Calem Nieuwenhof is a 21-year-old midfielder who plays for Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League. Nieuwenhof is a graduate of Sydney F.C.’s academy but moved out West having played less than 1000 minutes for Sydney. Nieuwenhof has been one of the breakout stars of the A-League season, leading all U-23 players in minutes played and establishing himself as one of the league’s best ball-winning midfielders. He has not represented Australia yet but I have to imagine that will change very soon.
The primary appeal of Nieuwenhof is his skills as a defensive midfielder. He is a very strong interrupter of opposing moves. This stems from his strong positioning. He is not necessarily going to be chasing the ball all over the pitch but he is usually in the right spot to make a tackle, an interception, or to close someone down and snuff out a promising attacking move. He also commits quite a lot of smart tactical fouls, which only adds to the tools he has to interrupt opposing moves. Nieuwenhof is 5’9 but has quite long limbs which helps his defensive game quite a bit. He is very comfortable in possession. He is capable of carrying the ball well and driving into space from deeper areas of the pitch. Nieuwenhof is very good at retaining the ball under pressure, thanks to a good first touch and some solid technical skills. Sometimes this comes at the expense of ball progression, though his game does not totally lack progressive passes. I just think he could be a tad more aggressive sometimes. But we have to remember that he has played relatively little senior football for a 21-year-old so perhaps as he gets more experienced and confident this will improve.
Calem Nieuwenhof has Dutch citizenship which opens up a lot of interesting opportunities for him. I think he would be a good pickup for European teams a tier down from the top-5 leagues. If he can add some more ball progression to his game I think he could reach a smaller team in a top-5 league. But he’s 21 so he does not have as much time to grow as some hotshot 17-year-old. If I had to pick a European team for him it would probably be an Eredivisie team that’s a tier below the Ajax’s and the PSV’s. Twente, Utrecht, Heerenveen, someone like that.