Calvin Stengs is another component of AZ’s thriving academy as he possesses talent that could make him one of the Eredivisie’s most dangerous wingers.

  • By Chaka Simbeye
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AZ Alkmaar are rapidly becoming one of the Eredivisie’s premier academies and developers of talent as they have been recipients of the Johan Cruyff award for best academy multiple times in the last few years. Calvin Stengs is a fascinating exponent of their academy as AZ signed him from HFC Haarlem as a youngster. AZ have acted quickly in tying down the 18-year-old from Nieuw Venneper to a five-year contract.

Stengs spent the majority of last season being an integral part of Jong AZ’s promotion to the Eerste Divisie. AZ Alkmaar coach John Van Den Brom gave him an opportunity to impress against Groningen in the Europa League playoff in which he exchanged passes with Joris Van Overeem to curl a shot past the Groningen goalkeeper to open his account for the AZ first-team. In the return fixture, he threaded through a ball for Van Overeem to score and scored another. Stengs scored 6 goals in 22 games for Jong AZ last season before being promoted to the first team in the middle of the season and making his debut against ASWH in the KNVB Beker before making his Eredivisie debut against Excelsior.

Style of play

AZ Alkmaar fans must have been anxious when they saw Alireza Jahanbakhsh hobbling off injured in the first-leg of their side’s Europa League Playoff against Groningen. None of them would’ve expected his replacement, Calvin Stengs to trade passes with Van Overeem and slot in a calm and collected finish in a 4-1 victory. Stengs possesses the youthful zeal of an 18-year-old as well as the grace and poise of a player who is a decade older. In the first leg of the Europa League Playoff final against Utrecht, he continued in the first team and produced a fine display of his abilities. Fullback Jonas Svensson’s constant forays forward allowed Stengs to move more central and act as a playmaker and link-up man in a performance where he created two goals.

The first was a brilliant touch to play through Van Overeem for a goal to repay his fellow AZ academy graduate who teed him up for his first goal. For the second, he took on a pass from Svensson to play in another AZ graduate, Dabney Dos Santos for a goal in a 3-0 win. His tidy passing in the pockets and ability to execute breathtaking through balls while being able to receive the ball, beat his man and cross like a conventional winger will make him a livewire in the AZ attack next season. His performance in the first leg was so convincing that Erik ten Hag and Utrecht chose to shackle him with two markers as well as less freedom in the half-spaces which greatly limited his performance.

A winger who can be used as a tool in patient build-up play and rapid counter attacks as he will bring more nous to the AZ attack. In the Europa League Playoffs and in Pre-season, he proved that he also has a penchant for scoring especially when cutting in from his flank to curl past the keeper and inside the far post from the top of the box. Stengs does not use his gifts flagrantly as he can use an elastic piece of skill to beat a man on the byline, pace to beat a fullback, vision to track a runner, a well-weighted pass, lob or cross to find his man, a shimmy of his hips to gain a yard for a cross or shot and even his lanky physique to shield the ball. With his skill, ability to cross and score as well as a perfectly coifed afro, he might bare an eery resemblance to Chelsea’s Willian.

AZ Technical Director, Max Huiberts has described him as a modern day right winger.

“Calvin has played an important role in the Junior AZ championship in the Second Division,” said Max Huiberts Director after the youngster signed a new contract. “He is a modern right-wing: fast, viable, strong in one-on-one situations and has scoring ability. Due to his good development, Calvin has been moved to the A-selection earlier this season. It’s another good example of a player who runs the entire AZ Youth Training and shovels into the A selection. “

What is next for Calvin Stengs this season?

“Last season I wanted to join Jong AZ, but I would not get up early and make my debut. I did not expect. Next season, I want to come to the competition more often and to compete with the boys. I want to develop myself here and become the first eleven player, ” said Stengs after signing his contract last season.

Irrespective of whether current first-choice right-winger, Alireza Jahanbakhsh leaves or stays, Stengs is set for a season of regular football as a fully fledged member of the first team. He continued his form from the Europa League playoffs in pre-season as he has gelled with teammates like Svensson and Van Overeem. AZ will be without Europa League football this season but Stengs will play more regularly and for increased periods of time in the Eredivisie and KNVB Beker. Art Langeler is overseeing a change in generation with Dutch U21 team and Stengs could be one of the more integral players in the Dutch youth setup which would be beneficial for his development with increased experience in professional football.

If Jahanbakhsh does depart between now and the end of the transfer window, AZ will replace him internally with Stengs easily being the first choice right-winger. It will be a big season for AZ academy products like Thomas Ouwejan, Owen Wijndal, Guus Til and Pantelis Hadtziakos who will be looking to become first team regulars this season.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)