• Scouted Football

Scouted Mailbag: March 18

Firstly, we hope you're staying at home, staying safe, and looking after yourself and your loved ones. Secondly, as we mentioned on our Twitter account earlier this week, we're starting a new interactive feature. It's a Mailbag, where you send in your questions – about anything and everything – for our team to answer, and this is the first edition.

We received a number of interesting questions, too many to fit into one piece, so we'll spread our answers over the coming weeks. Send in your questions for future Mailbag pieces here, please – the more we have, the better. For now, here are five interesting talking points.

To kick us off, question one comes from Jasper, who asks, "I was wondering what your opinion is about the uprise of Owen Wijndal at AZ Alkmaar. Do you think he should be selected for the Dutch national team?"

Answer, by Llew Davies: Owen Wijndal is someone we've covered a lot, myself particularly, recently. He's a prominent player in a young, exciting AZ team that plays progressive football, working its way into the final third with deliberate build-up sequences, before relying on collective fluidity and individual creativity in the final third.

Wijndal has been important in build-up and attacking phases, creating passsing angles and supporting or over-lapping Oussama Idrissi in advanced positions. I really like his technical level and attacking intelligence; he's very good at creating overloads, moving into dangerous spaces in and around the opponent's penalty area, and is dangerous with his final actions – a cut-back, cross, or even a shot.

Returning to the question, I think he's the future of the left-back position for the Netherlands. He would've been involved with the senior group for this months's now-cancelled friendlies, he had a real chance of going to this summer's now-postponed EUROs, and will almost certainly be at the rescheduled tournament next year. Patrick van Aanholt isn't getting any younger, while Wijndal's only getting better.

Credit: Ed van de Pol, Soccrates Images, Getty Images

Another question, this time from PureFootball_UK on Twitter: "What is your opinion of Patson Daka? It feels as if he is being overlooked in a talented Red Bull Salzburg team, and of course Erling Braut Haaland. It will be interesting to see how his stats are affected with the absence of Erling."

Answer, Llew Davies: It's not disingenuous to say that Patson Daka is a little overlooked, but that could be said of 95 percent of players in leagues like the Austrian Bundesliga – its standing makes it that only the anomalies, the freaks, like Erling Braut Haaland, can break into wider football cricles whilst there.

Daka is interesting, and he's good. He's played some important minutes this season, scoring important goals in the process, albeit largely as the stand-in for Haaland, yet being able to fulfill such a role is somewhat impressive in itself. He's contributed to 21 goals in the league having started only 12 games, which is remarkable – even in this extraordinary Salzburg team. His skillset – direct movements, wirey athleticism, good work ethic – is one that should take to and score goals in Europe's elite leagues. A move to the Bundesliga – to a team like Eintracht Frankfurt, for instance – where the spaces are big and the tempo is big makes the most sense for his next step. That's the move I'd really like to see him make.

Question three, from Josh, is a loaded one, so we paraphrase: "Joelinton. Stud or dud?"

Our resident Geordie, Joe Donnohue, fields this one: Joelinton is an interesting case this season for a variety of reasons: first of all he’s been utilised as a target man in a side that do not create chances, do not get the ball into the box, forfeit possession more than any other side in Europe and statistically do not press to win it back. It’s always going to be difficult when you don’t have the ball, and even harder when you’re playing in a role you’re very unfamiliar with.

Credit: Serena Taylor, Getty Images

I completely agree in the regard that a lot of fanbases see a 'number nine' and think ‘goalscorer’ – it’s often a by-word for it, but football has evolved. Joelinton was used as a deeper forward at Hoffenheim under Julian Nagelsmann, often being the supplementary attacker to Ishak Belfodil and Andrej Kramarić. Joelinton was hardly prolific but he was a very hard-worker, tackling well, creating chances from deeper areas and it isn’t hard to see that’s the role he’s most comfortable in. At Newcastle he drops into deeper areas to pick up the ball with his back to goal, and crucially for this role to be maximised for the team is to have runners going beyond him. Far too often Newcastle’s attacks have not been cohesive, more akin to two ballistic missiles in Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almirón, with their head-down dribbling, trying to get at the heart of an opposition’s defence through their individual endeavour.

It’s fair to say Joelinton doesn’t have that striker’s penalty box instinct, that’s clear and he hasn’t helped himself to an extent because he hasn’t improved in this regard over the past nine months, but whenever the attacking onus on him is relieved, he seems like a different player. The West Brom game in the FA Cup was a good example of that.

And finally, a question from Hristo Andreev, he asks, "China and India, countries with a combined population of over 2.7 billion or 34 percent of the world's population, have very disappointing national teams and no star players. What is the reason, how can this be changed and what are your expectations?"

Stephen Ganavas: It’s a tough question, Hristo. In India’s case, theirs is a nation where the focus is entirely absorbed by cricket. All the biggest sports stars in the country are cricketers and all the money is in cricket. In saying that, the team is making small strides. They played particularly well at last year’s Asian Cup, where they were about two minutes away from placing second in their group, but instead finished last. A pretty wonky league structure also doesn’t help, nor does their lack of access to the Asian Champions League; their clubs play in the AFC Cup, the Asian confederation’s Europa League equivalent.

China is a bit different. Essentially, they are much better; there is way more money in football in China, and there is a much stronger league structure which makes their clubs some of the best in Asia. Their national team is starting to make strides too, but people underestimate the depth in the AFC, in which nations are battling out for just four-and-a-half World Cup places. These nations include: Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, UAE, Qatar, South Korea and Syria. With the money pouring into the game though, there is no doubt that China will continue to grow as a force in the AFC. We have already seen how quickly things can click with Qatar and the Aspire Academy, so there is no reason the Chinese could not replicate something of that ilk.

We know it's a diffcult time for everyone. Please think of others, look after yourselves, and stay safe. If you'd like to support what we do, you can buy a Scouted Football Handbook here. As ever, we really appreciate your support. Thank you.