In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting talents in the football world. Next up is AZ Alkmaar’s right-winger Calvin Stengs.

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As part of Arne Slot’s tactically sophisticated and entertaining AZ Alkmaar team, Calvin Stengs has been a revelation.

Making waves in the Eredivisie alongside his teammates such as Myron Boadu, Oussama Idrissi, Dani de Wit, Owen Wijndal and Teun Koopmeiners, the 21-year-old attacker’s made waves across the Dutch top flight with his eye-catching performances.

Having joined AZ at the age of 12 and now into his fourth year in his boyhood’s club’s first team, Stengs has really come into his own this campaign on his way to recording 10 goals and 12 assists in his 42 appearances.

Operating from his nominal right-wing station, where he’s afforded plenty of freedom to drift infield and shoulder plenty of burden in terms of chance creation and ball progression, opponents have found him quite the handful.

While he’s been excellent at drifting infield to either receive possession in the half-spaces, in the 10 spaces, centrally or even offer a threat in behind, where he causes huge marking issues for his markers if they should track him or remain in position, he’s importantly added some vital variety.

This has come in the form of how he hugs the touchline so he can horizontally stretch the opposition backline and use his exceptional 1v1 dribbling ability. Indeed, Stengs relishes these isolation scenarios, where he can then receive and immediately drive at his man with his skill and dynamism to breathe life into attacks and wreak havoc in the final third.

Moreover, it’s also worth pointing out how he shrewdly drops deep with his back to goal to link play and connect passing moves. This allows him to create overloads in central areas while drawing his man out of position for others to exploit as they’ll typically always track him deep. Opening up the channel for midfield runners or his forwards, this tactic has borne fruit on many occasions.

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Helping form a 3v2 around the box.

How he’s performed slick rotations with his fullbacks and fellow attackers has compounded issues for adversaries, for this generates extra confusion on who should mark him in what zone.

To focus on his runs in behind, and these deserve another mention, for his angling, timing and the way he pushes into the box when the ball is on the far side have created extra danger for AZ. His clever blindside runs are of a high standard too, as he uses these to get the jump on his marker.

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Great double movement as he comes short and then bursts in behind.
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Quality third man run in behind to unlock the defence.
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Smart run between the defenders to get into the box unimpeded.
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Smartly finding space as the nearby fullback steps out.
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Wicked blindside run to surge in behind.

The fact Stengs frequently occupies dangerous central areas has the bonus of allowing him to use his wicked passing and dribbling in these areas to either manufacture openings for others or himself.

To start with his passing, and the man who possesses a real wand of a left foot and a good range has shown how he can carve open defences and break the lines with his accuracy. Weighing and measuring his passes crisply, teammates have constantly benefited from his service. Be it from through balls over the top or on the ground, diagonal passes into feet that crucially force the opposition block to move two ways, sharp crosses, cutbacks or switches of play, his ingenuity has been superb to see.

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Drawing his marker out as his teammate exploits the space.
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Excellent line-breaking pass to a colleague in a goal facing posture.
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Stengs dropping deep to draw his man before finding a teammate in the vacated space.
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Wonderfully measured through ball in behind.
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Masterfully struck outside of the through ball.

Getting whip, dip, swerve and power when required, his shooting and deliveries into the box ensure if given too much time and space he’ll make foes pay.

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Exceptionally weighted cross into the box for Boadu.

In terms of his aforementioned dribbling, Stengs is equally effective here, with his ability to beat his man and confidence seeing him prove quite the challenge to contain. Able to outfox markers with close control, silky skills, feints, swerves, fake shots and passes and with searing changes of pace and direction, the languid attacker’s an unpredictable foe.

So hard to read due to his unique style, this often provokes multiple markers into pressing him, thus freeing up space for a colleague or seeing him win fouls in excellent areas.

Upon looking at his numbers when compared to Eredivisie attacking players, and this accentuates his worth, as he’s registered 2.34 shots per 90 (13th most in the league), 2.02 shot assists p90 (ninth-best), 3.96 touches inside the area p90, 2.77 dribbles p90, 2.73 progressive runs p90 and 8.32 progressive passes p90 (fifth-best) and 1.31 crosses p90.

Having joined his beloved AZ at the age of 12, it’s been amazing for the club’s supporters to see one of their own lighting up the Eredivisie within Slot’s eye-catching side. Courtesy of his sensational form the likes of Barcelona and Juventus are reportedly interested in signing him, so he may not be with AZ much longer.

Already playing at a high level and with still much more room for improvement, whatever the future holds for Calvin Stengs it should be one filled with success.


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