Frenkie de Jong — Scout report 21/22

It seems to be a common theme, but again — a Dutch player is being linked to Manchester United. Frenkie de Jong is a household name in elite European football, but there are so many who aren’t actually convinced of his abilities in certain roles. In my opinion, he is world-class and he is rather a unique player.

In this analysis though, I won’t be focusing on my opinion too much. But, I will use data and video to illustrate his season with FC Barcelona, and to illustrate how he could do under Ten Hag once more.

Contents

  1. Data collection & visualisation
  2. Biography
  3. Strong and weak points
  4. Positions/roles
  5. Seasonal stats
  6. Defensive profile
  7. Ball progression
  8. Dribbles
  9. Key passing
  10. Passing profile
  11. Shooting
  12. Frenkie de Jong — Donny van de Beek double pivot
  13. Final thoughts

Data collection & visualisation

For this article, I will be using different data to illustrate his different actions on the pitch. The event data is collected from Opta. The match data is collected from Wyscout and so is the video material. The data has been collected on June 9th, 2022.

The programs used are Tableau for the scatterplots and bar graphs, Python/R for creating the pizza plots, the pitch plots, and the radar plots. The reason I focused on the match data at the club level is that gives a more accurate representation of what he could be like for another elite club.

Biography

Frenkie de Jong at Willem II
  • Name: Frenkie de Jong
  • Date of birth: 12–05–1997
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Position: Central midfielder, defensive midfielder
  • Contract expires: 30–6–2026
  • Current club: FC Barcelona
  • Previous clubs: Willem II/RKC (Y), Willem II, Jong Ajax (Y), Ajax (Y)
  • International: Netherlands(41 games)

Strengths and weaknesses

Frenkie de Jong is an exciting talent but has evolved into a more mature role on and off the ball. He can be classified as a deep-lying playmaker with strong carrying and progressive abilities on the ball. His passing is excellent and he carries the ball into areas to create chances, but in the process also aims to create space for other players.

His strong game is his positioning and awareness. He knows where his teammates are in relation to him and the opposition. He scans frequently before engaging in an action, which gives him the advantage in what to do in the next few steps in his game. Although he does pass a lot within the defensive third and the middle third, he does pass with the intention to progress the ball and does that quite successfully.

He is instrumental in recognising and organising pressing in the defensive third and is great at dribbling. He is very much involved in collecting the ball in the defensive third, progressing it, and providing a vital pass that can be a second assist, a through ball or a cross pass.

While he is fantastic at progressing the ball and progressing in play, there are a few weaker points about his game. For a central midfielder that often plays a deeper role and likes to progress the ball, he is quite vulnerable in defensive actions. He often gets caught in the transition and has to correct his defensive positioning at times. He is great at tackling, but that’s because he needs to correct his positioning.

Positions/roles

In the pitch above you see a 4–2–3–1 situated. I’ve taken this formation, not because Barcelona play in it, but because it’s quite likely that Ten Hag will use a 4–2–3–1.

If we look at the position in the midfield, we can say that a few things. Frenkie de Jong isn’t good on the wing, so he will not play as a left-winger or left midfielder, same goes for the right-winger or right-midfielder position in a 4–2–3–1.

He could figure on the #10 role, but he has both positives and negatives in that particular role. He does well in creating chances, opening up space for others, and providing key passes. But, however, the actual final phase of an attack is something he isn’t great at. His shooting, for example, is suboptimal, which we will say later on in this piece.

The best option for Frenkie de Jong is in the double pivot. He could figure as a single defensive midfielder, but that would require more defensive duties and fewer progression events. So playing in a double pivot with a more traditional #6 and Frenkie next to it, with more progression — that would be his ideal role in a 4–2–3–1 under Ten Hag.

Season data

In the pizza plot above you can see how well Frenkie de Jong is compared to his peers in midfield. These are all midfielders in La Liga who have played a minimum of 900 minutes. Here we encounter the first problem when look at data, we always have to make a selection. Not always is does the template do justice do the quality of the players. For example, progression is not always even easy to measure — as we will see later on.

What you can is that he doesn’t do well in the shooting metrics, does above average to well in the passing metrics, but he does relatively good in the defensive metrics — even though that is not what he is famous for.

In the bar graphs above you can see Frenkie de Jong compared to his peers in midfield. The difference here is that he is compared to midfielders in the top 5 leagues in Europe: Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1, and Serie A.

When we look at the attacking data he scores below average on the volume of shots per 90. He performs on average on the xG per 90, Goals per 90 and Non-penalty goals per 90, but in all the other metrics she scores relatively good to very good.

Focusing on the defensive data he scores below average in the shots blocked per 90 and PAdj interceptions per 90, but scores very high in the defensive duels, aerial duels, and PAdj Sliding tackles.

