Dan Crowley is a player who will be most well-known to Arsenal fans. In recent years, the Gunners have seen many young talents leave the club to fulfil the potential that once excited Arsenal fans like myself.
For Crowley, his move from the Emirates came last summer when he joined Dutch side Willem II. This came after an encouraging loan spell in the Eredivisie with Go Ahead Eagles which made me believe he would feature for Arsenal upon his return. But as we all know, that wasn’t the case.
The 21-year-old’s first full season in Holland had its ups and downs but he seems to be on track so far this season. Here’s my analysis on his first year with Willem II and exactly what is encouraging about his start to this season.
Managers & Systems
Last season, Crowley wasn’t favoured by manager Erwin van de Looi, only making 10 Willem II appearances. Most of those appearances came off the bench and this season, Crowley has already surpassed his minutes played for Willem II under new manager Ardie Koster.
Last season Crowley played 261 minutes, this season, he’s played 270 and this has come from the managers’ preferred systems.
As he didn’t quite fit in with van de Looi’s plans this saw Crowley leave on loan for the back end of last season. This loan took him to the Eerst Divisie (The Dutch Second Division) with Cambuur which is where things started to get back on track.
Enjoying Football At Cambuur
This loan was very productive for Crowley as it got him playing consistently again. It also helped that he fit their style of play as they played in a 4-2-3-1 for 49% of last season which gave Crowley licence to attack from midfield as seen in his heat map.
As an attacking midfielder, Crowley’s best assets are his technique, vision and creativity which is also what made him such an exciting prospect at Arsenal. Finding his groove again at Cambuur last season, it was clear that he is still able to use these attributes to the best of his ability as seen below.
This is an aspect of Crowley’s play that was repetitively on show at Cambuur. So good with the ball at his feet, he was able to make space for himself easily and often delivered pinpoint passes to change games.
Furthermore, we can see that this assist, as well as many others, came from his hot spot on the heatmap which is why this change in management could be a great thing for Crowley going forward.
A Good Return to Willem II
As I mentioned earlier, Crowley has already made a bigger impact at Willem II this season than he did last, playing more minutes in just three games.
In the early stages of the season, Crowley has shown good form in trying to be as pro-active on the ball as possible. This can be seen as he’s amassed 213 touches, 124 passes, 10 dribbles and 4 key passes.
His creativity was best shown in his winning goal against Groningen which was great from start to finish from Crowley:
From the start to finish, the move shows how Crowley is able to think quickly and adapt to his surroundings on the pitch. Identifying which areas to attack and how to attack them as well as showing he can translate his technique into senior football.
Improvements To Be Made
However, as with many players of Crowley’s nature, one of his shortcomings is his stature and strength on the ball. Personally, I see this as one of the reasons why he and many others have been loaned to lower league clubs in England where they’ll have to grow up physically to meet the demands of the team.
With the game naturally being much more physical in England, Crowley may not be as used to this side of it as he used to having spent the last 18 months of his career in Holland. Here’s an example of when that’s come into play this season.
This is something that has occurred on multiple occasions this season and could be an area that he improves as he gets more familiar with the demands of the Eredivisie this season.
Overall, Crowley is a player who has a great base to build from. The attributes he has and the situation he now finds himself in should see him go onto impress.
In the Eredivisie where the game is very much about football with the ball at your feet, I can see him having a period similar to Mason Mount’s at Vitesse once he finds his rhythm. However, if he is to realise his full potential he will need to add aspects like those mentioned above to his game to progress further.
I don’t want to pile pressure on Crowley, but he’s a footballer that I have a lot of time as an Arsenal fan and whether he goes on to return to England or not, his career should be a very interesting one to watch unfold.