Frenkie De Jong put in another memorable display against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League semi-final – the sort of performance that’s earned him a move to Barcelona this summer.
There’s been increasing hype about this young talented Ajax side who’d expertly dispatched swotted aside European giants Real Madrid and Juventus, and many were wondering whether they could do it again in North London.
The Dutch side started the game brilliantly and took the lead after 15 minutes through Donny van de Beek, though the scoreline could have been far more overwhelming in their favour.
Ajax’s wonderful display started from the back as a strong and composed Daley Blind and Matthijs De Ligt marshalled the Spurs forwards and fed the ball into the likes of De Jong and van de Beek in midfield.
With 65 minutes on the clock, Lasse Schöne was replaced by Noussair Mazraoui as Erik ten Hag went for a tactical switch-up with De Jong slotting into the holding midfield position to control the tempo of the game and act as a calming influence for the side.
The English media were quick to praise an Ajax display that filtered through De Jong’s midfield masterclass. The Dutchman was pulling the strings against Spurs leaving some media outlets purring at the youngster’s performance, with even Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher taking to Twitter to praise the midfielder.
Frenkie de Jong bossed the midfield again ? pic.twitter.com/8KuR8w5aFs
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 30, 2019
Frenkie de Jong's game by numbers vs. Spurs:
87 touches (most)
65 passes (most)
5 tackles made
0 fouls conceded
Midfield marvel. ?♂️ pic.twitter.com/jtzEYLe9AR
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2019
Ajax deserved the win tonight but not getting the 2nd away goal means Spurs are still well in this tie! De Jong & De Ligt very good again & look like future superstars. But thought Daley Blind was outstanding, great football brain. #TOTAJA @ChampionsLeague
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) April 30, 2019
De Jong’s performance was rightly admired. In contrast though, a similar midfielder in Jorginho, who was wanted by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, has been booed by Chelsea fans on occasion this season.
De Jong’s performance and role in Ajax’s win only strengthens the argument that Maurizio Sarri’s footballing vision isn’t as ludicrous as it seems to so many, nor is his persistence with Jorginho as a holding midfielder over N’Golo Kante. In fact, it proved it absolutely can be done. It’s also shown how long it can take to get right, and Chelsea fans will need to be patient to see the desired effect.
Ajax are a club built on specific ideals and traditions on how to play the game, and their young group have grown up together educated in a consistent and beautiful footballing way, with shrewd transfer business adding the final touches. Sarri is trying to instil this same footballing culture into a current group of Chelsea veterans who have played for many different managers in many different ways.
Ajax, and specifically, De Jong, have proven that there’s room for ‘SarriBall’ and for players like Jorginho at the highest level of English and European football. If the Italian manager can build the right team around him, the ex-Napoli midfielder could be a key component for a new-look Chelsea team playing Utopian-like, beautiful football that Sarri so stubbornly strives for.