Ajax comes into the 2014-2015 season looking for their fifth straight league title. Hopes are high in Amsterdam as the only notable loss thus far has been former captain and key cog Siem de Jong, who signed with Newcastle United.
While a few others may be on the brink of leaving (Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and perhaps Daley Blind as well as Niklas Moisander), the men in Amsterdam believe they have what it takes to win another trophy. Ajax returns many experienced players from last year’s squad that won the league and nearly advanced to the last sixteen of the Champions League.
Defenders Ricardo van Rhijn, Joël Veltman, and Stefano Denswil return to anchor the defense. They are joined by: now healthy Nicolai Boilesen, newcomer Nick Viergever, and veteran Moisander. Behind the defence stands Jasper Cillessen, who is as confident as ever after helping lead the Dutch national team to a third place finish in Brazil.
The midfield will likely consist of Daley Blind in a deep, central role, flanked by Davy Klaassen and Thulani Serero, in wider more advanced roles. Lerin Duarte and Lucas Andersen will be the primary substitutes used in midfield, with Lerin Duarte to see some action in the starting eleven depending on the opponent and the tactics of manager Frank de Boer.
The attack is where the biggest questions remain. With De Jong gone and Sigthorsson on his way out the door, Ajax needs to find replacement in the attack capable of producing goals. They signed Arkadiusz Milik on loan from German side Bayer Leverkusen as well as Groningen youngster Richairo Zivkovic. Whether these two players are able to produce at the level Ajax needs them to in order to secure a league title remains to be seen. A big factor for these two, or whomever Ajax plays at the number 9 spot, is the service they will receive from the wings.
Lasse Schöne was one of Ajax’s biggest performers last season. A threat from free kicks, Schöne has solidified himself as the team’s first choice right-winger. The left-wing spot belongs to Ricardo Kishna, at least until Viktor Fischer returns from injury sometime during the winter.
Ajax have, under Frank de Boer, been slow starters in the league. In a few instances this has nearly come back to haunt Ajax at the end of the season. After this past weekend’s lost to PEC Zwolle, it looks as if this trend may continue.
Yet, for Frank de Boer it has come to the point where league titles are no longer the only measure of success. What de Boer and Ajax really want is to make it out of the group stages of the Champions League. Many at Ajax believe this would go a long way in helping the club hold onto players who have often been so quick to jump to bigger leagues. As always, two of Ajax’s biggest competitors for the league title will be Feyenoord and PSV. De Boer has had Feyenoord’s number in recent years, but Cocu has something special brewing in Eindhoven, and if PSV can hold onto Memphis Depay, they stand a shot to ruin Ajax’s chances of a fifth straight league title.
TRANSFERS INS AND OUT
IN: Arkadiusz Milik (Bayer Leverkusen), Robert Muric (Dinamo Zagreb), Nick Viergever (AZ Alkmaar), Richairo Zivkovic (FC Groningen).
OUT: Bas Kuipers (Excelsior), Bojan (Stoke City), Lesley de Sa (Go Ahead Eagles), Mickey van der Hart (Go Ahead Eagles), Siem de Jong (Newcastle United).
MANAGER – FRANK DE BOER
A legend at the club, the Ajax fans can’t ask for more from Frank de Boer. However, De Boer wishes to claim every domestic competition and make an impact in the Champions League, the question beckons that does he have the squad to match his expectations?
KEY PLAYER – DAVY KLAASSEN
Davy Klaassen will be looked upon by Frank de Boer to shoulder a heavy load for Ajax. He has been handed the number 10 shirt in the wake of de Jong?s departure. With no true number 9 emerging, thus far for Ajax, Klaassen will be expected to score goals and create chances for the inexperienced forwards of Ajax. Klaassen is a product of the famed Ajax youth system. After narrowly missing out on a spot on the Dutch National Team he is ready to prove himself with Ajax this season. He has shown flashes of brilliance, with some whispers of Bergkamp like potential. Klaassen pledged his future to Ajax through 2017, which should ensure his development. If Ajax are to have a successful season, they will need Klaassen to be a creator, as well as a scorer.
PREDICTION – 2ND
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