FC Twente enter the winter break in third place in the Eredivisie table with 34 points from 16 matches, sitting one point above AZ Alkmaar, nine above Ajax, four behind defending champions Feyenoord and 14 behind PSV, and they are pushing to return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 13 years. One player who has proven vital in their strong start is 22-year-old forward Sem Steijn.
Whilst his father Maurice Steijn has suffered a rough go of it as of late, leaving Ajax after just a few months following the club’s worst-ever start which saw them take 5 points from 7 matches, his son has emerged as a revelation in an attacking midfield role. Having racked up 18 goals in 41 appearances for second-tier ADO Den Haag, Steijn made the move to Twente in the summer of 2022, ending an 11-year stint at Den Haag which included brief loan spells at VVV-Venlo and the U-21 side of Emirati club Al Wahda, when his father managed the club.
Steijn is crucial in Twente’s attacking play, bringing that creative spark to the team’s build-up play, finding spaces and creating dangerous chances in advanced areas. He has registered a total of 27 shots in the Eredivisie this season with 14 being on target, hitting the woodwork twice, while 13 shots went off target. With a shooting accuracy of 51.85%, he takes 2.31 shots per 90 minutes and scores for every 3.00 shots taken.
He possesses the ability to adjust his pace and power, picking out successful passes with 226 of 304 passes successfully completed, equating to a pass completion rate of 74.34%. His ability to move up the pitch with the ball, dribble into space, make clever movements and keep the ball away from opponents is delightful. He has proven crucial for a Twente side that has lost just twice — a 1-0 loss to RKC Waalwijk in September and a 3-0 loss to PSV which saw them fall to 10 men in the 25th minute as Dutch center back Mees Hilgers saw red, whilst Joey Veerman opened the scoring before halftime.
Joey Veerman is the highest rated @SofascoreINT player of 2023:
-24 assists (most in the database)
-28 big chances created
-3.7 key passes per game
-64% long ball accuracy
-56% duels won
-77% dribbling success
-4.5 duels won per gamehttps://t.co/iHgNp1W5Av pic.twitter.com/gm1ZUvPnWj
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) December 23, 2023
With 10 goals and 2 assists in 16 matches, only Feyenoord’s Santiago Giménez (18), PSV Eindhoven’s Luuk de Jong (12) and AZ Alkmaar’s Vangelis Pavlidis (18) have found the back of the net with greater regularity in the Dutch top-flight, and he has already surpassed last season’s tally of 6 goals and 1 assist in 31 matches. He controls the ball with speed and precision in tight areas, effectively dealing with pressure and breaking the lines with grace.
He is bursting with confidence, as evidenced back in September when he scored Twente’s second of the day in the 11th minute. Brian Brobbey would pull one back shortly after, but Naci Ünüvar found the back of the net against his former side in the 79th minute as Twente came away with a 3-1 victory against Maurice Steijn’s Ajax.
From that point on, he has emerged as one of the most in-form players in the Netherlands, grabbing the sole goal of the match against Vitesse, doubling their lead in a 2-2 draw vs. Heracles, equalizing from the penalty spot in a 1-1 draw to Utrecht before bagging a brace against NEC, with Manfred Ugalde equalizing in the 87th minute to secure a point.
Stein found Ugalde in the first minute of their match against Go Ahead Eagles whilst Ugalde returned the favor shortly after in a 3-1 victory. He reigned supreme on both sides of the ball in their 4-2 victory against Excelsior, completing two key passes, registering six shots, completing four tackles and winning seven out of eight ground duels, before opening the scoring before the break in a 2-2 draw to Sparta Rotterdam.
Whilst he does need to improve in several facets of the game such as aerial duels, his ambitious style of play and blistering speed makes him a counter-attacking threat, boasting the composure and balance in possession to provide much-needed flair and unpredictability to the attack. He has emerged as one of the first names on Joseph Oosting’s team sheet, and if he can keep improving at this rate, 2024 may very well see him follow in the footsteps of Vaclav Cerny (Wolfsburg), Ramiz Zerrouki (Feyenoord) and Joel Drommel (PSV) and become the latest player to leave De Grolsch Veste for greener pastures.
By: Ogenyi Paul / @234programmer
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / DeFodi Images