KEVIN STROOTMAN is one of Netherlands’ highest rated young players. He has enjoyed a meteoric rise in last year, moving just last January from Sparta Rotterdam to Utrecht and half a year later to PSV.
Central midfielder has managed to fit quite comfortably into PSV. He has already broken into his national side, being part of Bert van Marwijk’s team on 10 occasions. In those games he has managed to score once, against Finland.
When taking into account the fact that the player is just 21 years old, then it is quite obvious as to why European football’s biggest names are already very closely monitoring him. The names associated with him are of quite wide range but they include the likes of Liverpool, Bayern, Inter and Arsenal amongst others.
Report on Kevin Strootman
Name: Kevin Strootman
Date of Birth: 13.02.1990 (age 21)
Height: 186 cm
Current Club: PSV Eindhoven (according to Transfermarkt.co.uk contracted until 30.06.2016)
National Team: Capped for senior, U21, U19 and U18 national teams
Basic Playing Information:
Position: Central midfielder / Defensive midfielder
Preferred foot: Strongly left footed
Statistics Of Last 3 Seasons (according to Transfermarkt.co.uk):
2011/2012: PSV / Netherlands – 26 games, 4 goals, 11 assists, 5 yellow cards, 1 red card, 2191 minutes played
2010/2011: Sparta Rotterdam / Utrecht / Netherlands / Netherlands U21 – 43 games, 7 goals, 10 assists, 10 yellow cards, 3592 minutes played
2009/2010: Sparta Rotterdam / Netherlands U21 – 40 games, 4 goals, 9 assists, 6 yellow cards, 3384 minutes played
Games Watched When Making The Report:
1. Germany – Netherlands 3:0 (International friendly, 15.11.2011)
2. PSV – Groningen 6:1 (Eredivisie, 26.11.2011)
3. Feyenoord – PSV 2:0 (Eredivisie, 04.12.2011)
Individual Game Descriptions:
1. Germany – Netherlands 3:0
Strootman was used in that game as a central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation alongside Mark van Bommel. He played until the 64th minute (just before Germany scored 3:0) when he was replaced by Nigel de Jong.
The tempo of the game was not very high. Germany controlled the first half and scored two goals in the middle of it. Would have been more of a contest had Netherlands front men been bit sharper and skillful, but without Rafael van der Vaart and Robin van Persie they lacked the ability to keep the ball up very well or to create and put away opportunities.
Strootman’s role seemed to be in front of the defence and he did not get forward very often.
2. PSV – Groningen 6:1
Strootman was used in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation as a central midfielder alongside Georginio Wijnaldum and bit further forward Ola Toivonen. He played a full match and scored a goal.
As the scoreline suggests, PSV had the game under complete control and had it sealed pretty much at half-time already. Groningen team was all over the place tactically and seemed to consist of different groups of player rather than one team, making it easy for PSV to rip them apart. The scoreline could have been worse.
Strootman was the most held back of the central midfield trio though he did get forward.
3. Feyenoord – PSV 2:0
Strootman was used in a 4-2-3-1 formation alongside Georginio Wijnaldum although it could have been seen as a 4-1-2-3 formation too.
The game was quite even with Feyenoord capitalizing on some mistakes of PSV in defence. PSV could have scored a few goals themselves and could have conceded a couple more. At first the game was quite slow-paced, but eventually it picked up. Neither defence was particularly effective although Feyenoord’s managed to limit danger on their goal by getting bodies in the way at the very last moments.
Strootman was clearly staying back in the first half in a defensive midfield position as Wijnaldum seemed to have a lot of freedom to roam around the pitch, which he did with hot and cold bursts in terms of results. In second half Strootman moved into a more advanced position as PSV tried to turn the game around.
Performances Of Strootman In Those Games:
I particularly picked those games out of the possible ones because I preferred to see him perform when things are not going his teams way – I would have also watched one Europa League tie to catch as wide variety of games as possible but I did not have time for that. I ended up picking two big games in which Strootman’s team lost and one of those games where the Eredivisie stars tend to create their impressive statistics.
I have to admit he did not look as impressive as I expected him to be in any of those three games. Not even in the one against Groningen where he scored a goal.
Not enough intensity and energy shown
My initial view of Strootman was of a midfielder with quite fresh legs but I was surprised to see him move very lazily around the pitch at times.
I already noticed it in the game against Germany but against Groningen and Feyenoord it was even more evident. There was some sort of lack of intensity in the way he ran. To some point it was understandable that he might not try as hard in an Eredivisie games which often turn out to be walks in the park for a team as talented in attack as PSV is, one good example was the game against Groningen where he really took a breather in the second half it seems. But the fact that he already looked like lacking energy in a big international game is a cause for concern for clubs looking at him.
