Brighton & Hove Albion paid Ajax the paltry sum of £900,000 for the services of Joel Veltman back in July – a move that drew plenty of plaudits given the defender’s glittering CV, which already included three Dutch Eredivisie titles and a Champions League semi-final appearance.
Joel Veltman Versatility Key for Brighton & Hove Albion
Joel Veltman – A Bargain Fee for Brighton
Graham Potter had acquired a player comfortable in any position across the back four, providing competition for the likes of Tariq Lamptey, Ben White, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster and Dan Burn.
That £900,000 fee is even more startling considering the fact that Albion splurged more than £20 million on Webster in August 2019, and represents a thrifty piece of business by the Seagulls.
Veltman has added quality to what was already the strongest part of Potter’s squad, and since featured for the full 90 minutes in each of Albion’s last five Premier League games – no mean feat when you consider how much the Seagulls boss has tinkered with his lineup this season.
Potter places a lot of emphasis on tactical flexibility from his players, with his line-ups often leaving fans and pundits alike scratching their hands in determining how certain players are going to fit into various positions.
Tactical Flexibility for Brighton & Hove Albion
The Dutchman has been deployed as a right-back, centre-back and right midfielder so far this campaign, providing much-needed cover for the likes of Dunk and Lamptey at times.
Veltman covered for Dunk at centre-back during the captain’s three-match suspension after his sending off against Crystal Palace, and made Lamptey’s absence through injury more palatable with a string of impressive displays down the right flank.
Lamptey has been the more eye-catching performer of the two and earned plenty of plaudits for his fearless play and attacking qualities, but Veltman has arguably been just as important to the Seagulls.
Potter has praised the intelligence which his summer recruit has shown so far this campaign, and how this compensates for a lack of pace when comparing him to the likes of Lamptey.
Veltman and his Defensive Attributes
Positional play is one of Veltman’s key strengths and helped keep the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at bay in an impressive 1-1 draw with Liverpool in November.
His defensive qualities were evident again in more recent weeks, helping Albion to back-to-back clean sheets in a brilliant 1-0 win away at Leeds United and a goalless draw at home to Fulham.
He kept Leeds’ attacking talents at bay at Elland Road, and gave Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid and Ademola Lookman very little joy at the Amex on January 27.
Potter will now be hoping that Veltman can provide a telling contribution at the attacking end of the pitch, and get a first assist which his recent performances have deserved.
The 29-year-old has progressively been much more positive in his forward play in recent weeks, which may have been a criticism levelled at the Dutchman when he first broke into the team.
Brighton & Hove Albion Need Attacking Improvements
He still has some way to go to match Lamptey’s three assists, but the inability to turn positive forward play into goals is a problem facing the whole Albion team and not just Veltman.
The Fulham game was a classic snapshot of Albion’s lack of prolificacy in front of goal. Potter’s men failed to find the back of the net with 16 shots, with five of those on target, and this frustrating recurring theme is what sees them in the midst of a relegation fight.
When Lamptey returns from a hamstring injury, it will be intriguing to see if he and Veltman can both figure in Potter’s starting line-up.
But whatever happens, Lamptey’s attacking flair and Veltman’s more defensive qualities will both be equally as valuable to Potter in the second half of the season.