It took John Van Den Brom a while to settle on his best team as once he did, AZ Alkmaar did not look back in the Eredivisie. Dabney Dos Santos is one of the baby faced academy players making a name for himself in the first team.

  • By Chaka Simbeye
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dos santos azAZ Alkmaar’s academy was awarded the prestigious Rinus Michels award for best academy for the second year in a row as the 4th placed team secured European football with approximately 11 academy players featuring throughout the season. One of these players is Dabney Dos Santos who has provided fans with excitement as his performances have garnered the praise of fans. Vincent Janssen could claim all the plaudits after a fantastic season but it is worth mentioning that he has had a solid supporting cast as Dos Santos’ contribution this season is worth mentioning.

Dos Santos is of Cape Verdean origin as he is a naturally creative player with pace to burn and mesmerising skills as he is one-third of a lethal attacking triumvirate with Janssen and Alireza Jahanbakhsh. The way he glides down the left flank with the ball glued to his feet while challenging fullbacks is something that brings pure joy to people at the AFAS Stadion. Next season, he will have to compete with Levi Garcia for the position on the left flank as he will probably have to adjust to playing with a new striker but if this season is any indicator for where he will be next season, he will not have to worry as he is third in goals scored in the Eredivisie for AZ and has only been bested in assists by Joris Van Overeem.

His game is coming leaps and bounds as after not having a goal in the Eredivisie for most of the season, he scored four in his last five games as he helped steer AZ back into the Europa League. AZ Alkmaar’s style varies with game situations as they can hold large amounts of the ball or can hit teams with quick and deadly breaks as Dos Santos is constantly adapting to the demands of his tactically versatile coach, John Van Den Brom. In the acclaimed AZ Alkmaar academy, players are encouraged to be tactically adaptable while to think and improve as individuals for a shared team goal. Dos Santos exercises this as he can stretch play on the left flank during spells where AZ hoard possession while when he gets the ball at his feet on the break, he is overcome with a sharp directness that can trouble even the Eredivisie’s best fullbacks.

Dos Santos has been highly regarded as an attacking midfielder who can also play centrally but in typical AZ fashion, he doesn’t look out of place on the flank as he is growing with each experience. The Dutch youth international with a Brazilian sounding name doesn’t just share similarities with the Brazilian style in name but in his expressive style of play too with an exceptional control of the ball and an ability to make deft touches and feints to bamboozle the opposition. With the likes of Janssen and Markus Henriksen expected to leave next season, his team will need his elegance in the final third if they are to maintain or improve on their position.

The man who was once described as the ‘New Maher’, in regards to Adam Maher who came through the AZ academy and earned a move to PSV after an incredible season which included a KNVB Beker win, will hope to improve on the accolades of his predecessor. The youngster believes his ‘strongest point’ is to ‘dribble and play a good through ball for attackers’ which is simple and direct as he produces performances of that mould when he steps onto the pitch. He is a player who has spectators on the edge of their seats with his immense ability and potential while his selflessness is a blessing to his teammates as he has not missed a beat since his debut against Groningen two years ago.

“The youth Dabney was known as a very talented; something that he this season shows to the general public. He is a dynamic attacking midfielder, with great technique, speed and ability to walk. He is also on the sides of the feet. We hope that he will in the coming years will be an important player for the first AZ,” said former AZ Alkmaar Director of Football, Earnie Stewart to the AZ Alkmaar website in 2015.

Dos Santos’ growth from his debut has been steady as he has improved in every season as he continues to hone and add to his already fine repertoire of attributes. He has 5 goals and 8 assists this season as he has created an astounding 49 chances for his teammates. One can only hope that he can continue to score goals next season in order to paper over the departures of Janssen and Henriksen while his ability on the other side of the ball can improve. He needs to make more tackles and be willing to help out his fullback in not just a positional sense but also in a more physical sense. This could be one thing he has to adapt to in playing out wide as opposed to playing more centrally.

AZ have a wide-reaching scouting network and after years of financial hardship, have managed to invest into their academy while implementing statistical and sport science strategies that give them an edge in the Eredivisie. They are starting to reap the rewards of their hard work with a talented generation that are taking integral roles within the first team. Dos Santos has made the role on the left flank his own and defences will continue to shiver at sight of him flying past them in the future as his searing pace will continue to give supporters goosebumps.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)