‘AZ opts for own youth, that’s clever’
Bruno Martins Indi, Sam Beukema, Riechedly Bazoer, Zinho Vanheusden, Maxim Dekker. For center defenders, the stars don’t look too favorable in Alkmaar this year. With a sickbay like AZ’s, many a trainer and technical director would storm the market in panic.
AZ doesn’t. In Alkmaar they rely on youth. And for now, Wouter Goes is proving the club right.
Goes played in the youth of Ajax, transferred to AZ in 2016 and made his professional debut with Jong AZ in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie on February 4, 2022. Exactly one year after his debut with the pledges, he was in the base of the main squad against FC Volendam.
Since then, the only 18-year-old Goes has not left the starting line-up. Even in Stadio Olimpico in Rome he proudly stood up against the seasoned pros of Lazio. How good is Goes and what does his future look like? Soccer commentators Arno Vermeulen and Jeroen Elshoff provide answers.
Elshoff: “First of all, I think it was clever of AZ to choose him in such a situation. They were still engaged in the title race. True, they were not in pole position, but at the moment he came in, they were still hooking up with the top. It’s great that AZ chose a player from their own youth, instead of buying or renting another central defender in the transfer period. AZ does that well, the confidence they give is also important for a young player. It also says something about the mental coaching within AZ. It’s not nothing to be thrown to the lions.”
Vermeulen: “He is remarkably mature in his game for an 18-year-old. At that age you often alternate good things with lesser moments, but he is calm on the ball and can play good soccer. He has an excellent pass and interferes with the build-up. He fits into the AZ game, and that is very important. The clever thing is, on the face of it, he hardly flinches when he makes a mistake.”
Elshoff: “I think Goes is calm, shows bravado and has guts. He does what he’s there for. Even in European matches he goes into the duels with players who have a bigger name. He is easy to coach and does not hesitate to coach himself. And if one time he doesn’t succeed, he just tries again next time. He makes a sensible and mature impression for someone who is not yet. I find that admirable. He spent one year at Jong AZ. If you can then already compete in the top of the premier league, you must be really talented.”
Will Goes hold his spot when the injured return?
Vermeulen: “That is always a huge dilemma for a trainer. Pascal Jansen is a trainer, though, who doesn’t look very much at the status of the players, but at how they are doing. He will look at the opponent per game. Beukema is a different kind of player. He is bigger and more physical, but on the ball a lot less. So it just depends on how the opponent plays. Hatzidiakos, who is playing now, is also more of a footballer, but defensively he is not the best. Hatzidiakos and Beukema complemented each other well as a duo.”
Elshoff: “You can’t expect young players to maintain their good level for twenty games. It would be normal if they have a down period once. AZ has a lot of good defenders. I don’t know if he will keep his spot, but he won’t disappear on the bench either. It’s nice for AZ to be able to rotate and vary in their busy schedule, especially with European soccer.”
Vermeulen: “I would find it brave if the coach lets Goes play, but there is competition. Martins Indi is coming back and he was the first choice. He will definitely play again, and so then there are three players competing for the other position. This coach has a lot of confidence in young guys, which is an advantage. Everyone, including myself, said in the winter break that AZ should get some new defenders. They didn’t, and they got it right. That’s clever, and very AZ.”
Is Goes a potential international?
Vermeulen: “You can’t say anything about that. You can name thirty players who could do it. Besides, in the Dutch national team you also want to have some experience among the central defenders. And when you see what’s lined up in front of him … That is not normal. With De Ligt, De Vrij, Van Dijk and Timber you already have four right-legged defenders.”
Elshoff: “It’s way too early to talk about a potential international. I’m not a fan of that anyway. You never know what happens in a soccer life. You have to take it easy and be careful with young players. You can see that he is talented. Now he has to hold on to that and develop it further.”
Vermeulen: “He’s not going to look at the Dutch national team right now. He has to make sure he will win the competition at AZ. The fact that they are now playing for the championship may be a disadvantage. If things get really exciting, the coach might choose experience sooner. But if you stay upright away at Lazio, you don’t have to be afraid of the premier league.”