De Jong, the pressure annihilator


Only ninety minutes have been enough for Jong Frenkie to teach those who had not seen him that he is a midfielder called to command the next decade. His game is so cheerful and colorful that it almost does not look like a football player defending colors but a child enjoying the ball. Seeing its potential the question is as simple to ask as complex to solve: What can this great player bring to the Barcelona?


The first aspect to consider is your position. De Jong is a multipositional piece with great adaptability to different places in the countryside. Erik Ten Hag, Ajax technician, placed him in a hybrid pivot-interior position and, in the selection, Ronald Koeman used to do the same in a double pivot structure. In the Barça language, De Jong can play ‘4’, ‘6’ or ‘8’. Or what is the same, pivot, organizing interior or offensive interior. In fact, he shows almost every game since his great expansion of the game leads him to occupy all three positions at some time or another. While it is true that it can occupy any of the three steps of the center of the field, it is also true that the first or second steps are the locations that best fit you. In fact, right in these two positions is where Ernesto Valverde has tested him in the first two preseason games. Personally I think he is an ideal footballer to play as an organizational interior since this position allows him to have access to two of the facts in which he is differential: the exit of the ball and the distribution. The following graph marks the degree of favorability by position.


De Jong is special because it incorporates the most basic concepts of football. Like the great creators, it is exquisite when it comes to profiling. He never turns his back on the game and manages his body brilliantly. Always, absolutely always, your field vision is the maximum that physics allows. It is in fact one of the best players in the world in it. But its benefits do not stay there but it adds such important things as looking before receiving or a great delicacy in the targeted controls. The short cut, the threat or stepping on the ball to suddenly change the focus are also part of its repertoire of habitual actions. Maneuvers with which he gains advantages over adversaries.


De Jong affects one of the most important and most problematic parts of the game Barça: the start of the game and the progression of the play. The pressures of the rivals are increasingly coordinated and directed towards the context that most harms the Barça game. There are many opponents that pose high individual pressures where the player's role is very relevant. Since Barcelona has diminished the potential of its means to sustain man-to-man goals with the ball, the incorporation of De Jong will be pure gold for the Barca team. The Dutch midfielder is already among the five best soccer players in the world in ball outing capacity, whatever the context. It has the ability to risk and unclog situations with amazing ease.

De Jong is a true pressure annihilator and Barça has to assert it.


Another great characteristic of the Dutch footballer is the ability to be decisive in his passes. A football concept very difficult to find today. Vissel Kobe intervened 55 times in 45 minutes. 32 of these 55 ended up in forward pass, thirteen times played to the side and only ten went back. That is, 58.2% of their passes were to overcome the rival's line. In addition, he only lost two balls, which means a reliability of 96.4%, a very high record. Some numbers that verify what this player is and what he can assume. Soccer details that are not visible at first sight but are capital for the game of possession. Frenkie de Jong plays safe and plays forward. Not only is the quantity but, above all, the quality of its links.


Perhaps the main question to clear is how it will turn out to live with the most advanced part of the team and, especially, with Leo Messi, the number one. And for this, the new Barca midfielder must also qualify certain acquired trends. Unless Valverde changes roles and positions, the organizational interior tends to fall to the right sector. An area in which De Jong is not so accustomed and a part of the field that, at least on many occasions, will lead you to share some spaces with Messi (see heat maps). The Dutchman built a near total freedom of movement in the wide area in Ajax, which he must now reduce. Barça must grant some freedom to the new midfielder if he wants to enjoy his best version but it cannot be so absolute. Interpreting and, above all, polishing this expansion radius so as not to consume reception spaces of Messi or other players between the lines will be the primary handicap of their coexistence with the front. Otherwise, De Jong will take the ball where the last line needs to be definitive.


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