How will Sydney FC line up with De Jong and Le Fondre?
It could be a case of two outstanding attackers out, two outstanding attackers in for Sydney FC.
Steve Corica has been preaching patience following the losses of Bobo and Adrian Mierzejewski earlier in pre-season.
The recent departure of arguably the club’s two best players of last season made for a slightly anxious start to Corica’s reign.
But the new Sky Blues boss has not panicked and the capture of Siem De Jong – announced on Thursday as a marquee loan signing from Ajax – will go some way to easing the concerns of Sydney fans.
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De Jong’s addition has the potential to prove a masterstroke as the Netherlands international prepares to strike a potentially lethal partnership with ex-Reading sharpshooter Adam le Fondre, who was lured to the club from Bolton last week.
Can they fill the boots of two of the finest Hyundai A-League imports in recent memory?
A former Ajax golden boy
Replacing a Johnny Warren Medal Winner of Mierzejewski's ilk is no easy task, but there is genuine hope for the new era if De Jong can recapture the quality he displayed early in his career.
The Dutchman won four straight Eredivisie titles with Ajax from 2010/11 to 2013/14 and was a central figure in the dominance.
By the time he joined Newcastle United in 2014 he’d scored 78 goals for Ajax, and his arrival on Tyneside was regarded as a major coup for Alan Pardew.
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Unfortunately, his impact at St. James Park was curbed by prolonged injury misfortune, and led to a return to the Eredivisie in a loan deal with PSV Eindhoven.
He was eventually re-signed by Ajax at the beginning of last season but, of 25 appearances, only four were starts.
De Jong did manage to rack up eight goals and four assists, but the effects of his injuries restricted his influence.
A renaissance in Sydney?
The Harbour City looks like an ideal destination for De Jong to rebuild his career.
The Sky Blues have been the competition’s benchmark in the past two seasons and steady foundations will make the transition for the Ajax academy product easier.
Moreover, he’s exactly the type of player Corica can plot the team’s Premiers Plate defence around – and one who will improve the rest of Sydney’s attacking players.
At the peak of his powers, De Jong glides around the pitch and will arrive on Australian shores as one of the competition’s most technically proficient players.
Nominally a string-pulling attacking midfielder, Sydney’s new marquee is also an adept finisher with either foot and a capable poacher of goals as demonstrated by the 67 he has scored in the Netherlands’ top flight for a strike rate of one every 212 minutes.
FLASHBACK: The last time De Jong played Sydney FC
Although not a direct replacement for Mierzejewski, De Jong may slip into the Pole’s role that saw him tasked with both scorer and creating.
The former Newcastle United man bridges any gaps in explosiveness with precision and intelligence – and the real bonus for Sydney could lie in his versatility.
Standing at 1.85 metres tall, he is an attacking midfielder blessed with the physicality of a centre-forward, and looks to have all the tools to succeed in concert with the diminutive le Fondre and ever-present playmaker Milos Ninkovic.
How will Sydney line up?
If Corica persists with the 4-2-3-1 formation that has resulted in back to back Premierships, De Jong could command the central position in the three behind the striker.
Either he or the influential Ninkovic is likely to be shuffled out to the left with a licence to cut inside, while the number nine jersey belongs to Le Fondre, a natural poacher.
It is there the 31-year-old Englishman does his best work, and plenty of opportunities for him to prove his penalty box pedigree are sure to arise.
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With Brandon O'Neill and Joshua Brillante holding vice grips on Sydney's midfield pivot, De Jong's arrival will perhaps produce an almighty tussle for the remaining spot alongside him and Ninkovic.
Alex Brosque, Daniel De Silva and Trent Buhagiar might well be bracing themselves for a fierce three-way tussle for a starting role in what is shaping as quite the selection headache for Corica.
Regardless of the exact composition, if De Jong can quickly strike up an understanding with Le Fondre – who should relish another technical team-mate capable of exploiting spaces in behind – there is reason to believe Sydney have new life beyond their two departed attackers.