English information about Dutch football club AFC Ajax written by a Japanese blogger - Fresh News, Match Reports, Introduction of Players and so on...オランダのサッカークラブ、AFCアヤックスに関する情報を英語でお届けします!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First of All... / Ajax Players and Tactics

Hello, I'm Ajaxblogjp. I'm Japanese. I once lived in the Netherlands for some academic purpose, and I fell in love with the Dutch football club AFC Ajax.

It's been a while since I came back to Japan from Holland, but I have been a big fan of Ajax even after my return. I've been closely following the information about the club on websites such as Goal.com and UEFA.

I don't speak Dutch, so the information on this blog is basically from English and Japanese sources. I'll also try to look at Dutch websites like Voetbal International and De Telegraaf, but I don't have any responsibility for the correctness of the information. No offense, sorry. This is an unofficial fan site, after all.

I would like to apologize in advance for any mistakes that I might make when writing English. And I'm also sorry for Japanese people who want some information about Ajax in their own language. I thought of writing this blog in Japanese, but I just thought that there would be more readers if I wrote in English. I hope Japanese Ajax fans will somehow discover this blog and more and more people in Japan will become enthusiastic about the Eredivisie in general and AFC Ajax in particular.

Alright, let's start talking about our club. If you are keen to know the history of the club, just go to Wikipedia or something. I'm going to talk about the present situations around the club.

As of January 19, 2012, Dutch football clubs are on a winter break. Ajax will resume their league action on January 22 in an away match against AZ Alkmaar, but they have a KNVB Beker match against the same club on January 19. Ajax are the reigning champion of the Eredivisie, but they sit fourth on the league table with 33 points from 17 matches. Ajax missed a chance to go on to the round of 16 in the Champions League and will face Manchester United in the Europa League in February.

Not so good, but not so bad. It's highly possible that Ajax successively become a league champion.

For more English information, just follow Goal.com or the official Ajax website. What I want to talk about today is the players and tactics of the club. I believe it's pretty fair to say that Ajax are a very good team with good (mostly young) players that gives you a lot of excitement.

First, let's talk about players.


Ajax boast one of the best youth academies in the world. So the Ajax top team also has wonderful young players, though objectively speaking, their playing styles are not yet very sophisticated.

Here's the regular eleven (plus some others) of the team during this season.

1. Kenneth Vermeer (26)

After the injury and the eventual departure for AS Rome of the great goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, Vermeer took over the regular position. He has some problems with his kick, but he has made many incredible saves. He especially did excellent jobs in the two Champions League draw matches against Olympic Lyonnes this season. Oh, by the way, there is a famous 17th-century painter with the same name. His works are my favorite.

2. Gregory van der Wiel (23)

With his great dribbring and crossing skills, Gregory van der Wiel, at the right back, is literally the must for Ajax. He is increasingly catching attention from other bigger clubs in Europe. He reportedly reached a personal contract with Villarreal CF, but Ajax rejected the transfer because the club managers thought that the transfer fee offered by the Spanish side was not appropriate considering what Gregory has done for Ajax and the Dutch national team.

3. Toby Alderweireld (22)

The young Belgian defender has an excellent shoot skill, and it is always he who clears the ball when nobody is around the goal. He is a good partner of the other center back Vertonghen. His good look captures many female fans.

4. Jan Vertonghen (24)

Vertonghen is the current captain of the team. He is excellent at both defending and atackking, and scored 3 goals in the first half of the season. One article from Goal.com even compares him with the German legend Beckenbauer, though it also points out his flaw (he sometimes loses concentration during a game). He is now closely followed by many European clubs, including Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City.

15. Nicolai Boilesen (19)

The young Danish left back is currently injured and missed the most of the first half of the season. He made his debut last year and quickly became an important piece of the team. He can play in center back as well, but his strong point is over lap run.

5. Vurnon Anita (22)

The Dutch player can play in both the side back and the defensive midfielder. He already made his debut as a member of the Dutch national team. In the absence of Boilesen, he usually plays in the left back. His agility and stamina mean a lot to the team.

6. Eyong Enoh (25)

The Cameroon midfielder so far made 15 appearances in the Eredivisie before the winter break. His defending skills and hard work support the young team with a very offensive style.

8. Christian Eriksen (19)

This under-20-year star, the Danish Player of the Year in 2011, is already the leading player in Ajax. Just watch the great job he did in the 4-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb. His brilliant back-heal led to the goal by Van der Wiel, and he also assited Siem de Jong's goal. No wonder big clubs, including Barcelona and Manchester United, have an interest in him, but he once made it clear that he would not leave Ajax until he is guaranteed a regular position at clubs like Barcelona.

10. Siem de Jong (22)

The Number 10 made 12 goals in the last season. He is originally a central/offensive midfielder, but after coach Frank de Boer placed him at the striker position during the last season, he quickly proved his scoring touch. He appears almost anywhere in the attacking third and reacts very well to passes and crosses from Van der Wiel, Eriksen and others. His goals are, in my personal opinion, somewhat similar to those of Raul Gonzalez, though it may be premature to compare him with this great striker. Anyways, he is a very good player and contributes very much to the team.

