Teun Koopmeiners: Arsenal Transfer Target Analysis
To understand the rise and prominence of Teun Koopmeiners, you need to first understand how his club, AZ Alkmaar wants to develop players. Like many of their Eredivisie contemporaries, there is a well- articulated philosophy ingrained at each club that aims to produce as many players as possible for their respective first teams.
Koopmeiners is a byproduct of an academy that is structured to develop players that can help the first team dominate games with their attacking style of football. Players like Clavin Stengs, Gus Til, Thomas Ouwejan, Myron Boadu, Owen Wijndal, Kenzo Goudmijn, and Koopmeiners are all part of a production line that aims get at least 50% of the squad consisting of products of the AZ academy.
Their aim is to develop players that are technically and physically in prime condition and can play at the level the senior clubs demands. This academy is also designed to place a high level of importance of footballing intelligence in overall player development.
Its no wonder then that at 23 years old, Koopmeiners is a standout who brags stats that players with more tenure than him would love to have.
Since making his debut for the senior team in 2016/17 Koopmeiners has featured for his club in 114 league matches scoring 35 goals and tallying 12 assists, playing primarily as defensive midfielder or deep lying player maker.
Last season alone he scored 15 goals and tallied 5 assists. He is also an influential defensive presence in the midfield where he won 55% of his ground duels, made 2.7 tackles per match and averaged 1.2 aerial duels (61%) per match.
Tactical Analysis – Offensive Characteristics
As we’ve mentioned previously in our scout report on Sambi Lokonga, a trait that Mikel Arteta seems to be looking for in every deep lying midfielder Arsenal are linked to, is the ability to be able to spray the ball from deep either to the wide channels or behind the opponents’ defensive line.
When Jesse Marsch talks about how he wants his teams to go on attack as soon as they win the ball (trying to get a shot off within 6 seconds of receiving the ball) you can’t help but think that a player like Koopmeiners is a player he’d love.
Yes, he can pass those long passes Arteta wants from his deeper midfielders but it’s the attacking intent with those passes that really stands out for the young midfielder. He knows instinctively where he wants the ball to go when he receives it. Seldom does he linger to let play develop in front of him. Instead, his long-range passing is usually the catalyst for an attack on goal developing.
The problems you see with this passing is that when play isn’t developing fast enough in front of him. That’s typically when you see one of these passes get intercepted or miss its intended target because it was too long. Still, its a trait that he does well and will serve him well if he were to play in the Gunners’ midfield.
The long diagonal pass though isn’t the only hallmark of his game. He offers you a significant array of passing options, both on the ground and in the air. He possesses good intelligence on the ball and consistently looks to make smart progressive passes into the final third.
Aligned with his strength in passing, is and overall game awareness and speed of play. His possesses a sharp eye for the play going on around him. He constantly can be found scanning not only for space to operate in but where the potential second and third man runs could potentially come from. This constant scanning also leads to him getting his hips open which allows him to get the ball out of his feet and move play along at a quicker pace.
Again, consistent with his trademark long-passing, Koopmeiners’ short and medium passes look to exploit space for someone to run on to. He does have a tendency at times to force a pass when perhaps he should dribble into pressure and then look to release the ball. Still, his intent is to drive the Alkmaar attack forward.
Of course, when looking at Koopmeiners you’d be remiss not to notice that this is a midfielder who scores goals. Now, many will discount this because it’s the Erdevisie and that would be in our opinion dishonest.
Keep in mind that due the nature of his role, his average position, even in attack is sitting outside the 18. However, when the attack is on, the midfielder has been known to push forward and get his foot on the ball. He’s primarily a left footer and most of goals come from that foot but he can score with his right as he did against PSV Endhoven with an absolute scorcher from outside of the 18 that even Podolski would’ve loved.
A lot of his goals come from the penalty spot as he is AZ Alkmaar’s primary spot taker. He’s also part of the free kick tandem and some of the goals he’s scored from free kicks are stunning. Again, if the ball is just outside the 18 on the right side of the arc, he’s likely taking it for AZ. His technique is solid and he generates enough power and movement to beat the wall and either score or force the keeper to make a save.
