Ricky Van Wolfswinkel: Scouting Report for Norwich's Latest Acquisition
Norwich surprised world football this week by securing Ricky van Wolfswinkel's signature ready for the 2013-14 season.
The Sporting striker, who is set to cost the Canaries around £8.5 million (via BBC Sport), will be heavily scrutinised by fans around the world. So what should we expect from the Dutchman other than a wonderful name?
In all the games I've watched RVW in, he's played as a lone striker.
Whether that's in a 4-3-3 under Jesualdo Ferreira or a 4-2-3-1 under Ricardo Sa Pinto, he's led the line on his own and played with five midfielders around him.
He's around 6' tall and slight in build, and this gives him a glaring physical disadvantage against burly central defenders. As such, he's honed his game to his strengths and plays as a rather old-school poacher.
He runs the channels, sits on the shoulder of the defender and looks for through-balls. His first touch is polished and, particularly under Sa Pinto, he would drop in and join in the passing game.
"Dropping in," however, does not mean defend. Even when his team are under the cosh, he prefers not to put a foot in. Of course, as a lone striker, he cannot be pulled too far back, but last season's two-legged bout with Athletic Bilbao is a good barometer.
Marcelo Bielsa's side were running riot, and although RVW dropped back to help build in possession, he never troubled the double pivot of Ander Iturraspe and Ander Herrera. Whether that's a behavioral trait or by tactical design is up for debate.
Still, he's a consistent attacking presence on the line and has the pace to take advantage of defenders should he maneuver them into the right areas.
Unable to match them one-on-one in the air, he's developed clever movement and frequently pulls to the near post when anticipating a cross—looking to come across the face of his marker and glance a header rather than power one.
As a midfield creator, you're always going to find RVW in good positions in the box, but he can be guilty of missing easy chances. He needs to improve his conversion rate, and at 24 years of age, he's got time to do so.
The drawback of RVW as a lone striker is his one-dimensional style. Utilising a pacey, on-the-shoulder No. 9 requires composure and creativity in midfield, else you become a direct team due to a lack of other options.
Could he be paired with Grant Holt or Luciano Becchio in a two-man partnership? Is he an alternative option who can be used superbly in the right circumstances?
Sporting fans will be pleased to have recovered such a sum for van Wolfswinkel, but £8.5 million—like it or not—is the cost of a striker in today's football.
Credit to Norwich for looking overseas and assessing their options. Becchio felt like a panic buy and his so-so start hasn't done a lot to prove otherwise.
Sporting have been a club in disarray for several seasons and RVW has played alongside an everchanging cast with a backdrop of off-field turmoil.
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