Where Does De Jong Fit In This Midfield
It's official, Siem de Jong is the latest signing for FC Cincinnati. A breath of fresh air, or really a gasp of air, for a club and fan base smothered by bad news over the last week. de Jong is an exciting signing as an attacking midfielder, a playmaker, and a postion that that has not really been filled before in FCC's last four seasons. And while FC Cincinnati is on the verge of signing yet another player who is either Dutch or spent time in the Netherlands professionally, this is actually new territory for the club.
But with de Jong being added to a roster of newly acquired talent that includes Medunjanin, Locaida, Kubo, and Regattin, the question has to be asked how this midfield is expected to come together. We can probably assume the team was built around a traditional 4-3-3 formation. That's what the team forced Damet to play when he took over the first time, even with the roster didn't fit it, and it's what Ron Jans had played in all of his games in charge. That's four defenders, three midfielders, and three attacking players.
Normally in a setup like this, the attacking three will be a winger on each side of a striker or center forward. Now given this is a dutch style, rigidity isn't going to serve this team. The wingers will overlap, the center forward may drop deeper into the midfield, and outside backs will likely be overlapping on the wing as well. This is fantastic for a creative midfielder. With so much movement up front, there would be plenty of opportunities to pick a perfect pass into the stride of an onrushing goalscorer.
In the midfield, the setup normally looks like a triangle. Sometimes this triangle is pointing towards your own goal, sometimes it's pointing towards you opponent's goal.
In a midfield setup such as number 1, it's a very attacking set up with the triangle pointing towards your own goal. It leaves one midfielder back for defensive cover, normally a destroyer type like Caleb Stanko could be. The two in front in this case would potentially be de Jong in addition to new signing Haris Medunjanin. Medunjanin is more of a deep-lying play-maker, someone who lives for the key pass into the attacking third. He also doesn't play defense. So in a set up like this you'd have two excellent passers of the ball in your number 10 and Medunjanin, and then Stanko being left to clean up any mistakes in the midfield. Which is fine. If you're ok with your team's performance relying on Caleb Stanko. And that's not throwing shade at the guy, I think he can ball out this year. I'm just not sure I'm ready to rest a match on his shoulders just yet. Now a 2014 Kyle Beckerman as the defensive midfielder? Sign me up. Also, you notice how this lineup leaves out Allan Cruz? Me too. The best player from last year doesn't quite fit this setup as a box-to-box player.
In midfield number 2 there are two defensive midfielders and one attacking midfielder. Which, works. A duo of Stanko and Cruz holding down the midfield, destroying fools would be a blast. I can already see the Bash Brothers tifo. But that would also leave de Jong as the sole play-maker in front of them. But at the same time that leaves Medunjanin on the sideline, one of the best players in MLS last year. Maybe this team is good enough to keep someone like that on the bench, maybe they signed him as a super sub. But that doesn't quite match his play-style, and he's certainly not a replacement for someone like de Jong off the bench.
Again, this is not to say I would turn down a creative midfielder. But what I am saying is that it creates an interesting puzzle that the new manager, whoever that poor sap is, will have to solve. Or, if I could be so bold, fans should be prepared for a slightly different formation than a 4-3-3.