Champions League

'El Chucky' ready to start scaring Premier League defences

 • by Tom Bodell
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The cliché goes that the Eredivisie is a selection box when it comes to strikers: you never know quite what you’re going to get.

On one hand there are the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie or Luis Suárez; players who outgrew the Dutch top-flight then conquered Europe. Yet for every one of those names there’s an Afonso Alves, Mateja Kežman or Vincent Janssen.

PSV Eindhoven have a particularly proud history of producing forwards. Van Nistelrooy learned his craft at the Philips Stadion before moving to Manchester United, while Romário, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Arjen Robben and Kežman – he was good once, honest – all had stints with the Boeren.

And the latest off that prosperous production line is Hirving ‘El Chucky’ Lozano.

The Mexican frontman lit up the 2018 FIFA World Cup as El Tri made par by going out in the last-16. If their exit at that stage for their fourth consecutive tournament was entirely predictable then Lozano at least brought an element of unpredictability to proceedings in Russia.

And the 23-year-old was at it again on Tuesday evening as Mark van Bommel’s side snatched a dramatic late draw in their win-or-bust UEFA Champions League tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

With Barcelona and Internazionale topping Group B it’s a result which does neither team much good but Lozano’s stock will have risen following his display against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

It was the exciting Mexican forward, playing wide right in the three behind Newcastle United flop Luuk de Jong, who gave PSV the lead. He put a dawdling Toby Alderweireld under pressure, robbed him of the ball and raced into the penalty area to finish over Hugo Lloris.

In the space of seven seconds between embarrassing Alderweireld and lifting the ball over Lloris the speedy Mexican showed all the awareness, tenacity and guile to suggest he can be a hit in one of Europe’s big leagues.

Even prior to the game there were reports claiming Lozano is a Chelsea transfer target. Maurizio Sarri’s side are in desperate need of an alternative to the hangdog Álvaro Morata but you can be sure it will be more than just the Blues in the queue.

Lozano has already been directly involved in 15 goals for PSV this season (11 goals and four assists). Only Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi (12 goals and five assists) has more of any player in Europe’s top five leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A or Ligue 1).

That is off the back of his maiden campaign in Europe where Lozano finished with 17 goals – the third-best goals-per-90 return of any Eredivisie attacker (0.65) – as well as eight assists. Not bad for someone who had only played in his native Mexico prior to 2017.

Against Spurs Lozano was the pick of PSV’s players. He boasted a 100 per cent completion rate from two take-ons, suffered five fouls (more than anyone on the field), created more chances (2) than any of his team-mates, and was second for PSV for attacking-third passes (6).

So what will any potential suitors be getting?

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Lozano’s Player Persona, which characterises a player based on their statistical output, points to a player who is heavily involved in all aspects of PSV’s attack – and not simply a poacher.

As well as scoring goals for fun (0.95 per 90) he takes a high volume of shots (3.59) – missing a fair share (53.7 per cent) – runs at defenders (1.91 successful take-ons per 90) and supplies a lot of crosses for his team-mates. A bundle of energy with the pace, tenacity and technical quality to match, Lozano is made for the Premier League.

Nicknamed ‘El Chucky’ after the doll from the Child’s Play horror films, Lozano used to hide under team-mates’ beds to scare them. But he’s hiding in plain sight now, and it’s only a matter of time until he starts scaring Premier League defences instead.

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