Eredivisie is notable with teams like Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord. Beside of those big clubs, there are many traditional clubs which are not in front pages every week. SC Heerenveen is one of those clubs. Back in the days, head coach Foppe de Haan created an attacking playing style for the team. With this attacking playing style, the club became famous as a place for the young players to develop. Joey Veerman, the former Volendam academy player, is the latest example of it. This tactical analysis will inform you about Veerman’s role for Heerenveen.
Veerman is a 21-year midfield player who started the season in the Eerste Divisie before moving to top division side Heerenveen on a three-year contract. The Volendam-based Netherlands U-21 player took his place in the starting eleven from the first day that he arrived. He has played in 22 Eredivisie games this season, 20 times as a starter. Veerman started the season in Volendam and played in three games before his move to SC Heerenveen last August.
Veerman plays mainly in central midfield. He can play both as a defensive midfielder as well as an attacking midfielder. This gives him more opportunities to adapt different playing styles and formations. As a right-footed player, he plays on a left side. This gives him the opportunity to open up play from strong side to weak side and to pass to the left side with inside curves. This is also a way how Heerenveen want to attack and build up. Veerman’s connection with the right winger is especially notable.
His position in Heerenveen’s 1-4-3-3 formation is to play in an advanced position in midfield, more like a traditional attacking midfielder. From this position he has been able to play the ball into the penalty area 67 times with 44 successful actions.
From his attacking midfield position, he has scored four goals during this season and assisted five times. This feat is the second-best for any midfielder in the whole Eredivisie. Also, it’s very good achievement for a mid-table team player.
One of Veerman’s strengths is the ability to shoot, and he has been very active shooter during this season. He has shot 48 times and 37 of those have come from outside of the penalty area. Most of his shots are located from the left side of the box. 43 are right-footed shots. In this scout report we will do an analysis of his influence to Heerenveen’s tactics.
As we mentioned earlier, Veerman’s role in the build-up is crucial. He tries to move and be available in advanced positions while two other midfielders play deeper and closer to their own defensive line.
In the build-up phase he tends to position himself higher up the field between the opponent’s defenders and midfielders. This positioning gives him the opportunity to make supporting moves either to left side half-space or in front of the midfielders. All the time these moves keep Heerenveen’s midfield triangle organised.
On occasion his movement looks like he is not sprinting. By constantly moving he is observing time and space for him to receive the ball or for an opportunity for his teammates to play forward or to fill the space he has created. He communicates with his surroundings and teammates all the time verbally or non-verbally. That’s one of the reasons why he is able to receive passes into tight spaces. His positioning is good as well for the moment when he is making movements to the direction in order to ask for the ball.
By playing between the opponents’ lines and being positioned more to the left, Veerman can see the whole field and able to communicate with his teammates. This has benefits for him because of his right foot. As a right-footed player, he can make diagonal passes and passing behind the line is easier than with a left-footed player.
This is the one reason why he has been able to give many key passes into the box, especially from the left half-space. Also, by taking a first touch inside, it gives him the possibility to move into advanced areas to make his decision to continue dribble or pass the ball. In those moments when he chooses to dribble, his change of speed in the actions is very big. Within a second he can lose his marker.
Veerman is always looking where to position himself. His anticipation for the possible places where to move if the ball is out wide is very noticeable. At the same time, good positioning gives him the opportunity to prepare for possible loss of the ball. In the final third he positions himself in areas from where he can shoot or support his teammates with a passing option. With this positioning he often looks for deep runs in behind the opponents’ defenders.
In the pressing phase on team level Veerman’s role is two-fold. When pressing happens higher up the field he is supporting the striker and in these moments his role is to be a kind of second striker in 1-4-4-2 formation. In the second phase when the press starts closer to halfway line, he is defending together with other midfielders as the formation is more like 1-4-1-4-1 / 1-4-5-1. In this phase the attacking midfielder’s role is to mark the opponents’ defensive midfielders. We could say the defending is more man-oriented zonal-marking than pure man-marking.
