A look at what has been an outstanding season for Jetro Willems thus far as he proved a vital cog in a well-oiled PSV machine.

  • By Chaka Simbeye
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jetro willMost of the talk before the Netherlands disastrous Euro 2012 campaign was about whether Bert Van Marwijk should start with Robin Van Persie or Klaas Jan Huntelaar (as always) but few saw a burgeoning talent claim his place further back in the side. Step forward left-back Jetro Willems who not only made it past the preliminary squad but into the starting lineup for the opener against Denmark. Willems, at the time was only 18 and although it was a poor performance from his country, the youngster laid the foundation for an intriguing career thus far.

At 20, he missed a World Cup berth through injury but has established himself as PSV’s starting left-back and one of the heralded players in a lineup littered with talent. Willems has grabbed attention for his attacking exploits as he leads the Eredivisie’s assist charts with 11 to his name. He is gifted with blistering pace, an eye for an exquisite long pass, able to pick out his teammates with laser-sharp pinpoint crosses and possesses close control and skill with remnants of a Futsal background. In front of him on the PSV left-flank, is Memphis Depay, the Dutch golden boy who leads the Eredivisie scoring charts and someone who shares a unique understanding with Willems. The two came through the Dutch youth teams together from U17 level to the senior National team while playing with each other at PSV from 2011 after Willems’ move from Sparta Rotterdam.

Depay will sometimes hang back and let Willems burst past him on the left flank, in what has been a creative hub for PSV this season. Willems constant foraying forward also allows Depay to work the more central channels in order to look to create or score goals. It was interesting to see against Zenit St Petersburg and Ajax at the Phillips Stadion when the red and whites were in losing positions, they persisted with shuttling the ball out to Willems and getting men into the box for a cross, as this proved just how pivotal a figure he has become to PSV’s attack. Against Panathanaikos in Greece, Willems provided two crosses from a corner for Wijnaldum and from an overlapping run for De Jong to send PSV from a losing position to a winning position in a match they ultimately won. Squawka stats show that he has created a total of 61 chances this season and an average pass length of 22 metres at a 78% success rate.

There is no doubt that Willems is an incredibly proactive left back but he is far from the finished article as because he is an attack-minded fullback, he has defensive shortcomings. Although his pace may bail him out sometimes as it allows him to chase attackers back and recover the ball in defence, his positioning and concentration leave alot to be desired. Although he has come far and is definately one of the Nation’s biggest talents, a recent International Friendly for Holland against Mexico proved that he still has much more to add to his game. In the 8th minute, he was outmuscled for the ball by a Mexico attacker in the buildup to Vela’s goal in what was a poor performance for him and his counterpart Depay. The Dutch left-back spot is not as straightforward as PSV’s as with Jordy Clasie and Nigel De Jong as defensive midfield options, Hiddink could resort to playing Daley Blind at left-back.

Although there are shortcomings to his game, he is sure to have his fair share of suitors and with teammates Depay and Wijnaldum certain to leave at the end of the season, one must assume he is considering his own future. There is no doubt if he fills his immense promise that he could be the best left-back in the game and PSV will surely be hoping to keep him for atleast one more season. Willems can either exit stage left or take centre stage in what will be a changed PSV side next season.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)