Champion maker Ajax plays at PSV

The new season means that the tickets for Ajax and PSV will be shuffled again. This season, perhaps even more so than in previous years. Not only do the two most important title candidates have a new trainer, the selections of the Dutch top players have also been overhauled. In that sense, PSV is now 1-0 ahead: after the departure of Sébastien Haller to Borussia Dortmund, the people of Eindhoven now have the Ajax champions in house.

In the first weeks of the competition at Ajax, the moment comes when Sébastien Haller is really missed. The tall attacker was not a typical point player for the team from Amsterdam when he arrived, he leaves for Borussia Dortmund with a lot of extra technical baggage, but not every Ajax fan seems so sad about the departure of the goal machine. Ajax sells the Ivorian international for at least 31 million euros, just under ten million euros more than it paid to West Ham United, but the gap that the attacker leaves behind is larger than the 1.90 meters that Haller is tall and more than the 47 goals in 65 games for the team from Amsterdam. Although that has more to do with the situation at title competitor PSV than with the selection of trainer Alfred Schreuder.


Haller’s success factor was also in the main criticism of the striker. From his opening minutes to his last goal, the Ivorian international came under fire for his slow turning circle, his explosiveness, his handling of the ball and other elements of technical football demanded in the point of Ajax attack. With the wisdom of today you can also say that Haller was never scouted or attracted to those qualities. That actually caused a misconception from moment one: the fans of the team from Amsterdam wanted an Ajax attacker, but got an attacker that Ajax needed.

The 47 hits that Haller made in the Ajax shirt, together with the sixteen assists, account for an average of one (0.97) decisive action per game. Not bad for a striker who doesn’t actually meet the requirements. The fact that Haller became of great value to Erik ten Hag’s team, especially in his second season as an Ajax player, was also due to the way in which the trainer let his team play. While the striker was first responsible for creating spaces for other players (Tadic model, ed.), the most important task for Haller was to stick to the last line, make himself playable outside the box and ensure that he reaches the goal in time. first post was to complete a cross.

Haller got better and better as the Ajax months followed each other. The fact that the Ivorian surpassed himself in the Champions League, including in the matches against his new employer Borussia Dortmund, ultimately ensures that the record transfer of 22.5 million euros was a bargain a year and a half later. With more than thirty million euros in transfer income, which can immediately go to London to pay for the arrival of Steven Bergwijn, Haller does not only seem to be a success for the team from Amsterdam in the sporting field. Now that the striker has left the Johan Cruijff ArenA behind, Ajax faces the problem from before the arrival of the former striker of AJ Auxerre, FC Utrecht, Eintracht Frankfurt and West Ham United.

PSV and Feyenoord

After all, Ajax was and is not the only Dutch top club that made the switch to a big, strong striker in recent seasons. You saw that happen at Feyenoord last season. At the start of the season, trainer Arne Slot often opted for Bryan Linssen in the point of attack, but over time the bigger and stronger Cyriel Dessers turned out to be slightly more effective as the deepest point of contact and most important finisher. The same applies to PSV next football year. The people of Eindhoven brought Luuk de Jong back from his foreign adventure at Sevilla and FC Barcelona and, after two years of Eran Zahavi’s dexterous play, he has the old, trusted strong point player in the ranks again.

There is also a simple explanation for that trend. If you look at the game in the Eredivisie, then Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord all run the same defensive wall that opponents generally build between their own sixteen meters and the center line. As a result, a Dutch top club is actually automatically forced to the flanks to find space for an attack. A combination through the middle, or an individual action that brings the winger in from the outside, are often the only options the team has when a small, agile striker is in the point. The pass often comes from the emerging back, who generally returns the ball low to an incoming teammate.

Yes, then as an attacker all you have to do is ‘just’ walk in that ball. On the other hand: when the opponent is already defensively oriented, there are generally more opponents than teammates in the box and the chance is in principle already greater that the ball ends up in front of an opponent’s feet than in the net. With a large, strong striker, the wingers not only get an opportunity to pass the ball high. It also gives the defense and midfield an extra asset: a long ball on the striker, who can hold it until the connections from the midfield and the wings kick in.

champion maker

With the departure of Sébastien Haller and Cyriel Dessers in mind, PSV has concluded a world deal with the return of De Jong. The fact that the 31-year-old Dutchman played a bit of the ‘Haller role’ at FC Barcelona, ​​playing football far from the ideal picture but still having added value, is only a good thing for PSV. De Jong may be heading towards the final phase of his active football career; He will not have become a worse footballer after a year of playing and training at Barcelona.

As a result, Ajax has won the jackpot with the transfer of Haller, but it is PSV that has the champions maker for the time being. No matter how good Bergwijn is in the small space and how strong Tadic can be when you play him in the feet: if those two players enter into the same (air) duel as De Jong, the experienced PSV striker will win without exception. That does not only give PSV the advantage that it always has a point of contact, in the build-up or to get out of the pressure, which at the same time is also a very skilled goalscorer.

Marcel Brands and John de Jong (PSV) show that they are better off in the first phase of the season than Gerry Hamstra and Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Ajax). The fact that Ajax makes its own negotiating position about the transfer of Brobbey even more difficult – after all, RB Leipzig also knows that Ajax must buy a striker – currently seems to be the last concern at Ajax, which actually had the perfect successor to Haller in De Jong. However, it seems clear that De Jong had also opted for PSV when Ajax was in the market. If that is a harbinger for the new season, then the roles will also be reversed on the field. After all, PSV can now train for dominance with a group of players that is almost complete, while Ajax can only dot the i’s after the transfers of Owen Wijndal (AZ) and Brian Brobbey (or another striker) have been completed.

TIP: Will Ajax (1.65x) or PSV (3x) win the Eredivisie?

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