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Keep, Sell, Loan: Marco van Ginkel’s 2016-17 season in review

PSV Eindhoven v SC Heerenveen - Eredivisie Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Appearances (starts + substitute):
Dutch Eredivisie: 15 + 0 (1288 minutes)

Goals + Assists:
Dutch Eredivisie: 7 + 4

The story so far:
Marco van Ginkel was one of Vitesse Arnhem’s standout players in the 2012-13 season, registering 12 goals and 12 assists in 41 appearances in all competitions. Vitesse finished 4th that season and haven’t finished as high since. He was rewarded the with a move to Chelsea, the unofficial affiliates of Vitesse, the following summer but since then, his career has failed to kick on in the manner that was expected from the highly promising midfielder. Van Ginkel had made just two appearances for Chelsea before sustaining a knee ligament tear in a League Cup tie that kept him out for the rest of the season. There was a sense that José Mourinho had taken a liking to the youngster and was actually attempting to gradually integrate him as a regular first-team player, but that was put to a cruel halt as injury struck.

Van Ginkel returned to fitness by the summer of 2014, but given the nature of his injury, regular minutes were crucial to him truly finding his rhythm again. A loan to AC Milan followed, where he started 16 games, which is just over 50% of the games he was available for. Injury woes continued to hinder his progress at Milan as well though, as he also missed a total of 58 days out injured.

AC Milan v Torino FC - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Van Ginkel played 1,319 minutes in the 2014-15 season with AC Milan but the general sentiment regarding the player was that things had not gone according to plan. While he was deemed not ready for the Chelsea first-team, Premier League waters were tested with a loan to Mark Hughes’ Stoke City. Deployed in a two-man midfield pivot, Marco managed to stay fit during his time at Stoke but was generally unimpressive and after a run of starts at the beginning of the season, lost his place in the starting XI and never really won it back. He made 10 starts for Stoke in all competitions before being recalled by Chelsea in January and dropping back into known territory for the second half of the season — in the Eredivisie, with PSV Eindhoven.

Stoke City v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images

Van Ginkel, back in his home country, found instant success at PSV. He slot straight into the starting XI and in his 13 Eredivisie appearances, scored 8 goals and assisted one, averaging a direct contribution to a goal every 130 minutes. He looked more like the player he was when Chelsea signed him but questions were raised as to his ability to cut it at a higher level than the Eredivisie.

The following summer, it was revealed that Van Ginkel would not be loaned for the first half of the season but not because Chelsea were willing to give him a chance. A persistent knee problem kept him out of action until the end of the year and after making a few appearances for the Development Squad, he was loaned back to PSV for the remainder of the season. Once again, he walked right into PSV’s starting line-up and bettered his numbers from last season. Van Ginkel scored 7 goals and assisted 4 in 15 appearances this time around, averaging a direct contribution to a goal every 117 minutes, but unlike the 2015-16 season, could not help his team to a league title. PSV finished only 3rd and missed out on Champions League qualification.

Once again we find ourselves asking a familiar question: what happens next?

PSV Eindhoven v SC Heerenveen - Eredivisie Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The Football:

Van Ginkel is most comfortable in a typical Dutch midfield-three. While not exactly a box-to-box midfielder, Van Ginkel is an active midfield presence and is best at making attacking contributions. He can play on either side of a midfield anchorman and has often lined up alongside a more dynamic midfielder in Davy Propper at both Vitesse and PSV. Propper doesn’t shy away from physical duels and is a lot more adept at winning the ball and putting in the work defensively, while also making the occasional attacking foray. It is this type of midfielder that best complements Van Ginkel, who does like to drop deep to receive the ball but is more often than not looking to propel an attack, whether it be with a quick one-two pass or an intelligent run in behind the defence. Although he is no slouch off the ball and is also good at pressing, he is at his best when he has fewer defensive responsibilities. This is also part of the reason why playing in the midfield pivot at Stoke City didn’t particularly work out for him.

At PSV, Van Ginkel could also often be found to be the furthest player forward while the team was in possession and serving as an extra attacking player. One of these instances is seen in the following picture.

An all-touches video from the same game as the picture can be viewed below, which shows a pretty typical performance from the 24-year-old.

One of my complaints with Van Ginkel is that he doesn’t assert himself as much as he should against better opposition. His game also seems to lack an aggressive edge that would go a long way towards him making it at Chelsea.

Let’s now compare his statistics to some stand-out midfielders in the Eredivisie, namely Davy Klaassen (Ajax, who just completed a move to Everton), Davy Propper (PSV), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) and Yassin Ayoub (FC Utrecht).

Clearly, Van Ginkel does not look out of place among these midfielders and is also well ahead in terms of goals scored, shot accuracy and interestingly, aerial duels won.

In conclusion, having Van Ginkel in the right midfield set-up guarantees goals. He’s always a threat in the box and has a natural knack of being in the right place at the right time. Although his off-the-ball work rate has to improve, he has made improvements in the past year, most noticeably in his positioning. Despite multiple injury setbacks, he has developed and come a long way from what he was at Vitesse.


Just as it was last year, making a verdict on Van Ginkel is not easy. He’s shown brilliance in both his spells with PSV, which makes one wonder whether it’s due to him finding his level in the Eredivisie or whether he stilll has potential to grow. Playing the right kind of system for him is very important, but at Chelsea, he’d have an even better set of players around him. But he is no longer a young prospect. Van Ginkel turns 25 this season and it is surely decision time for him at Chelsea. Chelsea do apparently wish to re-assess his situation during the summer but in all likelihood, Van Ginkel is set to leave on a permanent move.

While he has improved, he simply hasn’t played enough football since 2013 and regular minutes, which I doubt he would get at Chelsea, are still just as vital, especially given his injury concerns. Moreover, I struggle to see how he would fit into the 3-4-3. Van Ginkel is a proven success in a 3-man midfield however, and would perhaps find a role in Conte’s squad, should a switch to 3-5-2 be in the manager’s mind. Nevertheless, I do not see staying at Chelsea beyond the summer and my verdict is sell. Van Ginkel is a good player and he’s shown why Chelsea bought him in the first place whenever he’s played in the Eredivisie but he is entering his prime and must challenge himself at a higher level next season in order to truly reach his ceiling. Hopefully, for the good of his career, he will do just that.


What would you do with Marco van Ginkel next season?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    (205 votes)
  • 4%
    (53 votes)
  • 58%
    Sell (cash in!)
    (750 votes)
  • 21%
    Sell at a lower price but with a buy-back clause
    (272 votes)
1280 votes total Vote Now

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