It showed when he got up to attack and took long time to come back on many occasions, leaving his defenders without cover when he could have gotten back much quicker. Even if it might be the result of some other player not listening to the orders the manager has given to him (for example: if Strootman goes up, you stay behind), he should have rushed back once he would have seen that team-mate is not going back.
Usually he seems to be quite disciplined, most evidently when he stays back when there is no need for him to go up but when he went he seemed to take too long to get back every other time I noticed. In one particular occasion he made a bad pass in midfield against Feyenoord which led to Feyenoord getting a counter but Strootman did not get back into his own box even if he should have followed a Feyenoord player (who was 10-15 yards further away from the goal). That Feyenoord player ended up being free and giving a good pass in the box which led to a dangerous shot being saved. Strootman at the time was still jogging back.
Strong but not quick
This lack of intensity is probably a bit of a physical issue as well as a mental one of not finding that bit of strength in himself to push himself to make an exhausting run back.
His legs do not seem as fresh and light as you might imagine a 21-year old having. This is something that might become a problem for him if he does move to a bigger team.
His running style is quite powerful, but for now it lacks of explosion and also speed. I noted it in all three games. Many times he looked as if when he would have just one extra step over three seconds time in him, then the opponents would not get past him. In three games, I did not see him beat an opponent for pace even once, if he did get past someone it was purely thanks to body strength or lucky break. One of the main praises I have for Strootman is that when he gets his body in, he is really strong and can hold off most players.
Best example came again in the Feyenoord game where he had a lot of room on the left flank to get a cross in but despite that, he was an easy meal for the opponent who he tried to beat for pace as he made a move towards the byline to put a cross in.
Defensively insecure of himself
Defensively speaking this lack of intensity and quickness in his game is causing him some problems.
For starters he often seems to misjudge his speed, trying to cut passes by sliding but missing the ball, effectively taking himself out of the game for a moment.
But that is not the main issue I had with him in defence. I am not so sure if he is hundred percent certain of himself when going into challenges. Most of the times when he goes to take the ball or make an interception, he seems to be bit too weak, not very calculating and yet too cautious. He goes to win balls in situations where waiting another split second and going in with more conviction would probably stop the opponent. However, about half of the times he does not do it and he fails to get the control of the ball for himself or his team although he might get a little toe on it.
I guess this is partly caused by the lack of quickness or explosion in his feet so that he is afraid of being late and giving away a foul when he goes in too aggressively. Against Germany it was very evident, with the tiredness having extra effect.
Another area where his insecurity with his own speed seems to show is when he is faced one on one with a player with the ball. In game against Germany he constantly stood off Mesut Özil but when he doing this, he stood so far off that Özil could easily make a pass or a cross before Strootman came near to blocking it.
Tactically hot and cold
When it comes to him playing without the ball and him seeing what goes around him on the pitch, I think there is a bit of good and a bit of bad.
Starting off with the good, I would say he has a reasonably good vision of the pitch. He often manages to see a passing opportunity before he actually gets the ball and this is something I really like in a player and no-where is it more important than in midfield.
Also, as I have said, he does a good job in following discipline, he does not rush forward like a dog chasing a tennis ball. When playing as a defensive midfielder, he moves up once his team has control of the situation and can do a possession-based attack or when he has to move up in a counter-attacking situation where he is more further forward than his midfield partners and there is a possible free space to be utilised.
When he is with the ball in midfield, he seems to understand well if he can afford to make a risky pass and if he cannot. When he is the man ahead of defence and the opponents have closed the good passing opportunities ahead, he always chooses the option of giving the ball to a defender who is not under pressure.
Now to the bad side however. His off the ball movement in defence and normal attacking situation is not that helpful to his team.
When defending, I’ve already spoken about him going into challenges possibly bit early and giving an opponent a better chance to go past, also he is not very good at reading opponents movements and reading their passes.
He seems to switch himself off at times, going for players that are already being chased by someone much closer than him. This happened to play a little part in goals for both Germany and Groningen. Against Germany he went chasing in the middle (for a player who Ryan Babel was already chasing and was nearer to) and noticed too late that Mesut Özil was free on the flank – so he could neither cut out the pass or reach Özil who put in a cross for Miroslav Klose to score. Against Groningen he was too late to notice Pedersen’s run into the box which in my opinion he should have followed from the start. Once he started chasing him, it was too late and he could not poke the ball away from him.
