Watch out for Vincent Janssen - he could rule the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspurs
Chapter I: The Dutch Job in England
The jump from Eredivisie to Premier League is not always a pleasant one for attackers; not instantly at least. Memphis Depay was the top scorer in Netherlands during the 2014-15 season; his performances prompted Manchester United to pay £26 million to acquire his services.
He arrived at the Old Trafford with a lot of hype last summer, but couldn’t replicate that form at the Theatre of Dreams. Similarly, Robin van Persie’s initial years at Arsenal were a far-cry from what he went on to become at his peak.
And now, Vincent Janssen joins Tottenham Hotspurs after taking the Dutch league by storm last season, where he ended up as the top scorer with 27 goals in only 34 games. For some, he could be a failed signing, but I genuinely think that he is here to rule.
Spurs’ recent history with players from Eredivisie is a good one. Christian Eriksen was signed from Ajax and is now one of the most important players of the team. With Janssen, it could be even better.
Chapter II: The Rise of Janssen
Mauricio Pochettino, like almost every other manager, prefers to work with players that have an incredible work ethic. When one looks at Vincent Janssen play, they won’t see any sexy tricks or mazy dribbles. In short, he doesn’t come off as someone who has loads of natural talent, like one could say of Memphis Depay.
Whatever he is today, he is because of pure hard work and diligence. The difference between good and great players is that the latter never stop thinking about the game. When Vincent Janssen is not training, he is watching videos of different strikers and their methods; deciphering every possible aspect and learning from them.
Joining Feyenoord’s fabled academy as a 15-year-old, he never truly settled in. Ultimately, when he turned 19, the club – understandably – chose not to retain his services. He then made the decision to go a division down with Almere City in order to begin from the roots. And it was a decision that paid off.
After 32 goals in 74 appearances, AZ signed him following glowing reports from their scout. Initially, he found it hard, but he exploded after the winter break—scoring 20 goals in the second half of the season—and ended up with 32 goals in all competitions for AZ.
Chapter III: Part I – Strengths
Janssen’s biggest strength is his determination. After being released by Feyenoord, he didn’t lose hope and chose his options very wisely. Despite getting offers from a few Eredivisie clubs, he chose to not join them because they couldn’t guarantee him much playing time. Instead, he lowered his sights and started from the bottom: the second division.
He has a good ability to time his runs accurately, which makes it feels like he is one of the quickest players on the pitch. He gets caught offside a lot, which is another testament of his eagerness to make a run behind his marker, but when he doesn’t, it is almost impossible to catch him once he makes that run.
As a striker, he is street-smart in the sense that he can outfox defenders because of his incredible awareness of the surroundings around him.
Over the last year, he has also developed a solid right-foot to accompany his brilliant left. In his last season at Almere, he scored only 3 goals with his right—which is 7 less than how many he scored in his sole season with AZ.
This improvement now opens up a lot of angles for him over the pitch as he is a danger from anywhere around the goal. His dribbling is also admirable as is his ability to link-up with his team-mates and bring them into play (he made 8 assists last season coupled with many ‘pre-assists’ as well).
Finally, as you may have already guessed by now, his finishing is brilliant as his ability to sense the position of the goalkeeper makes him a really dangerous goal-scorer from inside the box.
Part II – Weaknesses
With strengths come weaknesses and, luckily, he doesn’t have many of them. However, there is one thing he should improve if he is to succeed in a quicker league like the Premier division: his first-touch. Most passes in the Barclays Premier League come at a quick pace and his relatively poor first-touch could make life really difficult for him.
But, as we have seen already, he is a learner who works hard—and that alone is a guarantee that he will improve.
Final Chapter: Where does he fit at Tottenham?
As an Oranje striker, he has been brought up in the school of the lone striker in a 4-3-3, which makes him a direct rival to Harry Kane’s position in Spurs’ 4-2-3-1. However, given his and Kane’s work ethic on the pitch—both aren’t shy to defend—it won’t be a surprise to see Pochettino try both of them alongside each other.
However, the chances of that working don’t really look that high given that both the Dutch international and the Spurs number 10 are similar players. Though, I have been wrong before.
What is assured is that Tottenham now have someone who can be labelled as an apt back-up for Harry Kane. Spurs’ reliance on Harry Kane was quite dangerous given that they had no scorer to replace him if he got injured. But now they do.
Janssen may take some months to completely understand the dynamics of the Premier League, but he won’t be a failure if he is entrusted with patience—like Spurs did with Erik Lamela—simply because the 22-year-old has a strong mindset and isn’t one to shy away from hard work.
And that alone, coupled with a bit of luck, is why he will rule the Premier League.