16. Theo Janssen (30)

Former Twente playmaker Theo Janssen joined Ajax this season (because of, some say, the financial problems he had), and coach De Boer has constantly used him at the anchor in midfield. It seems that De Boer's intention was to enhance ball possession in midfield, but due to the lack of defensive skills on the part of Janssen, it has been often said that Janssen does not fit very well to the team. However, as Enoh came into form Janssen was replaced by Enoh, and instead he has played as the offensive midfielder since then. His feature points are his creativity and passing skills. Furthermore, he is a incredible dead-ball specialist. He already scored 5 goals from 16 matches.

18. Nicolas Lodeiro (22)

The Uruguayan international is often compared with Alvaro Recoba from the same country for his dribbling and passing skills. Despite his talent, Lodeiro was not a regular member in the squad, but due to the injuries of some important players like Sigthorsson and De Jong, Lodeiro lately plays as the central forward. He is good at set plays as well, and scored from a free kick in the recent Eredivisie match against Excelsior. He is definitely my favorite.

7. Miralem Sulejmani (22)

This wonderful attacker from Serbia, with his tricky ball touches and speedy dribbling, is said to be the highest-paid player in the squad. But considering that he is in good form this season and has already scored 11 goals from 15 matches, I'm sure he deserves it. In 2010 he was about to play in England on loan but was not permitted to play in the UK. If only he could keep concentrating during a whole game, and if only he could use his right foot as smoothly as his left foot, he would be one of the best attackers in the world...

9. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (21)

The young striker from Iceland was transferred to Ajax from AZ Alkmaar. He was thought to be an ideal central forward for Ajax, for he can both keep the ball with his body strength (thus utilizing wing players) and score goals on his own. He scored 5 goals from 8 matches in the beginning part of the season. However, he is badly injured now and out of action for several months. Coach De Boer told that Sigthorsson could play an important role in the decisive stages of the season, but added that he the striker could miss the reminder of the season. His contract will not expire until 2015, so let's wait for his return patiently.

21. Derk Boerrigter (25)

The Dutch attacker was playing in the second division last season, and turned out to be a big success shortly after his transfer to Ajax. He is a speedy and strong left wing, and he makes many chances and scores goals four times in the first half of the season. He is excellent at cutting into the box from the left side and shooting with his right foot.

11. Lorenzo Ebecillio (20)

Having represented Netherlands U-17, U-19 and U-21, Ebecillio is a promising young attacker. He is not in good form this season, but since the latter part of the 09/10 season, he has appeared in the starting line-up. He would become a great player if he understood how to play as one of the members of the squad.

39. Davy Klaassen (18)
(Sorry no image)
Yes, he is currently the most promising young player from Ajax Academy. He is expected to be a great player like Patrick Kluivert and Rafael van der Vaart, who are also from the youth academy of Ajax. He has made only 3 Eredivisie appearances so far, but he played in the two Champions League matches against Lyon and Madrid. He made his Eredivisie debut in the match against NEC Njimegen on November 27 and scored only one minute later. He became the second player in Ajax to score a goal in his debut match (the first is Siem de Jong!).

Of course there are other wonderful players that I should have introduced, like veteran Andre Ooijer, young right back Ruben Ligeon, left back with good technique Daley Blind, and talented attackers like Ismail Aissati, Thulani Serero, Dmitry Bulykin and Aras Ozbiliz, but I got tired with writing this article.


Ajax traditionally have an attacking football style. Here's the formation in the beginning part of this season.

Theoretically, this formation might have worked well. Although Janssen is not very good at defense, the two central defenders Vertonghen and Alderweireld are both good at covering. But actually with this formation Ajax lose ball possession in midfield. Partly because of this statistical problem, and partly because of Sigthorsson's and Boilessen's injury, De Boer has placed his players at the following positions.

By placing Enoh or Anita at the anchor position, Janssen and Erikssen can play a more creative role and they can make the most of the offensive skills of the side defenders. De Jong and Lodeiro are used as the central forward. They are both originally midfilders, and not the typical type of a central forward. A similar tactics is used by teams like Barcelona, when they place Cesc Fabregas or Lionel Messi at the central forward, thus making a virtually "zero-top" formation. The aim is, of course, to enhance ball possession. The wing positions are sometimes replaced by other attackers such as Aissati, Ebecillio, Lukoki and Klaassen, especially after the injury of Boerrigter. When Van der Wiel is absent, Ligeon has been often used as the right back, and proved that he can be a good alternative to Van der Wiel. Eriksen can play a more offensive role, so he has been sometimes used at the wing positions.

No matter who appears in the starting line-up, Ajax's tactics basically remains the same. Vertonghen and Alderweireld keep the defense line high so that they can retrieve the ball in midfield and enhance ball possession there. The midfielders and attackers seldom make position changes. The two wingers try to score goals by cutting into the box, and leave a large space near the side lines, which is covered by the over lap run by the side backs. The central forward keeps the ball and utilizes the wingers. The good example of this is Sulejmani's goal in their forth Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb. Enoh dribbles and passes the ball to the central forward De Jong. Sleimani, while Enoh is keeping the ball, makes a good run into the box from the right side. De Jong, after trapping the ball, makes a thorough pass, where Sulejmani has already left behind the defenders. Suleimani puts the ball past the goalkeeper, and it's the second goal for Ajax.

Alright, that's all for today!

Today from 22:30 CET a KNVB Beker match between Ajax and AZ is scheduled. I'm gonna watch this match, and hopefully I'll report the match on this blog tomorrow.

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