Date: 4th October 2009 at 4:26pm
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If there has been one main tactical change to the top clubs all over Europe, it would be the inclusion of the defensive midfielder. They all have one: Barcelona – Yaya Toure, Real Madrid – Xabi Alonso, Man United – Darren Fletcher/Owen Hargreaves, Arsenal – Patrick Viera, now Alex Song, Chelsea – Claude Makalele, now Michael Essien. The list could go on.

They are now a main-stay in the teams and provide the vital link between the defence and the midfield. They break up the oppositions play and distribute the ball to the midfield. They do all the donkeywork whilst the others venture forward in search of a goal. It is a position that takes great discipline.

At the start of the season it appeared that Gareth Barry would play this role. He was awesome at Blackburn. He commanded the game by keeping things simple. No one really saw Nigel De Jong getting back into the team, never mind being a regular starter against the “Big Boys.” Most thought he would most be used from the bench to assure a late win. But no, the Dutchman was not content with doing that.

Since his first appearance of the season at home to Arsenal, he has been imperious. He might not have got a chance had Carlos Tevez been fit, but his performances; especially vs West Ham on Monday have cemented his name in the side for now. With Stephen Ireland struggling to regain his form, we could see De Jong pounce and continue putting in match winning performances.

I`m not sure we will stick with this system when the likes of Robinho or
Kompany return, but the Dutchman can only continue what he is doing and hope he doesn`t pick up an injury or a suspension. People may question the £17m acquisition of De Jong but I think it is very sound business. He could develop into a true great, people forget he is only 24.

 

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