Thanks to the performances of Virgil Van Dijk, Matthijs De Ligt, Frenkie De Jong and Memphis Depay, the spine of the Oranje is largely set for Euro 2020. The wide positions, however, are still up for grabs.
Quincy Promes, Steven Bergwijn and Ryan Babel have been Ronald Koeman’s wingers of choice, but have all failed to consistently impress. This has led to calls for Calvin Stengs to be given a chance, which looks set to happen in the upcoming matches.
So, considering various factors, which two would be the best fit for the Netherlands’ system? All stats are via WhoScored and apply to competitive club matches this season and competitive international matches this calendar year.
It’s fair to say that there is too much of a burden on Memphis Depay when it comes to the Oranje’s attacking play. When he has a poor game, such as in the Nations League final against Portugal, or when he’s not playing at all, such as in the recent match against Belarus, the team look toothless in attack.
Statistically speaking, the two younger men create the most in the final third. Both Bergwijn and Stengs average over two key passes and dribbles per game each, comfortably more than their more experienced counterparts.
This is a reflection of their respective styles. Both like to drop deep and come inside to receive the ball and create something with it, shown by the fact that they have both played in the number 10 role for their clubs rather than out wide. Babel and Promes on the other hand tend not to drift and get on the ball as much, instead focusing on getting into goal-scoring positions.
Having two more creative players in Stengs and Bergwijn starting could not only ease the pressure on Depay, but would also make space for the over-lapping full backs, such is the tendency of the two wingers to drift inside. When it comes to creating chances, they’re surely Koeman’s two best options.
The nature of the sides system though means that the wide forwards have to do much than just make an impact going forward.
With Daley Blind often tucking in as a third centre-back, the left winger is tasked with playing more of a wing-back role, covering the entire side of the pitch. On the right meanwhile, Denzel Dumfries is often targeted as a defensive weakness and needs protection from the man in front of him.
Again, the stats favour Stengs, who is the only one of the four to average over a tackle per game, while Promes has the most interceptions. The latter was deployed in a wing-back role against Germany in the 4-2 victory and looked comfortable, if occasionally shaky defensively.
The fact that Koeman opted to deploy the Ajax man there and Babel up front against Germany shows that he trusts the former more when it comes to getting back, while Stengs probably offer more protection to Dumfries than Bergwijn, although the latter may have better chemistry with him given they play together for PSV.
Ultimately, the most important stats are the ones that directly cause goals and win matches. In this regard, Promes and Stengs are the clear stand-outs.
Promes has been extremely impressive in front of goal this season for Ajax and has found the back of the net 11 times for them. including three in his last three. He only has four assists for club and country, but if goals is what you want, he’s your man. Just look at his impact in the Nations League semi-final against England.
Stengs meanwhile has eight goals and eight assists in 20 games, a mightily impressive tally. Having a player who is equally at good at finishing chances as he is at creating them is an invaluable asset, and the AZ man is arguably the only of the four who fits such criteria.
Bergwijn has been impressive at picking up assists himself, getting seven in just 10 Eredivisie game this season, but his goal-scoring record is poor. In seven games for the Oranje, he’s yet to find the back of the net.
Babel meanwhile has scored four in 10 for Galatasaray and has yet to get an assist, although he has two in five starts in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Nevertheless, with Promes’s goal-scoring form and Stengs’s ability to both set-up and finish them, they come out on top in this area.
Based on form, style and statistics, Stengs should really become the Oranje’s undisputed right winger, should he prove he’s ready for the international stage in the upcoming games. He offers the most creatively, has the most suitable style of play for the team and can back it all up with a strong end product.
On the other flank meanwhile, Koeman has favoured Babel, presumably for his experience and work ethic, but should really give the spot to Promes. The Ajax man is more comfortable dropping back, has been in great form this season and is much better in front of goal.