During the last two years, Vietnamese football has witnessed a very successful period. For the national team and the under-23s, they secured the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup trophy and became the runner-up of the 2018 AFC under-23s Championship respectively. Furthermore, their journey of advancing through to the quarter-final of the 2019 Asian Cup and being beaten by only one goal against Japan had received many praises.
As for the domestic teams, Hanoi FC and Becamex Binh Duong have both qualified for the ASEAN final of the AFC Cup. The latter eventually went on to win the matchup and is still heading towards the final of the competition. With those achievements that they have had, some of them historic, it’s not surprising to see some of the national team’s players attracted the attention of foreign clubs.
Đoàn Văn Hậu was one of those names that were mentioned across the news for his performances. Being a consistent starter for both Hanoi FC and the national team has developed his ability and also caught the eyes of the scouts. During the last few days of the summer window, the Eredivisie club Heerenveen came in and asked for him to go on loan. It is the biggest move for a Vietnamese player in history as he arrived with the obligation to make the deal permanent.
This tactical analysis scout report will provide an analysis of Văn Hậu’s strongest attributes in his game. Meanwhile, using statistics and footage we will point out how can he fit into Heerenveen’s tactics this season.
Văn Hậu is a Hanoi FC academy graduate after spending seven years among their youth ranks. His talent was soon to be discovered as he received the call-up from the U20’s manager Hoàng Anh Tuấn for the U20s World Cup. Although the team couldn’t make it further than the group stage, they still left an impression as it was their first time participating in the competition.
One year on, that squad proved to be a solid base for the national team in a few years. Some of the names like Nguyễn Tiến Linh or Hà Đức Chinh were promoted to the first-team when the Korean manager Park Hang-Seo arrived. Along with his Hanoi teammates such as Trần Đình Trọng and Nguyễn Quang Hải, Văn Hậu contributed to Vietnam’s successful period at just the age of nineteen.
In terms of his stats, he registered an average of seventeen challenges (won 64% of them) in his last eleven games for Hanoi FC. Furthermore, Văn Hậu is a threat in the air, having made six aerial duels per game and completed 70%. His attacking perspective is also quite impressive, with 1.55 completed dribbles and 0.82 key passes per game, he can be an interesting attacking method for Heerenveen.
Under Park, Vietnam tend to defend deep without the ball, especially when playing against higher quality opponents. They create a deep low block in front of the box and aim to prevent any through balls or passes coming towards them. For this defensive juggernaut to cause frustration for the opposite team, the players are required to have positional and spatial awareness. It will help them read the situation efficiently and create quick decisions.
Playing as a left-back in the team’s back five, Văn Hậu isn’t an exception in Park’s tactics. He usually sticks to his position and moves along with the defensive line to keep the shape as compact as possible. Whenever the opposition distribute the ball wide, he will stick inside to create a back four and allow the wing-back on the opposite side to step out. With the tendency of staying quite deeper than his colleagues, the Heerenveen defender can predict the ball’s direction. There, his timing would be crucial as he intends to step out and intercept possession like the shot below.
In most defensive duels, he will rely on how the situation develops and then make his decision. Usually showing the ball carrier onto his weaker foot would be his strategy, similar to the shot below. After the Ceres Negros player received the ball, he intended to orient his body towards Hanoi’s goal. But immediately, Văn Hậu arrived and put pressure on his left foot to recover possession.
He is not the type of defender who occasionally dives into tackles to recover possession for his side. Also, having a quick mind and the decision-making ability make getting stuck into tackles seem quite unnecessary. Indeed, as his numbers prove this- he only committed twelve fouls in his last eleven games and only received two yellow cards.
With the role that he is currently occupying and combined with the situation against Japan above, it’s easy to notice that Văn Hậu is a covering centre-back. His responsibility is to drop deeper than the others and provide a shield when his teammates step out of position. Rather than directly involving himself in defensive duels, he could act as the last player in defence and create the assuredness to continue the press.
