PSV Eindhoven haven’t been able to find any sort of consistency this season, but it hasn’t stopped Memphis Depay from gaining rich plaudits from his fans and critics alike for his performances, with many labeling him as the next Arjen Robben.
Who is Memphis Depay?
Memphis Depay is a 19 year old (at the time of writing) footballer who was eligible to play for either Netherlands or Ghana, eventually picking the former. Depay had a troubled childhood which more or less, has had a big influence on him. When Memphis joined Sparta Rotterdam he had disciplinary issues and his behavior was a concern for everyone. Those same problems continued when he joined PSV in 2006, but there was no shadow of doubt about his potential. PSV knew he was a special talent, and hence appointed Joost Leenders to make sure Depay walked on the right path. Eventually Depay managed to overcome all his difficulties, repaying PSV’s faith by scoring twice and winning a penalty in his debut match against VVSB in a KNVB fixture when he was 17 years old, a match which PSV won 8-0.
In the 11/12 season, Depay was on the bench for 3 consecutive games before finally making a short cameo appearance against Feyernoord. Nearly a month later he would make his next appearance, scoring within six minutes of coming on vs Heerenveen. He continued to make late appearances from the bench in that season in the Eredivisie, scoring thrice and assisting once in the process.
2012-13 was expected to be his break-through season, but Dries Mertens was almost irreplaceable for PSV. Depay made 20 appearances in the league, only two of which were starts, as he got on the scoresheet twice that season. He did start twice in the Europa League, including a crucial Europa League game in Naples, a famous victory for the club against Napoli in which he set up Tim Matavz for his hat-trick goal.
Now, with Mertens’ departure to Napoli, Depay has made himself a regular name in the team-sheet with manager, Phillip Cocu, having complete faith in the youngster. He has been a regular in the first team, scoring a few (including in the Champions League qualifying round and the Europa League). He scored the first brace of his senior career against Utrecht. Impressed with his performances this season, the Netherlands manager, Van Gaal, handed him his debut at the age 19 coming on as a substitute against Turkey in a World Cup qualifying tie.
His talents are not limited to pitch alone. Depay is also an accomplished rapper. In fact, his acquaintance with rapping made his then coach, Fred Rutten, question his commitment towards football. Fortunately, he has found a way to balance football and his musically inclined hobby.
Memphis Depay featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014. He was at #4 in our list of forwards/wingers. See the entire list here. He was at #1 in the 2015 version of the list and also went on to win the ‘Forward of the Season’ award at the 2015 Talent Radar Awards, along with being named in the Team of the Season.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Speaking purely on the basis of raw talent, it wouldn’t be wrong to say Memphis Depay is amongst the best in Netherlands, if not the best. Memphis is a flamboyant winger, usually stationed on the left side for PSV Eindhoven. There’s a certain, dare I say the word, swagger surrounding Depay when he’s on the field. The way he carries himself on and off the pitch exudes confidence.
Comfortable with both his feet, he has a really lethal right foot, which he uses to his advantage by cutting inside and having a go from distance (hence the comparison with Arjen Robben). Another advantage of his style of play is it creates space for the left-back to make overlapping runs and put in dangerous crosses.
Memphis is blessed with exceptional body balance, thanks to which he can withstand any ground challenges made upon him. Growing up playing in the streets of Rotterdam, it comes as no surprise watching him bamboozle the defense with his slick range of trickery and fantastic dribbling technique. That, coupled with his dazzling pace, makes it very difficult for defenders to catch hold of him. His quick acceleration over short distance doesn’t makes the lives of the right-backs any easier either. The full-backs can’t afford to blink an eye when against him- any lapse in concentration even if for a fraction of a second, this 19 year old will be past you in a flash. His skillful nature, pace and willingness to take on the fullbacks make him a total menace in the attacking third.
Depay is a very clever footballer. He’s always making those runs behind the defense, causing all sorts of problem to the opposition. When running at the defenders, he will push them on to play on their weaker foot, making it as uncomfortable for them as possible. Thanks to his quickness and blistering acceleration, he can be a brilliant outlet on the counter. Off the ball, he’s always on the move, making decoy runs, dragging defenders out of their position which his team-mates could then exploit as shown by the image below.
Depay (circled) drags the defender out of his position due to which his team-mates (marked) can then exploit the space created by his movements.
When on the ball, Depay makes sure he has his full body behind the ball. What helps in doing so is the margin of error is very fine for the offender when making any challenges from behind on him as the referee is most likely to blow his whistle straight away. Such challenges only allow the young Dutchman to win the fouls in dangerous areas. Another area which helps him in winning fouls is his gifted ability to induce the defenders into committing a tackle early with his fancy shimmy, step-overs and feints.
