. Whether it is a problem with composure, a lack of ability or an under-trained aspect of his game, it is an area that needs addressing. If he succeeds on improving, though, he will be the complete product.
Depay is a promising talent, and looks set to reach the upper echelons of football. A summer move to a European giant looks likely, but he may do well to spend another season in the Eredivisie. If he can keep his head down, work hard towards a goal and not get distracted by off-field issues, he will surely blossom into one of the best players of his generation. He can be great, or he can be another failed Dutch winger. It’s in his hands.