The latest injury to Tottenham talisman Harry Kane has again shined the spotlight on Spurs’ glaring failure in recent years to add a proper back-up at center forward. In baseball terms, the team struck out with three swings and misses:
- Clinton N’Jie ($15.5m from Olympique Lyon, summer 2016): 0 goals, 1 assist in 8 EPL games
- Vincent Janssen (24.2m from AZ Alkmaar, summer 2016): 2 goals, 2 assists in 31 EPL games
- Fernando Llorente ($16.6m from Swansea City, summer 2017): 2 goals, 4 assists in 36 EPL games
And that’s not even including Roberto Soldado, the high-priced summer 2013 addition outshined by Kane shortly thereafter. Given another opportunity to fill that void in the January transfer window, the Spurs’ check writers punted. Perhaps wary of the premium price tags generally associated with top-tier players at the high-profile forward position — while also surely limited by having spent significantly more than usual on its summer 2019 additions Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon, and shipping out Christian Eriksen to Inter Milan in January for much less than originally expected — instead the team elected to add a winger. Tottenham turned to Steven Bergwijn, ponying up $33.0m to bring him over from PSV Einhoven of the Netherlands’ Eredivisie.
What does the 22-year old bring to the table?
WHAT IS BERGWIJN’S SKILL SET?
As a right-footed left-winger, Bergwijn checks off an awful lot of boxes with respect to the attributes that teams want: excellent touch, dazzling dribbling, quality creativity, a willingness to take on defenders, good vision, unselfish passing, and a strong, accurate shot both from short and long distance. I might liken Bergwijn to Lucas Moura or Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, albeit not as fast as either of those players, but quick enough.
Why would Spurs add someone along the lines of someone they already have in Moura? Depth is crucial in the EPL, particularly for teams fighting for something; Spurs, of course are in the battle for a crucial top four spot, while also still competing in FA Cup and Champions League. You simply can’t have enough good wingers, or enough good players at any position. With Kane out injured, Spurs needed another quality attacker. You never know when Kane, Moura, Son Heung-Min, Dele Alli, Erik Lamela, or Moussa Sissoko will go out via injury, suspension, or national team-related absence.
HOW HAS BERGWIJN FIT WITH TOTTENHAM SO FAR?
Jose Mourinho called Bergwijn into action immediately with a start in the big Week 25 fixture against Manchester City. The newcomer played mostly at his preferred left wing position, with Moura at center forward, Son at right wing, and Alli in the playmaker role formerly occupied by Eriksen.
For most of the game, Spurs merely absorbed the Manchester City attack, failing to do much on offense. When Sky Blues’ wing back Oleksandr Zinchenko was dismissed at 59’ due to a second yellow card, the momentum shifted, allowing Tottenham to press forward on the front foot.
For Bergwijn and Spurs, that’s when the magic moment happened. Taking a pass from Lucas Moura just inside the box, Bergwijn controlled it wonderfully off his chest, immediately firing with his right foot into the corner past a helpless Ederson. While the quality of the strike was extremely impressive, what really made the goal so brilliant was the immediacy between his first touch and the shot. The amazed thought from every Manchester City defender — along with every observer watching — had to be, “How the heck did he get that off so quickly?” [The goal sequence starts at 1:02 of the video below.]
Bergwijn cramped up and was removed at 69’, before Son capped the scoring with the team’s second goal. City failed to mount a comeback, allowing Bergwijn to celebrate as the game winning hero in front of his new home fans in North London.
Let’s look at the statistics from the Tottenham v. Manchester City game for the four offensive starters:
Moura: 1 assist, 4 fouls suffered
Bergwijn: 1 goal, 1 shot, 1 shot on target, 1 tackle won, 1 corner forced, 1 interception
Son: 1 goal, 2 shots, 2 shots on target, 1 corner forced, 3 interceptions, 1 foul conceded, 2 fouls suffered
Alli: 1 foul conceded, 1 foul suffered
Other than the brilliant goal, there wasn’t too much there from Bergwijn. Son was the most active of the quartet, but the other attackers didn’t exactly fill up the stat sheet either. It is obviously unfair to judge what Bergwijn and Spurs will do the rest of the season based on the miraculous, red-card aided 2-0 victory in which Manchester City enjoyed 67% possession and outshot Tottenham 24-3.
As Spurs return to a more attack-minded ethos against teams that are not nearly as dangerous as the Sky Blues, Bergwijn’s underlying statistics should improve, although naturally it is also impossible to expect a goal every game from him. What then might we realistically hope to see from Bergwijn the rest of this season at his new club?
