Can Chelsea New Boy Marco van Ginkel Become Jose Mourinho's Flexible Friend

Alex Richards@@AA_RichardsContributor IJuly 6, 2013

HEERENVEEN, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 22:  Marco van Ginkel of Vitesse in action during the Eredivisie match between SC Heerenveen and Vitesse Arnhem at Abe Lenstra Stadion on December 22, 2012 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

After impressing at this summer's European Under-21 Championships, Chelsea wasted no time in their pursuit of highly rated Dutchman Marco van Ginkel. The youngster arrives at Stamford Bridge for a reported £9 million, according to Dominic Fifield's report in The Guardian.

The 20-year-old joins the Blues from Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, for whom he made 41 appearances last season, scoring 12 goals and in turn helping them to their highest Eredivisie finish since 1998.

Additionally, 2012-13 saw the midfielder voted the best young player in the Netherlands at the end of the campaign. He also made his senior international bow, with Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal handing him his Oranje debut in a November friendly against Germany.

Now Van Ginkel arrives at Stamford Bridge looking to make his mark on the English Premier League, but with the Blues midfield already featuring the likes of Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, Ramires and Eden Hazard, getting regular first-team football will be an achievement in itself; there are some who reckon that his move may have come too soon.

Former Arsenal, Barcelona and Netherlands international winger Marc Overmars, now sporting director at Ajax, told BBC Sport:

Van Ginkel is a great young talent and we would have liked him to come to Ajax.

Whether it is too early for him to go to Chelsea or not, I don't know. With us, he would have played a lot of games and played in the Champions League.

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Indeed, regular minutes is something of a necessity for a player who has made over 100 senior club appearances in the last three years and who needs regular game time if he is to force his way into Van Gaal's World Cup squad in 2014.

In the youngster's favour, and something that could become a key weapon for Jose Mourinho during his second reign as Chelsea manager, is Van Ginkel's tactical acumen and flexibility.

Already in his fledgling career, the Amersfort native has occupied a number of different roles in midfield.

At this summer's tournament in Israel, he partnered Kevin Strootman in the Jong Oranje engine room, acting as part of the double-pivot in a 4-2-3-1 formation. With his intelligent positioning, powerful off-the-ball running and technical ability, he made a strong impression.

If Jose Mourinho employs that same system, as he did at former club Real Madrid, then you could see Van Ginkel very much in the role that was afforded German powerhouse Sami Khedira at the Santiago Bernabeu, or indeed Michael Essien during Mourinho's previous stint in West London.

Nonetheless, at club level Van Ginkel has previously occupied a number of different roles also. During the 2010-11 season, then-Vitesse manager Albert Ferrer used the youngster in a far more advanced role, almost as a No. 10 behind a central striker.

Van Ginkel netted five goals in 26 league appearances and showcased his ability to pick clever passes and to pop up in clever pockets of space. However, there was still a rawness on show (after all, he was only 18), and his advanced positioning proved rather restrictive in terms of his ability to make late runs into the opposing penalty area—somewhat akin to when then-Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti pitched Frank Lampard at the tip of a midfield diamond.

Subsequent managers at the GelreDome—John van den Brom and Fred Rutten—housed the burgeoning talent in deeper positions, be it as a box-to-box player or from an inverted right-wing position, allowing him to remain fairly narrow before breaking to link up with those in attack.

Certainly, whilst he is very flexible, what he isn't is a midfield destroyer. Positionally sound and not without bite in his game he may be; a replacement for Jon Obi Mikel or the Claude Makelele's heir he is not. To place him in such restraints would be to do his overall game a disservice.

But in this next campaign, the young starlet may run into something of a roadblock. 

Exposure in matches at the very highest level may not be as forthcoming in 2013-14 as perhaps they would have been elsewhere. Ramires, Frank Lampard, Jon Obi Mikel, the returning Michael Essien, the fit-again Oriol Romeu and youngster Nathan Ake will all be looking to stake their claim for midfield slots—not to mention those who ply their trade in the more attacking roles: the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Mata—whilst there is also potential for the David Luiz experiment to continue.

Certainly there are League Cup ties and matches against the Premier League's lesser lights to be had, but is that likely to be enough?

Nevertheless, the talented youngster may well grow to make a place in Jose Mourinho's midfield his own, and his dexterity makes him a tremendous option for the Portuguese, especially looking forward into the post-Lampard era.

As such, Jose Mourinho must ensure that he carefully nurtures the prodigious talents of Marco van Ginkel to make certain that his potential doesn't become another victim of Chelsea's need for instant success.

Perhaps he isn't the immediate future, but the Dutch youngster has all the talent to be a mainstay in the longer term.


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