Meanwhile, in the role of an attacking full-back, he must be able to fulfil his defensive responsibilities while providing an option when the team attack. In defence, he is given the license to step out from the line and participate in duels to recover possession. At the same time, tracking back from his attacking position to fill in gaps being left behind is also a must. Using his pace, it is possible for him to run from the opposite half back into his team’s half and form the defensive line.
Being consistent on the ground to intercept the passes from the opposition, he is also a threat in the air. A physical specimen who stands at 6’1” (1.85m), he possesses a great height compared to his teammates. Combined with his game-reading ability, it gives him the advantage of picking out where the ball will drop and win aerial duels.
In these situations, his positioning is also very crucial. To outjump the opponent, Văn Hậu must pick out a free space near the area where the ball drops. Alongside that, the use of his decent jumping reach could also allow him to reach the ball quicker than the opponent.
Within Vietnam’s back five, Văn Hậu will receive more support and coverage as he is on his way back. Three centre-backs could stretch wider to occupy the central area and the half-spaces while waiting for both wing-backs to retreat. Even more, one central midfielder could drop in between the centre-back and temporarily create a back four to deal with the pressure.
On the other hand, Hanoi’s manager Chu Đình Nghiêm tends to use a back four which also involves two attacking full-backs. When they defend, creating a medium block inside their half is usually the most viable option. To fulfil both his defensive work and provide an attacking option, Văn Hậu must time his run well. This allows him to join the attack while still making sure that he is still capable of retreating and form the defensive line.
Involves in the team’s build-up and attack
As an attacking full-back, Văn Hậu tends to overlap down the left-hand side to provide support for the winger upfront. Also with the advantage of being a two-footed player, he can interchange his position occasionally. As a preference, he is more than capable to play on the left-hand side to make the most out of his left foot. Usually in Hanoi’s 4-4-2 formation, the winger in front of him, Quang Hải, will occupy the left half-space. This leaves the wide area for him to overlap into and provide support in the team’s attack.
With his pace and positioning, he will go around the ball carrier into the area near the box and offer to pick the ball up. Along with striker Nguyễn Văn Quyết who also drifts wide on a few occasions, they could create a passing triangle which allows them to progress the ball into the box.
Besides that option, he could directly receive the pass from the ball carrier and then make a cross into the box. At both the Vietnamese national team and Hanoi FC, Văn Hậu is one of the top crossers for his team. When he overlaps and occupy the wide space, it creates an option for the players in front of him to cut inside and support the striker. In Vietnam’s 3-4-3 formation in most of their attacks, this is usually the case.
No matter on which sides he plays, as long as he can position himself in free space with the ball, a cross will be sent in for a receiver. Using the vision that he develops when he occupies the distributing defender role, he could pick out a teammate inside the box and send the ball in. On average, he made 1.64 crosses per Hanoi game and 0.36 of them found its destination.
On the ball, Văn Hậu is a decent dribbler due to his confident and composed attitude. He doesn’t stay away from a challenge or make a back pass when facing the opponent. The Hanoi loanee divides his attacking and defending responsibilities quite equally. Using his pace, he can surge forward runs to join the attack and track back to form the back four.
In the shot below, before he encountered the Binh Duong player, Văn Hậu noticed a free space behind his back. To bypass this pressure, the young Vietnamese defender used a quick feint onto the opponent’s weaker foot, which was the left foot, and headed towards that area. He showed his intelligence to prevent the opposition from tackling the ball away from him while using spatial awareness and identified the area that he could continue to dribble.
During his time with the Vietnamese national team, Văn Hậu has also been used as a ball-playing defender in the back five. Moving slightly to the left, he would create a passing block with his colleagues and the central midfielder up front. Their task is to circulate the ball among them when playing against opponents who defend deep inside their half.
There will be at least two passing triangles to help them pass and progress the ball up the pitch. In case he notices one of the attackers who is in a positive state to receive the ball, he will find him using a long ball from the middle third. He doesn’t hesitate to make long-range passes as long as there are teammates who are willing to receive the ball and continue the team’s attack.
He keeps the same build-up principles when occupying the left-back role at Hanoi and Heerenveen in the future. Under the pressure of the opponent, a triangle will be maintained along with the nearest centre-back and the central midfielder. In these situations, central midfielder Moses Oloya would locate in between the overloaded area and attempt to get the ball out.
