Chelsea FanZoner John Baines enlists the help of three Dutch football experts to get the lowdown on new Blues signing Marco van Ginkel.
Chelsea's new £8million midfield man may be relatively unheard of amongst Premier League aficionados, but in his native Netherlands, the Blues' latest recruit is being tipped for the top.
Last season, van Ginkel was voted 'Dutch Football Talent of the Year' - so is he the next big thing, or just one of a number?
Michael Bell: He is definitely not just one of the numbers. Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder are just some of the players to win the award before, so he's in good company. They have all gone on to have successful careers and I believe van Ginkel can join them.
Siew-Joe Lee: There are a lot of talented Dutch players around at the moment, but in my opinion Marco van Ginkel is definitely ranked in the top-tier alongside Adam Maher, Memphis Depay and Viktor Fischer.
Sander IJtsma: Well, players tend to leave the Eredivisie at very young ages and their development is far from over. This also holds true for MvG. At just 20 years of age, it's impossible to tell if he's going to be 'the next big thing' at the highest level. He is by all means one of the brightest developments in the Eredivisie and he's got the talent to succeed at the highest level. But there have been numerous players that held high qualifications before, but did not quite cut it. A lot will depend on Chelsea bedding him into their system and giving him time and exposure to develop further.
So by all accounts he had a decent 2012/13, but what was he up to before that? Any danger he was a one-season wonder in the Eredivisie?
MB: He's been a regular at Vitesse since making his debut about three years ago. In 2011/12 van Ginkel became a permanent member of the starting eleven and his presence helped turn them from relegation candidates to European qualifiers, and last year his profile outside of Netherlands was boosted by the club's title challenge and a prolific strike partnership with Wilfried Bony.
SL: Not at all. I live in Arnhem and have had the privilege to talk to van Ginkel on numerous occasions. He breathes football and it's all he thinks about, so apart from his obvious talent, Marco has the right mentality to succeed in the Premier League with Chelsea.
SI: The biggest thing in favor of MvG and his development is that it follows a rather steady line. He made his Eredivisie debut at the age of 17, and already built the experience of over 120 competitive matches despite being only 20 years old. It is true that he has captured the limelight during the past season, but his development before that has been quite steady.
Going from being an Eredivisie talent to competing for Premier and Champions League titles is a big step. Is van Ginkel ready?
MB: Only time will tell, but the player clearly has all the capabilities to become a leading Premier League midfielder. Playing alongside and against some of the best midfielders in Europe, week in week out, will only have positive effects on someone already so talented.
SL: To be honest, he needs time to adapt. The step-up is going to be huge, Marco has little experience on European level and I expect that van Ginkel will have trouble adjusting to the tempo of the Premier League. However, given enough time he will surely adapt. Let's not forget he's only 20.
SI: I would be hesitant to say so, as the gap in quality between the EPL and the Eredivisie is considerable. Mourinho has also hinted at this, recently, calling MvG 'still a child' in terms of tactics, which is probably a fair claim to make for practically any 20-year old."
He hasn't been given much of a run in the Dutch national side, why is that?
MB: At the moment, van Ginkel is probably fourth in the pecking order for the two attacking midfielder spots in the national side. Coach Louis van Gaal still views Sneijder and van der Vaart as his first choice with Adam Maher as their back up. He would have been on the recent tour of Asia but was participating in the European U21 Championships, where to many people's surprise he kept Jordy Clasie out of the starting eleven - a decision he justified with great performances. A good season with Chelsea and there is a big chance he will become a first team regular and make the plane for next summer's World Cup - should Netherlands qualify.
SL: This season has been a breakthrough so there has not been many international matches for him to be called up for. However, Louis van Gaal prefers Jonathan de Guzman over van Ginkel at the moment. That's understandable as de Guzman has more experience and has been playing well for Swansea, but if van Ginkel plays enough at Chelsea, we could see van Gaal call him up again.
SI: The Dutch national side under van Gaal has seen a lot of players feature recently, and MvG is one of them. He's not quite at the level to feature in the strongest XI, but he's probably going to make the full squad for the World Cup - depending on the upcoming season.We know he's a midfielder, but what's his best role?
MB: He is at his best as a box-to-box midfielder, linking up with a striker and bursting into the opponents box. He perfected that role last season, dovetailing with Bony to devastating effect to rack up 43 goals and 20 assists between them. He is not all about attack though, and van Ginkel does his share of defensive marking as well. At the European U21 Championship, coach Cor Pot gave him the role of shutting down the opposition's key player and he did a good job on Lewis Holtby of Germany and Alan Dzagoev of Russia in the two matches the Netherlands won. But even though he is tall and strong, van Ginkel also has an outstanding burst of pace. All three of these attributes together allows him to muscle opponents off the ball in midfield and then glide past them with ease.
SL: He's not a defensive minded anchor man or a playmaker as such. He's best positioned as a box-to-box midfielder, that way you utilise both his stamina, defensive qualities and ability to score goals in the best manner.
