Ajax are on a roll in the Eredivisie and unbeaten in the Champions League this season. The Dutch giants have lost just one game in all competitions this season and are on an impressive 10-game winning streak in the league.
The Amsterdam side have achieved this without compromising on the aestheticism of their football. Erik ten Hag’s version of Juego de Posicion reminds one of Pep Guardiola’s style of play. The former was in-fact the assistant to the Spaniard at Bayern Munich.
We take a look at the tactics behind Ajax’s successful start to the season.
TOTAL FOOTBALL 2.0
Ajax line up in a traditional 4-3-3, which sometimes assumes the shape of a 4-2-3-1, with Lasse Schone dropping down to form a double pivot with Frenkie de Jong. Ten Hag emphasises on possession, pressing and movement between the lines, much like what Guardiola has employed everywhere he went.
The full-backs press high and the wingers go narrow, allowing them vertical movement as they shuttle in the half-spaces. One of the central midfielders plays high on the pitch and provides attacking options alongside the number nine.
FRENKIE DE JONG’S ROLE
Ajax assume different shapes depending on how they are pressed, with de Jong playing a key role in each case. When under pressure, the youngster drops to form a three-man defence alongside Daley Blind and Matthijs de Ligt. Shone drops deep to provide passing options as they build from the back.
De Jong’s incredible press resistance and dribbling skills allows him to advance forward, break the press and execute line-cutting passes.
When not under pressure, the 22-year-old plays more centrally and forms a passing triangle with de Ligt and Blind and use this as the foundation for build-up play.
In either case, de Jong’s role is extremely crucial as he operates as the linchpin of Ajax’s midfield. The fact that big clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City and Tottenham are fighting fir his signature further throws light on what a gem of a player the young Dutchman is.
The wingers have had a key role to play in ten Hag’s total football system. The fact that each winger offers something different has been beneficial to Ajax.
Dusan Tadic operates on the left, dropping deep and directing play as he sets Nicolas Tagliafico on the overlap. The former Southampton forward often shifts the play to the other side of the pitch, setting David Neres into space in the wide areas.
Neres offers pace and width on the other wing and uses his dribbling skills to stretch the opponents and latch in a cross for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to take care of.
On the other hand, Hakim Ziyech prefers to play narrow, cut in and prove to be a direct threat on the opposition goal.
DONNY VAN DE BEEK’S DIFFERENT ROLE
Van de Beek’s role offers extra arrows to the quiver in Ajax’s attack. The midfielder often strays higher than the wingers as he attempts to directly threaten the custodian. The Dutchman’s specific role depends on who plays as a striker.
With Huntelaar upfront, de Beek plays a deeper role as he attempts to create for the veteran from the centre of the park. However, Kasper Dolberg’s presence allows the midfielder to play higher up the pitch, almost as a second striker.
The 2016-17 Europa League finalists have timed their resurgence in sync with that of the Dutch national team and a common element stands tall and promises sustainability of the same – a bunch of talented, young and mature players.
Brazilian legends Ronaldinho and Ronaldo de Lima will make their first appearances at the 10th Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai next month after being announced alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Salah as nominees for the first-ever Sports Idol Award.
The Kooora Sports Idol Award is one of two footballing awards to be determined by the general public – and with votes flooding in before the deadline of January 1. Messi currently leads the way ahead of the two Brazilians with Cristiano Ronaldo a close second.
The second public vote category is for the first 433 Fans’ Player of the Year Award, which is based on 433’s most liked Instagram posts.
The five nominees are Virgil Van Dijk, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Inter Milan star Marcelo Brozovic.
“While the public vote for the Kooora Sports Idol Award and the first 433 Fans’ Player of the Year Award, our other awards are decided by the Globe Soccer Awards jury,” said Globe Soccer CEO Tommaso Bendoni. “Fans can vote for their favourite players on the 433’s Instagram page and on Kooora.com.”
Title sponsored by Dubai Holding and supported by Meraas, du, Audi and Emirates, the 10th Globe Soccer Awards will feature a star-studded ceremony at Madinat Jumeirah on January 3 following the staging of the 13th Dubai International Sports Conference.
Part of the ‘Grand Slam’ of football award ceremonies alongside the Ballon D’or and The Best FIFA Football Awards, the Globe Soccer Awards recognise not only the best players in the world but also other aspects of the football industry.
In addition to recognising the work of referees, agents and club owners, the evening will also see one of the game’s top managers receive the Coach Career Award from Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company.
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery insists football needs passion as he urged his players to show emotion in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final meeting with rivals Tottenham.
The Gunners sealed a 4-2 victory over their north London neighbours in the Premier League fixture on December 2 in a match that had several flashpoints.
Eric Dier equalised for the visitors at the Emirates Stadium before his finger-to-lips celebration sparked a fracas between the two sets of players.
There were also several arrests made amongst the supporters with a Tottenham fan handed a four-year football ban and a £500 fine for throwing a banana skin towards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he celebrated his opening goal in front of the away fans.
Despite those incidents, Emery wants emotions to be running high when the two sides meet again so soon after his first taste of the north London derby.
“I said to you that I think showing emotion is very important,” he said.
“I think football is emotion. In a derby, maybe this emotion is greater. When you win it’s amazing, when you lose it’s horrible. Respect is very important.
“We can show this emotion with respect when we are playing but also when they scored against us, they can show their emotion with their supporters.
“But with respect. We need to show this emotion when we are playing, when we are winning, because I think football needs this passion.”
Arsenal take on Spurs having seen their 22-match unbeaten run come to an end away to Southampton on Sunday.
Emery, who was without a host of defensive options on the south coast and still has a number of selection headaches ahead of Wednesday night, believes losing such a long streak will motivate his players to improve heading into Christmas.
“Sunday for us is a big reality check in our way,” he added.
“We need to improve and also we need to continue doing our way in our process.
“It’s not a good result but this reality gives us more motivation to continue to work hard, finding a new think to work on each day, and also it makes us demand a lot from ourselves in the way we work on this way.”