Despite an impressive season so far for Bayer Leverkusen with seven goals and nine assists in 35 appearances, Dutch international team trainer Ronald Koeman decided to leave 22-year-old Jeremie Frimpong out of his squad to face France and Gibraltar this week. When pressed, the Oranje coach didn’t hold back in voicing his doubts over the Werkself wingback.
“No Frimpong? This is because of the system that we play in,” Koeman told a press conference this week. “He plays almost as a right winger. My right back should be able to defend well in the first place and I have my doubts about that.”
The Bayer Leverkusen youngster has reportedly drawn the attention of Manchester United with his displays this season, but the public criticism from Koeman is going to sting. Does the Dutch coach have a point or is his critique a tad on the harsh side?
There’s no doubt that Frimpong is an attacking fullback/ wingback in the modern sense of the word. His natural instinct to bomb forward using his phenomenal pace is his most dangerous weapon, but that is not to say he is inadequate in his defensive duties as has been suggested.
If you look at his statistics and compare him with other Bundesliga attacking fullbacks, it will be clear that Koeman is being more than a little harsh in his critique. For comparison we’ll take Bayer Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Borussia Dortmund’s Marius Wolf as yardsticks by which to compare Frimpong’s defensive performance. Both Davies and Wolf are first choice with their clubs, predominantly attacking in their mindset and considered internationals for their respective countries.
In terms of tackles made in the defensive third Frimpong has 19 compared to Alphonso Davies’ 21 and Marius Wolf’s 7. Frimpong however wins a higher percentage of his tackles with 56.7% compared to Davies (45.2%) and Wolf (55.6%).Direct duels won sees the Leverkusen man lead with 260 compared to 250 for Davies and 134 for the Dortmund fullback.
Davies (25 and 22) and Wolf (33 and 17 have both made more blocks and interceptions than Frimpong (17 and 11), but the Werkself speedster has made more clearances (34) than Davies and Wolf (both 21).
As the saying goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”, but these stats show that Frimpong is no slouch in his defensive duties. Koeman’s criticisms would seem absurd if levelled at Alphonso Davies so they should seem equally absurd when targeted at Jeremie Frimpong.
Yes, the Leverkusen wingback is more attack-minded than defence-minded but then that is the way of the world nowadays. If the Dutch have a better right back than Frimpong, then all the best to them. Let’s just hope the French don’t rip the Dutch apart down the right leaving Koeman to eat humble pie.