A blog following in Dennis' footsteps. Ajax, Arsenal and Dutch football
As shown on www.goonersphere.com
‘Kevin Strootman: Welcome to Manchester United’, a video posted on YouTube 11 months ago. The now 23-year old PSV midfielder had just finished his first full season at the Eindhoven club, seeing them finish just short of a Champions League qualifier spot. Almost a year later, Kevin is still firmly in PSV’s grasp; but for how long? Kevin is heavily linked to Arsenal, and according to his agent Chiel Dekker, Strootman’s preferred league is the Premier League.
It has all been upwards for the young Dutchman. He made his topflight debut at Sparta Rotterdam, 2 days after his 18th birthday. 3-and-a-half seasons later with over 70 first team appearances under his belt, having made his Oranje debut and seeing his boyhood club relegated, he joined FC Utrecht. It was a brief stay, with Kevin joining Philips (yes, the company) Sport Vereniging in the City of Light 6 months later. So what, fittingly, sparked Kevin’s meteoric rise to the pinnacle of Dutch football, and how far can he go? Would he fit in at Arsenal? I hope to answer these questions in my second Goonersphere column.
Kevin Strootman, harshly nicknamed ‘paving stone’ because of his model looks, is one of few professional footballers to have their feet placed firmly on the ground. He knows exactly what he can and cannot do on the pitch, and this greatly increases his effectiveness. As a player with great stamina and strength, he is great in a box-to-box role. The Ridderkerk-born is adept at making those runs into the box, swinging his hammer left foot to cannonball the leather into the net.
On the other end of the pitch, his covering of the back four is very good. PSV played with a Mark van Bommel / Strootman double pivot this season, with Kevin doing most of the work involving actual running. The left-footed powerhouse is great at positioning himself correctly and thus receiving a pass.
The great thing about him, in combination with his positioning, is that he is always aware of his surroundings before getting the ball. The pass to him is underway, he looks up, spots a runner, makes the decision and acts on it. By doing this, he rarely gets caught in possession because – like any good footballer – he is a man with a plan.
Now, of course, these are mostly mental attributes. If that was all it took, I’d be a terrific footballer (my positioning is top notch to be fair). However, there is obviously more to Kevin Strootman than that. As I mentioned before, he is very powerful, allowing him to shoot from distance. Moreover, his passing ability is absolutely fantastic. He has the accuracy to provide a perfect pass over 40 yards that in a way reminds me of Koeman, with his lower leg barely moving beyond the ball. This makes him a very dangerous player to have on the ball in central midfield.
But what about off the ball? Is his defensive contribution good enough? I would definitely say so. Apart from him looking like the troll from the Harry Potter movies, his tackling is another reason why you wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. He is good at using his physique to barge a player off the ball. A very important trait for PSV, as his midfield partner Mark van Bommel has been off the pace in his final season as a professional footballer and the Eindhoven defence has been shaky. Speaking of his physique, his height (6 feet and 2 inches) would obviously be very useful in the Premier League.
Now, of what use is a player with those abilities if he has the touch of a Sunday league player? Not much, I’d say. Luckily, PSV’s number 8 is surprisingly technical for his height. He is a decent dribbler, which isn’t unimportant for a player whose best position is box-to-box midfielder. Of course, the Dutch Eredivisie is much slower than the PL and thus allows a player more time on the ball, but I believe that one of the reasons he’s been doing so well is that his thought process is must faster than that of his opponents.
In an attempt to make this a bit less one-sided, Kevin Strootman still has enough to improve on. However good his tackling in general might be, he still received 10 yellow cards over the course of the season. That’s only one less than Dean Whitehead (11) who received the most yellow cards in the Premier League 2012/2013 season. It’s almost twice as much as Arteta, whose 6 yellow cards topped the charts for Arsenal. Furthermore, there’s the issue of the right foot. That is not a new Arsenal podcast (it should be, thank me later). Our Dutch international player is quite one-footed, which might limit his ability to perform more difficult passes without using his left foot.
All in all, I believe that Kevin Strootman has the talent and eagerness to learn to become an even better player. He might even be able to perform that Diaby role for Arsenal, something our fans have been craving. Whether or not we are truly interested in him remains to be seen, but Kevin Strootman has been wearing red and white shirts ever since he played his first professional game back in 2008.
PSV’s motto is ‘Eendracht maakt macht’, which roughly translates to ‘Victory Through Harmony’. Lastly, Kevin’s place of birth Ridderkerk translates to ‘Knight’s church’. Knights used cannons. Our cannon could do with a tall and scary knight to ignite the powder keg.