On wednesday, July 25th, Dutch club AFC Ajax will start their competitive season with a home game in the 2nd Champions League qualification round against Austrian team SK Sturm Graz. This makes it the perfect time to look back at the preseason campaign, transfers and more. So let’s do it! Preseason
Because Ajax finished in 2nd place last season in the Eredivisie they have to start their competitive season on July 25th. This meant that our preseason began while everyone else was still going crazy about the World Cup. Our first real training session was June 20th, while in the days prior some players took some individual tests.
All of this was without players like Nico Tagliafico, Lasse Schöne, Kasper Dolberg and Hakim Ziyech, who were all present in Russia. We also missed Donny van de Beek, Noussair Mazraoui, and Matthijs De Ligt, who had played internationally in recent weeks before the World Cup. These guys were expected to be back at the club the next monday, when the squad left Amsterdam for a training camp in Klosterpforte, Germany.
Before that however, Ajax played their first preseason game against VVSB Noordwijkerhout. This amateur team is active in the Tweede Divisie,
the 3rd highest level of Dutch football.
Ajax won this game rather easily, which ofcourse was to be expected against an amateur team. Goals were scored by Teun Bijleveld (0-1 & 0-2), Kaj Sierhuis (0-3 & 0-5), Dani De Wit (0-4), Klaas- Jan Huntelaar, (0-6) and Hassane Bande (0-7). Highlights
Ofcourse it’s nice to start the season with a win but more than that can’t be said about this game. On to the training camp in Germany!
During this training camp we played 2 games against German amateur teams. The first one against SC Preussen Münster 06, playing at the 3rd level of German football.
- Ajax - Preussen Munster: 1-3
Goals by: Kevin Rodriguez (0-1), Rasmuss Kristensen (1-1), Martin Kobylański (1-2), Lucas Cueto (1-3). Highlights
Not a good game from Ajax obviously, but it has to be said that Ajax played with 2 completely different teams in either half. Only the second game of the season, let’s move on quickly.
Ajax - SV Lippstadt 08: 9-0
And so we did, with a game on the last day of this training camp. The opponent was SV Lippstadt 08, active at the 4th level of German football. In this game first team goalkeeper André Onana played his first game of the new season. Slowly but surely the squad is getting back together.
Goals by: Noussair Mazraoui (1-0 & 5-0) Zakaria Labyad (2-0 & 6-0), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (3-0 & 4-0), Dani De Wit (7-0, 8-0 & 9-0). Highlights
Good to see another big win, and nice to see every goalscorer scored multiple goals, topped by Dani De Wit’s hattrick.
This concluded Ajax’ first training camp of the preseason.
As has been costumary in recent years, from now on Ajax plays 2 games per day for the remainder of the preseason. The first double header was played back in the Netherlands on July 7th. First against Danish team FC Nordsjaelland and the opponent for game 2 was FC FCSB (formerly known as FC Steaua Bucuresti).
- Ajax - FC Nordsjaelland: 1-3
Our first game against a more serious opponent - FC Nordsjaelland plays in the Danish Superligaen - and it showed. Nordsjaelland was the more dangerous team overall, playing on the counter attack. Although we were mostly playing with our ‘B’ team.
Goals by: Andreas Skov Olsen (0-1), Karlo Bartolec (0-2), Mathias Rasmussen (0-3), Dean Solomons (1-3). Highlights
Goals by: Florin Tanase (0-1), Carel Eiting (1-1). Highlights
All in all a pretty boring game. Not much happened on either side.
This game was not announced beforehand and (as far as I’m aware) not open to the public. The scheduled game against Anderlecht was later in the day, so this game was played between both teams ‘B’ squads.
One notable thing that happened in this game was the horrific injury of Hassane Bandé. A hard sliding tackle caused him to suffer a broken fibula and he tore the inside of his ankle. I apologise for not knowing the proper term of what I mean. But this means he will be sidelined for 6 months. (Tackle around 1:20-1:25 in the highlights a little bit later on, you don’t see any gross stuff but just in case you don’t want to see it.)
On to the game itself, which was a real goalfest, which we were on the losing side off.
Goals by: Edo Kayambe (0-1), Kaj Sierhuis (1-1 & 2-3), Mohammed Dauda (1-2), Ryota Morioka (1-3 & 3-5), Knowledgde Musona (2-4), Sebastian Pasquali (3-4). Highlights
- Ajax - Anderlecht (Announced game): 1-3
Goals by: Ivan Santini (0-1 & 1-3), David Neres (1-1), Landry Dimata (1-2). Highlights
We’re getting closer and closer to the start of our season, because now it’s time for the 2nd preseason training campl. This time we will be in England for a week, playing 2 games on July 19th. League 1 side Walsall FC and newly promoted Premier League team Wolverhampton Wanderers FC will be our opponents.
