Rion Rodgers takes a comprehensive look at PSV Eindhoven attacker Memphis Depay. 

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depchiA Euro Under-17 Championship winner in 2011, Memphis has started his fledgling career with a shiny title. Yet at just 20 years old, he still has the better part of his career ahead of him. However, when I make a comprehensive assessment of this boy’s potential, I decidedly end with a cautiously optimistic feeling.

Memphis is a fleet footed and tricky winger with the sharp shooter mentality, but what is his true potential? Is he destined to become Arjen Robben’s successor? Or will he become another over-hyped, Eredivisie winger who will imminently move to a mega European club and gets lost in the crowd?

Well, my assessment of the potential of this young man with the very stupendous first name consists of four broad areas:

Technical Skills & Tactical Intelligence

There are numerous attributes that every great talent possesses and the first and foremost is a solid technical base. Memphis has this solid technical base which is evident in his very good first touch and decent passing skills. His goal scoring abilities are very good as well. Thirteen goals in seventeen league games this season clearly demonstrate his ability to score many goals from various situations and locations on the field.

Nevertheless, superb technical skills must be divinely combined with tactical intelligence for a player to become most effective. This tactical intelligence is the ability to fully understand, appreciate and utilise various strategies, game plans and formations to constantly put one’s self as well as his entire team in advantageous situations throughout a game. This is evident in a player’s ability to play his roles with resolute control by reading and anticipating plays quickly during games.

Depay’s tactical awareness and intelligence are currently relatively average and will need significant improvements if he is to become a great reader of the game. We have seen him made numerous useless and premature runs at times when he could have and should have read the game better to get himself in good positions. We have also seen numerous occasions of him misreading plays and hence making wasted passes.

Speed & Dribbling Skills

Like the marriage of technical skills and tactical intelligence, speed and dribbling skills make a very lethal union. Memphis executes this amalgamation of speed and skills in a very exquisite manner. He doesn’t have exceptional speed, but his dribbling skills are very good.

Arjen Robben, Royston Drenthe and Eljero Elia are very fast players by any standard, but Depay isn’t as fast as any of these guys. Most fans of the Dutch game would agree that his speed is probably a little above average, but certainly not among the best speedsters in top flight football today. Speed is an important asset for any winger in the modern game and with the exclusion of exceptionally intelligent and hard-working players such as Kuyt, Toornstra and a handful more, we do not have many examples of very impactful wingers who are not speedsters. This also reiterates the previous point that Depay has to improve his “footballing intelligence”, since this can also assist with him outwitting opponents and not always trying to outrun them.

Great wingers are usually great dribblers and Depay’s dribbling skills are certainly above average and have even shown improvements over the last eighteen months. Most of his goals this season have come as a result of him combining his deceptive dribbling skills, speed and trickery to get in and around the 18 yard box.

The fact though, is that his style of utilising pace and dribbling skills on the wing to isolate full-backs for one- on-one situations may not be very effective against the very best defenders in big European clubs. This could happen because his speed may simply not be fast enough to trouble world class defenders. In the recent international friendly game vs Mexico, Depay was woeful on the left wing. His few attempts to trick his way past Paul Aguilar, Mexico’s right-back were basically futile. It is worth adding though that his speed was impressive against Chile in the recent FIFA World Cup, where he outpaced the centre-backs to tap in Robben’s cross for his second goal of the tournament.

01 depay psvAccuracy and Power

It is a pretty simple fact, if you are a left sided player, then you need to have a good left foot that can provide accurate crosses. And when you are an attacking left-winger, that left foot would even be more effective if it possesses great power. Depay is fully equipped in these two regards. There are numerous examples of very good crosses and even better shots at goal from Memphis over the last two seasons. Who can forget his first goal against Go Ahead Eagles back in December 2014? Watch here.

Nonetheless, it would be remiss of me to not add that this boy simply has too many poor set pieces and particularly direct free-kicks, over the last two seasons. Despite being PSV Eindhoven’s number one set-piece master, he has frequently delivered deft free-kicks over the crossbar or wide of the upright, to the disappointment of the fans. The recent poorly executed penalty kick against Willem II is a good example of this. Now, this is something of a mystery to me, because this boy has scored the kind of goals that clearly demonstrates that he has the technique to deliver very good free-kicks on a consistent basis. But for reasons I am not aware, he seems to score very few of his direct free-kicks and is frankly unable to maintain a consistent delivery of high quality set pieces.


Depay is super confident and we see it with every game that he plays. His goal from an audacious long range shot against Australia in Holland’s second group game of last year’s FIFA World Cup, illustrates the refreshing youthful confidence of this boy. His tireless attempts to “take on” opposing players with dribbles and direct runs towards the goal, his insistent usage of flicks, tricks and even “nutmegs”, astutely illustrate that he isn’t shy on the pitch. This confidence will no doubt be a huge asset especially as he will undoubtedly meet increasing challenges in his career.


Depay has most of the attributes to become a top notch footballer. Technically he is very gifted, with the ability to produce very good crosses and score great goals. He is also a very confident bloke who has superb dribbling skills. However, his comparatively less than top speed, regular poor free-kicks and limited tactical knowledge are his current limitations. Fortunately, all of these limitations with probably the exception of the speed can be greatly remedied with hard work, concentration and confidence. Take into consideration that he is only 20 years old and in the formative years of his career, Dutch fans can be cautiously hopeful that Arjen Robben’s heir is in the making.

Rion Rodgers (4 Posts)