The Eredivisie is a league of developing and producing talent. While I spoke about developing talent in Jesper Karlsson, last time — I will now focus on a teammate of his: Owen Wijndal.
The left-back is doing great at AZ and is captaining his side. While the season might not have been most successful for AZ, Wijndal remains a beacon of hope and he will surely make a move in the near future.
In this article, I analyse his performances in the 2021/2022 Eredivisie where I focus on data and video. The data and video has been collected on June 12th, 2022, and comes from Wyscout. The event data comes from Opta.
- Seasonal stats
- Ball progression
- Key passing
- Comparison with peers
- Final thoughts
- Name: Owen Wijndal
- Date of birth: 28–11–1999
- Nationality: Dutch
- Position: Left-back, left midfielder
- Contract expires: 30–6–2024
- Current club: AZ
- Previous clubs: Haarlem (Y), AZ (Y)
- International: Netherlands (11 games)
Owen Wijndal is a very progressive and attacking-minded full-back in the Eredivisie. He is strong on the ball and is comfortable in making runs down the line, moving up to the middle third, and distribute passes from there. He works well in the half-space to reach the striker but also plays very close on the wing with the winger. His combination-style of play with Jesper Karlsson has done wonders for both, as Karlsson loves to invert and then Wijndal can overlap. Creating attacking overloads is one of his specialties.
He does exceedingly well in a possession-based attacking side, but as too many progressive full-backs, the purely defensive side can be tricky. He covers a lot of ground and does well in the transition from attack to defence, but when he has to play in a defensive formation — he is easily exploited in these areas. Sitting in deeper blocks does exploit his average defensive positioning and awareness without the ball.
He often attempts passes into the final third and into the penalty area. His passing accuracy in doing so isn’t impressive, but his intent to always thinking offensively is. He is a very capable technical player who always want to seek the ‘football’ option, but this does also mean he doesn’t like to commit to tackles and challenges. Which, in the pure defensive side of the game, can get him into trouble.
In the pizza plot above you can see Wijndal compares to full backs with 900 minutes in the Eredivisie 2021/2022.
The first that pops up in the head is: it’s not exactly impressive data. If we look at this data from the point of view of a more traditional full back, we can see that the xA per 90 is very impressive and he scores is the 95th percentile. Next to that he only scores above average in the passes to penalty area per 90 and the progressive runs per 90.
While this might not be very impressive, it also isn’t too representative of him as a player, as he loves to play very attacking football. We will look into that in the next few paragraphs.
Wijndal isn’t famous for his defensive actions as we have seen in the radars. Although he isn’t the best in defence, he will have to make corrections and intercept the ball.
So where does he conduct these defensive actions?
In the pitch plot above you can see where Wijndal commits most of his defensive actions. It’s interesting to see that his recoveries to relate a lot to transitions and high up the pitch, which do relate to his interceptions. What’s interesting about his tackles is that there are so few of them and all of them are on the half way line. This indicates this is often done to break a counter-attack by the opposition.
But how does he defend? We have seen where he defends, but what do successful defensive actions look like?
In the video above you see a compilation of his defensive actions with AZ in several games against Feyenoord, Ajax and PSV. They showcase his ball recovering ability, and how complex (or not) these are.
The modern defender isn’t only concerned with defending and producing defensive actions — but he/she also needs to be comfortable on the ball and progress play from it. Especially when you are an attacking full back or wing back.
In the scatterplot above you can see the progressive metrics of progressive passes per 90 and progressive runs per 90. Wijndal does below average on the progressive passes per 90, but does above average — albeit slightly — on the progressive runs per 90.
Ball progression can have via different aspects of the game, but I wanted to look at his abilities on the long ball. He can use it to connect with the attacking third or to get out the press of the opposition.
Every player makes passes in a game, but which passes actively contribute to the progression and construction of an attack? You can see some of these metrics in the beeswarmplot below.
As you can see in the graph above, Wijndal scores quite high in the most metrics, he does do okay in the passes to final third third and passes to penalty area — but in general he does very well in these key passing metrics.
What’s interesting is how he makes key passes. He scores in the high average, but the intent of his key passes does tell a lot about how he can help in an attack.
In the video above you can see the assists given by Wijndal in the 2021/2022 season.
He has a very high number of assists during the 2021/2022 season in the Eredivisie. He has 10 assists in the Eredivisie with an xA of 4,81. Obviously he needs his attackers, but that’s a very impressive stat for the young defender.
In the shot map above you can see from where Wijndal has conducted his shots in the 2021/2022 Eredivisie season. He had 23 shots of which 1went in goal. 21,7% of his shots were on target and he generated a total xG of 2,04 — the latter meaning that he is slightly underperforming with -1,04.
Apart from shooting in the box, he loves to shoot from zone 14 and left from that zone — as that is the zone where comes frequently and tries to shoot from distance. This happens a lot from cleared balls from set pieces. But the most shot come from the left side in the penalty area, just like where he scored his only goal.
Comparison with peers
Now we have looked at the individual qualities of Wijndal, I would like to compare him to three left backs from rivals.
In the comparison radar above you can see Wijndal compared to Blind from Ajax, and it’s quite clear that Blind is superior in the standard full back template. But, it has to be said that Blind really stands out in the Eredivisie — so this comparison doesn’t hold too much weight — but yes, Blind is good.
In the comparison radar above you can see Wijndal compared to Max from PSV, and this is a more even comparison. While they are quite comparable, Max is more of a conservative defender to Wijndal — which also can be seen in the xA per 90 and progressive runs per 90.
Also in comparison to Feyenoord’s Malacia — the traditional template for Wijndal, doesn’t look good. Only in the xA per 90 Wijndal does perform better.
Now, this doesn’t look too good for Wijndal compared to these peers — but Wijndal’s strength also lies in his combination play with the wingers, and the more attacking side of the passing game. As we have seen in the key passes.
Owen Wijndal is a fantastic player in attack. He links up with the wingers, can invert and operate from the half space and has a fantastic cross — look at his assisting stats. While he does well in the the attacking stats, his defensive coverage and intelligende do come with worries if he makes the step up to a T5 League.
He definitely has the ability to play as a left back in a back-four or as a left wing-back, but he does need defensive assistance, as that is not his best side.