- Wolverhampton Wanderers - Ajax: 1-1
Goals by: Donny van de Beek (0-1), Ruben Neves (1-1). Highlights
Goals by: Andy Cook (1-0 & 2-0).
This concluded the preseason games that we had to play before the game against Sturm Graz next wednesday. However, om August 3rd Ajax will play another practise game against VFL Wolfsburg, where former Ajax player Riechedly Bazoer currently plays. This will be 8 days before the first match in the Eredivisie, at home against Heracles Almelo. Preseason Conclusion
Obviously the preseason games did not go how we wanted them to go. Our only wins came against amateur teams very early on and the play itself wasn’t anything to be proud of either. Caveats being that we still don’t have all our players back from their holidays and/or injuries and the fact that new signings Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic barely haven’t made any minutes (Blind) or haven’t played at all (Tadic).
However not everything was just bad. One big positive was the inclusion of 16 year old midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, who is one of the club’s biggest talents, especially in his age category. The young midfielder dared to pass defenders and had some good passes in his arsenal.
I personally thought (although I seemed to be in the minority on this point) that it was clear how we wanted to approach certain aspects of the game, namely the pressing when trying to capture the ball. This was definitely not flawless but the idea on how to do it was visible.
The offensive link up play was also very nice to see at times. Quick one touch combinations and forward passing will clearly be the intention this upcoming season.
Our preferred formation will as always be a 4-3-3 with a defensive center midfielder. Other than that we could play some games or at least parts of games in a 3-4-3. Ajax - Sturm Graz
Head coach Erik Ten Hag said the following about the starting line up against Sturm Graz: I knew beforehand that I would have a suitcase full of question marks. But the most important thing is that we were able to bring guys towards the full 90 minutes. We won’t be in absolute perfect shape, but no team will at this point. We have trained really hard, which we needed in the build up. Now we will take it a little bit easier. I am sure the players will be much fresher on wednesday. There are still 3, 4, or 5 positions which I have doubt over going into the game against Sturm Graz. Starting 11 prediction GK
De Ligt LCB
F De Jong LB
Eiting (Youth player) RCM
van de Beek LCM
Lang (Youth player)
I think this will be the starting line up based on the game against Wolverhampton. Left winger Noa Lang played in place of Labyad because he has to sit out a suspension from last season with FC Utrecht and as I sad earlier Dusan Tadic has not played for us yet. I do however think that he will come on as a substitute in the second half, and ultimately be our starting left winger with Labyad as his replacement once the season is properly underway. Maybe
Daley Blind could start, but I think that’s just a little bit too soon. I think Frenkie De Jong will start as left centre back because he did against Wolves (and he played there a bit last season) and in particular Maximilian Wöber had a rough pre season and, ever since he got injured last season, he’s had a difficult time. Additionally I think new signing Perr Schuurs will be used as a replacement for Matthijs De Ligt at right centre back.
Bringing this back to wednesday, this will essentially mean that offensively we will play a 3-4-3 with Frenkie moving forward into the midfield.
Defensively I think this will mean that CDM Eiting will have to help Frenkie deal with the attackers.
I think Blind will be our starting left sided centre back which ideally would mean that De Jong will move into that CDM spot to serve as our playmaker, leaving Eiting on the bench.
Lastly it is interesting to point out why I chose for Huntelaar instead of Dolberg.
Ever since Kasper Dolberg suffered an injury last season which made him miss quite a large portion of the season he hasn’t played a game from start to finish. I think it’s a safe bet that he will play later on in the second half but the best decision is to take it easy with him and gradually increase his playing time. He will be our starting striker during the regular season. How I think we will line up once everybody is healthy and there won’t be any more outgoing transfers GK
Mazraoui or Kristensen RCB
De Ligt LCB
De Jong RCM
van de Beek LCM
I haven’t included Veltman mainly because he has a pretty bad ankle injury as of right now, so we’ll have to wait to see how he will return. I also think Mazraoui and Kristensen are 2 talented young guys who could be going for that starting right back spot regardless of Veltman is there or not. Transfers for the 18/19 season
- Perr Schuurs, CB, 18 years old, Netherlands (from Fortuna Sittard)
- Hassane Bandé, LW, 19 years old, Burkina Faso (from KV Mechelen)
- Zakaria Labyad, LW/CM, 25 years old, Morocco (from FC Utrecht)
- Dusan Tadic, LW/RW/CM, 29 years old, Serbia (from Southampton FC)
- Daley Blind, CB/LB/CDM, 28 years old, Netherlands (from Manchester United)
(Sidenote, the positions I listed are positions where I know they can play and where I think they could play in case there will be any other out going transfers.)
