July 1st was a day to remember during the summer transfer window of 2019. This was the day that Frenkie de Jong arrived at Barcelona on a five-year deal. While the Dutchman has exhibited a great untapped potential since first being promoted to the Ajax first team, last season proved to be the Dutch youngster’s most promising yet.
Not only did De Jong win the Eredivisie title and the domestic cup, but he also made it to the Champions League semi-final, with his side defeating the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus in the process. De Jong’s start to life at Barca has not yet proven to be so prosperous, however, as his side currently sit in second place on the league standings.
Have the Blaugranes managed to get the best out of De Jong so far this season, or does the Dutch youngster still possess some untapped potential that Quique Setien & Co are yet to unleash?
First, it is important to note that Setien has brought some changes to the Blaugranes since signing on as their new manager. Just last week, prior to the win at against Getafe, Opta observed how De Jong’s attempts on goal have skyrocketed since the new manager’s arrival:
5 - Frenkie de Jong has attempted five shots in his six games for Barcelona in all competitions since Quique Setién’s arrival, two more than he had in 26 under Ernesto Valverde. Confidence. pic.twitter.com/VtWJh5pMbB— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 11, 2020
While De Jong is typically utilized as either a central midfielder or defensive mid, he still has the qualities needed to initiate prime attacking opportunities and produce goals. Shots are not the only aspect of play in which De Jong has improved since the new manager’s takeover. He also managed to score against Real Betis last weekend and bag assists in two of his three Copa del Rey appearances. Considering that De Jong has tied with his goal scoring and assists tally for the season prior to Setien’s arrival, this is a significant statistic.
Of course, De Jong’s main area of focus would be orchestrating Barca’s passing game from central midfield. As his former manager Erik ten Hag has explained:
“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.”
The Blaugranes have dominated ball possession and the flow of play throughout the season. While this has not protected them against suffering the occasional disappointing result, it has worked well in convincing us of De Jong’s impact as an individual. Back in October, De Jong had already achieved a feat that proved him to be one of La Liga’s most effective playmakers. He was able to complete more passes in the opponents’ half of the field than any other player in the league, with a sublime total of 327.
In fact, De Jong proved his worth during Barca’s 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao on the league’s opening weekend. During a match that was his competitive debut, he completed 93.9% of his passes - an impressive feat for any player regardless of experience.
While the Blaugranes may not yet have hit top gear this season, this does not mean that De Jong’s performances have been lackluster. In fact, he has regularly proven to be a key player in the Barca lineup. While he may not be going through a career high at the moment, he has nevertheless integrated well into the Blaugranes’ lineup and is proving to be a more clinical player under Setien’s leadership. So long as De Jong continues to persevere on the pitch and his relationship with Setien develops, he should be able to realize his full potential in the not too distant future.