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  • Alessandro Schiavone

Wijndal? Fulham and West Ham dodged a real bullet as Antwerp loanee from Ajax...

By Alessandro Schiavone at Bosuilstadion, Antwerp

Any Fulham supporter observing Owen Wijndal in Royal Antwerp's 3-0 cup semifinal win over minnows KV Oostende will have reached the same conclusion: bullet dodged.

And maybe the West Ham faithful will just feel as relieved. Because the Hammers were the first London team to be heavily linked with the left-back, albeit in summer 2022 when his stock was high following a memorable breakthrough campaign with AZ Alkmaar.

Yet a disastrous season at Ajax forced many people into rethinking and perhaps retracting their rosy statements.

Tonight showed why, with all due respect, he's in Belgium and not in the Premier League. Not that it was needed, as his zero assists in 27 season outings reflect. Only two seasons ago he had made 10 goals at AZ Alkmaar. But that's history.

Based on tonight's game alone, Wijndal came across as lethargic, sterile and especially predictable. He never took more than two touches which was followed up by a progressive pass and an overlapping run into central areas rather than pulling out wide as most left-backs (unless you're as good as Theo Hernandez) do. But guess what? The Oostende defenders sussed him out quickly while his Antwerp mates ignored him, preferring to look for other passing options.

It would be interesting to see a more expansive side to his game, direct play and incisiveness. And if he is to get anyway it would be in his interest to ditch this low-risk approach.

Still only 24, he has to get a lot better with and without the ball. Or else he could end up like Ricardo Van Rhijn, a fellow highly-rated fullback who lost his way as his career progressed. Equally, the right-back also left Ajax in his mid-twenties for Belgium in 2016 where his career fizzled before he knew it. Dutch players falling off the radars has been the order of the day in the last decade. And Wijndal could go down the same route as a number of his countrymen including Richedly Bazoer, Jairo Riedewald, Ricardo Kishna and so on.

His stats don't fill you with a lot of confidence and neither does his lazy approach to games or lack of ingenuity.

With only three games to go (and the playoffs A if Antwerp stay in the top-four) he should use that time to maybe force his way back at a bang average Ajax side next season.

As for English football, forget our top-division London sides. For now, he can aspire for something like Millwall or Watford at best.


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