Luuk De Jong finished with a measly nine goals in all competitions last season as selling him could allow PSV to develop Sam Lammers. Teams looking at the Dutch striker should be cautious about him given that he is underperforming and bereft of confidence.

Marcel Brands has become one of the Eredivisie’s most reputable wheelers and dealers as he performed above expectations with RFC Waalwijk after hiring Martin Jol as Head Coach, winning an Eredivisie title with AZ Alkmaar with Louis Van Gaal as Head Coach and winning two Eredivisie titles with PSV Eindhoven. However, managing to shift an underperforming striker like Luuk De Jong to a Bundesliga club after a season where he finished with a measly nine goals could make him a premier Technical Director in Europe.

De Jong is a confidence player which crippled his game last season as many coaches believe that a striker should be forgetful. The PSV striker rose from De Graafschap and became one of the Eredivisie’s most highly-regarded strikers at FC Twente. After uninspiring spells at Borussia Monchengladbach and Newcastle United, Brands and Phillip Cocu brought him to PSV to rehabilitate him as a replacement for Tim Matavz. Cocu made De Jong his designated penalty taker for him to regain his confidence and his feel for hitting the back of the net.

His confidence soared afterwards as he scored 22 goals in his first season at PSV to 28 in his second season before he experienced a drastic drop in form last season. He led PSV to two consecutive title winning seasons as he was even made captain after the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum but the striker has always maintained the urge to test himself in Europe’s top leagues again. In PSV’s two title-winning seasons, he seemed to convince that he would be able to prove himself in Europe’s top leagues once again.

De Jong’s selflessness as a striker was his biggest downfall as at Newcastle United, Alan Pardew played him as a second striker to drag markers out of position and create space for Newcastle’s other attacking players. This resulted in him having less shooting opportunities in a fruitless six months on the Toon. However, his selflessness became his biggest strength at PSV Eindhoven as it allowed him to create a lethal partnership with Memphis Depay while in his second season at PSV, he became less reliant on his supporting cast to create goalscoring opportunities for him.

His height allowed PSV to bypass pressure by directing long-balls into him which he would either knock-on or take down with his chest to then distribute the ball to PSV’s quicker and more skilful players. He became a striker who could turn bad deliveries into goals and create goals out of nothing as his confidence was sky-high, especially after Phillip Cocu made him a leader of the team and gave him the captain’s armband. In a match at home to Wolfsburg in the UEFA Champions League, he controlled a pass and then played a defence-splitting through ball to Jurgen Locadia who scored to put PSV one-up. De Jong scored the second late in the game as he controlled an Andres Guardado lob to calmly chip over the keeper.

At PSV, he also a regained an air of nastiness that can be beneficial for top level strikers as in a match against Feyenoord during his first season, he tugged at Terence Kongolo’s shorts, making him fall over to allow himself the opportunity to score, which he did to the anger of Kongolo. De Jong also thrived as the catalyst of quick counter-attacks that became a regularity for PSV under Phillip Cocu. In his first season against Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA, he played in Luciano Narsingh on the counter to score while in his second season, he played through Jetro Willems who crossed for Davy Propper to score away to Heracles.

De Jong’s aerial initiative is his greatest strength and has been a constant source of goals and assists during his time at PSV, even when he is going through rough patches with form. Many PSV goals have been scored from corners when De Jong rises highest to head past the keeper himself or to knock-on for a teammate to finish. The way he adjusts his neck to generate extra power in his headers, even in tight positions with little time is just a signal of his mastery at aerial duels.

De Jong can also knock-down for teammates after long-balls as he did for Davy Propper against Rostov away in the UEFA Champions League group-stage. When his confidence is low, he tends to snap at even the easiest of chances as against Excelsior last season, he latched onto a backpass to go one-on-one with Walter Hahn in the Excelsior goal before blasting the chance over with reckless abandon. At that point of the season, he was in the midst of a seven game goal drought as the last time he scored, he put an end to an eight game goal drought.

De Jong eventually scored a tap-in away to AZ Alkmaar as it was his only shot of the game as left-back Jetro Willems scored a brace and had more shots than him. Statisticians were befuddled or humoured as in the first-half of last season, he was taking significantly more shots than the Eredivisie’s other leading strikers from better zones but scoring significantly less. In PSV’s next game against Utrecht, he scored from a Guardado corner for his second consecutive goal as he accumulated two goals and two assists in two games. He scored another against NEC Nijmegen for his third consecutive goal as he seemed to be finding his form again before being muzzled in a dire performance away to Feyenoord which sent his season into a downward trajectory.

De Jong would only score two more goals between February and May as Phillip Cocu continued to show confidence in him before hauling him off at half-time during a match against Willem II. Cocu would then begin to seek other avenues as Sam Lammers and Locadia would both start up front with marginal success for the rest of the season as a desolate De Jong looked on from the bench. Marcel Brands’ tenure at PSV has been much like De Jong’s career with constant ebbs and flows as both of them seem to be experiencing ebbs in their roles at PSV. Cocu would admit that De Jong’s performance at Willem II was unsatisfactory.

“I did that because he was not well in the game. Locadia could not start for the third time in one week, Siem de Jong, too. That’s why Luuk started, but we were not satisfied with that. Then you have Jürgen a player who can also play the lead. His interaction with Gastón Pereiro worked well, ” said Cocu to Voetbal International after Willem II game.

The Dutch team will not be participating in European competition for the first time in 43 years as De Jong had 7 shots with only 1 on target in the Europa League Third Round first-leg against NK Osijek before being dropped for the second leg. Cocu has maintained his faith in De Jong as a striker but even he is beginning to experience pressure as PSV’s striker coaches, former Belgian great and West Ham striker, Luc Nilis and former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker, Ruud Van Nistelrooy have failed to inspire a change in form in the player. PSV gaining compensation and being allowed to hand Lammers – who is considered an intriguing Dutch striking prospect at only 20-years-old – more gametime will be a coup for the Dutch club.

De Jong had 11 assists during his first season at PSV, 9 assists in his second and 8 last season as he was one of PSV’s leading assisters but that could not mask his measly 9 goals. At 26-years-old and embarking on his peak years after underperforming last season in a season which was not even the worst in his career, a transfer to the Bundesliga would make little sense.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)