Daley Blind was pushed out of the Ajax squad last season and when he failed to get playing time at Bayern Munich, people expected his career to fizzle out. But the 104 times capped left footer is on his way to fight for the title in La Liga. His first half season there is easy to summarize: he has a coach who uses Blind for his strenghts. The defender is basically the first player in the attack. His team mates give him the ball and he will most the ball exactly where it needs to go, with the perfect weight and the perfect direction. This is a very specific process, which needs a lot of brainpower on the pitch and lots of hours on the training field.
You should probably let Blind play with a microphone and instruct him to say out loud what he is seeing and thinking. That is the best way to understand all that is going on in the intriguiing complex machinations of his football brain. Everything he does seems simple, but it’s not. Blind can’t do much by himself. He’s not Mbappe or Haaland. Blind has limitations. He depends on team mates moving and running and offering options. He is vulnerable due to his frailties.
Put him in a team without structure and limited positioning changes and he will slowly suffocate and his talents will become invisible. All you see are his weaknesses. If you let him chase quick forwards, it even becomes pathetic or laughable. He is like a conductor without sheet music. That is the Blind Ajax didn’t need anymore.
Girona is a team without any stars. And they don’t play their opponents off the pitch either. But what you do see, is a team that stoically is trying to find gaps and openings to hurt the opponent. They are looking at ways to accelerate the game suddenly, to find openings that don’t really exist. It seems. Or to press in such a way that opponent has no options left or situations where they can benefit from a man-more situation. And Daley Blind is the general from the back who oversees it all. Girona’s football comes to life when you decide to focus on what Blind does.
When looking at Blind on the ball sometimes feels like the tv broadcast is stuttering. It feels like he’s not sure, like he takes too much time, as if he doesn’t know what to do. As if he’s at a restaurant scanning all the menu items until a dish really speaks to him. Suddenly he sees his best option and he accelerates the game with a firm pass. A pass with a message, as he himself says. Playing the ball at the right moment, with the right speed, the right weight of pass and direction, it’s an art. It looks simple. It’s not. Most players at the top know how to play a ball from A to B. Blind’s passes have more communication in them. He plays the ball to C and that ball instructs B to make a run in behind. Because B will be receiving the ball from D who gets it played into him via C. If player B, C and D can’t “read” the messages, it is better not to use Blind. Because then he becomes a weak defender.
Daley is constantly asked in all sorts of interviews what magical change happened and the 33 year old laughs and says he’s simply enjoying life in Spain. He is in the autumn of his career and he is taking on Real Madrid, Atleti and Barca. His selection for Oranje is suddenly not longer a strange affair.
But Blind didn’t change anything. He is still the same player. But he is viewed differently and used differently than Schreuder did at Ajax. Blind was signed by Girona as the missing piece of the jigsaw. To start the attack. That is his strength. And if you judge him on that aspect of the game, there are few players better than him. De Bruyne, probably. Frenkie, surely. Kimmich, maybe. Blind can now be considered one of the most important centre backs in La Liga. Not because he changed. But because he is used in his strength.
Thanks to VI Pro –