Scouting Reports

City Watch Scouting Report: Frenkie de Jong (Ajax)

Though it may not have sunk in for many of us, Manchester City are now one of Europe’s elite teams. Sergio Agüero’s title winning goal was more than five years ago. This means that there are players who will have grown up watching this ongoing Golden Era, aspiring to play for us. Frenkie de Jong turned 15 a day before the greatest moment in football history, and like the rest of us, it’s possible the budding player would have stood up and taken notice of City at that very moment. Now 20 years old, de Jong has recently been quoted that despite the fact he would ‘not be a starter’ at City, to play in midfield next to Kevin De Bruyne would be ‘something’, amongst continuous links between the young midfielder and the team at the very top of the Premier League at this moment.

Background

Born in the tiny village of Arkel in the south of the Netherlands, Frenkie de Jong is not one of the many products produced by Ajax’s famed youth academy. Rather, he started out at Willem II. He made his Eredivisie debut aged 17, coming off the bench for a 1-0 home win against ADO Den Haag at the tail-end of the 2014/15 season, before signing for Ajax over the summer for a nominal fee. He was loaned back to Willem II, but only made one appearance from the bench in his half-season loan, and returned to Ajax’s under-21s from January 2016. It would prove a shrewd move, as de Jong played a great deal of football for Ajax’s under-21s in the second half of the 2015/16 season, cementing his spot in the centre of their midfield.

Last season he was given his break in the Ajax first team, as well as featuring heavily for in the Jupiler League for Ajax under-21s. He ended last season playing four Europa League games and four Eredivisie games, even grabbing a goal three minutes after coming on at half-time in a game against Go Ahead Eagles to make the game 3-0. To top the season off, he came on as an 82nd minute substitute in the Europa League final.

The sale of Davy Klaassen to Everton over summer will have only propelled de Jong further up the Ajax pecking order. In 14 games so far this season, Frenkie has started five and been subbed on six times. Though he hasn’t scored just yet this season, in his eleven games he has ascertained five assists, including three in one game against Roda JC.

The links with City began at the start of last month in the English press, yet last week reputable Dutch outlet Voetbal International put City alongside Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Hamburg and RB Leipzig in vying for de Jong’s signature. This, alongside his quotes literally name-dropping Kevin De Bruyne mean there may well be fire to go with this smoke.

Stats

It would be ludicrous to do a straight comparison with Frenkie, Kevin and David without a semblance of nuance. De Bruyne and Silva are the absolute best at what they do, no midfielder comes close. It’s arguable the Eredivisie is of a lower standard and that Premier League and de Jong’s lesser play time mean that he will have swollen numbers, yet there’s no shame in being outnumbered by KDB and Silva, but as you’ll see… the kid’s alright. All statistics taken from this year’s league campaign.

Pass Completion: Frenkie de Jong (92%), Kevin De Bruyne (84%), David Silva (89%).

Key Passes (per 90 minutes): Frenkie de Jong (1.73), Kevin De Bruyne (2.71), David Silva (1.79).

Tackles Won (per 90 minutes): Frenkie de Jong (0.95), Kevin De Bruyne (1.5), David Silva (0.62).

Total Forward Passes (per 90 minutes): Frenkie de Jong (53.59), Kevin De Bruyne (45.86), David Silva (45.43).

Style

Frenkie de Jong is a wonderful talent. He combines so many of the roles a modern midfielder needs to succeed. I really believe he’s in a similar mould to this seasons’ edition of Kevin De Bruyne. Kevin has been complimented for a lot of things this season, rightly so of course. One of those compliments derives from the fact that in this current system, he has the ability to appear literally anywhere on the pitch, whether that be deep or in more advanced positions. He’s comfortable picking up the ball in any position on the pitch, be it on the edge of his own 18 yard-box or deep in the opposition’s half, and never looks under pressure despite the amount of opposition players around him, always keeping his cool and having the required ability to simply dribble through or find a simple pass out of the situation. He’s always looking for the ball, almost one step ahead of the game in comparison to everyone else.

Frenkie has a similar role to this ‘KDB’ position, and a similar suitability for some aspects of the role. He has genuine intelligence and vision, for both the positioning of himself and knowing where his teammates are, which is complimented by his wand of a right foot, delivering perfect cross after perfect cross. In addition to this, his ability to play the very simple game, something KDB has been accused of not being able to do at times, is heart-warming and reminds me of Yaya in that he has many great attributes, but his best asset is the simple things. His dynamism and technical ability means he will quite probably go to the very top, and think he has all the attributes to grow into a world beater given the right growing conditions.

City?

City’s midfield currently is a strange one. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are in their peaks, which is interesting for the latter who’s been at his peak since 2011. Regardless, Silva can’t go on forever, no matter how many times I beg and beg the higher forces at work in this universe. Bernardo was brought in, and despite the fact he hasn’t stamped his authority down yet, we’re all pretty sure he will do sooner or later. Fernandinho is 32, Yaya is almost definitely in his last season with us, and Gündogan is returning from a long-term injury, can we trust him yet?

Frenkie, as we’ve discussed, is very much in the mould of this year’s De Bruyne. He can play in all of the centre midfield positions, and since unlike an older, more established midfielder, he’s only 20 years old, he could still develop in the next few years, if at Ajax or somewhere else. He would obviously fit into our style of play given his ability to play the simple game and his supreme intelligence, and despite the fact he himself acknowledges he would not be as important to City as he is to Ajax, it would not be to say that City signing him would mean he could not develop. Arguably either loan back to Ajax or training every day with De Bruyne and David Silva would massively help his progress.

Summary

My rating: 10/10. I am a big fan of the Football Manager series. One of the biggest facets of the games are the necessity to go out and buy young players before anyone else does. Though it may seem like hoarding; the Barcelona’s, the Bayern’s and the Real’s of this world have been doing just that for some time now in the real world. One of the pros of this is the cut-price deals you get, but also the chance to grow a player within the club. Frenkie is one of the rising stars of the game and I think under Pep’s tutelage, like many, many players before him, he could grow into a world class player. A lot of kids in the past have been chastised for moving abroad too soon, but it seems like the move for de Jong won’t be an imminent one in any case, and he is not at an age where it would make our current young midfielders, like Brahim and Foden, irrelevant. They could be a legendary midfield three. I’m excited to watch him grow as a player this season, and I’m intrigued to see if City will sign a second, iconic, de Jong.

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