There has been a lot of commotion regarding Perr Schuurs in the 2020/21 season. He has already been linked with big European teams such as Liverpool, AC Milan and Internazionale and there have been a lot of divided opinions on his performances in the Champions League amongst Ajax fans. In this scout report, I will give a detailed analysis on not only his performances from this year, but also on his playing style, strengths and weaknesses from earlier years when he was still playing for Fortuna Sittard in the second tier of Dutch football.
Before going into the scout report, I will dive deeper into Schuurs his background. The Dutch youngster was born on 26 November 1999 in Nieuwstadt, which is a very small city in the south-east of The Netherlands. His father was a professional handball player, his sister is a professional tennis player and his other sister is a professional handball player as well. Perr wanted to play football and started off his career at local club FC Ria. He got scouted by Fortuna Sittard and started playing for the club in 2011 at the age of 11. Five years later, Schuurs made his debut for the first team of Fortuna Sittard at the age of just 16.
His Time at Fortuna Sittard
This was the start of his professional career which has had a lot of ups, but also some downs that he had to cope with. Schuurs conquered a place in the starting line-up in the 2016/17 season for Fortuna Sittard and was an undisputed starter. He made that good of an impression that he was made captain during the pre-season for the 2017/18 season. Sunday Oliseh was the manager of Fortuna Sittard at that time and had a lot of confidence in him.
At Fortuna Sittard, Schuurs impressed with his positive defending and he formed a great defensive partnership with Wessel Dammers, who was also at the start of his career after failing to break through at Feyenoord. Schuurs had a lot of ball-playing ability and already was quite complete at the age of 17. He had the confidence to dribble it out from the back and this sometimes led to a shot from distance. Fortuna Sittard were also impressing that season and would be promoted to the Eredivisie which meant that they would play in the Eredivisie for the first time in 16 years. A few months ago, Perr Schuurs had already signed a contract for Ajax but Fortuna Sittard got him back on loan until the end of the season.
The young defender would go on to score eight goals and give four assists for the Dutch club in the 2017/18 season, which are incredible numbers for a central defender. He captained his side to Eredivisie for the first time in 16 years and was chosen as biggest talent of the Jupiler League (now Keuken Kampioen Divisie, also known as Eerste Divisie) in that season. Perr Schuurs also is the most expensive sale of Fortuna Sittard as he cost Ajax €2.000.000 according to Transfermarkt.
Transfer to Ajax
At Ajax, Schuurs would start at Jong Ajax in his first season in Amsterdam, then eventually replacing Matthijs de Ligt. As the biggest talent of the Jupiler League, there were big expectations of the young defender at Ajax and it was hoped that he would immediately be one of the best players in Jong Ajax. However, he struggled to adapt at Ajax and was not the same defender as before. Schuurs seemed hesitant in possession and made some mistakes. Also, he did not have a great physique and struggled against the physically strong attackers in the league. He did make his debut for Ajax that season and eventually adapted well.
Matthijs de Ligt left Ajax for €85.500.000 and Perr Schuurs immediately got the chance during pre-season. He impressed a lot as he worked on his physique in the summer-break which really helped him. Schuurs formed a good duo with Lisandro Martínez in the Johan Cruijff Schaal win against PSV and it looked like this would be the partnership in defence for the upcoming season. However, as the Champions League and Eredivisie continued, Perr Schuurs made some mistakes and Joël Veltman eventually won the battle against Schuurs for a place in the starting lineup.
He got some chances in the starting line-up throughout the season but did not really get the full confidence of Erik Ten Hag which seemingly affected him and the playing time he did get were highlighted with mistakes after good performances. For example, he played well against AZ but left Myron Boadu unmarked in the last minute, making mistakes he hadn’t made before.
Perr Schuurs Scout Report of the 2019/20 Season
Enough for the background info. Perr Schuurs plays as a right central defender for Ajax and usually forms a duo with Daley Blind. Noussair Mazraoui always plays as the right-back and he has Ryan Gravenberch and Davy Klaassen in front of him. As you might know, Ajax play attacking football and always have a very high defensive line, defending far from their own goal. Both central defenders see a lot of the ball during the games and need to have good decision-making in defence, while also reading the game very well. It often happens that Perr Schuurs needs to intercept a pass on the oppositions half as Ajax play that far up the pitch.
Ajax always play it out from the back and are heavily possession-based, especially in the Eredivisie. Ajax average 60.9% possession in the Eredivisie and are the best team in the league, dominating most opponents. As mentioned earlier, both central defenders see a lot of the ball and Perr Schuurs averages 65.8 passes per 90 minutes. In the first phase of the build-up from goal kicks, Perr Schuurs often moves wide to allow either Klaassen or Gravenberch to drop deep and creates space for them by moving wide. It does not happen often that Ajax get put under pressure on their half, but it has happened in the Champions League.
The Dutch youngster is very confident on the ball and is capable of playing a powerful pass into the midfielders, even when there is not a lot of space to do so. He rarely makes a mistake in his passing this season and has proved to be a real ball-playing defender. Perr Schuurs can chip the ball towards the striker, often Lassina Traoré, very accurately which has been a successful tactic for Ajax in the Champions League. By playing those chip passes, Ajax avoid the pressure by the opponents and create a lot of space for themselves.
