Coventry born Dan Crowley has today completed a move to Birmingham City in a reported £700,000 deal on a two year contract with an option for a further year. Coventry to Birmingham seems like a simple journey but the 21 year old’s career has been anything but straightforward.
The midfielder made a name for himself in the youth teams of Blues city rivals, playing under 18’s football at just 14. At 16, Arsenal paid over £200,000 for the youngster, who despite his small size, had undeniable talent.
It never quite worked out for Crowley. After several disappointing loan spells at Barnsley and Oxford, he decided to move abroad. In December 2016, Arsenal academy director Andries Jonker, helped to engineer a loan move to Go Ahead Eagles in Holland.
Despite being relegated that season with the Dutch club, Crowley thrived playing every week. He stayed in Holland signing a permanent deal with Willem II.
Crowley didn’t have the start he’d have wanted at his new club as he struggled to break into the first team. In January 2018, another loan, this time to Dutch second division side SC Cambuur. His 4 goals and 8 assists in 17 games helped the club to a solid 8th placed finish.
He returned to Willem II for the start of the 18/19 season and was ever present in the team that finished 10th last term. The diminutive midfielders performances last season has seen him gather admirers with Blues reportedly beating off competition from Dutch heavyweights PSV and Feyenoord to bring him back to the midlands.
Style of Play
Crowley lined up in the number 10 role last season, controlling his sides possession in the final third. He plays around 40 passes per 90 minutes, which is not a particularly high figure in the Eredivisie but is 11% of his sides total number of passes per game, the highest in the team.
The midfielder recorded an impressive 85% pass accuracy rating last season, the third highest amongst attacking midfielders in the Eredivisie. Pass accuracy percentages are usually meaningless without any context, however for a number 10 to record such a high percentage is no mean feat when trying to unlock opposition defences.
Crowley scored 5 goals and assisted 7, a very healthy return for an attacking midfielder. His expected goal value of 0.12 goals per 90 minutes was in the top 10 for attacking midfielders in the Eredivisie who’d played more than 900 minutes. Amongst attacking midfielders in the Eredivisie, Crowley was one of just five players to register 0.12 xG per 90 and 0.16 xA per 90. Donny van de Beek and Man City youngster Luka Ilic being two of the others.
Borrowing a statistic from the brilliant Ashwin Raman, Crowley had the 6th highest usage rate of all Willem II players last season who played more than 900 minutes Usage rates are the percentage of team possessions ended by a single player. However he either takes or assists 26% of his team’s total shots, the highest number in the team. This essentially means that whilst he’s very effective for his side in the final third, he’s also very efficient in what he does.
His small stature and low centre of gravity allows Crowley to glide across the pitch, evading defenders with faints and clever touches. He attempted 4.66 dribbles per 90 minutes last season and completed an impressive 2.36 dribbles per 90, the third highest in the league amongst attacking midfielders, only behind the impressive Hakim Ziyech and Real Madrid starlet, Martin Ødegaard.
The man himself
The biggest criticism of Crowley throughout his career has been his attitude, which by his own admission, has not always been great. The loan spells at Oxford and Barnsley were cut short by the clubs, with attitude problems reported to be behind the termination.
Birmingham’s second summer addition has never had issues of self confidence and this has sometimes been misinterpreted as arrogance. The 21 year old just wants to play football and money is not a motivating factor behind his transfer moves.
This is exactly the type of attitude that will please Blues fans the world over. Crowley can slot into the new Blues either in the number 10 role behind the two strikers or as one of the two playing off the lone front man.
Blues fans have had to wait for what will seem like an eternity to see a new face proudly holding the royal blue shirt but in the signing of Crowley it will hopefully have been worth it.
Hopefully the wait for the next new face will not be as long.