It seems managers tend to fit into two camps. One will be flexible and look to find a way of playing that makes the most of their squad, while the other will have a preferred system and they just expect players to conform to a particular role.
It’s amazing how many times a player will excel somewhere, earn a big move only to to be played in a totally different role and it hampers their form. Then we all act surprised when someone puts them in their proper role and they look comfortable again.
It’s starting to sound like that could be the situation with Frenkie de Jong at Barcelona. That’s not to say he’s had a terrible debut season or anything, but his former coach has been critical of Barcelona.
Marca reported on some comments made by de Jong’s Ajax coach Erik ten Hag, and he doesn’t seem to think Barca are using his former star in the right way.
He had the following to say:
“He’s not a goalscorer. He’s the player who supplies… who supplies the teammates who give the assists or who score goals from their position.”
He also spoke about a particular game at Ajax when he started to play too high up the pitch:
“Once I got him out of there. I asked him: are you a No.10? Then when do you score goals?”
It’s clear that Ten Hag sees him as a deeper lying midfielder, but that’s part of the problem at Barcelona. They already have Sergio Busquets to play in the anchoring role, while Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal don’t have as much athleticism anymore, so it’s fallen on de Jong to get forward and provide a box-to-box presence.
It’s unclear if this is how Barcelona intend to use him in the long term, but clearly de Jong’s old coach doesn’t agree.