Nigel de Jong makes a tackle for AC Milan

The LA Galaxy got the final piece of their puzzle on Wednesday, adding World Cup veteran Nigel de Jong to their midfield stable.


The 31-year-old Dutchman will likely occupy the spot that was vacated by Juninho when he left to join Club Tijuana in the offseason. That spot is crucial in the Galaxy setup, as the player who occupies it must provide cover for Steven Gerrard, who does not cover a ton of ground as he reached his 18th professional season.


Many of you probably remember de Jong from the 2010 World Cup final, when he famously kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest and got away with just a yellow card. But de Jong has been a mainstay on the Netherlands national team over the past decade and helped Manchester City capture the Premier League title in 2011-12.


He signed for Italian giants AC Milan in the beginning of the 2012-13 season and enjoyed successful seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15, appearing in a total of 62 games in Serie A.


De Jong is known for eating up space and providing a physical presence in central midfield. And if the Galaxy are going to be successful in 2016, he will likely have to bring that attitude to Carson.


Those are not things that Juninho was known for, as the Brazilian was one of the more disciplined players in MLS over the course of his six-year career and his passing acumen was usually highlighted by opposing players.

Is new LA Galaxy midfielder Nigel de Jong the answer next to Steven Gerrard? - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/Juninho.jpg

Looking at these qualities, you would think their statistical profiles would be vastly different. But in reality, they are very similar.


While numbers aren’t everything, especially in the defensive midfield position, they can tell a story. You would think de Jong would average more defensive actions and fouls conceded than a player like Juninho, but over the course of his two seasons in Serie A, he did not.


Below you can find the numbers for De Jong in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and also Juninho’s stats from 2015, broken up by his performance before the arrival of Gerrard and after.

Season
Player
Passes Per 90
Tackles Per 90
Interceptions Per 90
Recoveries Per 90
Fouls Conceded Per 90
Pass Usage Rate
2013-14
De Jong
61.97
2.35
2.96
6.72
1.51
12.95%
2014-15
De Jong
59.53
2.08
3.43
7.00
.94
13.23%
2015 Before Gerrard
Juninho
62.96
2.40
2.24
9.50
.84
14.69%
2016 After Gerrard
Juninho
64.32
2.65
3.16
6.77
.96
15.12%

(Credit: Opta Sports)

So as you can see, the players put up similar numbers in all the categories despite their vastly different profiles.


One number not featured above is yellow cards, a total in which the players do differ. De Jong collected a total of 20 yellow cards over the two Serie A seasons above while Juninho averaged less than five per season in his MLS career. Despite his propensity to see yellow, de Jong has been issued just one red card in his last 11 professional seasons.


Will de Jong’s stats change once he gets to LA? That is definitely a possibility as the styles of play in Serie A and MLS can be vastly different. You can see some of those differences below, with the Italian top flight being a little more fast-paced, averaging 62 more passes per game, and more physical, as Serie A averages almost five more fouls per game than MLS.

League
Passes Per Game
Fouls Per Game
Serie A
872.92
30.37
MLS
810.3
25.85

(Credit: Opta Sports)

That change in style is likely to affect de Jong’s stats, and that will lead to his statistical profile being different than Juninho’s. But we will not know how de Jong handles his new challenge until he steps on the field, of course.


How do you think de Jong will fare in LA? Let us know in the comments below.