If Barcelona’s signings have been rather disappointing with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, André Gomes, Arda Turan & many more, two recent signings have been pleasing the fans: Arthur Melo & Frenkie De Jong.
Arthur’s signing has been the fruit of amazing scouts, who had seen in Arthur a potential star in Brazil, as the Brazilian used to play for the Brazilian club Gremio. He was subsequently transferred to Barcelona in the summer ahead of the 18/19 season.
Since Xavi’s exit, the Blaugranas have struggled to find a similar midfielder: Creative, able to dictate the tempo-Which seems to be found in Barcelona’s prototype midfielders. Arthur is exactly the profile needed. Press resistant, intelligent, creative & attacking minded, something Rakitic hasn’t been able to provide in the last season.
Moreover, his move was praised by many, as well as Xavi himself: “When I look at Arthur, I see a younger self of me” are the words of the Spanish legend.
With that said, Arthur’s inclusion hasn’t been instant yet, for the physical adaptation to Europe’s football hasn’t been an easy one. At first, the injuries. Europe’s football is physically much more demanding in comparison to Brazil’s football, which tends to be much more about pure art, as seen with the likes of Ronaldinho, Neymar & Dani Alves.
To add to this, when Arthur has been fit, he tends to have difficulties to play the whole 90 minutes, as he seems to be exhausted after 60 minutes, which of course isn’t enough to be a starter in Barcelona’s lineup.
However, it is true that Arthur has given what he was bought for: Creativity & press resistance, especially thanks to body feints, a classical tools used by many La Masia players, which is why Arthur is said to have “Barcelona DNA”, despite not being raised at Barcelona’s famous youth academy, La Masia.
Thankfully, Arthur has drastically improved this season: If he has only registered one assist in the 18/19 season despite featuring in 27 games, the Brazilian midfielder has already registered 3 goals & 3 assists.
In fact, this is what he still has to improve: His positioning. For Arthur to be as influential as Xavi once was, he has to learn where to be when-The Brazilian tends to be invade Busquets’ spaces, which often turns out counter-productive: Once the Brazilian will learn to understand his positioning, the Brazilian will surely end up with more influence in the final third, which could upgrade his numbers in terms of goals & assists.
Frenkie, on the other side, is very different. He has spent his whole life in Europe, unlike Arthur, mainly in Ajax, where he has been introduced to similar tactical concepts to Barcelona’s, a consequence of Ajax & Barcelona following Cruyff’s model. Frenkie, in opposition to Arthur, does not have a clear role. At Ajax, he played as a CDM in a double pivot formation, where he stood out by resisting the opposite press, his pace as well as his splendid dribbling, which has been a joy to watch. He got his breakthrough season in 18/19, especially when he shined with Ajax in the Champions League. With the likes of Ziyech, De Ligt & Frenkie himself, Ajax defeated the odds and became the dark horses of the Champions League, as they defeated UCL champions Real Madrid in the 1/8th of finals, to only later knock out Ronaldo’s Juventus, before suffering a comeback against Poch’s Tottenham in the last minute to the general surprise. Scenes of Frenkie De Jong dribbling past the latest Ballon D’or winner at the time, Luka Modric as well as De Ligt’s header knocking Juventus out will never be forgotten.
As a consequence, Barcelona purchased Frenkie for a sum of 75M, as his style of play seemed to perfectly fit the Catalans, who looked to still improve their midfield, as the Busquets-Rakitic-Vidal trio hadn’t convinced, notably due to its lack of creativity and offensive prowess.
Frenkie seemed the perfect fit and most of the fans expected the 21 year old to shine immediately: However, as of right now, the Dutchman still doesn’t have a defined position despite starting regularly in Barcelona’s starting XI:
If most fans had thought Frenkie should play as a CDM in a single pivot, the managers still prefer to play 31 year old Sergio Busquets, who has always been a CDM for the past decade, with Setien favouring him even more than Valverde did.
As a consequence, Frenkie’s adaptation as RCM hasn’t been as smooth as it was thought, though De Jong said himself his position doesn’t exist in Barcelona’s XI, consequence of the Catalans preferring the 4-3-3 formation. Just like his partner Arthur, he has struggled to make a significant impact in the final third, despite a few good games. To him, it doesn’t matter as he wants to improve and knows what he has to do, and for now, the culés will have to be patient before seeing the end product they expected to see.
Once Frenkie will know where to be when, his partnership with Arthur will be a killer duo for the opposite teams.
It is fair to say Barcelona trusts these two a lot, counting on them for the future midfield. However, their adaptation needs time and we will have to wait before seeing the end product, as both are gradually improving.
Kai Iliev @ElJuegoPosicion
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