One of this summer’s hottest transfer prospects can be found in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The young PSV fullback Jetro Willems has been a valuable part of the championship winning PSV side this season. Bagging 15 assists and 3 goals in all competitions, he has surely made himself of interest to various top European clubs this coming transfer window.
Who is Jetro Willems?
Willems started his playing days in the local club Spartaan ’20 before joining the local Jupiler League site Sparta Rotterdam. Here, he progressed through the youth ranks, and made his debut in January 2011 in a match against Go Ahead Eagles. After half a season with 16 appearances for Sparta Rotterdam, the interest in the then 17-year old left fullback was huge. He joined PSV Eindhoven on the last day of the transfer window on a three-year contract.
His debut for the club from Eindhoven came on October 23, 2001 in a tie against Vitesse. The month after, he became a regular member of the first team squad and also broke the record as he became the youngest Dutchman to play in a UEFA Competition after being part of the starting line-up in a game against Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
Throughout the 2011-2012 season Willems saw a lot of playing time, as the normal left back Erik Pieters was troubled with injuries. His technical and physical abilities were immense, and even though he still lacked some experience, his qualities caught the eyes of then Netherland manager Bert Van Marjwik. Having won the UEFA European Under-17 in 2011 and later being selected for the Under-19’s. 2012 would be the year he took steps towards the senior national team. At the age of only 18 he was chosen to be a part of the Netherlands squad that would play at Euro 2012.
Making his first national senior appearance on 26th May 2012, in a friendly match against Bulgaria, Willems impressed and was later picked in the starting line-up for the first game at the Euros against Denmark. This meant he became the 4th youngest player to play for the Netherlands, and the youngest ever player to play at the Euros, at 18 years and 71 days of age. The Euros weren’t a success for the Netherlands who lost all 3 group games and were eliminated. Willems played all 3 games and the young leftback was suddenly known in the most of Europe.
Over the next two seasons, Willems saw regular playing time in all competitions, but his real breakthrough has come this year. Registering 12 assists and 2 goals in the league, the youngster has been a great contributor for the Eindhoven site in their quest of the taking the title back after a 6 year drought.
Style of play, Strength and Weaknesses
Jetro Willems is great example of the modern games prototype for a full back. Playing on the left, he has torn apart the right side of many opposition teams this season. His partnership with the newly announced Manchester United player Memphis Depay, has been spectacular. Willems’ strength is in the offensive part of the game, where he has contributed with 12 assists this season and average 2.5 key passes per game.
Most of his assist comes from his best ability, which is crossing. His ability to swing in a cross with great power and precision has brought PSV a lot of goals via headers off of Luuk De Jong. The PSV striker has benefited from the sublime foot of Willems 7 times this season which is the most assists from one player to another in the league. His excellent crossing has also given PSV a great offensive threat, when it comes to both corners and indirect free kicks.
When Willems gets himself into crossing positions, he often uses his stunning pace to run past defenders, often done by overlapping Depay who position himself in the halfspace making room for Willems on the outside. His partnership with Depay goes way back to European-U17 Championship in 2011, where they played together for the first time. Since then they have taken similar path to both the starting lineup of the senior national team and the PSV Eindhoven side.
Another strength of Willems is his offensive 1v1 ability. Having played futsal since a young age, he has developed a set of skills and tricks that is isn’t displayed by many other defenders in Europe. This makes him able to take on defenders in the hunt for a chance to cross or shoot, something he does often. As offensive as Willems is, 2 goals in the league is a bit disappointing, with his great 1v1 abilities and sublime shot, he should be scoring 2-3 goals more per season.
Willems weaknesses are found in his defensive play. His positioning and ability to read the game defensively is not on the same high level as his offensive aspects, and that is definitely a weakness of his. Too many times, his awareness isn’t good enough, and the opponent will run into room behind him and cause trouble for the rest of the PSV side. His athleticism often makes up for his bad awareness and positioning, and he will often catch the player running in behind, simply because of his stunning pace.
Another concern about Willems is his bad discipline. He has received 9 yellows and 1 red card, this season in the Eredivisie, which is far too much. He’s still only 21, and so there’s a lot of time for improvement for this young lad, and if he puts some more work into his defending, he could become a complete fullback.
Since the first appearance on the national team at Euro 2012, the young Willems has been on the list of many top clubs in Europe. A young, athletic and offensive left back is always highly favoured, and this summer Willems could end up taking the next step out in Europe. PSV recently signed the Danish fullback Simon Poulsen and that could mean that PSV is looking to sell Willems.
Still 21, Willems need to find a place with a lot of playing time and the chance to play against better players. If he does so, I’m positive that he will develop in to one of the best fullbacks in the world.
Written by Morten Lanng
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