Date: 5th April 2011 at 4:00pm
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It’s a shame that Nigel de Jong has been marred with a reputation for being a ‘dirty’ player. Sure the Manchester City midfielder has been responsible for one-or-two bad tackles, yet almost all his challenges are clever and clean. I’d go as far as to say that his reading of the game is beyond rival in the Premier League. He’s always at the right place at the right time, doing exactly what City boss Roberto Mancini requires of him.

He has been City’s most valuable player this season. Whilst Tevez may grab the headlines, it’s De Jong’s fortitude in the midfield that goes a long way towards establishing City as the best defensive side in the Premier League – which in turn has given City a platform to build upon with Tevez’s goals.

Anybody who doubts De Jong’s ability (and I would assume if you do, you’ve not played close attention to him this season) would do well to take another look at his performance in Manchester City’s 5-0 demolition of Sunderland. He bossed the midfield and was at the heart of almost everything that City did right. What’s even more impressive is that that’s how he always plays – this time round his performance just helped City grab a bunch of goals.

He doesn’t have much of a reputation for picking out a pass, but on the odd occasion he does attempt something he can make things happen – as was the case with his lovely ball that led to City’s third goal against Sunderland. He’s not just there to break up play and establish City’s defensive dominance – he can distribute too.

He’s the best central midfielder in the Premier League. The only defensive midfielder that comes close, in my opinion is Arsenal’s Alex Song. Yet Song is much to attacking-minded and this has often left to Arsenal being caught out at the back. De Jong on the other hand always sticks regimentally to his task.

I think it’s little coincidence that City’s worst spell of the season came when he was out injured.

As I said his reputation for bad tackling is unfortunate – he’s clearly one of the best tacklers in the League. He’s so calm and controlled and given that he’s usually in the right position, can time his tackles to perfection. We won’t go into his past – wherein he has made some mistakes with a couple of bad tackles, suffice to say, he has proven over the course of this season, that he’s a much better player than the doubters would like to believe.

He may have the bad reputation but that doesn’t mean he has to conform to it. For me, he’s City’s most valuable player – do you agree?

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