Xavi Simons – PSV’s Dutch Superstar in Attack

Club: PSV

Nationality: Netherlands

Position(s): AM, CF, LW, RW

Preferred Foot: Right

Height: 5’10”/179cm

Age: 20

Strengths: dribbling, vision, speed, composure, finishing, versatility, work rate

Development Areas: use of weak foot


A child prodigy at La Masia, Xavi Simons left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 after a nine-year spell in Catalunya, making just 11 appearances for PSG’s first team before departing for PSV Eindhoven on a free transfer in the summer of 2022. Simons has emerged as a key figure in attack for Ruud van Nistelrooy’s side, who finished second and won the Dutch Cup and SuperCup, racking up 27 goal contributions in the Eredivisie.


He loves to dribble & take on players (4.78 p/90 attempted, 2.38 successful), boasting explosive pace and changing direction quickly which allows him to escape defenders. He shields the ball well when dribbling to retain possession, then has quick acceleration to separate from the defender. Simons has plenty of flair and his unpredictability makes him dangerous in 1v1 situations.


This season, Simons has illustrated that he’s a real danger in the box, taking most of his shots inside the box & taking 4.59 touches in the penalty area. Combined with his high shot volume (2.92 p/90) this has resulted in a total of 20G in 41 games in his first full senior football season. These goals came from 16xG so he’s just overperforming his xG slightly. Simons has real composure in the attacking third as he takes his time when one-on-one with the goalkeeper. 


He has 5.33 shot-creating actions p/90 (top 8%) which shows he’s always a threat to cause chances. With his number of shots p/90 being as high as it is (2.92) for his position, it’s important to understand the quality of those shots, which is why it’s encouraging that he has an xG p/90 of 0.48. Simons is a very versatile player who has thrived as a free-roaming playmaker in the past but for PSV this season he has also starred as a winger or false 9 at times. His great technical ability, high energy and explosive style of play make him a tricker player to defend against. 


With him learning about the beautiful game at La Masia, it’s no surprise to see that Simons’ game intelligence is top-drawer. He constantly scans to see where the space is and be 2 steps ahead. Simons’ creativity is why he’s so versatile. His understanding of the game makes him a very dangerous player in the pockets of space between defenders and he loves to find the space and play key passes to teammates (1.93 p/90). This season Simons made 9 assists from an xAG of 7.9.


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In terms of his defensive ability, Xavi Simons has a great engine & work rate. He presses the defence high and shows real aggression to win back the ball. Simons makes 0.55 tackles p/90 in the attacking 3rd (top 3%) which shows his willingness to win the ball back off the opponents in dangerous areas. Simons isn’t the strongest player but his work rate and aggression to win the ball back makes up for it, although he should still build up his upper body strength to become even more physically imposing.


Simons has a great mindset & even from a young age, he was known to be a leader at La Masia with a mentality ahead of his age. He even is multi-lingual – fluent in Dutch, Spanish, French and English. However, one area for improvement would be his use of his weak foot when shooting. Out of his 19 Eredivisie goals this season, 1 was with his left foot and that was a shot from close range. To add another dimension to his game and make him an even more unpredictable threat, he needs to use his left foot more often.


Now with Simons playing well in the Eredivisie, there will always be the question “But can he do it in the Prem/top 5 leagues?” The short answer is yes, but he needs to choose a team with the best environment for him to succeed. At this stage in his development, he shouldn’t go anywhere that he can’t get into the first team (Real Madrid, Barcelona, City, Bayern). He needs to go to a team who have an attacking style, like-minded young players with a top mentality along with a great coach and players who he can compete to start with. 


A player who possesses such creativity, composure & attacking threat needs to be in the half-space and playing in a system that allows for him to free-roam around there. That is how you’ll get the best out of Simons. My pick for the best team for him, is Arsenal. This is removing bias too. Xavi Simons’ style of play and Mikel Arteta’s philosophy align very well. Arteta needs intelligent attacking players who are coachable, versatile, hard-working and have a great football IQ. That’s the definition of Xavi Simons.


His skillset makes him a solid backup option for LW/RW along with the CF(false 9) and he could even become an elite advanced 8. Simons has great defensive work rate so the switch to an advanced 8 would be seamless and with a defensive midfielder and inverted fullback behind him, this would enable him and Martin Ødegaard to form the attacking duo of a box midfield behind Arsenal’s front three. It’s here where Simons would be able to roam around the half-space creating chances to link up with attackers like Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus but also making attacking runs in behind the defence and arriving in the box.


Simons also adds another dimension to Arsenal’s attacking because due to his great speed and acceleration, Simons would be a real transitional threat, especially important in UCL next season. He was electric against Arsenal in Europa League leading the line as a ST in a 2-0 win. He has recently changed his agent to Darren Dein – son of former co-owner and vice-chairman of Arsenal, David Dein. Whilst PSG have a buyback clause of €12m that will be valid on January 1, it remains to be seen whether he would accept a return to the Parc de Princes after just one year.


By: Ben Mattinson /@Ben_Mattinson_

Featured Image: @Juanffrann / Soccrates Images