In recent weeks, we have thoroughly examined midfielders in the Eredivisie to ultimately identify three players to be inducted into the midfield unit of our Eredivisie 2019/20 team of the season. The first two slots were awarded to Teun Koopmeiners and Donny van de Beek, both of whom have attratcted interests from the Premier League, and now we look to provide a tactical analysis on the third and final player, Jens Toornstra. The 31-year-old has been ever present in the Feyenoord system since his arrival in the 2014/15 season and has contributed greatly to his side, netting 44 goals and providing 41 assists in 169 Eredivisie appearances for the Dutch side. Toornstra’s experience and natural ability combined to make him an essential player for Feyenoord in the 2019/20 season, as the tactical analysis in this scout report will highlight.
Position and Role
During the 2019/20 season, Toornstra has primarily operated as a central midfielder, slightly deeper in comparison to previous years – perhaps in line with a slight alteration in his playing style due to ageing.
As seen in the positional heat map above, he has often played as a defensive midfielder, as well as playing slightly more advanced at times, but regardless of the depth of his midfield undertaking, the majority of his work occurs more towards the right than the left. While the midfielder doesn’t possess blistering pace, this hasn’t held him back in contributing to his side, utilising his accurate passing, well-timed movements, and close control dribbling to make himself effective in build-up situations.
Dribbling and Ball Control
Throughout his career, Jens Toornstra has impressed with his ability to move comfortably with the ball – a natural talent that he makes look effortless. Averaging 1.29 dribbles tell us all we need to know about how much Toornstra has needed to move with the ball himself this season, but when such action is required, the job is done with high efficacy.
In the analysis above, we see Toornstra mid-stride with an opposing defender closing in. It is noteworthy that mere seconds prior to this still image, Toornstra had already beaten one opponent to burst around 15 yards forward to the position seen above. With a quick combination of touches with both left and right feet, the Dutchman wrong-foots the defender and breezes past him, leaving him out of position with Feyenoord attacking with an intent to exploit that defender’s absence. While moves of this nature are not Toornstra’s primary role in the midfield, it is an essential part of the job he does to help Feyenoord turn defence into attack in an instant.
When analysing the data attached to the midfielder, his ability shines through on another level. His attacking nature as a midfielder has proven deadly for any Feyenoord opponents – not just when he’s scoring or assisting goals. Over the course of 2019/20, he has averaged 1.59 touches in the opposition box per 90. While this number seems quite low when you compare it to that of a winger or striker, it is important to remember that his current role and the current Feyenoord tactical system doesn’t allow for him to have a high number of touches in that position every week. This statistic highlights not only his desire and intent to create and score goals but his knowledge and understanding of the role he has to fulfill – to not find himself present in the opposition penalty area too often.
While discussing statistical data associated with Jens Toornstra, it would be harsh and unfair to dismiss his passing numbers. With four direct assists through the season, his vision and creativity within the passing department is something he relies on, and rightly so. His attacking intent doesn’t stop with direct assists either. During the 2019/20 campaign, he has averaged 9.68 passes in the final third per 90 mins, with a 3.18 rate of passes per 90 that go into the penalty area, with 2.13 through passes per 90. It’s stats like these that truly highlight the type of player Toornstra is, and the way he thinks – an attacking midfielder at heart who is intent on creating goal scoring opportunities.
The chart above is a further indication of his ability when passing – a demonstration of his accuracy when it comes to passing in key areas. As you can see by the graphs located in his various positions, his passing accuracy is both impressive and reliable, especially when you combine that with an overall season passing accuracy of 83.72%.
This image above showcases the previously mentioned attributes on offer in the passing area. After successfully dribbling past an opponent in the midfield area. Toornstra quickly recognises the run of the teammate and executes a smart, defence-splitting pass while PSV’s defensive shape is still a little unorganised. If it wasn’t for some alert individual defending, it would have been a perfect action from Toornstra. Regardless, it is moments such as this one that make him integral to the Feyenoord team, creating chances when there is a very small window to do so.
As mentioned, Jens Toornstra has acquired four Eredivisie assists this season, but to provide a more thorough tactical analysis of his attacking contribution for Feyenoord, a more extensive assessment of his statistical data is necessary. With five goals to his name during the 2019/20 campaign, we can already see the heights of his attacking threat – he has already made it clear that he is highly capable of both scoring and creating goals. 2.33 successful attacking actions per game shows that while he doesn’t control the game individually, it does indicate that he has a talent for picking the right moment to get involved and execute a move to contribute to a Feyenoord attack. His knack of “picking his moment” is further highlighted by such statistics as his rate of 45.83 shots on target and a goal conversion rate of 20.83% – both stats even more impressive when you consider his position.
This final piece of imagery analysis encapsulates the most attacking form of Jens Toornstra. After lurking between Willem II’s left-central defender and left-back (the latter of which is actually marking the Dutchman), he peels away from his marker to find a small pocket of space, where a tremendously accurate cross meets him. So, the first important move of this phase of attack – Toornstra’s impressive movement in the box – is complete, but the attack is not. In his stride, he meets the cross with a delicate left-footed volley that has enough power and admirable accuracy to beat the Willem goalkeeper at the far post. Both of those two important actions are not a flash in the pan for Toornstra – he possesses such technique and talent and has showcased them for a number of years.
It is worth noting that all the points made in the way of Jens Toornstra’s undoubted ability were made within the context of relevance, meaning we explored and reported on his ability based on his role as a Feyenoord player. While an analysis of the midfielder’s career can pinpoint why he never secured a move to a bigger club, the same action can confirm why he has been a vital cog in the Feyenoord system, picking up four caps for the Dutch national side along the way. Although his career is in its last stretch, Toornstra has shown no signs of struggle in his journey to adapting to life as a deeper midfielder, and still shows us why he is of great value to Feyenoord with his goal contributions, his leadership and experience, and composed talent on the ball.