How can Fulham and Marco Silva utilize Justin Kluivert’s talent?

Rahul Madhavan
By Rahul Madhavan
9 Min Read
justin-kluivert-fulham-transfer-analysis

Justin Kluivert made headlines for his outstanding rise in Ajax a few years back. However, the hype surrounding him has diminished since his move to AS Roma in the summer of 2018. After two loan spells in Germany and France, the Dutchman is set to make a move to Premier League’s new boys, Fulham.

His career has stagnated despite interest from Manchester United and Arsenal after his breakout season in the Netherlands. A move to London, nevertheless, could prove to be a fresh start the 23-year-old is hoping for. That said, how can Marco Silva incorporate the 2018 NXGN winner into his close-knit Fulham team?

A look back at Justin Kluivert’s faltered career and his strengths

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During the 2017-18 season, Kluivert scored 10 and assisted 5 in the Eredivisie and formed an excellent connection with his Ajax teammates. Predominantly played as a winger from the left side, he ran riot due to his excellent technical ability and tricky feet. He was one of those players who got the crowd excited whenever he had the ball at his feet.

Here is one of Kluivert’s typical moves. Receiving the ball from near the touchline, his quick burst of acceleration, combined with his skill to take on defenders, caused all sorts of trouble for the opposition. You could also witness his relationship with his attacking midfielders and this could prove to be a valuable asset at Fulham as Silva’s side boasts quality technicians.

Kluivert also formed a good partnership with veteran Klaas Van Huntelaar at Ajax. The striker, like Aleksander Mitrovic, is physical and was brilliant in terms of hold-up play and creating space for others. Kluivert was one of those who excelled because of this – so this trend could arguably continue at Fulham as well.

A move to Roma followed, but it did not pan out the way he wanted. After two injury-ridden seasons and poor form, the young winger was sent out on loan to RB Leipzig in 2020. However, he only started 8 times under Julian Nagelsmann and scored just thrice.

After his two failed spells in Italy and Germany, he said, “From my point of view, the move was very helpful. I had a lot of great moments at Roma, but I also had to go through some valleys. I didn’t know anything about that before.

“For years at Ajax, I had almost always had only positive experiences. Being confronted with bumps for the first time allowed me to mature. It was good to notice that a career does not always go up steeply, but also that depths are part of it.”

OGC Nice 2021/22

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Kluivert moved to OGC Nice on loan at the start of the 2021/22 season. Although he did not set the world alight, the Dutchman improved his fitness and game time with the French outfit. He scored just 4 times in the league and assisted 5, but his overall game developed under current PSG manager Christophe Galtier.

Kluivert played wider during the first phase of play and tucked inside into the half spaces once the fullback overlapped. For one of his goals in the season, his off-the-ball movement was on show. Playing against Angers’ 5-4-1, Kluivert makes an excellent run in behind the fullback which catches his marker by surprise.

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The Former Ajax man’s quick acceleration meant that the defenders had no chance of catching him. Once he arrives in the box, he causally slides it under the goalkeeper to make it 1-0 for Nice.

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At times, the Justin we saw at Ajax was at display and here is a goal that signifies it. He takes on the defender using his pace and shows excellent awareness to finish it in the bottom left corner when the keeper is expecting him to bend the ball to the right.

While he was mostly used as a left winger, Galtier also played him from the right. Once again, he usually tucks inside to let the fullback provide the width. However, he likes to whip in crosses from the right instead of looking to dribble into the space.

Here is another incident where his off-the-ball movement has improved. Nice win the ball back high up the pitch and attack with numbers. Kluivert makes an excellent run into the space behind the center-back, but the striker fails to play him in.

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Nonetheless, after the ball is stemmed out wide, he positions himself in the box. The 23-year-old now aligns his body perfectly to get to the end of the cross. He eventually scores a headed goal from outside the six-yard box.

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Again, against LOSC Lille, his understanding of the space on the edge of the box was evident. Once the ball is played out wide, he makes a run in between the center halves and the defensive midfielder and scores with an excellent technique that he has been gifted with.

How might Fulham deploy Justin Kluivert?

Marco Silva’s side has already shown promise, especially during their opening game against Liverpool. Contrary to their recent years in the top flight, the Cottagers seem to have a settled formation and a style of play.

Silva likes to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation. During the first phase of buildup, the central midfielders are usually positioned high up the pitch and the fullbacks and the wingers stay wide. Against a settled opposition, however, Fulham leaves one of the fullbacks behind when the other one is on the front foot.

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Antonee Robinson has been an excellent addition to this team and is usually the one making overlapping runs. So, this could be tailormade for Kluivert to drift inside from the left side as he has regularly done in the past.

Center back Tosin Adarabioyo has shown his ability as a ball carrier throughout his Fulham days. His presence to bypass the press and switch the ball means that the ball-far winger is usually isolated against the fullback. Once more, Kluivert’s propensity for charging opponents and beating his man might pay off.

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Furthermore, with an injury to Manor Solomon, the young Dutchman could be integrated straight away. Kebano and Bobby Decordova-Reid have started the season positively, but do not possess the skill-set of Kluivert. His directness and versatile nature could come in handy for Marco Silva as the season progresses.

This transfer could prove beneficial for all the parties involved. Kluivert is certainly not in Jose Mourinho’s plans and just has one year left on his contract. Fulham, meanwhile, strengthens their wide options after Solomon’s unfortunate injury. For Justin Kluivert, this move provides a fresh start and a chance to make a mark in one of the best leagues in the world.

It will be interesting to see how Silva incorporates the young winger. He undoubtedly needs some time to settle into new surroundings. With that being said, this tricky winger is someone who has got the potential to make the Craven Cottage bounce with enthusiasm. Can Justin Kluivert bounce back after a few turbulent years? Well, only time will tell.

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