The 2020/21 Belgian Pro League season has so far been one of the very few positives for Waasland-Beveren. Six defeats, one draw and a single win leave the club from East Flanders sitting 17th in the league table. On top of that, they have conceded 21 goals and scored just 12. Having finished 16th last season, the early signs are that the club is once again facing another relegation battle. For what has so far been a dire campaign, the form of one player has been particularly encouraging.
Attacking-midfielder Daan Heymans has scored 50% of the club’s goals in league play this season, notching six goals in his first eight appearances. Only Genk forward Paul Onuachu has managed to score more, having netted seven for the Blauw-Wit. The form and rise of Heymans has so far surprised many.
To put it into context, the youngster only made five appearances across the entirety of last season. He has already played more games this campaign than he had in his full two years as a player at Waasland-Beveren. It was in 2018 when he joined the club from Westerlo. The majority of Heymans experience of first-team football to date has come in the First Division B, firstly for Westerlo, followed by a loan spell at Lommel SK in the 2018/19 season. The youngster, previously capped with Belgium at the U18 level, has certainly shown so far that he can hold his own in the top flight.
This scout report and tactical analysis will look at both Heymans strengths and weaknesses. Using both data and match footage, we will provide an analysis of Heymans current ability and contribution to his team aside from just his goal-scoring exploits.
Daan Heymans goalscoring record so far this season has caught the attention of many. For a young midfielder to start the season with six goals in eight games in the top flight of Belgian football is very impressive. Having scored so many goals at such an early stage of the season, it is no surprise that Heymans sits second in the goalscoring charts. Some of those goals have come against some of the best teams in the league, such as Anderlecht, and Club Brugge, a team that will play in this season’s UEFA Champions League. He has so far surpassed his xG of 3.21 and has impressively averaged an xG of 0.72 goals per 90 minutes. One interesting statistic is that all of Heymans six goals have been scored inside the 18-yard box. We can see this in the image below.
Getting into the right place at the right time is one thing, but being able to finish is another. Heymans conversion rate so far this season has also been very impressive. Out of the 13 shots he has had on goal, just under 50% have been converted. It is maybe a wonder why he is not shooting more. Nevertheless, despite predominantly playing as either a central or attacking midfielder, only two of those shots have come from outside of the 18-yard box.
The image below shows Heymans in and around the six-yard box with the ball at his feet against Anderlecht. This is a typical position Heymans has been able to get himself into in the early stages of this season.
Unfortunately, despite being in such a great position on this occasion, Heymans found himself off balance. He fell back and blazed his shot over the Anderlecht goal, who are currently managed by former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany. However, being able to anticipate where the ball is going and finding space is something we see from the best finishers in the game. Heymans has been able to show these skills on occasion so far this season.
When Waasland-Beveren look to get forward, Heymans is a player who tries to be involved, ideally holding his run behind the ball and then crashing into the 18-yard box. In the image below, we can see Heymans determination to pick up any second balls should the goalkeeper parry his teammates strike. It is this kind of poacher’s instinct that has been beneficial to him.
An area of Heymans game that he will look to improve as the season goes on is his assist contribution. He so far has not had any assists. This is despite playing in an attacking midfield role with a style of looking to create opportunities. As we can see by the image below, his xA of 0.04 certainly suggests that he has not been able to set up others to score.
More positively, he does have a couple of second assists to his name so far this season. If Heymans can add assists to his goalscoring exploits, then it will go a long way to increasing the youngsters pedigree.
Waasland-Beveren manager Nicky Hayen has chopped and changed his starting formation so far this season. This has meant that Heymans has played in a number of different positions. The manager has certainly shown his confidence in the youngster’s versatility and ability to do a job, whatever the role. Heymans is naturally an attacking midfielder. However, this season he has played on the left side of two attacking midfielders, in central midfield of a four and also as a lone striker. As we can see in the heatmap below, Heymans tends to favour playing deep, either a little to the left or to the right.
Of his 13 shots on goal so far this season, eight have come using his right foot. He is right-footed of course, so that makes sense. Cutting in from the left-hand side or receiving a cross from the right-wing is something he clearly favours. A great example of this was in Waasland-Beverens 3-2 defeat by Beerschot.
This was a game that Heymans started as a left-side attacking midfielder. In the image below, Heymans wins the ball back in a deep area down the left-hand side of the pitch.
Having turned defence into attack, Heymans ran the length of the pitch. He hung back in his favoured area on the top of the box to then run onto an inch-perfect cross from the right-wing. With his right foot, he neatly guided the ball into the back of the net.
Whilst Heymans biggest threat is clearly going forward, he also has a defensive responsibility to his team. Waasland-Beveren have shipped a lot of goals this season. Like most teams, their defensive efforts start from the front with players like Heymans.
Heymans averages 2.98 counter-pressing recoveries per game, placing him 11th league-wide. His 0.48 recoveries per 90 minutes in the final third does not read as impressively, however.
Standing at 6”1, Heymans does offer an aerial outlet for Waasland-Beveren. With his height and jumping ability, he offers the team an option for the long ball. To put this into perspective, after the first eight games, Heymans has led the team with the most aerial duels won, winning 24 out of 35.
As discussed earlier, against Beerschot, Heymans tracked back to win the ball from deep and start an attack. Examples of this show an all-round ability to Heymans game. However, on occasions, opposition players can drift past him a little too easily. He only has won 51% of his defensive duels, which is a stat both him and Waasland-Beveren will want to improve. He is not the fastest player in the world, making his positional awareness and concentration all the more important.
In the image below, we can see an example of him letting an opposition player get by him all too easily. Heymans is caught ball watching and is very slow to track the opposition player. He then easily runs around him into space to get an attack underway for Anderlecht. If Heymans is able to break down attacks such as this early on, it will help his teammates considerably.
The data provided does not suggest Heymans is good at his defensive duties. His primary responsibility is as an attacker, contributing goals and assists. Nevertheless, it is a part of his game that he will need to improve if manager Nicky Hayen continues to play him in different positions, especially in the central-midfield role.
Heymans has had an excellent start to the current campaign, there is no doubt about that. However, whether he can keep up this type of form throughout the season is a different question. The youngster is playing in a struggling team. Without Heymens goals, they would certainly be sitting at the foot of the Belgian Pro League. Heymans now needs to show his early flurry of goals has not just been luck.
He has a real opportunity to lead Waasland-Beveren as the star man and help them avoid relegation. Contributing with not just goals, but assists, as well as defending from the front, will be big factors in the success of Waasland-Beveren this season. If he continues maturing and maintains his early-season form, then there is no reason why the bigger clubs in Belgium and Europe will not start eyeing him up for a transfer.