SI: In tactical terms, I'd say he's a box-to-box type midfielder. His athleticism allows him to play a role over a large proportion of the pitch and he's keen to arrive late in the box to support the striker. His passing is more than decent, given his young age, and he makes great use of his physique, although the step up to the highest level will allow him less of an advantage there.
Which player, past or present, Dutch or otherwise, is MvG's style most comparable to?
MB: In van Ginkel, I see certain attributes that are similar to Ruud Gullit. He has strength, brilliant technical ability and a threat in the air with his height. Van Ginkel has compared himself to both Steven Gerrard and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and says he bases his game around the duo. I definitely see similarities to Gerrard with the player's ability to control the midfield and influence games with pieces of magic.
SL: Van Ginkel is very comparable to Frank Lampard. They are both box-to-box players with great stamina, and similarly to Lampard, van Ginkel penetrates the enemy box cleverly, trying to assist or get a goal.
SI: I'm on the Frank Lampard track. Not that MvG is at that level yet, but in terms of playing style, he could fit the offensive athletic midfielder with a goal scoring bonus. He's definitely not a genuine creative force, but more of a hard worker that never stops making deep runs. Also, Ramires, might be an interesting guy to compare MvG with, at least within the present Chelsea side. Both of them like to provide a lot of movement and drag opposing players out of position to allow fellow players to take advantage.
Chelsea aren't exactly short of options in midfield, what does he give that they haven't already got?
MB: Total football? Haha. From what I saw of Chelsea last season, they lack a tall, strong midfielder who can take control of the situation and link up with the likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. This is what van Ginkel will bring into the fold.
SL: To be honest: nothing at all. Chelsea's midfield is world class and in my opinion possesses every aspect of what a modern-day midfield should look like.
SI: The single word to answer this question would probably by dynamism. He's an energetic guy, who is definitely one of the best midfielders of that type in his age group. In the coming years, Chelsea could mold him into several different roles, actually. If they allow him enough time to develop, MvG has the raw potential for further development, and it's also a bit up to Chelsea now to decide what type of player they want out of him.
Where can you see him fitting into Chelsea's set-up?
MB: Jose Mourinho clearly has faith in van Ginkel but I can see him getting eased into the first team gradually. I think he's the perfect man to eventually replace Frank Lampard, he matches Lampard's work rate and goal scoring threat and after a season of learning from the man himself, van Ginkel will be ready to take up the mantle.
SL: Chelsea legend Frank Lampard isn't getting any younger and is approaching his retirement, so van Ginkel could potentially replace him in the long-term.
SI: He'll be competing for the second defensive midfielder's position. If Mourinho persists in a 4-2-3-1, he'll feature beside a deep-lying playmaker, and prevent the team from falling apart into a defensive unit and offensive one. Also, his runs will see him support the striker and come in handy in quick counter attacks. In a 4-3-3 system, he'll feature in a box-to-box role in one of the central midfielder roles, easing the pressure on the more creative central guy.
What's the reaction in the Netherlands been like to his move?
MB: The reaction has been mixed with many understanding that an opportunity like Chelsea comes only once in a lifetime, and he was right to grab it. However on the other hand, a lot of people are worried that Chelsea will not give van Ginkel enough first-team football - something he would have got at Ajax - and he disappears into the wilderness.
SL: The reaction has been very negative to be honest. In Holland, Chelsea is not known as a club that gives talent time to play. The general notion is that van Ginkel will be squandered on the bench and forgotten about. Although, van Ginkel stated in several interviews that Jose Mourinho laid out a plan for him in order to integrate him in the squad. So, if we believe Marco's words, this will not happen.
SI: Quite sceptical really. A lot of Dutch people live with a healthy dose of scepticism, and don't think any further than the cliche of MvG being to young to leave the Eredivisie. It probably needs a bit more nuance than that. MvG could have developed further by joining Ajax and playing Champions League for them. Moving abroad is one thing, but joining the top league in the world in a side that is expected to fight for the title, is quite something else. The reaction in the Netherlands is quite reserved. Other than the enthusiastic 'he might take advantage from training with the best', people will just assume that it won't work out.
All in all, will this be a good move for MvG and Chelsea?
MB: Chelsea are getting a terrific talent that nurtured correctly can become one of the best midfielders in Europe, while van Ginkel is getting the opportunity to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world. The move is great for both parties, as long as regular playing time is handed to the 20-year-old.
SL: I think it'll be a good move. Chelsea play around 60 matches each season, and with Frank Lampard growing older, his conditioning and stamina will drastically decrease. Younger players like Marco van Ginkel will be given the chance to settle themselves in the squad and gain first-team experience. I'm confident if van Ginkel gets the confidence and playing-time, he will make it as a Chelsea regular starter.
SI: Ha, that's a tricky one. Let's look into my crystal ball...Of course, I don't know. A lot will depend on playing time. Without significant time at a competitive level, no player is going to develop. It's up to Chelsea to either grant him time in their first eleven, or send him out to develop elsewhere.
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