With AZ Alkmaar finishing the Eredivisie season joint-top with Ajax, many have identified 22-year-old Teun Koopmeiners as a catalyst to such success. The Dutchman, who is also captain of AZ, is seen as a future star for both the national team and whichever club he represents in the future – with certain reports suggesting that club won’t be Alkmaar for much longer, with Premier League clubs reportedly monitoring the player.
In our recent data analysis of the best central midfielders in the Eredivisie 2019/20 season, Koopmeiners was present in a strong number of areas, from defensive capabilities to attacking contributions. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of the midfielder’s key attributes, with an analysis of his performance in Alkmaar’s 3-0 win away at Utrecht on 23rd November 2019. This analysis comes following his selection as the central defensive midfielder in our Eredivisie Team of the Season for 2019/20.
Position and Roles
Koopmeiners is a versatile player, capable of doing a solid job in a variety of positions. Central defensive midfield is his primary position, and that is where he played in the game in question – Utrecht 0-3 Alkmaar. Throughout the season, however, he has been reliable when playing in other positions such as central midfield, left-back, and central defence, as seen in his heat map below.
His role depends on which midfield position he undertakes. As a defensive midfielder, he looks to stop the opposition team from progressing in attack by winning possession and setting up attacks for his own side. In situations where he is playing a slightly more attacking role, Koopmeiners can be seen driving attacks with intensity and even finishing off attacks himself – evidenced by his goal tally of 11 this season.
An important and frequent part of his role as a defensive midfielder is to drop deeper, alongside the central defenders, to receive the ball and progress the ball forward. This element of his game is well-suited to Arne slot’s tactics. They have a tendency to try and play out from the back – quickly where possible, but safely when needed. Koopmeiners’ involvement, therefore, is key, as his composure and passing ability to perform in potentially dangerous areas allows Alkmaar to execute this part of their game-plan.
If we perform an analysis of his stats, Koopmeiners holds some impressive numbers next to his name in the realm of passing. We’ve mentioned his capability and composure in deep areas to keep the ball and/or progress the attack, but he also offers a lot higher up the pitch too. He averages 74.26 passes per match, which shows a consistent presence in such an area; he combines this statistic with another – recording an impressive 88.73% overall passing accuracy. While those numbers sound positive (and they are), you would have to dive a little deeper to determine how effective he is when it comes to passing.
He offers an average of 23.5 forward passes per 90 minutes, with 76.31% of that being accurate – highlighting his desire and ability to make a meaningful contribution to his side’s attacks. Furthermore, while he holds just two assists this season, he has set up a total of 18 shots throughout the campaign, which suggests that he is capable of providing goal scoring opportunities.
The analysis image above shows both Koopmeiners’ awareness and ability and to find a productive forward pass whilst under pressure. The image shows the ball arriving to the Dutchman on a bounce, while he is being challenged by an Utrecht player. Koopmeiners meets the ball and flicks it on without actually seeing if his teammate is behind him – but is aware that there is help at hand in that space. Immediately after performing this move, he spins off and joins the attack again. This also highlights his creativity and innovation in moving the ball forward, as well as a maturity in his game as he only executed the pass, knowing that a teammate would be able to receive the ball. Actions like this one show a continuation in several aspects of his game – composure, skill, and attacking desire.
The second image analysis of his passing offers another insight into how comfortable he is on the ball. Rather than just releasing the ball as soon as he picks it up, he takes several strides forward, allowing Calvin Stengs to gain enough distance to receive the ball in a more promising and attacking position. The resulting pass from Koopmeiners to Stengs is of perfect weight, pace, and direction, allowing Alkmaar to build an attack promptly. This action, in particular, embodies his role as a central defensive midfielder in possession – picking up possession close to his own penalty area and picking the most effective moment to find a pass to enable an attack for his teammates to undertake.
