The Amsterdam club have impressed in the UCL and are gunning for a third successive league title
Ajax continue to build one fantastic team after another and this latest crop looks no different. Erik Ten Hag has done a spectacular job at the club and seems very happy in the Dutch capital while being constantly linked with seemingly every job in European football. Despite selling Hakim Ziyech, Donny van de Beek and Sergiño Dest last season, following Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt the year previous, Ajax remain a force to be reckoned with, steamrolling through their group in the UEFA Champions League and well in the hunt for a third consecutive Eredivisie crown.
The signing of Sebastien Haller from West Ham United has proved a masterstroke. The Ivorian has continued to impress this term scoring 12 goals in 17 Eredivisie matches and a whopping 10 in 6 Champions League games, making him the current top scorer in the competition ahead of the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo. After impressing at Frankfurt, he endured a terrible spell in London and few tipped him to come back so strong at Ajax but he's been flying since his move to Amsterdam.
Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic continue to set an example for exciting youngsters like Ryan Gravenberch and Jurrien Timber in a team perfectly balanced between experience and potential. Many are dreaming of another Champions League run the likes of which Ten Hag pulled off in 2019 when he led his side to the semi finals. Fans will at least be optimistic about another title win. One thing which may trouble them is the absence of some players for this month's Africa Cup of Nations, most crucially Haller who will be crucial for the Ivory Coast. In total he is likely to miss three Eredivisie games, including one against title rivals PSV, as well as a cup tie. He will be back long before the team's Champions League last 16 first leg against Benfica.
Things are looking bright in Amsterdam but we were curious how the fans feel about this season. Are things as rosy as they seem from the outside? Are there any concerns or doubts about this team and this coach? We decided to reach out to Jeroen (Ajax Analytics) and EyeJax from weTalk Ajax to get their views. Here's what they had to say.
Q. With only four points separating the top four teams in the Eredivisie, how exciting a title race are you anticipating?
Jeroen: I do not think that it will be that exciting. Ajax should win the league quite easily, but unfortunately they failed to win even when they had an xG of more than 3 against Go Ahead Eagles, where they drew 0-0. We have proven that we are a lot better than Feyenoord and PSV.
Q. Do you think Ajax have what it takes to make it three title wins on the bounce?
EyeJax: Definitely there is no doubt that Ajax has by far the strongest squad of the Eredivisie. The problem is they need to keep themselves motivated, not only when they play UCL but also when they play a minor team in the Eredivisie (this has been a problem the first half of the season).
Q. How active do you expect the club to be in the January transfer market, and if it were up to you, what areas of the pitch would you be looking to invest in?
Jeroen: We already loaned Brian Brobbey from RB Leipzig and I think that we will sign another attacker and defender. Tagliafico, Neres and Danilo will leave the club permanently, while Victor Jensen will be loaned out.
Q. How do Ajax fans generally react to the constant reports linking Erik Ten Hag away from the club? Do you think they might unsettle him?
EyeJax: No, Erik ten Hag is a very down to earth person and if one thing does not happen with him is that he gets unsettled by transfer rumours. Eventually he will want to try another big competition but I am positive he will finish this season with us. At the end of the season everything is possible especially if Ajax goes far in the UCL like in 18/19.
Q. Sebastien Haller is on fire this season. After his underwhelming spell in England, how surprised are fans by his performances this term?
Jeroen: He did not do well last season, but this season he has proved in the Champions League what he is capable of. In the Eredivisie he struggles more as he needs to play in the tight spaces more often. However, Haller is a really good player and our top goalscorer by far.
Q. How much concern is there about losing Haller and others to the Africa Cup of Nations this month?
EyeJax: It is not nice losing players to the Africa Cup of Nations when still being fully active in domestic and international club competitions. Ajax anticipated by bringing back Brobbey as a backup striker. I have faith in him that he will do well until Haller gets back. Furthermore, no other first eleven players are being called up as it seems so we are lucky there.
We will have to wait and see how big an impact will be felt by Haller's absence at AFCON over the coming weeks. Ajax return from their winter break next Sunday (Jan 16) away from home against 7th place Utrecht, before hosting third tier Excelsior Maassluis in the KNVB Cup the following Thursday (Jan 20). Don't forget, you can watch Ajax games via live streaming with Bet 365.
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