RECENT HISTORY IN EREDIVISIE
After leaving the Ajax youth system nearly a decade ago, the Amsterdam-born Bergwijn has been with PSV Eindhoven, starring for the senior team since 2016-17:
2016-17: 2 goals, 2 assists in 25 games
2017-18: 8 goals, 11 assists in 32 games
2018-19: 14 goals, 12 assists in 33 games
2019-20: 5 goals, 10 assists in 16 games
TOTAL: 29 goals, 35 assists in 112 games
One thing that stands out is that Bergwijn had more goals than assists in only one season (2018-19), and overall has more assists than goals. While assists are great, from a fantasy perspective goals are worth a considerable amount more.
Over the past two and a half seasons (from 2017-18 through 2019-20) which have been particularly productive, Bergwijn boasts 27 goals and 33 assists in 81 Eredivisie games. The mark of 0.74 goals plus assists per game is eye-popping, and while still very strong, the average of 0.33 goals per game is not nearly as remarkable.
HOW DOES THAT TRANSLATE TO THE EPL?
Let’s try to find a good comparison or two from the EPL looking at the past two and a half seasons from the winger position.
Bergwijn: 27 goals and 33 assists in 81 Eredivisie games (0.74 goals plus assists per game, 0.33 goals per game).
While not an exact match, I spot two players with somewhat similar statistics in the Premiership since 2017-18:
Son Heung-Min (Tottenham): 31 goals, 19 assists in 88 EPL games (0.57 goals plus assists per game, 0.35 goals per game)
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester & Manchester United): 26 goals, 21 assists in 84 EPL games (0.56 goals plus assists per game, 0.31 goals per game)
From a fantasy perspective, what production have those players enjoyed?
Son Heung-Min: 446 FPL points in 88 games (5.07 ppg)
Riyad Mahrez: 409 FPL points in 84 games (4.87 ppg)
Splitting the difference between the two players’ FPL scoring averages, 4.97 ppg would translate to 189 points playing every game in a full season. Not too shabby! But can we actually expect fantasy production from Bergwijn along those lines, or even anything close?
HOW HAVE TRANSFERS FROM THE EREDIVISIE FARED IN RECENT HISTORY?
The Erevidisie is not the EPL, which is the big reason why it is difficult to find wing players in the Premiership who have replicated Bergwijn’s gaudy numbers from the top Dutch league. Let’s look at the list of successes and failures on the attacking end of the pitch (minimum $10m transfer fee, forwards/wingers/midfielders excluding defensive midfield, starting summer 2014). Sadly, the number of Eredivisie-to-EPL flops far outnumbers the count of hits in the past handful of seasons.
There have been a few success stories involving Eredivisie to EPL transfers since 2014, but they were all concentrated around that time, as the most recent positive impact from a newcomer came all the way back in 2015.
Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven to Newcastle, $22.0m, Summer 2015)
Eredivisie: 63 goals, 24 assists in 220 games
EPL: 23 goals, 16 assists in 166 games
Wijnaldum scored 14 goals and added 4 assists over 33 games in his final season with PSV Eindhoven, then notched 11 goals with 5 assists over 38 games in his first season with Newcastle. That’s a most definite success story, with immediate production in the EPL at nearly an equal level to what he did in the Eredivisie.
Dusan Tadic (FC Twente to Southampton, $15.4m, Summer 2014)
Eredivisie: 78 goals, 86 assists in 189 games
EPL: 21 goals, 30 assists in 134 games
Tadic dropped from 8 goals and 15 assists over 21 games in his final season with Ajax down to 4 goals and 8 assists in 31 games during his first season at Southampton. However, he picked up his game with 8 goals and 13 assists in 34 games for his second season, his best EPL campaign.
Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord to Southampton, $12.1m, Summer 2014)
Eredivisie: 64 goals, 20 assists in 135 games
EPL: 23 goals, 9 assists in 68 games
Pelle scored 23 times with 6 assists in 28 games in his final term with Feyenoord, and followed that up with 12 goals and 2 assists in 38 games to kick things off with Southampton.
Unlike the hits, the flops have not only been more numerous, but they have also been more spread out, as many are easily recalled since they have come in more recent seasons.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar to Brighton, $20.9m, Summer 2018)
Eredivisie: 39 goals, 31 assists in 112 games
EPL: 2 goals, no assists in 25 games
Jahanbaksh scored 21 goals with 12 assists in 33 games in his final season at AZ Alkmaar, then followed that up with no goals or assists in 19 games for his first campaign at Brighton. He has two goals and no assists in six games in the current season with the Seagulls.
