Luuk De Jong was recalled to the Dutch National team in place of the injured Nigel De Jong after a two year absence. In order to cement his place as both a clinical striker in the Eredivisie and in the National Team, he has to score more goals.

  • By Chaka Simbeye
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de jong rinjJust over two years on from his surprise inclusion in the final Euro 2012 squad, Luuk De Jong has made little progress in his career. However, he seems to be finding his way back in the Eredivisie after a disappointing spells in the Bundesliga and the Premier League.

Going into that tournament, the major debate was Van Persie or Huntelaar as the main striker for the Dutch and now it is pretty much the same. However as age is catching up with both of them, most notably Van Persie, it is time for a new Dutch striker to step up and prove their worth to Guus Hiddink.

De Jong has had his best start to a season in years with 6 goals and 3 assists in 13 games. He is also so pivotal to league leaders PSV’s style of play as his work rate and application are a constant threat to opposition defences but it is apparent that he can give too much of himself to his team. A great example of this was in the first half in an Eredivisie match against Ado Den Haag as PSV were one man down due to Jorrit Hendrix’ red card. PSV broke on a counter through Luciano Narsingh and De Jong was up front with him but bizarrely decided to check his run and attack the left channel between the fullback and centre-back while Narsingh was attacking the right, he was left with the difficult task of weaving a cross through two centre-backs to De Jong. Needless to say the centre-backs cleared the ball with relative ease and both De Jong and Narsingh showed their frustration as they both new the former should’ve attacked the space in between the centre-backs. De Jong had obviously thought the pacey Depay would’ve caught up with play and attacked the middle channel but he didn’t and the chance went begging in a crucial game.

Although De Jong’s selflessness helps his teammates and his club (Depay in particular), it won’t get him in the National Team and it especially won’t get him spoken about in the same breath as Huntelaar or Van Persie. Last season at Newcastle, Alan Pardew saw this and his application in his play and used it to the team’s benefit as he played him in the second striker role. De Jong created space with his application and constant movement for teammates while also winning the ball up high and holding it up with his tremendous aerial ability but rarely got a shot on goal himself. By the end of the season, Newcastle avoided relegation, players like Gouffran were praised and as De Jong ended his loan spell with 0 goals, he did little for his already stagnating career. The Mag, a Newcastle fan network, described him as ‘shot-shy’ which is way off the mark as according to WhoScored, he takes an average 3 shots per-game which is more than Van Persie and Huntelaar who are both on 2.4 with 3 and 7 goals respectively. De Jong wins 4 aerial battles per game but can normally be seen trying to tee up a teammate instead of going for the chance himself which is the difference between him and the clinical strikers before him. Hiddink watches PSV regularly and knows what De Jong can do but only included him in the National Team due to Nigel De Jong’s injury as in their current situation; he needed guaranteed goals from Van Persie and Huntelaar so he couldn’t afford to take a chance with De Jong.

His goals against Panathanaikos and Heracles proved that De Jong can play as a clinical ‘Number 9’ as against Panathanaikos he was found in the box by a brilliant cross from Jetro Willems before he took one touch to control the ball and set himself up and then another to slide it through the keeper’s legs. Against Heracles he showed the same type of composure and verve as he was found behind the centre-backs with a brilliant defence-splitting pass as he turned and placed the ball between the keeper and the near post in a one on one situation. The tranquillity he scored with was amazing for a striker who hadn’t scored a goal in four games and he scored both goals lurking in a central position. In a training video on PSV’s YouTube page, the players are having shot practice and most of the players miss shots from the corner of the box by trying to blast them into the goal but not De Jong as expertly curls his shot past the keeper and into the corner of the goal. De Jong has all the expertise to score goals and be prolific while also setting up teammates but he needs to focus on being a prolific scorer in the Eredivisie to begin to establish his place in the National Team during qualifiers and hopefully going into Euro 2016.

De Jong had his last cap in late 2012 and while this is his best period of form and best chance to add another cap in March 2015, there is still more to do. De Jong is at a crossroads again as he needs to choose what is best for his club or for him and his career. However, he is only 24 and has time to improve the defining aspects in his game, Van Persie and Huntelaar are past the 30 year old mark as they steadily move past their primes, it his best chance to restart his International career. The Curious case of Luuk De Jong

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)