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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eredivisie - Ajax vs Roda / Ajax 3-4-3 and Japanese 3-4-3

Last Sunday Ajax fought against Roda JC at their home stadium Amsterdam ArenA. The result was 4-1, with Ebecilio's hat-trick and Anita's goal.

Ajax played in a 3-4-3 formation.

This tactic was very offensive because side midfielders Janssen and De Jong cannot play like wing backs. And there was only one player in front of the defense line. In other words, there was a high risk of giving away possession near the sidelines and eventually of conceding goals with the opponents' side attacks. When the national team of Japan sometimes plays in the same 3-4-3 formation under the instruction of coach Albert Zaccheroni, side midfielders are always the likes of Yuki Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04) and Masahiko Inoha (Vissel Kobe, played for Hajduk Split last year), who all are originally side backs. Moreover, Zaccheroni places two central midfielders (Hasebe and Endo) side by side and does not use a "diamond" formation at midfield. So, basically, if one of the two central midfielders or one of the wing backs drops back, the defense line can be formed by four players. By doing this, they can cover the spaces near the sidelines and they are ready for opponents' counter attacks. Similar tactics are used by the Serie A club Napoli.

Turning again to Ajax vs Roda, when I heard the news that they were going to play in 3-4-3, I wondered, "how are they going to deal with the large spaces behind De Jong and Janssen?"

Again, Anita played a significant role. When they were possessing the ball or when they are preparing for opponents' attacks, Anita played next to center back Ooijer. So Vertonghen and Alderweireld were not like "stoppers" or "two of the three center backs" in the classical sense but more like two side backs, covering the spaces behind side midfielders both in offense and defense. This was effective because the two Belgians both had good vision and good passing skills. In particular, Alderweireld contributed to Ajax attacks by giving crosses from the right side. Ooijer and Anita were building attacks backwards with their good passes to other midfielders and attackers.

For me personally, the man of the match was Anita, because the first goal by Roda striker Malki was caused by a mistake of Ebecilio. Without Anita, the tactics used by Ajax could not have been realized. Antia is not just an "all-rounder" who can play at different positions, but a very important player in Ajax tactics. I don't know if the same tactics can be used against strong teams such as Twente and PSV. To be honest, Roda were not playing good football and Ajax were able to dominate possession, but I want to see this formation again.

The title race is very confused. Ajax are sitting fourth with 46 points. They will qualify for the Europa League next season if they end up fourth. The table toppers are AZ, with 49 points. PSV and Twente both have 48 points, but Twente have played one less game so far. The fifth is Heerenveen (45 points) and the sixth is Feyenoord (44 points). Very exciting.

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