Ajax have distinguished themselves as the surprise package of this season’s Champions League following their march to the semi-finals first leg win away to Tottenham. We look at how they have rebuilt their fortunes.
Ajax from Amsterdam started their European campaign in a tough group that included Bayern Munich and managed to remain undefeated after drawing both legs. They would soon surprise the world with their emphatic 4-1 win away to Real Madrid after losing the first leg narrowly. Next up in line were Juventus who were put to the sword in front of their own fans with a 2-1 loss to Erik ten Hag’s men. The latest victims of their excellent season in Europe was Mauricio Pochetinno’s Spurs.
The question that begs is why they have been very effective this season? In all honesty, there is a conspiracy of factors that have led to their impressive season both locally and in Europe. It must not be lost on us that they are on top of the Eredivisie table, tied on points with PSV but with a superior goal difference. Let’s take a look.
Coach and the technical team
The fact that Ajax have been a talent factory for many successful footballers is not in question. This has been attributed to their long-standing tradition of bringing up technical professionals footballers over the years.
The appointment of ten Hag was a continuation of this tradition and he has not disappointed both in his approach and the results. He honed his skills during his time with Bayern Munich II between 2013 and 2015. It is worth noting that this was the time Pep Guardiola was in charge of Bayern Munich and his influence on ten Hag is more than evident in the way this Ajax team plays.
Blend of youth and experience
In Ajax, we have some of the brightest prospects in world football and they have been performing very well lately. Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt form part of the crop of young talents coming through at Ajax. As a matter of fact, Barcelona have already signed De Jong on a five-year contract for €75m in the summer. De Ligt is on the radar of the likes of Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal.
Dusan Tadic and Daley Blind have also come in with their experience after failed stints in the Premier League with Southampton and Manchester United. The two have come in handy this season and have been points of reference to their young teammates.
Style of play and heritage
Ajax has been known as the home of attractive attacking football, a style pioneered by the legendary Johan Cruyff. His philosophy has been adopted by many other coaches in the recent past including the current man in the dugout.
At the heart of their success has been their distinctive attractive football that has impressed many football lovers while brushing teams aside. The fact that the club have installed former players in key decision making positions that have ensured they remain faithful to their tenets. In this regard, the presence of Marc Overmars and Edwin Van Der Sar cannot be gainsaid.
The Dutch giants now have to finish the job at the Johan Cruijff ArenA next week. They have a 1-0 lead against Tottenham and now have one foot in the final.
Whatever happens next, this young side has helped rejuvenate, not only their old club’s fortunes, but the mystic around the Champions League.