Sam Lammers – Heerenveen’s 9 and a half

The Eindhoven Dagblad dubbed Sam Lammers as PSV’ ‘Guardian Engel’ after a two goal and one assist performance against Ajax Amsterdam in January. The striker was prolific at youth level for PSV Eindhoven and will be hoping to become PSV’s first choice striker next season. The two-legged attacker who moved up front from midfield in his formative years continued his impressive scoring record on loan at Heerenveen this season to grab the attention of PSV and Mark Van Bommel. The 22-year-old is one of Holland’s most intriguing striking prospects with his abilities in the box and with his back to goal.


Sam Lammers joined PSV Eindhoven as a precocious attacking midfielder from Tilburg as he signed from Willem II before PSV coaches moved him further forward at U19 level. His combination play, two-footed technique and measured touch in the box made the positional change astute. He made his Eredivisie debut, coming on for Bart Ramselaar at home to Heracles after he made his debut for PSV 1, a month earlier. At the end of the 2016/17 season, Phillip Cocu began to give PSV youngsters opportunities in an away match against Groningen as Lammers was given a start.


The young striker was on hand to tap in a deflected Luuk De Jong cross into an empty net for his first goal for the first team. A year later, Cocu gave Lammers another opportunity away to Roda SC as he exhibited a brilliant first touch to take on a pass from Mauro Junior, cut past two defenders and hammer a shot over. Lammers failed to make an impression as his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness because his selflessness gives him the opportunity to have a greater influence on build-up play while he spends too little time in advantageous positions as a striker.


This issue manifested at the beginning of his loan spell at Heerenveen as in an match away to PEC Zwolle, Lammers dropped deep to work the ball forward as for the side’s third goal, the PSV loanee played the ball to Morten Thorsby who spread the ball for Arber Zeneli to beat his man and squeeze his shot in from a tight angle. Lammers took under a month to open his account for Heerenveen as he also had an appearance for Jong Oranje against England where he missed a flurry of opportunities. Lammers’ stand out moment was in a match away to Willem II where he received the ball, rolled it past two defenders and curled a shot past the keeper.


In the opening match of 2019 against Ajax, he received a pass from Kik Pierie as the Dutchman beat his man and drove the ball forward to lash a shot past the keeper from range for his seventh goal of the season. As the score was 3-1 at half-time, Lammers took on another pass from his centre-back as he swivelled past his man and rolled his second goal past Kostas Lamprou. However, the most impressive moment was when Lammers took on a pass before he hit a perfectly arced rolled pass which swerved past Daley Sinkgraven and into the path of Mitchell Van Bergen who turned his fullback inside out to score. Sherell Floranus beat Hakim Ziyech as he charged forward to play in Lammers who played in Zeneli with a one-touch pass for the winger to go one-on-one with Lamprou to have his shot saved.


Lammers still showed some flaws in his game as against AZ Alkmaar, he took on a pass from Michel Vlap to hold his shot and then play a cut back as there was nobody in the box to finish. Lammers was caught too deep at points throughout the game which limited his influence in the final third as he needed to hold his central striking position more and show more instinct in the box. The 22-year-old also has issues with his movements for crosses as he needs to show better synchronisation with his wingers. There were many instances where Lammers would time a movement in front of the ball-near centre-back, only for the winger to cross to another position. The PSV loanee prefers to spin around the ball-far defender and make moves to the back-post for headers but this makes the situation more difficult for the crosser to deliver a ball past the defenders.


Heerenveen struggled with their structure as players like Vlap and Pierie were moved around before being deployed in their preferred positions of attacking midfielder and centre-back. This allowed Pierie to distribute the ball centrally as Lammers and Vlap took turns in dropping into the pockets to receive possession and play combinations in the final third. Lammers’ favourite movement is to drop into the pockets, receive possession and play the ball out wide before making a run into the box to receive a cross.


Lammers has become talented at receiving the ball in the pockets, beating his man and laying off to runners in the channels. However, the striker struggles with his shooting and will need to take more shots in the future, especially higher quality ones in the box. Lammers also moves wide to press the ball as this is inopportune when Heerenveen win possession higher up the pitch as this puts him in an area where he is unable to have direct opportunities on goal. Lammers dropping deep to receive possession also means that he can lose the ball in the deeper areas as he did against Feyenoord for a goal which was eventually disallowed after Jordy Clasie won possession from him.   


Lammers’ creativity adds another dimension to attacks as in an away match to Heracles he took on a pass, turned and played a brilliant cross-field lob to Vlap on the flank for the midfielder to go through on goal and have his shot saved by Jan Blaswich. The young attacker has become talented at playing diagonals to wingers while also moving out wide to play well-weighted deliveries into teammates. He is tangentially a striker and playmaker interwoven into one lanky, curly haired, two-legged 22-year-old as he needs to develop the striker facet of his game.


“Sam is developing very well. From a difficult ball, he makes an easy one and is purely two legged. You rarely see that. We keep a close eye on him,” said Mark Van Bommel in a press conference last November.


The irony is that Lammers is the perfect striker for Van Bommel’s system with his aerial ability, technical grace with his back to goal and penchant for fine combination play. Van Bommel’s system seeks to play early balls into the central pockets for attackers to work combinations as this element of Lammer’s game has grown immensely at Heerenveen. Donyell Malen has played as a central striker recently as he is much better at receiving the ball and distributing possession in the higher areas while Lammers will provide a much more mobile option than Luuk De Jong and more physically developed option than Malen.


Cody Gakpo is also highly physically developed for his age and possesses an innate sense for measured crosses, giving Lammers much better deliveries while Malen will ease the goalscoring burden on his shoulders. Jan Olde-Riekerink has likened the 22-year-old striker to playmaker, Wesley Sneijder.


"I was once part of the D2 at Ajax and Wesley Sneijder also played there then", Olde Riekerink revealed in conversation with FOX Sports in January. "He was almost two-legged back then. Some players have that. Sam has that too." 

Lammers has 16 goals and 5 assists this season in an impressive first full season of Eredivisie football as he still has to polish some shortcomings in his game. Even if De Jong leaves PSV, Lammers would still have to contend with Maxi Romero and Joel Piroe for the role of PSV’s central striker but his experiences at Heerenveen make him the best placed attacker to win that competition. There are a deficit of young Dutch strikers making the grade at International level as prospects like Lammers are proof that there may be life after Robin Van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar.