Davy Propper’s move from PSV to Brighton and Hove Albion could be beneficial for the Premier League as the counter-attacking side gain a creative conduit.

Earlier this year, Davy Propper’s response to admitting that he had his head turned by a 15 million euro offer from Zenit St Petersburg was to score in his next three consecutive games and then accrue two assists in his next two games. A player that Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz described as someone ‘with a lot of football intelligence’ and a player that scored a goal that made PSV manager Phillip Cocu reminisce about the joys of coaching. Propper was outshone by Marco Van Ginkel at Vitesse Arnhem but in a summer where Van Ginkel has been loaned to PSV from Chelsea, Propper finds himself moving to Brighton Hove and Albion for a reported 15 million euro fee.

Born an Arnhemmer and making his debut for local club Vitesse as an 18-year-old before becoming an integral force to the team after the departure of Van Ginkel and under Bosz, Propper would earn plaudits as a swashbuckling and goalscoring midfielder. In his final season at Vitesse, he would accrue the most passes in the offensive half in the Eredivisie as Vitesse goalkeeper Eloy Room admitted that he would physically tie the midfielder down to prevent him from joining PSV. Propper would move to the champions who would sell Georginio Wijnaldum to Newcastle United as Adam Maher was set to take the Liverpool midfielder’s place.

Maher was handed Wijnaldum’s number 10 shirt while Propper was given Maher’s number 6 but it would be the latter who would eventually take up the mantle of the former PSV captain. What Maher lacked in consistency, goals and defensive work, Propper more than made up for as he made the step up from his hometown club to the Eredivisie champions with little hassle. Maher was booed off in a match against Utrecht at the Phillips Stadion while a few weeks later, Propper would endear himself to the PSV faithful after he latched on to a deflected Hector Moreno cross to volley past CSKA’s Igor Akinfeev to wrap up PSV’s first UEFA Champions League last 16 berth in almost a decade.

Propper is a box-to-box midfielder who enjoys setting balances as he is languid yet hardworking, gritty yet creative and nonchalant yet effective. The artistic flair that he brings to the position sets him apart from the Eredivisie’s glut of fine midfielders. When PSV played against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16, their two best chances in each leg stemmed from moments of Propper genius. In the first leg at the Phillips Stadion, he carved out some space for himself in the opposition box by playing a one-two with a teammate to poke a shot at Jan Oblak. In the second-leg, he dummied a pass to give Jurgen Locadia an extra yard to curl a shot past Oblak and onto the post which made for a vicious ping that would haunt Locadia that night after PSV lost the tie on penalties.

He possesses an initiative in possession that could give him an extra yard which could lead to his team progressing up the field. Dummies, clever flicks and tricks, incisive passing and jawdropping dribbles are a staple of his game as he does well not to shirk his defensive responsibility. However, his goals are what made him a cult hero in only two years at PSV as he developed a penchant for hitting well struck volleys from outside the box during his time in the Eredivisie. Van Ginkel played a mesmeric lob to Locadia on the right flank who provided a well-weighted cross to Propper who held his run to the six-yard box to shrug off a marker and adjust his body, ever so slightly, so he could raise his left leg to nudge the ball past Etienne Reijnen in the Groningen goal.

“Those are the moments you enjoy as coach of your team,” exclaimed an amazed Phillip Cocu in his post-match press conference.

Propper is also a set-piece threat as many of his PSV goals have been headers from free-kicks and corners as he regularly rose to the occasion when PSV were in need. His lanky 6-foot- 1 frame allows him to rise high in set-piece situations while his thin and long-limbed somatotype means that defenders chose to target the more bulky players. The new Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder is also a fixture in the Dutch National Team setup as the move up in terms of leagues can only see him gain more minutes for Dick Advocatt’s side. Although Propper is not a natural attacking midfielder, Advocaat has mainly utilised him in that role since he took over as the Dutch National Team coach.

This past season, PSV underachieved as they finished third and failed to progress in Europe past the Champions League group stages but Propper continued to score and create vital goals. He continued a growing habit of scoring against Russian sides in the Champions League as he half-volleyed a Luuk De Jong knock-down to equalise in a match against Rostov. Last season also saw Cocu deploy him as a defensive midfielder intermittently as an attacking ploy for his team when they were looking for goals as he played there against Bayern Munich in a 3-5-2/ 3-4-3 formation. Last year, PSV U19 Head Coach and former AC Milan and Bayern Munich midfielder, Mark Van Bommel said that he believed that Propper needed to be more clinical in physical duels to make the transition to top level football.

“Davy [Propper] is someone who does not come in the duels so often. He anticipates well. Nevertheless, you do not always get out of it. You can win ninety percent of the duels and lose ten percent. In the summit, it’s only about the extra ten percent. These determine the difference between profit and loss. Then you also come across players who anticipate and can read the game. Then the spaces will be smaller. In the summit, it’s the decisive duels. You should not lose that. Only when I went abroad I became confronted with it. You must learn that,” said Van Bommel to Voetbal International.

In January, Propper was the subject of an aforementioned 15 million euro bid from Zenit St Petersburg which was rejected by PSV. Last summer after his inspiring first season, PSV Technical Director, Marcel Brands handed him a new contract to raise his salary as a reward for his loyalty after he did not force through a move when there was reported interest from Fiorentina. The Dutch International handled the situation with the same calm as he did in the summer as he admitted the offer and interest to the media.

He responded by a scoring by finishing an exquisitely lasered long ball from Andres Guardado against Excelsior, heading in a Moreno long ball against Heerenveen and two consecutive assists in his next two games.

Propper’s progress from Vitesse to PSV to Brighton and Hove Albion has been gradual as his aerial ability, proclivity to be dangerous from range and instinctive creativity gives him the potential to be a generator of points for his new side. The Seagulls’ signing from the Bundesliga, Pascal Gross is a set-piece specialist while Propper is a specialist at scoring from set-pieces which could make for a partnership that could help the newly promoted side from the south navigate the trials and tribulations of the Premier League. Well travelled Dutch coach and television pundit, Gertjan Verbeek believes that the midfielder possesses the work rate to play in a top European league and tipped him for the Bundesliga last year.

“Pröpper stands out. Kevin Strootman remains fit when he is fit in a major European league. That also applies to Pröpper. I saw him play in the Champions League last year. He easily ran over twelve kilometres. These are distances that you also have to put in the Bundesliga. That happens in Spain, Italy and England. Yes, I’ll see him in the German top games,” said the former VFL Bochum and FC Nurnberg manager to Voetbal International in November last year.

Propper is a player from the production line of creatively gifted Dutch midfielders with a little extra. The player’s two-footed dribbles and calm in high pressure areas of the pitch have been instrumental for PSV while his ability to thread delicate through balls to runners in the channels to set-up goals or create the pass before goals is the reason that the Seagulls have paid so much for his services. He will need to adjust to the tempo and physical demands of the Premier League but once he finds his feet in England’s top division, the 25-year-old could develop into a cult hero at the Amex Stadium.

11 goals and 6 assists in his first season at PSV and 7 goals and 7 assists last season is a great return for the role that PSV needed him to fill. This move to the Premier League is needed for him to improve and develop as a player to enhance his role within a Dutch National Team setup which is in dire need of consistent high-level talent. His guile in a counter-attacking setup such as Chris Hughton’s could be pivotal in making sure that his side do not make an early return to the Championship.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)