Ajax usually try to play it on the ground though and when Perr Schuurs gets put under pressure in the first phase of the build-up, he mainly plays powerful passes to the right-back, Mazraoui, or he tries to find the right winger, David Neres or Antony, in the half-space. However, he always stays calm under pressure and sometimes tries to find either Davy Klaassen or Ryan Gravenberch in midfield. Schuurs is accurate in his passing on his own half and never makes a big mistake there. His technique in both his short and long passing is good and he can use multiple techniques to play long passes, such as the chipped pass to the striker but also the cross-field pass to the left winger or left back.
When Ajax move the ball higher up the pitch, they often let one of the two central midfielders drop deep to act as the third central defender in possession to create an overload against the two strikers of the opponents. This only happens when opponents put pressure in a 4-4-2. When they only have one striker playing, Schuurs and Blind are the only two central defenders. Ryan Gravenberch is the midfielder that often drops deep as the left central defender in possession and he will then keep playing as a midfielder. Focusing on the opponents 4-4-2 formation out of possession, it often happens that the wide central defenders are in acres of space.
Schuurs is the right central defender in this situation and is capable of bringing it out from the back, driving into the space. He never loses the ball in these situations and when he does get in trouble he can draw a foul. The youngster reads the game very well both on and off the ball and is dominant when he dribbles with it out from the back. Schuurs is not the quickest defender that Ajax have, but it can’t be said that he is slow and he showing confidence when dribbling it out from the back, making big and powerful steps. It has also happened a few times that Perr Schuurs finds David Neres or Noussair Mazraoui in space as they are eager to make runs in behind and exploit the space. He recognises these situations very well and can play these passes well, even when there is not that much space.
During the times that Ajax control possession on the opposition half, Perr Schuurs is positioned near the halfway line. Both Schuurs and Blind are often in a central position on their respective halves to be able to react quickly to what happens in front of them and being able to defend both in central zones and on the wing. They mostly act as protection for the midfield but receive the ball themselves as well. In the Eredivisie, it often happens that both Perr Schuurs and Daley Blind are in possession far in the opposition half. As mentioned before, Schuurs has great ball-playing ability and is capable of finding options centrally such as Traoré and Zakaria Labyad (AM) by playing powerful or to find David Neres (Antony) or Noussair Mazraoui when they make a run in behind.
He sometimes dribbles it out from the back in these situations and it has happened plenty of times that Schuurs gets into shooting positions or that he tries to combine with his teammates. This happened against Atalanta, Midtjylland and FC Emmen. In the most recent situation, he dribbled it out from the back and passed it into Antony before continuing his run into the box and receiving the ball back from Antony. He nearly scored from it but goalkeeper Wiedwald made a good save to deny Schuurs from scoring his first goal in the 2020/21 season of the Eredivisie.
Schuurs’s Defensive Ability
Moving on to Schuurs his defensive ability and I am going to start with what happens when Ajax lose the ball. The tactics of Ajax are to regain possession as quickly as possible. Schuurs and Blind position themselves, as mentioned earlier in the scout report, in a central zone on their respective zones and are tasked to make decisions whether to put pressure or stay in position in certain situations. Erik Ten Hag relies on their reading of the game in these situations, which is something that has been a problem last year when the rest defending was not that great since Ajax had a bad structure when losing the ball. This problem has fully been solved this season.
As Ajax are very aggressive and good in putting pressure when losing the ball, it often happens that the opponent need to play long passes to the striker or just clear the ball. The Ajax defence can often easily regain possession and start a new attack, but sometimes it happens that the long ball is accurate and then Schuurs or Blind need to win the aerial duel against their opponent. Schuurs is not the greatest in the air and sometimes needs to be a bit smarter in these duels. It’s getting better though and it seems like he has learned a lot from players like Blind, who is a player that isn’t tall but wins a lot of duels.
The ball sometimes gets cleared out wide to the winger as well and Schuurs often anticipates really well to predict that this is going to happen before the pass is played. He gets in front of his opponent very aggressively in these situations and very rarely gets his timing wrong in these duels. Schuurs is allowed to do this since the opponent can only choose for the long ball or the option out wide in these situations and there is a low-risk that the opponent can be dangerous on the counter. When Schuurs can’t get in front of his opponent, he still is aggressive in the duel but then tries to recover possession by getting really close to his opponent and giving him no space to move.
When he does not manage to recover possession in these situations and is close to getting dribbled past, Schuurs is smart to give away a foul and not getting into danger. The most dangerous situation for Schuurs is when the oppositions winger would get allowed to run at him with a lot of space in his back. The youngster is not the slowest, but sometimes simply can’t keep up with pacey wingers which is why he needs to anticipate and know when to step out of the line or when to stay in position.
This situation happened quite often in the match against Liverpool where he was in a lot of 1v1 duels with Sadio Mané. Noussair Mazraoui often put pressure on Andy Robertson when Ajax lost possession but Liverpool were quite good in finding Sadio Mané and isolate Schuurs against Mané. I think that Schuurs did really well against Mané in these situations and he did not get beaten in 1v1s when defending with a lot of space behind him. He closed the centre and tried to force Mané out wide in which he succeeded.