Another consistent trait we’re starting to see in midfielders Arsenal are being linked with, is mobility and strength in 1v1 attacking duels. Again, like Lokonga, Koopmeiners is a physically strong player that does well in using his body to gain leverage against defensive players trying to win the ball off him. He’s quick to establish a good base to work from and then try and beat the defender.
He’s mobile and appears slightly quicker than Granit Xhaka. His close dribbling skills are solid and at times in the matches we reviewed, he effectively beat players on the dribble Finally, one hallmark I particularly look for from someone playing in a defensive midfielder/double pivot role is a player who can take the ball on the half turn and drive player forward, this is a trait you definitely see in the Dutch midfielder.
Tactical Analysis – Defensive Characteristics
What would a defensive midifelder be if he couldn’t add to our defensive structure? Koopmeiners is by all accounts a proto-typical defensive midfielder operating as a true 6 in a 4-2-3-1.
We began looking at his defensive abilities in terms of how he presses and we’d be remiss if we didn’t raise a concern with the aggressiveness of his pressing. His pressing is actually quite intelligent and he always seems to know “where” to press but the flaw in his pressing is the lack of assertiveness in his press which will sometimes allow the opposition to continue moving the ball forward.
25% of the time Koopmeiners lines up for his squad it is as a left sided center back. Now depending on how the heat map is calculated some of that could be due to his propensity for dropping into the back line to act either as a deep pivot or support to the defensive unit.
Overall though, either as an LCB or a defensive midfielder, his positioning is sound. You don’t typically see him caught out of position. In the matches watched I didn’t see too many instances where the midfield was wide open in transition because he was out of position.
In terms of his positioning, it’s always smart to understand that football is the constant battle over space. Players that don’t understand this will typically playthe player rather than try and deny the player space to operate in. For Koopmeiners, this isn’t the case. When he looked to make a recovery run it was less to try and get in front of the player he wanted to defend and more about getting into the space where play might develop.
Whether that meant he was covering for a pass to be made in that area or a player that could run into the space, Koopmeiners always looks to put himself in place to deny the opposition an advantage and thus cut off any passing lanes that they may look to exploit.
Whit the “desire” to deny the opposition space its no wonder he is often found in positions to break up an opponent in transition.
In 1v1 situations you see a very adept tackler who hardly leaves his feet to win the ball. He enjoys playing tight to the attacker and denying them opportunity to play forward, waiting for the right body cues to try and win the ball.
There were some instances where he overplayed the attacker and found himself easily turned but that was the exception rather than the norm.
Overall, his defensive skills blends nicely with his attacking skills and at 23 make him an all-around effective #6 for any team needing a player of his ilk.
Statistically, the stats behind the player are very much a player aligned to the what you see in the visual analysis.
In terms of attacking, the data highlight a player who adds strength of value to his team’s attacking moves. He’s VERY progressive. Operating in his role as a 6 he’s not a direct creator, but he gives you from the deep portion of the midfield that patented “assist beyond the assist” very much in the same way Xhaka is.
Possession wise, we see again a very progressive passer and we see a player who is also good at progressing the ball but isn’t dependent on dribbling to do so (this is a typical AZ trait, where they heavily teach to look and think pass first). Koopmeiners data suggest an efficient/smart passer and the high data on xG build up means he’s always a key part of the chain that leads to a scoring chance.
Defensively, the data show he is a very good tackler, who is also very good at reading passing lanes (combined strong numbers for blocks/interceptions), and recovers possession very well which is another AZ trait.
Overall that our analysis (both visual and statistical shows data) suggests that Koopmeiner is most likely a direct, like-for-like replacement to Xhaka that insures tactical continuity in a player package that is highly intelligent, more mobile, multifaceted, and ideally suited to the role we need to fill/Arteta’s system.
Special thanks to Drew Thompson (@LogikLehrer) for not only drawing my attention to Koopmeiners and being the first to really be on his hype train but for his insight into the data analysis on this piece. And to Mike McDonald (@mike_mmcdonald) for being a sounding board for this piece. And always to Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab) for use of his data visuals