I think we’ve done some great business here. A good mix of youth and experience and players who can play on a multitude of positions. The obvious headliners are Dusan Tadic and the returning
Daley Blind. (I only included that because it still cracks me up.)
It’s very sad that we won’t be able to see Bandé play this season, but we’ve talked about that earlier so I’ll leave it at that for now.
Perr Schuurs is known in the Netherlands as one of the biggest domestic talents, especially for the centre back position. He will make appearances this season but he’ll mostly play for Jong Ajax (2nd team), getting prepped to be the replacement of Matthijs De Ligt.
The only criticism I have concerns the transfer of Zakaria Labyad, and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with his abilities or whether or not he will be useful for us, because I think he will be.
The criticism lies in the fact that it appears that the only reason we decided to buy him was because coach Ten Hag wanted him. The two have a history at FC Utrecht. The scouting department did not recommend him. But, like I said, I think he will still be useful to us coming off the bench.
Now let’s look at the first team players who have left us.
- Mitchell Dijks, LB, 25 years old, Netherlands (to Bologna)
- Nick Viergever, CB/LB, 28 years old, Netherlands (to PSV)
- Justin Kluivert, LW, 19 years old, Netherlands (to AS Roma)
- Deyovaisio Zeefuik, RB, 20 years old, Netherlands (to FC Groningen)
- Mateo Cassierra, ST, 21 years old, Colombia (loaned to FC Groningen)
- Amin Younes. LW, 24 years old, Germany (to [unknown])
I debated with myself over including Zeefuik, because he played most of his games in Jong Ajax. He has however played some games for the first team so I decided he should be included here.
The biggest eye catcher for international football fans is obviously the departure of Justin Kluivert, both for his last name, and the fact that he is the best player out of this group. Personally I am very sad to see him leave. He is a young, talented player who I think has a bright future ahead of him. It’s a shame he left us at this young age, while he hasn’t played that many first team games for us yet. However he didn’t want to renew his contract which was ending at the end of the season after this upcoming one so we had to sell him now to get some money out of it.
A lot of Ajax fans have been giving him shit for leaving us in the way he did and because they feel like he isn’t ready for it yet. I agree with the latter but ultimately I just hope he succeeds.
For Dutch fans the other remarkable transfer is the one from Viergever, moving to our biggest competitor for the Eredivisie title, being PSV.
During his time with us he had had some good moments, highlighted by his goal against Schalke 04 in the Europa League under Peter Bosz. But all things considered the coaching staff and club management felt like he isn’t good enough anymore and that we have to move forward. This, combined with the fact that his contract was running out, freed the way for him to move to the team from Eindhoven. I hope he personally does well there.
Now to talk about the big mess surrounding Amin Younes. As you’ll see in the comments I completely forgot about him so I added this in later. Where to begin..?
He lost his first 11 spot to the younger and more goal focused Justin Kluivert. Because of this he was set to leave us last winter on a permanent deal to Napoli. This ultimately did not happen. He even denied signing a 5 year deal with the Italians which would’ve gone into effect this summer after his deal with us had ended. Following this the Serie A club showed documents which allegedly had 31 of his signatures on them.
After this whole mess VFL Wolfsburg showed interest. For Younes this was looking pretty good until VFL Wolfsburg called off the transfer because ‘the obstacles before the transfer weren’t taken away’. Whatever that means.
On top of all of this he also suffered a pretty severe injury which means he won’t be able to play for months.
Napoli chairmain De Laurentiis would be willing to talk about a transfer for him if a team was willing to put €20.000.000 on the table.
Last player I want to talk about is Mitchell Dijks. Not because he was especially valuable to us or anything but for the fact that he was set to leave us in the 2016/17 season.
During the January 2017 transfer window we loaned him out to Norwich City, which included an option to buy. He played 15 games in the Championship for them, scoring 1 goal. I think everybody was under the impression that he would join them permanently at the start of the 17/18 season, but that deal fell through because they could not reach an agreement on pay. His contract also ran out and now he signed a 5 year deal in Italy. Thoughts about the transfers
Everything considered we have had a good window. We got rid of the players we didn’t need anymore and brought in players who can contribute immediately and set us up for the future. Tadic and Blind will ofcourse be expected to take the lead this season as 2 of the most experienced and best players in the squad.
This concludes my season 2018/2019 preview for my team AFC Ajax! I hope you enjoy reading it! (If you’re not too put off by the absolute wall of text that is..)
Bring on the season!
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