This summer, the Dutch attacking midfielder and striker Siem de Jong moved from Ajax to Newcastle United for an undisclosed fee.
De Jong, who is a product of Ajax’s famous youth academy, will add a variety of options to Newcastle United’s front line and midfield, and will do his best to make fans forget about Yohan Cabaye, who left Newcastle for Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.
We know that, throughout the years, De Jong has played in different positions for Ajax. But where is he at his best? What kind of player is De Jong, and what kind of impact will he have on Newcastle United?
Getting his football education from Ajax’s youth academy, De Jong was trained to be a classic No. 10. That means he’s used to functioning as the central pivot in attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Under manager Frank de Boer, however, Ajax’s first team has long stopped using a classic No. 10. These days, Ajax’s philosophy has evolved into a 4-3-3 formation with one defensive midfielder, and two central midfielders.
Normally, then, De Jong would function as one of the two central midfielders. This meant that he was expected to move up and down the pitch a lot. Not quite a box-to-box player, but not really a classic No. 10 either, awareness and intelligent positioning was required of De Jong.
Ajax achieved some notable success with De Jong and Christian Eriksen—who now plays for Tottenham Hotspur—playing in central midfield. With De Boer as their manager, the Amsterdam-based club have won four Dutch league titles in a row. The performances of De Jong and Eriksen, who functioned as the backbone of De Boer’s team until last season, undeniably contributed to Ajax’s title wins.
But De Jong also had something else to contribute during Ajax’s campaigns. When the club ran out of strikers after a series of unfortunate injuries, De Jong stepped up and took over as the main man up front.
As a striker, De Jong functioned in a role similar to the role of false nine, dropping deep from up front to take on the opposition’s defence from a position in midfield. What’s more, De Jong would also function as a target man, providing link-up opportunities for Ajax’s inside forwards—and, of course, Eriksen, who still played behind him.
De Jong would regularly switch between positions, during and in between matches, and it never seemed like De Boer was asking too much of De Jong. On the contrary, De Jong seemed to relish the opportunity to develop abilities that correlate with different aspects of the game.
First and foremost, then, Newcastle United have signed a creative and versatile player with a high workrate. Trained as a classical No. 10, but matured into a central midfielder who can also play as a striker, De Jong has the intelligence to function in a myriad of positions and tactical roles.
Wherever he plays, though, De Jong will often attempt to find space in the box and set up chances through short passes and clever one-two combinations. Whether playing as a midfielder or playing as an attacker, De Jong is always a creator.
In many ways, De Jong is the sort of player the Ajax academy aspires to produce on a regular basis. Above all, he knows what goes on on a pitch, and perhaps more than most players, he knows what is expected of players in certain positions.
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