Taylor was ‘a bit stubborn’, stayed with Ajax and keeps internationals on the bench


NOS Football

Erik ten Hag said to Kenneth Taylor in the winter: “Maybe it’s better to hire you out.” At the time, that wasn’t a bad plan at all. Now it sounds ridiculous. Because six months later, Taylor is a basic player at Ajax. In fact, the 20-year-old midfielder keeps two Orange internationals on the bench.

So renting out, that was really the plan. “On the one hand, it’s nice that he thought along with me, because I also wanted to play,” says Taylor along the main field at De Toekomst training complex. “But I didn’t like it.”

“I train here with the best players; that also makes you better. I also had the feeling that I was up against it in training. And that I would take my chance if I got it. trusted.”

‘A bit stubborn’ Taylor keeps internationals from Ajax base and has his own weak spot

Taylor wanted to fight for his spot. Or was he just very stubborn? “A little too, yes,” he laughs. But the decision to stay was a real trade-off, according to the young footballer. “I felt I could keep up.” Ten Hag came back to it later in the season. “After Vitesse he said: ‘yes, you were right’.”

Under the new trainer Alfred Schreuder, Taylor seems to have made his final breakthrough: played three games, three starting places. Great, given the immense competition in Amsterdam. After all, he displaces Davy Klaassen and Steven Berghuis, regular customers in the Dutch national team for years.

Don’t the three attacking midfielders fight each other at De Toekomst? The opposite turns out to be true. “They also help me a lot,” Taylor says. Schreuder will be happy with that. After the start of the season against Fortuna Sittard, the head coach said that his players “have to give it to each other”.

Two legged Taylor

Taylor’s trump card in the fight with Klaassen and Berghuis speaks for itself: he is two-legged. “I learned that from my father. He didn’t really teach me anything else. He said: ‘Why not shoot with right and left. It takes time if you turn around the ball’.”

There must be a wall in Heiloo, where he grew up, against which little Kenneth trained his right and left drowsiness. “It sounds cliché, but I did,” he laughs. Taylor laughs a lot anyway. In the locker room. Before and after the match. And often with his buddy Brian Brobbey, with whom he played in almost all youth teams.

Pro Shots

Taylor with Davy Klaassen, whom he will keep on the couch for the time being

Whether it’s because of his two-leggedness or not, take a look at the midfielder’s Opta data since the start of the 2021/2022 season and it turns out that Taylor’s starting spot is well-founded. With a considerably higher pass accuracy (88.5%) than Klaassen and Berghuis (82.3% to 83.3%) Ajax has a lot of ball resistance in the half of the opponent with Taylor.

Berghuis does create a better chance per game than Taylor (2.7 to 1.7), the 20-year-old talent conquers a little more balls in a match and is a lot more dangerous with his running actions with the ball at his foot (18, 9 at 11.5).

Copy Gravenberch

His figures are reminiscent of those of predecessor Ryan Gravenberch. In mid-July, Taylor extended his contract until 2027 and was assigned jersey number 8. The old number of his childhood buddy Gravenberch, who left for Bayern Munich.

With Taylor, Ajax has effortlessly accommodated Gravenberch’s departure, without taking out the wallet for a talented midfielder.

In all competitions for Ajax 1 since the beginning of 2021/2022 (per 90 minutes)

Taylor Klaassen mountain house Gravenberch
duels 22 47 49 42
Minutes played 1046 2453 3496 3200
Pass Accuracy (%) 88.5% 82.3% 83.3% 86.4%
Opportunities created (per 90 minutes) 1.7 0.9 2.7 1.1
Duels won (%) 46.5% 47.6% 46.9% 56%
Running actions with ball at the foot (per 90 minutes) 18.9 3.9 11.5 19.6
Interceptions (per 90 minutes) 1.4 0.7 0.3 0.8

In dueling power, the young Taylor loses against Klaassen, Berghuis and Gravenberch. Taylor loses just more direct duels for the ball than he wins, while Gravenberch won just more than lost in his last season in Amsterdam.

There’s something to get for Taylor. You don’t have to tell him that anymore. But along the main field at De Toekomst, assistant coach Richard Witschge can’t resist. “He must become more aggressive! He can play football.”

Don’t linger

He was already told that from Ten Hag and Schreuder now also says it sometimes. Taylor needs to get more aggressive and work on his conversion. A weakness that may be revealed at Champions League level.

“I am a player who switches, but it has to do with aggressiveness, that I switch immediately – boom – and don’t get stuck if I give a wrong ball myself.”

Taylor will automatically find out in early September how many steps he has already made in that aggressiveness. Then Ajax plays its first game in the group stage of the Champions League. If he also maintains himself there, then national coach Louis van Gaal will probably inquire about Taylor’s 06 number.