As Văn Hậu sticks to the wide area, centre-back Nguyễn Thành Chung will come close and position himself in free space. This will create a passing option for the latter two to circulate the ball away from the pressure and continue the build-up process.
How will he fit into Johnny Jansen’s tactics?
After the first five matches of the Eredivisie season, it’s clear that Jansen wants to line his side up in a 4-3-3 formation. Văn Hậu’s arrival will give him another interesting option on the left hand side along with Lucas Woudenberg. Although there is a possibility that the Dutch manager will use the Hanoi loanee as a centre-back, the partnership of Ibrahim Drešević and Sven Botman is still his first choice. Not to mention they also have other centre-back options on the bench such as new signing Andreas Skovgaard, and veterans Ricardo van Rhijn and Daniel Høegh.
His formation proves to be quite flexible depending on the team’s state. For example, in defence it would be changed into a 4-4-1-1 with two defensive lines. They stay compact in front of the box and aim to intercept any passes heading in between those lines. The defensive line below moves even more centrally to defend the central area while the midfielders stretch wide to occupy the half-spaces.
Playing as a left-back, Văn Hậu will be able to be involved in more duels when Heerenveen play against teams that tend to distribute wide. He would create an overload inside the wide area along with the winger and attempt to recover possession immediately. From there, the option of dribbling the ball on his own up the pitch to create an attack could be viable. Or, he could make a long pass towards winger Mitchell van Bergen on the opposite side and allow the former Vitesse youngster to lead the team.
In terms of building attacks, Heerenveen use a four-man build-up with all four defenders participating in this alongside the support from one central midfielder. They create a passing block on the edge of the middle third and progress the ball up the pitch.
Usually, Woudenberg won’t overlap up the pitch during that process but would rather stick with the block. We can expect the same from Văn Hậu as his passing ability will help them in finding a solution to bypass the opposition’s defensive structure. Until Hicham Falk picks up the ball and then drive it forward, that will be the signal for the Vietnamese youngster to join the attack through his overlapping runs.
Up front, he will have a lot of space out wide to execute what he intends to do. Since Ejuke usually cuts inside with his right foot, the Nigerian winger will leave the wide area for Woudenberg to occupy. The same could be said about Văn Hậu when he is on the ball as he could send in crosses towards the towering striker Jens Odgaard.
The Sassuolo loanee registers a height of 6’2” (1.88m) and that allows him to be vulnerable in the air. Văn Hậu’s crossing ability could also be used in indirect set-pieces such as corners or free-kicks. Besides Odgaard, Botman (6’3” – 1.93m) and Faik (6’2” – 1.89m) are players who are good in aerial duels. They could be potential threats towards the opponent’s goal by picking up the ball.
Being one of the most interesting players in Vietnam’s national team, Văn Hậu will bring pace and an intelligent style of play to Heerenveen. He is a versatile defender who can play in almost every position in the defence and can provide a reliable rotational option. A quick player on- and off-the-ball, he is able to fulfil his defensive responsibilities and join in the attack.
His overlapping runs down the left hand side will allow Ejeke to work centrally on more occasions. Meanwhile, as a ball-playing defender, his passes will help the team build up their attacks from the backline.
At a very young age, Văn Hậu has been a key player for his respective sides. Along with his teammates, he guides the club and national team from glory to glory. But some questions surround his move. Is this a commercial deal with the hope of boosting and increasing Heerenveen’s fanbase? And if not, how can he adapt to a very young side that Jansen is building in just a short period?
Although a loan deal suits all sides, it requires that player to work hard and be familiar to the team quickly. Not to mention he still has the international duty that he needs to fulfil. With the different competitions’ structures compared to those in Europe, it will become a very big obstacle in terms of both the physical and mental tolls. But amid the disadvantages, this move will help Văn Hậu experience football at a higher level and develop his abilities at the same time. It will also bring a decent rotational option for Heerenveen and allow them to build solidity for their defence.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the August issue for just ₤4.99 here.