Since leaving AFC Ajax two years ago, 22-year-old Deyovaisio Zeefuik has established himself at FC Groningen. Danny Lewis has analysed his skillset, one that is flourishing out of the De Toekomst shadow.
Deyovaisio Zeefuik's CAREER IN REVIEW
Deyovaisio Zeefuik is distinctive on a football pitch. Initially, that is because of how low he wears his socks, but once the football kicks in, it’s his intensity that catches the eye. There will be disappointment across the Netherlands that both the top two divisions of their league system, Eredivisie and Eerste Divisie, have come to a premature end, but Zeefuik can be satisfied with how he’s performed in his second season with Groningen.
The right-back came through the famed De Toekomst at AFC Ajax before eventually going on to join the team in green and white in May 2018, following a loan spell with them. Since making the move further north, Zeefuik has been a reliable performer; his 58 Eredivisie appearances across his two campaigns, averaging 88 minutes per game, is testament to that.
It’s recently been reported that he is a player drawing the attention of Southampton, Stade de Reims and PSV Eindhoven. His distinctive style and impressive displays mean this isn’t too much of a surprise.
Deyovaisio Zeefuik's Style of Play
The most obvious feature of Zeefuik’s game is his tough tackling. He’s full-blooded in the challenge and is often difficult for opposition wingers to face. He’s proactive in the way that he tackles, often defending on the front foot to step in before the attacker is able to get the ball under control. There are times where he can verge on the overzealous, though. One example of his aggressive nature can be seen in this tackle on Ryan Babel in a 2-1 win against Ajax.
Something that is especially important for players who go in as hard as the Dutchman is accuracy. He stacks up fairly well in this regard, making 3 tackles per 90 minutes, while committing 1.3 fouls, and being dribbled past once. When looking at his style of tackling, it may be tempting to label the right-back as a brute, but to do so would underestimate the intelligence of his defensive work.
The 22-year-old often uses his body well, getting himself between the ball and his opponent, allowing him to regain possession. It should be noted that he also averages 1.4 interceptions and 0.7 blocks per 90, highlighting the dividends of good positioning and anticipation.
The clip below offers an indication of his ability to spot danger. There may have been a temptation to stick with Nicolás Tagliafico on the touchline, but he spotted Ryan Gravenberch in a far more dangerous position and was able to get in to stop the 17-year-old having a clear opportunity to shoot.
While he has intelligence, there is danger of the full-back letting the intensity of his play get the better of him at times. There are signs that he struggles to control his temper in the face of perceived injustice. The most obvious incident from this season in which that was the case came in Groningen’s 1-1 draw with ADO Den Haag.
In the 42nd minute, a free-kick was given against him for pushing his opponent in the back, to which he kicked the ball away, receiving a yellow card. Second later, the relegation-battlers scored their equaliser from the resulting set-piece. In the very sequence after the ensuing kick-off, the Zeefuik earned himself a straight red when he led with his elbow in an aerial duel.
It can be seen that his discipline has been improving, though, as he has three yellow cards and one red this term, compared to 10 bookings and a sending off last season – having played six games fewer.
His main strengths may lie in the defensive side of the game, but Zeefuik is definitely able to play his part in attack. That comes despite his fairly modest return of two goal contributions in each of his two campaigns since making the permanent move to Noordlease Stadion.
Zeefuik shows the same level of conviction in attack as he does in defence. Once the Dutchman gets going, he is difficult to stop, as highlighted by the fact that he completes 1.6 dribbles and is fouled 1.2 times per 90. His runs take him down the line into areas where he can get crosses into the box. He’s far from one-dimensional though; he can also play intelligent balls inside to attackers. Groningen’s 3-0 victory over RKC Waalwijk offers the best indication of the 22-year-old’s threat.
The first sequence shows how he drives forward with the ball at his feet, making things very uncomfortable for the opposition. Having singled out Hannes Delcroix, Zeefuik knocked Ajdin Hrustic’s pass into his stride and forced his way past the left-back, eventually winning a free-kick that led to the opening goal.
He then went on to assist their second of the game, showing the other side of his attacking threat. He had already got past Delcroix for that first, and faked as if he was going to do so again with the ball at his feet on the edge of the box. This opened up the space that allowed him to play a one-two with Ahmed El Messaoudi, before assisting Charlison Benschop with a first-time pass.
He executes 1.1 shot assists and 0.3 shot-creating crosses per 90, an output that offers a sign that he’s thoughtful in how he gets the ball into the frontmen, as opposed to aimlessly putting it into the box.
Deyovaisio Zeefuik's Oranje Prospects
The Netherlands have their fair share of decent right-backs: Denzel Dumfries of PSV Eindhoven, Hans Hateboer at Atalanta BC and Olympique Lyonnai’s Kenny Tete primarily. Since his move to Groningen, Zeefuik has shown that he could – and probably should – be considered among that contingent.
He’s astute defensively and offers a genuine threat going forward – everything that a club can want from the modern-day full-back. If the 22-year-old can remain disciplined, then his ability and distinctive style mean he should be capable of pushing above his current level.