In the passing metrics — where we are most focused on, he scores under/on average on half of the metrics. But he does quite well in the key passes per 90 and does great in the passes to final third per 90, second assists per 90, and through passes per 90.

Defensive profile

If we want to learn more about his defensive profile, we can look at how he ranks in the possession-adjusted defensive actions of interceptions and sliding tackles. In the scatterplot above we can see that De Jong is quite average in both. He underperforms in PAdj Interceptions with 4,43. He slightly performs above average with PAdj Sliding tackles with 0,81.

But where does he make such actions? In the pitch plots below you can see this.

In the plot above you can see where Frenkie makes his defensive actions. In terms of interceptions, you can see that they are more sporadic and slightly higher up the pitch than the tackles. But if he has to commit to tackles, it’s either on the edge of the back line or between the defensive and middle third.

In terms of recovering the ball, you can see that he gets the ball the most on the left half-space between the defensive third and the middle third. This can also be seen in the video below of his recoveries in La Liga 2021/2022.

Ball progression

The modern defensive midfielder isn’t only concerned with defending and producing defensive actions — but he/she also needs to be comfortable on the ball and progress play from it.

In the scatterplot above you can see the progressive metrics of progressive passes per 90 and progressive runs per 90. De Jong does okay here as he scores above average in both metrics. He does quite well actually, but a bit distorted image due to Vinicius and Chukwueze.

Dribbles

In the scatterplot above you can see the dribbles per 90 and successful dribbles. You can see that FDJ has a success rate of 60% and score above average, but doesn’t participate in many dribbles compared to his peers in midfield.

So where does he participate in dribbles or take ons? In the heat map below you can see where he start them:

His take-ons — the actions to beat an opponent — come from the left half-space, but in the oppositions half, mostly in the middle third.

Key passing

Every player makes passes in a game, but which passes actively contribute to the progression and construction of an attack? You can see some of these metrics in the beeswarmplot below.

As you can see in the graph above, De Jong scores in the high average in most metrics, but there are outliers: through passes per 90 and passes to final third per 90. What’s interesting is how he makes through passes. He scores in the high average, but the intent of his through passes does tell a lot about how he can help in an attack.

When De Jong comes higher up the pitch, he can be the player with the through pass that is a pre-assist/second assist. He is the one creating the attack, but not necessarily featuring in the final phase of an attack. That’s why he scores quite high on second assists.

Passing profile

We have seen his specialism in key passing, but his positioning in passing is as important. Where does he pass from?

As we have seen with his attacking actions, he loves to operate on the left and that’s also how he has been used this season. But where he loves to operate in that left half space, he is not limited to there. Although less frequent, he does operate in the right half-space as well.

His passes do seem to come from the attacking third or high middle third and that also indicates that he progresses himself or the ball to those zones, before releasing passes. Indicating his involvement in the attacking side of the game.

Shooting

De Jong does sometimes in the position to shoot, but how does he do in the quality of shooting?

In the shot map above you can see from where De Jong has conducted his shots in the 2021/2022 La Liga season. He had 38 shots of which 3 went in goal. He generated a total xG of 4,65— the latter meaning that he is underperforming with -1,65.

He doesn’t shoot a lot and as he is underperforming, it isn’t his strongest suit — but when he comes into the box, he can pose a threat.

Frenkie de Jong-Donny van de Beek double pivot

When we look at Manchester United’s squad, we also see a quite lost Donny van de Beek returning to Old Trafford. It seems likely that Ten Hag will use him, but with Frenkie de Jong in the squad as well — it might be the reunion of a very remarkable double pivot.

With a double pivot of De Jong-Van de Beek, the role for De Jong will change. He will be more conservative in his positioning, but that doesn’t mean he will be restricted in his actions like he was in the double pivot with Busquets. Van de Beek is better in the final third in finishing and setting people directly up, but De Jong will still make those runs forward.

Playing with a #6 and a #8 still is a thing Ten Hag likes to do in his double pivot, but with FDJ excellent ball-carrying abilities, it’s vital for a central defender to cover him while he takes action. If then hag can employ a modern, ball playing and proactive central defender, this could very well work in the attacking phase of the game.

Final thoughts

We all know how good Frenkie de Jong was in 18/19 under Ten Hag and in Barcelona we still have seen some moments of his talents, but not that elite consistency we know he can have. Whether this has to do with the tactics, his own involvement, or the style of football in Spain — that’s a story for another time.

His performances with the Dutch team against Belgium and Wales have illustrated he is close to that form if he is used well and given the freedom to do what he does best. It will be one big job for Ten Hag to make that happen, but he could be vital in the rebuild.

Geef een antwoord

Het e-mailadres wordt niet gepubliceerd. Vereiste velden zijn gemarkeerd met *