Scout Report: Wesley Hoedt - Southampton's latest defensive recruit
Southampton are not a club that often go on a spending spree to acquire the services of talented individuals. Over the course of the last few years, the club has built a strong reputation for itself as a club that loves to develop talented youngsters into talented individuals.
However, the club seems to have taken a slightly different route in the current transfer window as they have not only broken their club record, they have also gone on a mini spending spree by acquiring the services of Mario Lemina (£15.4 Million), Jan Bednarek (£ 5 million) and most recently Wesley Hoedt (£15 Million).
The Dutch defender Hoedt arrives at the St Mary’s Stadium amidst rising expectations from the club’s fans to improve on their previous showings and is expected to be yet another astute buy by the Saints.
In this segment, we take a look at the development of the player, his style of play and strengths as well as his weaknesses.
Born in the Dutch city of Alkmaar, Hoedt initially began his footballing journey at amateur club HVV Hollandia before being acquired by the AZ Alkmaar academy at the tender age of 11.
The defender spent the next 8 years at the club’s academy honing his skills before his ability on the field forced the hierarchy at the club to hand him his first team debut against PAOK FC in a Europa League tie in December 2013.
Despite being afforded a bit part role by the club during his initial season, the youngster impressed enough to become a regular for the Dutch club in the subsequent season and thus began his rise to footballing prominence under Dick Advocaat.
Despite being one of the best young defensive talents in the League, it came as a surprise to many when Alkmaar afforded to let him leave on a free transfer to Lazio.
The 23-year-old became Southampton’s costliest defender ever, ahead of the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, when he signed on the dotted lines for Southampton for a fee believed to be in the region of £15 million and is obligated to stay at the club for another 5 years.
Style of play and Strengths
Life in the Premier League is not easy if you are a defender. Apart from being able to defend against world class attacking talent, they are often required to help in the build up from a deep position and a defender without a tidy set of feet is often frowned upon.
In Hoedt, Southampton have perhaps acquired the services of a defender who can not only disrupt the rhythm of the opposition with his defensive abilities but is also very comfortable on the ball and loves to spray the ball forward and has showcased that he can be efficient at doing so.
The 23-year-old defender, who is naturally a left-footed player has been deployed as a left-center-back in the past and is expected to form an all Dutch partnership alongside his national teammate Virgil Van Dijk at the St Mary’s Stadium.
The defender has shown that he loves a physical duel and has shown that he can deal with even the best of attackers using a mix of tackles, interceptions, blocks, and interceptions.
However, the 2 attributes that make him a defender to watch out for are his abilities in the air as well as a vision that put many experienced defenders to shame. In the last season, the defender won close to 84% of the aerial duels he entered into to lend further credentials to his ability in the air.
Add to that a solid positional awareness as well as the ability to read the game to his team’s advantage and you would understand why we are keen to see the Dutch defender line up alongside the proven Van Dijk in the future.
The pace and physicality of the Premier League often troubles even the best in the business. While his physical approach makes him a suitable fit for the Premier League, the defender might initially find it difficult to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.
He is not the quickest on and off the ball and that could very well prove to be an area of concern for his manager when the defender lines up against the pace merchants of the Premier League.
Another aspect of his game that might need tweaking is his ability on the right foot. While being very comfortable on the left foot, the defender has looked nervy at times with the ball on his right foot and his poor first touch as well as ball control on the aforementioned foot has caused problems for the player in the past and Hoedt will need to improve on that aspect before teams put his deficiencies to test.
Quotes on Hoedt
It does not come as a surprise to us that the hierarchy at Southampton were pleased to acquire the services of one of the best young defenders in Europe. Saints’ vice chairman (football) Les Reed was hardly able to contain his excitement while unveiling the player and described him as “one of the most promising young defenders in Europe".
“We believe he has all the qualities to play a big part in our future, and we have worked hard to bring him to Southampton, with a number of other high-profile clubs interested in him. We have been tracking central defenders on our target list for the past 12 months and Wesley has always been at the top of that list, so it was important to act when the opportunity came. Wesley has proven his talent through his performances for Lazio, as well as the Netherlands, and we believe he can develop even further here at Southampton, alongside his international team-mate Virgil van Dijk, as well as the likes of Jack Stephens, Maya Yoshida, Jan Bednarek and Florin Gardos”, said Reed during his press conference post the unveiling of the Dutchman.
What comes next?
Hoedt arrives at Southampton at a time when the speculation surrounding the future of fellow Dutchman Van Dijk is gaining pace. While many speculated that the former Lazio man was brought in as a replacement for his fellow Dutchman, the learned ones in the game believe Hoedt has been brought in to partner Van Dijk and would make a good partner for the 26-year-old. Their styles complement each other and the duo could forge a strong partnership at the back for the Saints. That is, if Van Dijk stays at the club and is subsequently reintegrated into the squad.
While he might take some time to get going, the defender is expected to grow into the season and could become a key figure at the club by the end of the season.
At a time when football clubs do not fear splashing the cash to acquire the services of a bright talent, we believe Southampton have done an excellent business by acquiring the services of Hoedt for a fee believed to be in the region of £15 million.
The defender is still developing and while there are certain deficiencies and limitations in his game, he has proven that he is capable of performing at the highest level and will be keen to continue with his development at Southampton.
Having already featured in over 100 games for Alkmaar and Lazio apart from garnering an impressive 4 caps for the Netherland since his debut earlier this year, Hoedt’s move to Southampton comes as a natural progression in his career and we are excited for the young Dutch defender.