In the defensive phase, Veerman’s lack of strength in duels makes him more like a player who is better at supporting others and defending zonally. With Heerenveen’s tactics of defending, this is not a huge problem as he can hide his defensive weaknesses behind team tasks. With good positioning he can cover spaces behind the players who do the pressing. Also, with this good positioning he can support the defenders when defending deep in their own half.
As we mentioned earlier Vermaan’s real ability is to position himself on the field in the areas where he is in the middle of the action. This anticipation helps him to move quickly for a counter-pressing. Most of these counter-pressing actions slow down the opponents’ opportunity to counter-attack quickly and it also gives time for rest of the team to get organised defensively. This is a really important task on a team level. Although he is not the best defensively, this role suits him because the first task is not to win the ball back in one-versus-one situations.
In the counter-attacks, Veerman is the player who creates options to play back than making long deep runs behind the opponent’s line. Even as his role is to play in attacking role, he is more a playmaker than a runner. While he is not actively looking to run in behind, he is ready to attack in the second wave and if for any reason the counter stops, he is an option to continue it.
Heerenveen tactics are to play on the counter-attacks with two different options. The first is to pass with depth and the second is to pass to the weak side. Veerman is the player whose ability to play longer accurate passes makes the second option more likely for him to play in these moments. One notable observation is how in these counter-attacking situations almost all pass directions are forward. If not straight forward, then diagonally played.
Veerman has showed many good abilities in his game. His decision making is very good and he is able to position himself around the pitch very well. Because of this, his timing in his moves is almost every time at a good level as is his direction to receive the ball. Also, what speed he is coming to the situations or how he plays after the first touch is at a good level.
While his decision making is on a good level, the same can be said about his execution of those decisions especially if we look at his first touch and what direction he took those. He can receive enough information about his surroundings that he is able to even play with one touch in tight spaces or if there is a room for faster dribble, he knows exactly when and where to do that. Naturally he makes mistakes but we know his playing style and he wants to play forward as often as possible. For a team like Heerenveen, it is also their way of attacking. They want to have players who are more willing to open the opponent’s defensive line than always play safe passes.
Veerman is a kind of traditional playmaker type of player. He wants to move into spaces where he has time to operate and being inside the game. His quality to pass the ball is at a good level, especially when the team wants to progress. His passing accuracy is on a very good level when he plays longer passes. For any player who can pass progressive passes longer than 30 meters with over 90% accuracy, it actually is a remarkable number of successful passes.
Veerman’s ability to shoot so often is a huge benefit for him. He can shoot from distances which is an ability that every coach looks for from the attacking midfielders. During a game he positions himself in areas where is he is able to shoot. This happens mostly from the left side edge of the box. He can take the first touch to his right foot and get positioned more to the middle of the field.
Although being a tall player (185 centimetres), he is not the best in aerial duels. Veerman has only won 37.84% of all his duels. That means almost one win every three duels. Despite this, his ability to work defensively is the area that he needs to work on if he wants to take the next step in his career. In one-versus-one situations it is more about hoping to win the ball than a determined move to win the first ball or take away the ball from the opponent.
Another part of his style of play is how he moves around the field. He moves a lot with the same speed and that also takes away parts of his strengths. There are only a few moments when you can notice a clear change of rhythm to either create an option to play or to move into a more advanced position on the field. With the ball this happens but without the ball this is something he will need to develop to become a more notable player in the Eredivisie.
Veerman is 21-years old and playing his first season in Eredivisie. If we took this as a starting point to look to what kind of future this player will have on his hands, then we could say in quite a positive way that it looks good. Volendam sold him for 550,000 euros and his market value is already somewhere around 2 million euros. That alone tells a lot about what kind of season it has been for this young talent. His ability to adapt to a new team and his new role has been very positive. This also opens the possibility to play for the Netherlands U-21 team in the future. If he can maintain this rate of progress, he can pull the attention of bigger teams from Premier League, Bundesliga, or Serie A. He is definitely the player to watch next season from this Heerenveen team.