The Cobham Club: Ian Maatsen

  • Name: Ian Ethan Maatsen
  • DOB: 3/10/2002 (18 YO) 
  • Place Of Birth: Vlaardingen, Netherlands
  • Height and Weight: 1.67m (5’6”), 57kg (126lbs) 
  • Current Squad: Chelsea U23s / Netherlands U18s 

The Early Years

Maatsen’s football journey started at the age of 7 when he joined Feyenoord’s youth team back in 2009. Despite his talent, Feyenoord decided to let him go due to his size and he moved to Sparta Rotterdam youth team ahead of the 2013-14 season. After a couple of impressive years, Maatsen joined the PSV Eindhoven youth team, one of the top teams in the Dutch league, where he continued to excel and began attracting the attention of other big clubs around Europe.

Following the 20178-18 season, Maatsen was offered a three-year contract by PSV in the hopes of eventually developing him into their first team. However, he was wooed away by Chelsea, who paid a £97,000 transfer fee to bring him to Cobham. He promptly signed a contract and joined the Chelsea U18s. In March, he signed a contract extension keeping him with the club until 2024 (with a club option to extend of 2025).

Ian Maatsen signs his first professional contract with Chelsea FC
Image Credit: @maatsen (Instagram).

Chelsea Profile: 

Considered one of the Crown Jewels of the Academy, Maatsen is the prototypical new-age full-back. His blend of speed and technical ability is perfectly suited for the modern game, allowing him to get up the field in attack while having the quickness to get back into his defensive position. He’s played predominantly on the left side throughout his young career to capitalize on his wand of a left foot but has played across the backline and even in a more defensive midfield role. That versatility is perfectly suited not just for the modern game, but in the Chelsea squad which features several players who can play multiple positions.

Strengths: 

  • Explosive pace
  • Agile dribbler, strong on the ball for his size
  • Spatial awareness to get wide, run into open spaces on attack
  • Agile dribbler, strong on the ball for his size
  • Looks to get into good shooting position, a very capable shooter
  • Defensive awareness to get back quickly and cover free runners

Improvements: 

  • Decision making in tight spaces
  • Not very strong on his right foot, looks too frequently to get onto his favoured foot

Performances: 

Since his arrival, Maatsen has made an immediate impact in the youth squad and shown exactly why there is so much buzz surrounding him. Maatsen played in 28 matches in his debut 2018-19 campaign, featuring primarily in the Chelsea U18 Premier League team. He tallied one goal and four assists during the Premier League season, demonstrating his quality in getting forward and creating chances while playing as a left-back. He also featured prominently in the team’s EUFA Youth League run to the finals, starting as a centre-back in eight of their nine matches.

In action for the development side
Image Credit: Chelsea FC/Getty Images.

Maatsen’s second campaign saw him jump up to the U23 team, playing alongside many of the top youth players in the academy. He played in 24 matches, solely in the left-back spot, and scored one goal and provided two assists in all competitions. The highlight of his season was making his Chelsea first-team debut in the EFL Cup against Grimsby Town, being substituted on for the final 24 minutes of the match. He immediately showed off his pace and offensive quality, making several runs into the attacking area alongside Callum Hudson-Odoi and playing in a few dangerous crosses. The most impressive moment was in the 88th minute, where he showed his defensive awareness in getting back to cover an open Grimsby player on goal. 

Maatsen has also a regular in the Dutch youth national teams from an early age, starting with the U15s in 2017. He was a feature for the U17 team that won EUFA European U17 Championship in 2018-19, playing at left back alongside Liverpool youth star Ki-Jana Hoever. Maatsen scored three goals during the competition, including a sensational solo goal in the final to put them up 3-0.

Comparisons: 

People have likened him to one of the best to ever do it in Blue, Ashley Cole, because of his tenacity and ability both in the attack and in defense. That’s high praise for such a young player, but his early performances have only fueled further comparisons.

Ian Maatsen forces his way down the left hand side in the PL2
Image Credit: Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images.

Personally, I see a lot of similarities with Jordi Alba’s game. Although smaller in stature, both are lightning quick up the sideline and love to get into smart attacking positions. Alba has been an integral part of Barcelona’s ability to quickly go from defense to offense on the counter attack over the years, and Maatsen has shown some of the same ability to get into smart defensive positions to intercept the ball and quickly transition to the attack.

Path to First Team: 

Maatsen looks destined to be the future starting left back for the first team and an eventual starter for the Dutch National Team. He’s show quality and maturity rarely seen from someone so young and, given the lackluster cast of left backs over the past few years, Blues fans are rightly excited to follow his development. The addition of Ben Chilwell into the mix should be looked at as a positive as it allows him to continue to develop further without being thrust into the starting role too soon. He has been training with the first team to start the season as the board decides where he’ll be playing this year.

Ian Maatsen gets his name on the score sheet
Image Credit: Getty Images.

A loan option might be a good option, if Chelsea choose to keep Alonso in the squad, to allow Maatsen to gain more minutes outside the youth team. By next season, though, I expect him to be pushing for that backup role to Chilwell and play more minutes in cup competitions. A tandem of Chilwell and Maatsen will be a scary sight for opponents for years to come.

Written by Ben Gaudioz-Young

Edited by Rob Pratley


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