In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting talents in the football world, that’s ready to start (or re-start) the 2020 season after the COVID-19 crisis. Next up is PSV’s winger Donyell Malen.

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Courtesy of his superb form for PSV Eindhoven, Donyell Malen‘s cemented himself as one of the most coveted youngsters in European football.

Having been sold to the Dutch giants back in 2017 by Arsenal for a paltry £500,000, Malen’s really hit his straps this campaign, with him notching 17 goals and nine assists from 25 matches in all competitions.

Capable of playing out wide on either flank or as a striker, the fact Malen possesses that unique ability to both score and create has meant Barcelona, Liverpool and AC Milan are showing interest and Arsenal are keen on re-signing him.

Although he’s currently on the sidelines due to a knee injury, once the transfer window reopens, there’s no doubting many more clubs will be exploring the possibility of signing him.

Blessed with explosive pace, this helps him in so many situations, as he parlays this with his intelligent movement brilliantly. A real master at timing and angling his runs in behind, Malen craftily gets the jump on his markers with his anticipation and searing acceleration. Getting on his bike as soon as he notices the ball holder in a position to spot him, Malen moves rapidly. It’s important to note how he’ll give himself separation prior to moving so he can hit top speed while the ball’s in-flight and get a dynamic advantage over his ball facing foe. In addition, how he targets gaps between defenders and makes out-to-in blindside runs only compounds issues for opponents.

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Neatly timed run in behind.
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Tremendous blindside run to burst in behind.
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Wickedly timed and angled run in behind.

To make matters worse, how he’ll frequently rotate across the frontline has enabled him to cause issues in who should mark him as he alters reference points for defenders expertly. Electric at using stop-gos, double movements, straying offside before quickly jumping back onside and cutting across his man, this sees him unbalance his marker too. Indeed, it’s little surprise this helps him get into goalscoring locations inside the box, where he reads the ball’s flight and moves accordingly to pose as a top target.

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Edging offside as he draws the defence deeper and generates room for his teammate’s run.
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Top double movement to gain separation inside the box.
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Using an opposite movement well as he drops deep while his teammate bursts in behind.

Full of awareness and adept at scanning over his shoulder, Malen’s certainly a tough man to track, for his unique combination of attributes is such an asset.

Accompanying the aforementioned with his clinical finishing, and this amplifies his worth. Able to score a wide array of goals, including instinctive 1v1 finishes, neatly placed finishes, powerful blasts from close range or longer distance and with quick release shots, he has a finish for many instances.

Moreover, despite his slight frame, it’s been admirable to see him score some wonderful headers, where he’s used clever blindside runs and his searing leap to rise up and find the back of the net.

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Wonderful dinked finish despite being under pressure.
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Amazing run and headed goal as he used his exciting leap.
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Clinical placed finish vs. Rosenborg.

Scoring 0.62 goals per game from an XG of 0.53, his lethal finishing has definitely been a crucial aspect towards the confident attacker’s success. “When it comes to my finishing, I’m noticing that experience pays,” he insisted.

“I’m calmer in front of goal than last year. That experience helps with practice. If that’s good, you give yourself more time to think. We train a lot on that.”

Meanwhile, when it’s come to setting up teammates with his passing, Malen’s fired in some pinpoint crosses and cutbacks, sharp through balls, clinical pullbacks, neat dinks and used both feet. Having the presence of mind and vision has meant he’s shrewd at spotting a colleague in a better position rather than blasting away rashly with a low percentage shot.

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Brilliant cutback assist after a slick piece of dribbling.

Also competent at dropping deep to connect play, recirculating possession and playing some crisp passing exchanges in around the box, this has given his game another dimension.

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Dropping deep smartly between the lines.
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Dropping deep and drawing three opponents before finding the free man.

Then, once in a position to dribble, Malen has proven to be a tricky customer. Difficult to handle in 1v1s, his blistering pace, in combination with his neat array of feints, body swerves, stepovers and close controls, has seen him wreak havoc. Able to breeze by his man in an instant, once he’s through, there’s no beating him for pace, which forces many adversaries to foul him, thus seeing him win many free-kicks in promising advanced areas.

So comfortable on the ball, this has also allowed him to draw multiple markers to drag defensive shapes out of structure and be a damaging weapon in transition vs. retreating backlines.

Already capped at senior international level by Holland, the sky appears the limit for the man who remarkably scored on his international debut vs. Germany in a Euro 2020 qualifier.

Faced with a challenging decision to make regarding his future, it’ll be fascinating where the 21-year-old will be plying his trade next term. Whether he stays and consolidates his place as one of the finest marksmen in the Eredivisie or tries his luck in one of Europe’s top five leagues, one thing for sure is that he’ll be one to watch both now and in the future.