A defensive midfielder’s role is one of the most important in the game as they are often performing in transition – winning the ball back for their team with a defensive duel before passing the ball to a teammate or driving the ball forward themselves. Koopmeiners is very active in the defensive part of the game as well as the attacking side of 90 minutes, protecting his back four. In terms of numbers, Koopmeiners shows a great level of current talent as well as potential. Averaging 6.83 duels per 90 and winning 61.24% of those duels makes for good reading for a player of his age – it shows a determination to “get stuck in” despite not winning a high number of his battles.
However, he has won over half of his duels across the season, which is still an impressive figure, especially when you consider the number of different positions he has played in. Not only does he provide success in that area, but with an average of 4.11 interceptions per game, it is clear that he possesses an ability to read the game and stop opposition passes going through him.
The first defensive analysis shows Koopmeiners battling to win the ball back in a central position, where he was operating for the majority of the match. He shows strength and determination to come out on top and like in so many of the duels he wins, he instantly looks to play a pass to a teammate in space, often a full-back. This particular duel saw Koopmeiners having to race back to challenge the opponent and being involved in an attacking Alkmaar move – another display of his determination and desire to win the ball back. He won the duel by applying his strength against the player and hooking the ball away from him.
The second instance of his defensive duel analysis differs from the first, both in location and direction. By temporarily moving over to the left side of the pitch to win the ball, he allows his teammate at left-back to maintain his position and mark the extra opposition on the same wing. It is likely that he made this move while being aware that his position was covered by a teammate, allowing him to make the move to challenge the opposition wide.
After winning the ball back following a wide challenge, he recognises the open teammate available to receive the pass – a facet of his game that fits in with Alkmaar’s style of play. As mentioned, this challenge also takes place with Koopmeiners facing the opposition’s goal instead of his own. This is because he wasn’t chasing the play back, but actually just had to shift across to be able to make the challenge, but this also allowed him to be goal-side, which resulted in the opponent being unable to face towards the Alkmaar goal – a contributing factor which leads to Koopmeiners winning the ball back.
As mentioned, Teun Koopmeiners is every efficient in a defensive capacity. However, a part of his game that wasn’t as prominent in the Utrecht game was his ability to contribute to attacks in dangerous areas. But, with 11 goals this season, he has shown consistent strength in performing at the attacking end as well in defensive regions.
Additionally, dribbling is one skill which he very rarely uses – to beat opposition players anyway. This is down to his position and the Alkmaar set-up; being the defensive midfielder in such a system rarely requires him to dribble past the opposition, but pick out a pass instead – dribbling cannot be considered a weakness of his game as he is capable of performing such a skill, it just isn’t required a great deal.
It is also worth noting that his goal in this game against Utrecht was directly from a free-kick – highlighting his talent from set-pieces, another desired attribute for a midfielder in a top league in Europe. Just from watching the one game against Utrecht, it is highly evident that Koopmeiners heavily relies on his left foot, even for simple dribbling under no pressure. While this has not proven to be a burden on his performance, as his career progresses, being reliant on one foot while avoiding the use of the other has the potential to hold him back from reaching the next level.
It is clear that Teun Koopmeiners has the potential to play for a club in one of the “major” European leagues, and there is already attention and interest surrounding the young midfielder. The Dutch national team will also be keeping a close eye on him as they hope he transforms into a superstar of which they can attempt to build a team around. He already possesses strengths in areas like passing, tackling, and goal-scoring, not to mention his admirable work ethic.
If he is able to “sand” certain edges of his game in the near future, clubs in Eredivisie will struggle to apply a set-up that silences him, while AZ Alkmaar will thrive. His ability to be versatile against any team is a sought-after skill – being able to comfortably play several positions is rare in the modern game, especially at the top level. Despite Alkmaar’s current side being a relatively young one, Koopmeiners captaining the side at the young age of 22 is impressive as he shows no signs of letting such pressure affect him. He looks like a natural leader in the heart of that midfield.