What Motherwell are getting in latest signing and new No.9 Kevin van Veen
In researching the newest Steelman this author went against the typical process of comparing his statistics from last season against Scottish top flight strikers. However, in Kevin van Veen's case it would be a very short article. He had a dreadful campaign with Scunthorpe United in League Two. Everything about his game seemed to fall off a cliff.
Goals per 90 minutes went from 0.59 the campaign before to just 0.07. OK, you're maybe thinking, maybe he just had a bad year in front of goal. But his Expected Goals also dropped from 0.32 to 0.09, so he wasn't even getting himself into position, with shot attempts also dropping dramatically. His dribble attempts fell by two per game, while he touched the ball in the penalty almost once fewer per match.
Motherwell are obviously betting that he is the player he was for The Iron in season 2019/20, which is where the statistics were compiled. Otherwise, this is an odd signing.
With those important caveats out of the way, let's get into the meat of the matter: Van Veen is an entertainingly contrasting striker. Many of his strengths and weaknesses don’t quite line up in the way you’d expect.
Firstly, he doesn’t move around the park so easily. There’s a lack of quickness or even flexibility, which means he can often look quite laboured.
Watching him, he looks like a typical English lower league meat-and-potatoes big man, but then all of a sudden he flashes some of that stereotypical Dutch flair, like scooping a ball over the head of an opponent and into the path of an onrushing team-mate, or beating a defender with a deceptive piece of skill. He certainly isn’t afraid to take opponents on, averaging 5.23 dribbles a match (per Wyscout) which would have him seventh of Scottish Premiership strikers last term. And yet he can sometimes trip over his own feet when moving with the ball – though his first touch is generally pretty sharp.
Off the ball he can float around the gaps like a mercurial No.10 – backed up by his 1.56 shot assists per game. Only Celtic ace Leigh Griffiths averaged more for strikers last term. And yet he also works hard out of possession to pressure defenders. His 3.12 ball recoveries and 2.42 interceptions per 90 are both top 10 figures for strikers.
Further underlining his creative streak, he often the took the set-pieces at Scunthorpe. His crossing (or passing, for that matter) isn’t always the most accurate but he gets good whip and can strike from distance. You may be wondering if set-piece duty is the best use of a 6ft 1in guy's talents but I fret, he's not very strong in the air either (winning 20 per cent aerial duels).
Coming off such a bad season at the age of 30, the concern is that his best days are well behind him with those weaknesses listed above being exposed more than his strengths accentuated. However, seeing as Graham Alexander previous worked with him before, the ‘Well boss should have a clear idea of how he's going to function in Motherwell's attack and, therefore, don't be too surprised to see him become something of a cult hero at Fir Park.
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