In the first phase of the build-up, Ajax have a good structure in putting pressure on the opponent. When the opposition centre defender is on the ball, the wingers make sure to close the passing line to the full-back which forces the oppositions central defender to play a short pass into midfield or go for the long pass. During the times that the pass is being played to the central midfielder, they try to intercept the pass but often the pass is played into the full-back. On Ajax’s right, Noussair Mazraoui will often put pressure on the full-back and make sure to close the space and not allowing his opponent to get past him. This then leads to a pass down the line sometimes, and this is where Schuurs comes into play.
Perr Schuurs has a lot of duels on the wings with either wingers or the striker in these situations and needs to fight out a lot of duels when the opponent has his back to Ajax’s goal. This is ideal, since Schuurs can recover possession using his aggressive approach and good physical ability. His strength in the duels is one of his biggest improvements since arriving from Fortuna Sittard and he often out-strengths his direct opponent, especially when he is in the duels with small wingers.
It can happen sometimes that the winger can receive the ball with his face to Ajax’s goal which, as mentioned earlier, is where Schuurs can get into trouble. Schuurs is a mobile defender but neither the most agile nor the quickest. But it can certainly not be said that it is a big weakness of his. He is getting better and better to prevent these duels from happening which is a good development for his career. This is mainly due to his reading of the game and anticipation to get in front of his opponent, but also due to the improvements of his strength in the duels which means that he can win duels easier and quicker.
It rarely ever happens that the opponent control possession on Ajax’s half, but both Perr Schuurs and Daley Blind are very positive defenders who both like to step out of the defensive line and defend proactively. Having said that, it is not the case that one defender is tasked to cover the back of the other defender but Schuurs and Blind have a good understanding of each other and make sure to cover each others back when one steps out of the defensive line. The only matches that the opponent of Ajax controlled possession throughout periods of the game were in the matches against Atalanta and Liverpool.
Atalanta mainly chose for long balls to Duvan Zapata where Perr Schuurs really struggled. The Colombian striker is very quick and strong and I think that Perr Schuurs occasionally was quite naive in the duels with Zapata as he sometimes thought that he could push him off the ball, but instead got dribbled past as he wanted to come around him and get in front of him while pushing him off the ball. Also, Zapata did the same thing over and over again which was trying to get past Schuurs on the outside but Schuurs got dribbled past in some occasions.
However, and I can’t know this, it could be the case that Schuurs was tasked to cover his stronger right foot which he did alright and him getting past Schuurs on the outside restricted him to shooting from tight angles or playing crosses with his left foot that were not that accurate.
Liverpool had a rather patient approach against Ajax in the first half and Schuurs was disciplined in staying in position. Despite his error in the 1-0, where he also thought that he could get around and in front of Mané but failed, he had a good match. As mentioned earlier, he got isolated time after time and was often in 1v1 duels with Sadio Mané. Also, he played with Lisandro Martínez, having not played with each other for a long time which could definitely be seen as they failed to understand each other at times.
Perr Schuurs scans well throughout the match which helps him to recognise potential danger and to know where his opponents are. This allows him to make good decisions and assess whether he needs to stay in position or step out of the defensive line.
The young Dutch defender is 1.91m tall and has a good build for his type of defender. He is a mobile defender and his agility, acceleration and pace have improved over time. Schuurs could increase his upper body strength but should not do much about the strength in his leg as this could affect his agility and acceleration which already are not the best comparing it to his other abilities. Schuurs was quite introvert on the pitch when he came to Ajax but this has changed. He seemingly coaches his teammates a lot and has said in interviews that he has learned to be more outspoken. Winston Bogarde has taught him to be more dominant on the pitch and be more ‘scary’ for the opponents to play against by not smiling on the pitch in combination with some other small things that hasn’t been spoken about explicitly.
To summarise, Schuurs is a talented ball-playing central defender and is developing very quickly. He reads the game well and often knows what is going to happen before the pass is being played. Against world-class players, he holds his own well and I think that the main problem is that he needs to gain experience in these kinds of matches. This will help him to not do the same thing as before in future matches and only increase his ability.
However, in the Eredivisie he only rarely gets into trouble and Ajax have only conceded five goals this season in the Dutch league. His ball-playing ability is excellent and his dominance in dribbling it out from the back is something that Schuurs could use even more often. As mentioned before, he is not the quickest and most agile but this should not be overestimated since it is not bad and something that he has been working on.
I think that Perr Schuurs should be given the time to (possibly) make mistakes. He is a very complete defender, especially for someone that just turned 21. Schuurs will outgrow Ajax over time and I think that he should stay at Ajax for at least 1.5 years before moving to the top 5 leagues. I fully understand why Liverpool are reportedly interested as he has shown the world his talent this year.
Moving to Ajax instead of Liverpool or PSV turned out to be a great choice of Perr Schuurs and I can see him making it in one of the better teams in the top 5 leagues in a few years time.