Why Has It Not Worked, And How Can Erik Ten Hag Fix The Player’s Form?

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Frenkie De Jong is a very good technical midfielder who has shown what he is capable of under Erik ten Hag in Ajax.

But he face failed to replicate his Ajax form with the La Liga side. He had his moments Fr. times where he was controlling the headlines with his great performances, but none of them were as close as his old self.

There could be many reasons for it, but the main one could be the different style of play between Ajax and Barcelona.

Many people assume that the two teams have the same philosophy and style of play because of the late Johan Cruyff’s influence on both teams, but the fact is a bit different and not true.

In an interview with the Spanish website SPORT, the famous journalist and Author Marti Peraranau have stated the reasons why De Jong has not been successful yet with Barcelona.

“With De Jong what there has been is a lot of confusion about Ajax’s game. It has been believed that it was the same type of game as Barça and it is not in any way.

“He would tell you that, except in the Van Gaal era, Ajax has hardly practiced position play. He has played another type of game that has movement as its central axis.”

Marti continuous stating what is the difference between the two teams’ stylistic differences:

“Let’s say that the Dutch school of Ajax has a series of characteristics such as playing with wingers that would be very similar to Barça, but one of its characteristics is that it respects positions very little when it is something that defines Barça’s game.

“The game of Ajax is a game of constant movement. What the Dutch who have been arriving at Barça have contributed above all is this dynamic of movement. Later, the coach, Johan, does provide the foundations of the position game.”

What we can understand from this is that Barcelona prefers to respect the position game and does not want the player who plays as the holding midfielder to move too much as it disrupts their game plan.

And if there’s one player who epitomizes that, it’s Busquets, meanwhile De Jong prefers to carry the ball from the backline to the final third – and that contradicts the Catalan’s game as he will vacate crucial zones resulting in his team having a tough time in defensive transitions.

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So he will either have to adapt to their game, or the club will play another midfielder alongside him to give him the license and freedom to roam.

But so far neither of them happened, and the club is ready to move him this summer, which will ideally be the best outcome for all parties involved.

Those problems mentioned above won’t be a problem in Manchester United if he joins, as Erik ten Hag knows the player like the back of his hand.

Frenkie de Jong in discussion with Erik ten Hag at Ajax in 2019. (Alamy)
Frenkie de Jong in discussion with Erik ten Hag at Ajax in 2019. (Alamy)

This is what he said about him in his interview a few years ago:

“Take Frenkie de Jong. We have really been looking to find ways to use his skills in the best manner. Where can he play best, for the team and showcase his talent.

“Everyone was screaming Frenkie is the biggest talent, etc well yes but where in midfield? OK, but which role? His quality is that he makes the forwards perform better.

“He is a wanderer, an adventurer, he’s always on the move, like a shark. With the ball, often, but also without the ball. So if you put him on 6, he’s away too often.

“But you need to give him freedom, otherwise, you can not get the best out of him. It was not an easy puzzle, so I decided to play with two number 6’s and only one attacking midfielder. And in this way, we can also dominate the half-space, and force opponents to choose. “

Fred and Scott McTominay have formed a partnership in midfield in recent seasons for Manchester United.  (Alamy)
Fred and Scott McTominay have formed a midfield partnership in recent seasons for Manchester United. (Alamy)

No one seems to understand Frenkie de Jong’s profile as well as Erik ten Hag, but the big question is (who is going to be his midfield partner in the double pivot should the Dutchman join?

Will Manchester United sign a new holding midfielder or use what they have there with the likes of Garner, McTominay, and Fred?

It remains to be seen – it will not be an easy puzzle once again for Erik Ten Hag.

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