Imposing young Dane Joachim Andersen is the latest Sampdoria talent to be linked with a big money move away from the Genoese club. Samp provide a proven path in player development, astutely educating youngsters in football’s fine arts. Following a number of impressive displays, Andersen looks set to follow former Blucerchiati stars Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Torreira, Milan Skriniar and Mauro Icardi in making a move away from Marassi to one of Europe’s best sides.
A new generation centre-back, the 22-year-old has shown rapid growth since making his professional debut in 2015 while at Dutch side FC Twente. Andersen’s performances did not go unnoticed and it prompted a pro-active Sampdoria to purchase him in August 2017 at the bargain price of €1.4m. Like many before him, those that move to ply their trade in the Italian top flight require a period of adjustment in order to develop the tactical intelligence that is required to succeed in Serie A.
The Danish Under-21 international had the ideal Coach to help him adapt in Marco Giampaolo. The Samp boss has aided the progress of many talented prospects in recent seasons and by the end of his debut campaign, Andersen was permitted the chance to show what he was capable of, starting his side’s last five league games. Fast forward a few short months and Andersen has firmly cemented his place in Giampaolo’s starting XI, completing all 18 games of Samp’s Serie A season to date.
Standing at a towering 6ft 4in, the former FC Midtjylland youth player is a calculated, technical defender rather than an aggressive, tough tackling stopper. This is reflected by the numbers he has posted so far in 2018-2019. Of those players aged under 23 and with 10 appearances or more in Italy’s first division, Andersen ranks fifth with 22 total interceptions. However, change that metric to tackles and his results drop slightly. Still good enough to rank 17th overall, Andersen has successfully won 20 of his 27 attempted tackles.
This shows that Andersen is a methodical defender, who utilizes his awareness of the game to position himself into areas where he can effectively deal with danger. This is further highlighted by the 91 successful clearances he has made - the highest of any Under-23 in the league and 20 more than the next closest player. Far from slow, but lacking a turn of pace, Andersen’s game intelligence is a vital attribute and plays a major role in the maturity he expresses on the pitch. As you would expect for a centre-back of Andersen’s height, he competes in his fair share of aerial duels, 77 in total up to the winter break, winning 46 of those battles.
The modern game requires defenders to assist in building attacks and this is an area that Andersen excels. Sampdoria play a quick, vertical attacking style under Giampaolo and Andersen provides the ideal platform to develop play from. With the ability to release the ball quickly, accurately and over variable distances, the big Dane would be a welcome addition to any back-line from this perspective.
Andersen’s attempted 1159 passes is only bettered by Serie A’s biggest names in the shape of Inter midfield player Marcelo Brozovic and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. That is an average of 64 passes per match with an 89% success rate. To place further perspective on Andersen’s ball playing quality, he has matched Miralem Pjanic’s 941 accurate short passes and has 97 accurate long balls to his name, five more than veteran Leo Bonucci. Together with team-mate Lorenzo Tonelli, the pair have forged one of the best ball-playing centre-back partnerships in the league.
Andersen has certainly played a part in improving a Samp defence that leaked 60 goals last term, the sixth highest in the league. As you would expect for a player approaching 23 years of age, Andersen is far from complete, but he is brave, stylish and confident with room to progress into a top player.
As the hype has slowly built around Andersen in recent months, fanatical Samp president Massimo Ferrero has been quick to act in extending the player’s contract by a further year, ensuring that if one of his prize assists is to be sold, his club will reap the maximum rewards. Speaking towards the end of last year, Andersen assured his immediate focus was on his current club. “I don’t look at the future, I’m only interested in today and all I can say is that I’m satisfied with what is going on around me. We’re all doing a good job.” More recently, the player’s father - who also acts as his representative - has reaffirmed that sentiment while also confirming that a number of Europe’s elite are monitoring his son’s situation.
Serie A provides an intense football environment and Joachim Andersen has approached it with a cool head, swiftly making a name for himself in Italy. Mentally, Andersen has shown he has the strength to deal with a demanding atmosphere and bounce back from adversities or the odd poor performance. It is now key he continues to play with the consistency he has shown thus far and come the summer, there is no doubt clubs will be knocking on President Ferrero’s door asking about his availability.