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Is Memphis Depay ready for a top club now?

Giulio Prifti
ANALYST
Feature
21 Mar 2019, 15:30 IST

Olympique Lyonnais v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - UEFA Champions League Group F
Olympique Lyonnais v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - UEFA Champions League Group F

The beginning of Memphis Depay's career was not a particularly easy one. After a great start at PSV in the Eredivisie, the left-winger earned himself a move for 34 million pounds to Manchester United, where he got to wear the famous number 7, which was already worn by the likes of Ronaldo and Beckham.

Maybe he was not ready or maybe this was just too much pressure for a 21 year old, who just got his first spell outside his home country. However, after 1.5 disappointing years and 13 goals and assists in 53 games later, he left United for Lyon, for less than half of the amount United paid for him (16 million). This is usually the path of a shooting star, who got a big move at a young age and later crashes back to the ground, before he dives into football mediocrity.

But is this really the case for Memphis? Or is he, after 2 years in France ready to come back to the top of football?

Statistics

Just by his scoring records, you can already see that something has changed, in his first 6 months after the move he already blew up, scoring 5 and assisting further 8 in 17 Ligue 1 games. In the 17/18 season, it got even better: 19 goals and 13 assists in 36 games made him one of the top scorers in France. In this year's campaign, he as well contributed to 14 goals in 27 games.

Memphis' seasons by numbers:

14/15 / PSV: (22 goals +6 assists) 28 in 30 = 0.982 goals + assists per 90

15/16 / Manchester United: (2+1) 3 in 29 = 0.183 per 90

16/17 / Manchester United: (0+0) 0 in 4 = 0 per 90

16/17 / Lyon: (5+8) 13 in 17 = 0.984 per 90

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17/18 / Lyon: (19+13) 32 in 36 = 1.124 per 90

18/19 / Lyon: (6+8) 14 in 27 = 0.617 per 90

In total, this makes 80 appearances for Lyon in which he scored 30 goals and made 29 assists. This makes 0.918 goals or assists per 90 minutes played in Ligue 1 and therefore he is rightly called one of the best attacking players in the French first division right now.

It is clear to see that his contribution to goals went quite a bit down in 18/19, so why is that?

By looking at his offensive stats in this season (whoscored.com) it's obvious that he even puts up better numbers then last season, unluckily missing out of the scoresheet most of the time. It is also noticeable Lyon are coping worse in the league then they were last year. Last season they made 2.05 points per game and scored an average of 2.29 times in these 38 occasions. In 18/19, they are on 1.82 points and 1.72 goals per game. So it is apparent that right now he directly contributes to 28% of Lyons goals (36.7% in 17/18), which is only 8.7% less than last year. Taking a closer look, you can also see that between December and February he only assisted once in the league. This drought of goals is normal for a young player and such a drop of form can happen when you average 1 goal or assist per 90 in the prior 2 seasons.

However, since joining Lyon he not only did amazing in the league, he also put up numbers in Europe. He played 10 games in the Europa league for Lyon in which he scored and assisted 3 times. In the Champions league, where he got to play 8 games this season, he contributed to 5 goals (1 goal by himself, 4 assisted).


Comparison

So is he ready to join a big club? Before I make my verdict, I compare him to some Ligue 1 players, which are either a shooting star in the Ligue 1 right now (Mbappé), left France to become a world star (Hazard (11/12 season)) or is a flop (so far) after his big money move to another league (Lemar (17/18 season)).

A chart comparing the statistics of the Ligue 1 seasons from Depay in 18/19, Mbappé in 18/19, Hazard in 11/12 and Lemar in 17/18
A chart comparing the statistics of the Ligue 1 seasons from Depay in 18/19, Mbappé in 18/19, Hazard in 11/12 and Lemar in 17/18

It is clear to see that he puts up better numbers in nearly every aspect then Lemar. This is especially visible in the key pass stat and shots per game. This shows that he is a far more dangerous, direct player. He got surprisingly similar stats to the Hazard of the 11/12 season. Even putting up better numbers in the key pass and shots per game section. He is also being dispossessed less, which is a good sign for a player's awareness. Where he's lacking is clearly visible. He makes way less passes and dribbles less than the Belgium forward. This means that he is less involved in the buildup and is more a person for the last pass/finish. Apart from that, there are clear similarities especially in their impact in the attacking third.

Comparing the stats of Memphis to the ones of Mbappe is quite interesting as well. You can clearly see the difference in their positions (shots per game / key passes / crosses), but also that they play in a quite similar way (pass percentage, dribbles/ dispossessed per game).


Position / playing style

As a certain player whose number 7 he earned at Manchester, Depay started his career as a left-winger. Just by simply looking at his stats, you can see what kind of winger he was at PSV. An inside forward, who used to locate himself more central, with or without the ball, and shoot with his strong right foot. Nevertheless, the older he got, the more assists he started to make, without actually losing his goal scoring ability.

In the end of last season, Memphis moved more central in to the striking position where he is frequently playing until this day. In this position, he scored 8 goals and 4 assists for Lyon in 18 of his league games for them.

Usually as the left-winger of Lyon, he stays further up the pitch, usually covering less defensive kilometers than Traoré on the other side. He still dribbles centrally to get in a good shot from distance but stays on his left side as well to deliver crosses into the box.

As a striker he still likes to drive out a little left, which usually opens up some room for Fekir, who than as a cam can get more in the position of a second striker. Interesting is also that he usually drops deeper to get the ball, as he still got a dangerous key pass in him.


Negatives

By looking at the things said above, you could think that Depay is flawless player who could destroy every league he comes into, but he definitely is not flawless. One of his biggest problems may be his attitude. Shouting at teammates or being angry when not playing from the beginning is one thing and could be due to his high confidence.

On the other hand, there is also some media that are criticizing the things he does off the pitch, especially after he started his rapping career, which probably is also putting off some big clubs. Memphis is also a flair player, a star who rather choses to dribble past an opponent the playing the simple pass.

His dispossessed numbers suggest that it is working out in the Ligue 1, however, if Memphis starts facing defensive more aware and physically better defenders, his dispossessed numbers could go up and in a league like the Premier League or the Liga BBVA the reactions by the fans or media to his failed attempts could be ruthless.

My last point would be that his game is clearly concentrated on his right foot. He prefers the control the ball, prefers to dribble, to pass and to shoot with his right side. Not saying that his left foot is nonexistent, but it is visible that his actions are very concentrated on his right side. This may make him more predictable then other wingers, but as we know from other Dutch wingers (Robben), does not necessarily stop you from being world class.


Verdict

While his first spell in one of the top European leagues did not turn out as well as expected, he found himself in France, where he got consistent and rightfully earned himself comparisons to some of the best recent Ligue 1 wingers. Depay is not only a goal scorer or a creator, more of a mix between both.

A player, who with his physical and technical attributes can be dangerous for every opponent's defense. There is definitely a spot in some top clubs for him. My guess would be Milan, as they are in desperate need of a pacey left winger who has some goals in him, Chelsea, if Hazard decides to leave or Bayern, as they could use him as a left winger (at least if Coman is injured) and a backup striker to Lewandowski.

Especially attractive is the Dutch's injury record, only missing 11 games in his whole career and all of those while being at PSV. The amount proposed by CIES is between 70 and 80 million. A lot of money, but if you consider the ability he has in the left wing and striker position + there are around 5-7 good years in him the money would be spent well. 

(Stats provided by Transfermarkt.de)

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