MILAN – Recounting Stefan de Vrij’s season so far is both simple and complicated. It’s easy because of the evidence: the numbers and performances speak for themselves. The hard part is that not every day do you find a defender with stats and habits so similar to those of a midfielder: he clearly has great feet.
With the help of Opta (and the video at the end of this article) let’s try to summarise the Dutch defender’s season so far, with a particular focus on the league, because Opta have put de Vrij in their best eleven of the Serie A season based on statistics. He has made 23 Serie A appearances, 22 of those as a starter, which combines to a total of 2,005 minutes played. He’s a constant presence at the centre of the Nerazzurri defence with a natural predisposition to play in the centre of Antonio Conte’s back three.
It’s in that role that Stefan feels at ease and can use his skills to aid the team. Attacking play usually starts from him at the back and it’s regarding this that his stats speak volumes: a pass accuracy of 91.6%, with an average of 61 attempted passes per game and over 50 of those completed. Furthermore, de Vrij doesn’t just keep it simple: he doesn’t always take the easy option and his main attribute this season has been the ability to play forward: he’s made 258 forward passes in search of midfielder’s or even the strikers in some cases. And these aren’t just long thumps forward, they’re arrowing passes that often break between opponents’ lines.
It’s in this way that de Vrij has made some very important contributions to Inter’s attacking threat and he’s registered three assists to showcase that: against Sassuolo, Brescia and Verona. The one against Sassuolo for Lukaku’s goal is the prime example: the Dutchman advanced forward, almost as far as the opponent’s final third, before sliding one through for the Belgian striker. He’s also got two goals to add to those three assists: a left-footed finish against Torino and a superb stooping header against AC Milan in The Derby to put the Nerazzurri ahead.
However, it’s not just his offensive game that excels, de Vrij has helped Inter become the second-best defence in Serie A: with 86 defensive interventions and 20 blocks. Excellent positioning and fantastic reading of the game have earned the Nerazzurri fans’ praise this season.
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