Dutch top-flight football has seen its fair share of change; a new economic reality more than a decade ago hit home, a simple case of evolution – adapt to survive – was needed. “Those who are not wealthy must be creative,” as Johan Cruyff put it. Subsequently clubs increased emphasis on youth development, which has always been a priority, solidifying the Eredivisie‘s reputation as an attractive destination, in terms of education, for talents across Europe and the world.
One such player is Lucas Piazón. “The Dutch style of play suits my game,” he said last month on the eve of Vitesse’s home game against PEC Zwolle. His first three games since joining on loan from Chelsea in the summer ended with no recognisable contribution to the side’s goal tally. The game against Zwolle would be a turning point. He’s not looked back since.
Vitesse ran out 3-0 winners. Piazón scored a brace and had a hand in the other. The following week he further endeared himself by scoring a late winner in the hotly contested Gelderse derby away to NEC. More recently he orchestrated Vitesse’s stunning comeback at Heerenveen: two goals down, Piazón scored twice to level before assisting fellow Chelsea loanee Patrick van Aanholt for a 90th minute winner. A third man-of-the-match in his last five games ensures the 19-year old is Vitesse’s highest rated player from WhoScored.com (7.68) going into round eleven.
Piazón, born in São Paulo, joined at the suggestion of his club. “My first hope was to stay in England and get some experience in the Premier League but Chelsea spoke to me and I came out here to see the club,” he recently said. “I liked the club and the city.” The friendship between Merab Jordania, who bought Vitesse in August 2010, and Roman Abramovich has been integral to the Dutch club acquiring Chelsea youngsters with no possibility of first team football on loan.
“The most important thing for me was to find somewhere to play a lot of games.” Piazón is one of six players contracted to Chelsea currently in Arnhem and one of two – along with Van Aanholt – that is a regular in their starting line-up. Both have made eight appearances.
His smooth assimilation has been made easy by manager Peter Bosz, who was appointed by Jordania in the summer to succeed Fred Rutten, due to his forward-thinking and commitment to daring football. Heracles, under his tutelage, built a reputation as one of the more enjoyable sides to watch for the neutral. On arrival Bosz knew Marco van Ginkel and Wilfried Bony – both heavily responsible for Vitesse finishing fourth the previous season – wouldn’t be there for him to call upon. Van Ginkel would go in the opposite direction to Piazón.
The kind of team Bosz is building is already clear: one that is always on the front-foot. So far this season only Ajax have averaged more possession (57.8%) and when it comes to shots per game they’re behind only FC Twente and PSV (18.3). Last season at Heracles Bosz dabbled with a 3-4-3 but at the moment he’s switching between a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3. In either formation Piazón has grown into their lynchpin and his understanding with 6 ft 4 centre-forward Mike Havenaar in particular continues to blossom.
Piazón, oft-compared to Ricardo Kakà due to his graceful style, has been utilised in his favoured role as a wide-forward on the left with licence to cut inside – showcasing his playmaking and attacking attributes – linking up with the centre-forward to threaten the goal and supply assists. His versatility – capable of playing as a trequartista – is something Bosz is aware of, especially when Giorgi Chanturia – who nominally plays on the left flank – returns from suspension.