Jurgen Locadia (PSV Eindhoven to Brighton, $18.7m, Winter 2018)
Eredivisie: 45 goals, 34 assists in 127 games
EPL: 3 goals, 1 assist in 34 games
Locadia scored 9 goals and added 6 assists in just 15 games for his final season with PSV Eindhoven. He managed only 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 games in his first season with Brighton, and followed that up with just 2 goals and no assists in 26 games in his second campaign with the Seagulls.
Davy Klaassen (Ajax to Everton, $29.7m, Summer 2017)
Eredivisie: 44 goals, 30 assists in 126 games
EPL: no goals, no assists in 7 games
Klaasen scored 14 goals with 10 assists over 33 games in his final season with Ajax, but had no goals or assists in 7 games during his first and only season with Everton.
Davy Propper (PSV Eindhoven to Brighton, $14.3m, Summer 2017)
Eredivisie: 31 goals, 30 assists in 200 games
EPL: 2 goals, 7 assists in 88 games
Propper notched six goals with 8 assists covering 34 games in his final season with PSV Eindhoven. He failed to score while providing 4 assists in 35 games in his first season with Everton.
Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar to Tottenham, $24.2m, Summer 2016)
Eredivisie: 27 goals, 5 assists in 34 games
EPL: 2 goals, 2 assists in 31 games
Janssen followed up his wildly successful only Eredivisie season — 27 goals, 5 assists in 34 games — with a dud in the EPL, managing 2 goals and 2 assists in 27 games. He was basically an afterthought in London the next two seasons, making only four more appearances.
Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United, $37.4m, Summer 2015)
Eredivisie: 39 goals, 18 assists in 90 games
EPL: 2 goals, 1 assist in 33 games
Depay finished with a massive 22 goal, 6 assist season in his last 30 games at Eindhoven, attracting the interest of fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal. Unfortunately the failure of Depay at Manchester United helped deliver the pink slip of LvG. as the winger only managed 2 goals and 1 assist in 29 games to kick things off in Manchester. Depay has since resurrected his career by starring with Lyon.
WHAT MIGHT BE EXPECTED FROM BERGWIJN IF HE IS A HIT OR A FLOP?
Due to the change in competition level from the Eredivisie to the EPL, falloff will be expected from Bergwijn. For the successes mentioned above — Wijnaldum, Tadic and Pelle — the total average production has fallen off by 54% per game each in goals and assists from their final season in the Eredivisie to their first season in the Premiership.
Eredivisie to EPL Falloff from Recent “Hit” Transfers
|All Hits||% Diff.||ALL||30%||-40%||-40%||-54%||-54%||-54%|
Bergwijn has 5 goals and 10 assists in 16 games this season, or 0.31 goals per game and 0.63 assists per game. 54% falloff would leave expected EPL production of around 0.14 goals per game and 0.29 assists per game for Bergwijn in the Premier League. What type of player at midfield might that translate to in FPL? Most teams have played 25 games, so we’re looking at around 3-4 goals and 7-8 assists. Here are a few comps:
Adama Traore (Wolves, £5.8m): 4 goals, 7 assists in 24 games, 103 FPL points (4.29 ppg)
Willian (Chelsea, £7.1m): 4 goals, 5 assists in 23 games, 97 FPL points (4.21 pg)
Harvey Barnes (Leicester City, £6.0m): 4 goals, 7 assists in 23 games, 87 FPL points ( 3.78 ppg)
David Silva (Manchester City, £7.4m): 3 goals, 9 assists in 18 games, 87 FPL points (4.83 ppg)
Daniel James (Manchester United, £5.9m): 3 goals, 6 assists in 23 games, 80 FPL points (3.48 ppg)
For the flops, it has been abject disaster. For those half dozen duds above — Jahanbakhsh, Locadia, Klaasen, Proper, Janssen and Depay — the total combined production has fallen off by 93% in goals per game, 75% in assists per game, and 87% in g + a per game from their final season in the Eredivisie to their first season in the Premiership.
Eredivisie to EPL Falloff from Recent “Flop” Transfers
|All Flops||% Diff.||All||-31%||-95%||-83%||-93%||-75%||-87%|
If Bergwijn is a dud, we could expect about 0.02 goals per game, 0.16 assists per game, and 0.18 g + a per game. Obviously he’s already far exceeded the “flop” output by scoring in his first game!
Intriguingly, two of the three successes came at Southampton. Perhaps more importantly, an even more inordinate number of the flops have been with Brighton. There may be a difference between trying to be the one-man savior when arriving on a side such as Brighton which is largely bereft of surrounding talent, and being in a more complementary role when instead catching on with a more well-run side like Southampton or well-stocked team such as Tottenham.