Those are not the only times he seems to switch himself off as in box he seems to forget to mark players and sometimes lets the ball drop rather than clearing it at first chance possible. And at times he could do a little hoof the ball clear style defending.
In attack, he should really create more problems for opponents. Must be noted that it is the minority of times but he should work much harder to offer his team-mate a pass – he sort of tries to, but by making a tiny extra effort he would make it simpler for the player with the ball.
Also his movement does not create much space for his team-mates. It is of little help when he jogs into opponent half alongside a player wearing the other shirt. He should try to move a bit more – if the opponents do not follow him then he is going to find himself in space to receive a pass, if they do follow him, then it helps to break the opponent formation a bit to allow someone to break forward.
Right foot is only for standing on?
Now to the technical side of Strootman’s game… first the worst. He does seem to avoid using his right foot a lot, almost all of his more difficult touches (passing, taking the ball under control, shooting) seem to be with the left foot. Luckily for him the strong foot is quite good at doing those things but a right foot would add a lot of extra to his game.
Overall he is not bad on the ball but there is definitely room for improvement. His first touch is usually good and at least short, one touch passing is solid, I did not see more than a few long-range passes but of those two were very good.
He does not feel comfortable when under pressure. He seems to try an occasional trick but they do not come off as well as he would probably want them to. In all the times I saw him in a bit of a difficult situation and he had to have good feet to get out of it, he lost the ball. When turning he is slow.
I also noticed that there was a fair few rushed and not very well thought through passes – expecting to find his team-mate while there were about 3-4 opponents between him and the player he is passing to.
Also for a player of his size, he really needs to improve his heading ability. You would want a 186 centimetre player in the box, but neither Netherlands or PSV use him there because the few times I saw him head the ball (usually in midfield position) he seemed to do nothing other than put his head against the ball. When it came to actually directing the ball with his head, he did not really do it.
His shooting was okay, but a bit of practice and few tips from people like van der Vaart, van Persie and Sneijder from the national team would definitely help as he does not really control where his shots fly.
When it came to him as a character on the football pitch, I liked what I saw. The fact that he got the captains armband after Ola Toivonen left in the game against Feyenoord seems to show that PSV’s manager Fred Rutten agrees.
He is very high demanding of his team-mates and lets them know when he does not like them. That usually means that he is a player who wants to win, is ambitious and probably spends a lot of time working on his own footballing skills.
Neither does he mind bossing his team-mates around on the pitch, telling them where to go, who to mark and so on.
Bit worryingly though he is very aggressive at times and definitely someone who I see getting a red card or two or maybe more for misconduct in his career.
All those characteristics are nothing new though and seem to be very common in the best Dutch players, Wesley Sneijder being probably the best example of a player who gets a bit heated on the pitch.
What level is he now:
I would say that Kevin Strootman is not yet at the level to make much of a difference in a club which hunts for highest honors of European football. There are some flaws in his game in all areas and he needs to learn and train hard. His bit slack and not very mobile playing style would see him struggle in England and Italy at least in my opinion because in case of England cames are very physically demanding and in case of Italy the spaces are quite tight. PSV is a great place for him to be at the moment and I am sure he will be a valuable asset for Netherlands in the upcoming Euro 2012 which will be the big test for him, if he gets there.
However, if he had to move in the January window, I would say Germany is the best destination, at least for immediate playing time and good performances.
What level might he reach:
I see a very good future for him in the game. The flaws in his game are fixable. He will become tactically more astute with every passing game and I believe finding that extra step of pace and bit more explosion in the legs is not impossible for a soon to be 22-year old player.
I think in future he could become more of a box-to-box midfielder than he is now. Ideally playing for a quite direct team which I can only imagine plays somewhat similar style of football to the Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side for example.
Top sides of English Premier League, Italian Serie A and German Bundesliga would all be good fit for him in as soon as 1-2 years time if all goes right. Spain however might be bit too chaotic for him below Real Madrid and Barcelona and of those big two, I do not see him fitting too well into either even if he develops.
If I had to pay 10 million euros rating: 7/10
I think for now, his playing level is just short of 10 million euros but considering the fact that he is only 21-years old and his issues are fixable, I think it would be a gamble with very good odds for that money. There is a potential top team midfielder in there who can help his team a lot in all phases of the game.
However there is some chance of him not improving much which has to be taken into account. He might need some patience, trust and belief in him by the team he is in, especially in a situation where he moves to a very big team as start might be bit difficult in there. On the plus side he has adapted very well and almost immediately with previous teams and that is a sign of a great player.
I must add I was quite torn between 7 and 8 rating.