The winger’s dead-ball specialities has been likened to that of Cristiano Ronaldo, quite an achievement in itself. His ability to get late swerve on the ball and to be able to get it to dip makes him a spectacular set-piece taking option. The 19 year old has scored innumerable free-kicks throughout his (relatively young) career in the youth level of PSV and Netherlands, and has already scored 2 beautiful free-kicks this season for PSV’s first team (at the time of writing). He’s also capable of whipping in tempting deliveries regularly, making him a constant threat from set-piece routines.
His main strength lies in his clean and sound shooting technique. Of the 8 goals he has scored this season (at the time of writing), 6 of them have been from outside the box including one marvelous effort from 35 yards out against Zulte Waregem. Much of it is really down to his lethal right foot. Usually, he will take a touch to engineer some space and then hit the ball around the sweet spot to derive maximum gain from it, more often than not testing the keeper. His shot accuracy stands at 51% this season which is very commendable given he is one of those players who shoots at sight and from distance (He has attempted the most shots in Eredivisie this season averaging 4.5 shots per game). However because of his tendency to shoot at sight, he takes shots from unrealistic locations, which can be frustrating at times for the manager as well as the viewers. His shot locations is definitely an area where Depay can improve, and he has age by his side to do the same.
Another attribute where he excels is his touch and control. Depay can bring down the ball at any part of the pitch. PSV use a lot of across the filed diagonal long balls to stretch and switch the play and Memphis is one of the reasons why they can carry it out efficiently. Also his tight control of the ball along with his quick feet helps him taking on the defenders very successfully (Has attempted 4.6 dribbles per game in the Eredivisie and Europa League this season, with a success rate of 65%). He combines his spatial awareness with his touch to play quick one-twos regularly and successfully.
The most admirable aspect of him is his willingness to work off the ball. Depay presses very well upfront, though can be clumsy at times (shown by the 21 fouls he has committed this season), as well as providing support to Jetro Willems, who is a typical modern full-back, by tracking back. Memphis averages 3.68 defensive actions per game in Eredivisie this season. Also, he’s aware of whats happening around him. Whenever he realizes his team-mates are in an uneasy situations, he will make himself available to receive the pass by moving into small pocket of spaces. It also highlights his spatial awareness.His passing seems to suffer due to his general casualness. Depay can see a pass, but lacks that cutting edge to execute it. At the moment his passing accuracy stands at 75%, which isn’t something one can boast about. Still, Depay is very much capable of producing a moment of magic with his passes.
Depay with a delightful Outside of the Boot pass which evades the centre-back’s attempt to stop it (shown by the blue line) and reaches to his team-mate. One of his drawback is his want to bask all the glory, all on his own does disillusion his decision making.
Here, the keeper had his near post covered while the defender (marked) had blocked the angle towards the far post but Depay (circled in black) went for the top corner and missed it when passing the ball to his team-mate would have been a much rational call (A Rene Meulensteen would help here). Another area where the young winger can improve is composure in front of goal, inside the box. There have been incidents where Depay would do all the hard work, beat 4-5 men and then fluff his shot wide. It is seen that the young players tend get their shot off early as soon as possible when inside the box, thinking they won’t have much time, when in reality there’s always enough time to test the keeper if composure is maintained. Consistency wise there’s definitely a room for improvement.
His crossing accuracy this season is 22%, which is more than respectable return while creativity wise only 5 players have created more goal-scoring opportunities than him in Eredivisie this season.
A thin line separates self-confidence and cockiness/arrogance, and Depay does tend to cross that line. Feyenoord manager, Ronald Koeman famously said, “Depay plays as if he has won 10 European Cups. He is very cocky.” If anyone can stop him from becoming football’s next big thing then its no one else but himself.
“Dick Advocaat was under fire last season for hardly using any of PSV’s youth academy products and Memphis Depay has proven this season that the critics were right. A powerful dribbler with a thunderous right foot (he’s already scored four Eredivisie goals from outside the box this season), Depay has turned from a benchwarmer at PSV to a full Dutch international in only a matter of months. The left forward (who is capable of playing in every forward position) is a very raw talent still, who is often a bit too keen on taking his opponents on and he is one of the most trigger-happy players in the league too. But if he can harness this and become a smarter footballer, he is sure to be a Dutch international for years to come.”
Could Memphis Depay be the next big Dutch star? Can you see him playing for one of the bigger European sides? What is your opinion on him? Let us know, drop a comment below.
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