HOW HAVE SPURS FARED IN THE TRANSFER MARKET?
Liverpool and Manchester City are the EPL’s shining models of success in the transfer market, having acquired impressive rosters of talent that fit their systems perfectly, with a healthy ratio of players who are currently judged to be brilliantly acquired bargains compared to those who would be referred to as busts.
Tottenham has not spent nearly as lavishly as those two title-tier teams, but taking Spurs’ more frugal budget into account, the North London outfit also boasts a recent record of extremely wise spending in assembling and maintaining a quality level of achievement.
It may be too early yet to judge the crop of summer 2019 arrivals (Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso), and the team embarrassingly failed to make any transfer adds in 2018-19, but otherwise in recent seasons the hits have outweighed the misses. Let’s rate Tottenham’s transfer additions of at least $15m from 2015-16 through 2018-19.
- Lucas Moura ($31.2m from Paris Saint-Germain, Winter 2018): 14 goals, 3 assists in 61 games
- Davinson Sanchez ($44.0m from Ajax, Summer 2017): 1 goal, 1 assist, 21 clean sheets in 72 games
- Serge Aurier ($27.5m from PSG, Summer 2017): 2 goals, 8 assists, 9 clean sheets in 45 games
- Moussa Sissoko ($38.5m from Newcastle, Summer 2016): 3 goals, 8 assists in 107 games
- Son Heung-Min ($33.0m from Bayer Leverkusen, Summer 2015): 49 goals, 26 assists in 150 games
- Toby Alderweireld ($17.6m from Atletico Madrid, Summer 2015): 6 goals, 4 assists, 57 clean sheets in 166 games
- Vincent Janssen ($24.2m from AZ Alkmaar, Summer 2016): 2 goals, 2 assists in 31 games
- Victor Wanyama ($15.8m from Southampton, Summer 2016): 6 goals, 1 assists in 69 games
- Clinton N’Jie ($15.5m from Olympique Lyon, Summer 2015): 0 goals, 1 assist in 8 games
If you trust Tottenham’s recent track record of making smart buys, then you will feel good about Bergwijn’s prospects.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HARRY KANE RETURNS?
A big question will be: Which member of the current starting attacking quartet goes to the bench when Kane returns to fitness? (Assuming that all remain healthy of course.) Right now Kane is projected for a return in early April around Week 32. Son and Alli seem to be the most sure starters on offense alongside Kane. That essentially leaves it as a toss-up between Moura and Bergwijn depending on how Mourinho rates their performance over the next half dozen or so league games.
SHOULD YOU ADD BERGWIJN TO YOUR FPL TEAM?
Ah yes, now we come to the ultimate question. Bergwijn scored a brilliantly taken game winning goal against defending champion Manchester City on his debut. Spurs have a pretty good track record with transfers. The newcomer entered the system at a cost of £7.5m, which at first glance seems fair and reasonable.
However, there are three midfielders at the same price or cheaper who rank in the top 10 at the position in FPL scoring: Leicester’s James Maddison (£7.5m, #7 with 110 points), Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (£6.7m, #8 with 109 points), and Leicester’s Ayoze Perez (£6.2m, #10 with 104 points). Traore is just outside the top 10 for even cheaper (£5.8, #11 with 103 points). A top 5 midfielder, Everton’s Richarlison, is not much more expensive than Bergwijn (£8.1m, #4 with 123 points). That means, quite simply, that you are paying (and perhaps overpaying) for top 10 production at midfield. On top of that, the aforementioned comps mentioned (Traore, Willian, Harvey Barnes, David Silva and James) are all cheaper than Bergwijn.
Add that to the Eredivisie’s poor record with recent attacking transfers into the Premier League, combined with concerns over playing time once Kane returns, plus a tricky upcoming schedule — at Aston Villa, at Chelsea, v. Wolves, at Burnley, v. Manchester United — and I’m not ready to pull the trigger right now, but instead am cautiously still on wait and see mode with Bergwijn.
[SOURCE NOTE: Unless otherwise mentioned, transfer fees and non-EPL statistics came via Transfermarkt, EPL statistics came via the official Premier League site, and FPL stats came via the official fantasy Premier League site.]
What did you think of Bergwijn’s EPL debut against Manchester City, and what do you expect his impact to be the rest of the season with Spurs? Answer the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!
Are you adding Steven Bergwijn to your fantasy team?
This poll is closed
Not sure yet, will wait and see
No, definitely not