When the new season got underway, Leroy Fer must have accepted the fact that one year in the Championship was something he had to take in his stride. However, when QPR came calling, he could not resist the urge to have a second go in the English top flight. He was signed from Norwich for a fee believed to be in the region of £8 million and joins a plethora of new signings at Loftus Park.
The Netherlands international learnt his trade at Feyenoord’s famed academy and made his senior debut with the club in 2007 under Bert Van Marwjik. The midfielder has since had stints with Twente FC and Norwich before making the move to QPR. He has played across various positions under a number of managers over the last few years. From striker to right-back, he has finally settled down as a central midfielder.
Compared to the Arsenal legend Patrick Viera by Netherlands’ under-21 coach Cor Pot, the player has shown tremendous combative instincts in the middle of the park. His stats with Norwich last season substantiate these strengths. Sitting in the engine room, the player was often doing the dirty work of winning the ball for his teammates and came out on the top in 45% of his duels on the ground as well as in the air. He also made a tackle every 32 minutes and came out on top in a more than impressive 78% of his tackles. Known for breaking down the opposition as well driving his team forward, he made a total of 40 interceptions throughout the season, averaging more than 1 per 90 minutes. One must not forget that he stacked these numbers in a disappointing Norwich team that were eventually relegated.
The Netherlands international has a tidy passing record, completing an impressive 84% of his passes. However, when broken down into zones, the stats reveal that there is a huge gulf in his passing across zones. While he clocked 91% of his passes in the defensive zone, his passing accuracy dipped significantly in the attacking zone where he clocked 77%. While 77% by itself is not a bad number, the gulf in some ways can be attributed to additional pressure as well closed spaces. His passing efficiency further reduced by another 7% in the final third of the pitch. He will need to find his players more often in the attacking zone and particularly in the final third of the pitch.
He is very often positioned to act as a link between defence and attack and the role of such players, however unglamorous, can never be undermined. He likes to drive his team forward often going on a driving run himself to push the opposition on the back foot. The burly midfielder had quite a successful time dribbling past opponents in the Premier League, completing 65% of his take-ons.
One of his often quoted strengths is his ability to break defences with through balls. He created more than 1 chance per 90 minute last season. However, he managed just a solitary assist throughout the season. He will need to keep delivering those defence-splitting key passes for a team that could rue a single missed point at the end of the season. His teammates too need to complement his efforts by converting the chances he creates from the middle of the park.
Despite having a shooting accuracy in excess of 60%, Fer managed just three goals, netting one each with his head, left foot and right foot. However, the worrying factor is that he didn’t convert any of the 6 clear cut chances that came his way last season. While he might not be required to score more than a few goals, he will definitely need to improve his skill in front of the goal. Like with Norwich, these missed chances could possibly add up to a huge consequence.
Last season, Harry Redknapp used the central pairing of Joey Barton and Tom Carroll on a regular basis in the Championship. With Fer joining the squad, he has brought in a young, dynamic central midfielder with considerable experience in top flight football, despite being just 24 years of age. Though he was one of the few positives out of a dismal season for the Canaries, he has shown certain limitations that he should be looking to improve on.
His strengths are his ability to win the ball, make tackles and interceptions as well as the ability to drive past the opposition. On the other hand, his notable weaknesses are his passing in the attacking third as well as inept finishing. One of the major issues the player has faced in his playing time is his constantly changing positions and it will be interesting to note where Redknapp deploys him.
Fer did enough in a poor team to merit a call up to the Netherlands’ squad for the World Cup in Brazil. With Euro 2016 not very far away, performances of players across the continent will be closely watched and he will be aware of it. The right blend of youthful ambition and experience is what Fer is all about and De Uitsmijter (The Bouncer) will be looking to find the right mix of providing defensive solidarity and attacking thrust to make a positive impact at his new home.