Ajax need a more clinical Amin Younes

The fashion in which Amin Younes glides out of pressure with the ball glued to his feet is poetry in motion and has been the catalyst for many Ajax attacks. The short and chubby German is one of the most gifted dribblers in the Eredivisie and his cut-ins from the left flank give Ajax a different dimension. However, the 23-year-old German’s best performance came during the mid-season break against Red Bull Leipzig while he has waited until January to bag his first Eredivisie goal.

He skipped past his marker to drive into the box and finish with aplomb against Celta in the Europa League in Spain while he also scored another in the home leg. In January, he latched onto a chipped Joel Veltman ball to adjust his body and finish. Those have been the only goals that he has scored in competitive football this term. At the moment, it seems like the German U21 international is all flair and no substance. His debut last year against Celtic in the Europa League was impressive, with the Scottish side sat in a tight low block in the Amsterdam ArenA. The man signed from Borussia Monchengladbach drove at his fullback with a refreshing directness that has proved charming to Frank De Boer and Peter Bosz.

He finished last season with 8 goals and 5 assists and was integral to Ajax’ title challenge, laying on assists for Arek Milik and cutting in from the left flank to score vital goals. His dribbling still provides a way for Ajax to break pressure but there needs to be more substance and end product to his game. He has all the attributes and his ability to suddenly stop while in stride can leave defenders scrambling to tackle him, as he did last season to beat Santiago Arias to score against PSV at the Amsterdam ArenA. His ability to jink back and forth will pose a dilemma for many defenders. He has used it at vital moments for Ajax in the past, but to create a lasting impression in Amsterdam he needs to add goals and assists to his game.

Ajax usually try to stretch defenses in a 3-1-4-2/3-2-4-1/3-1-3-3 formation, with Younes and Bertrand Traoré pulling their fullbacks wide, where Younes’ control and skill makes him one of the best wingers in the Eredivisie at cutting off the line. His ability to beat lateral pressure makes him Ajax’ undisputed left winger. Against ADO Den Haag earlier this season, he cut inside off the flank to play through Traoré with an exquisite pass for the Chelsea loanee to score. Younes also thrives on counters. He never looks rushed on the break and takes his time to play the perfect ball, as he did for Davy Klaassen against Vitesse a few weeks ago.

Playing with Hakim Ziyech has also given Younes more license to cut inside, with the Moroccan choosing to drift out wide to the left flank regularly with the German underlapping him, while Ziyech is also adept at finding Younes in the channels with innate outside of the boot passes. Daley Sinkgraven also constantly gives Younes a passing option when the German is closer to the touchline, as the young Dutchman always remains available for a pass in the pockets. There is a lot of beauty to the way Younes plays and the way he can almost systematically beat his marker, but it is frustrating that he hasn’t contributed with more goals during the season.

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As Kasper Dolberg and Bertrand Traoré navigate through the early stages of their careers, the onus is on Younes to produce more. He has the ability and the opportunities to do so. In a comfortable 2-0 victory against Sparta Rotterdam, he was slipped through by Frenkie De Jong in the final moments of the game to leave a defender sliding on his backside with a heartstopping moment of brilliance, to then open his body and drive his shot wide from a few yards out. It was a moment of wastefulness that has come to characterize Younes and Ajax recently, like after they failed to score a 5v1 counter against Legia Warsaw in the second leg of the Europa League last 32. Bosz and the Ajax fanbase expect the front three to be more productive.

Younes’ best performance this season was in the first leg against Legia Warsaw where he managed to create 5 chances, complete 80% of his passes in the final third and 12 of his 15 takeons. The German has thrived in the games where things are more congested in the center, and where he can act as an outlet to drive the ball inside to create chances. His ability to beat his man off the line consistently is one thing his predecessor Ricardo Kishna lacked as the Dutch youngster could attempt the most elastic of skills but left Ajax with the lowest dribble completion rate of De Boer’s tenure at the club. In his aforementioned debut against Celtic, he dribbled off the line to create a passing sequence that led to Klaassen scoring an important equalizer.

Younes is short, rotund and has stubby legs but manages to constantly ghost past his man in an unexplainable fashion, however the chances he has created and shots he has taken have not translated into goals and assists. The only other player to play on the left wing this season is 17-year-old Justin Kluivert, but only in the absence of Younes. The German will have to be more clinical with such an integral stretch of games coming up in Ajax’ season. His constant maneuvering in the box needs to have an end that justifies the means as he has frustrated and flattered to deceive this season, given the level of output he is capable of producing.

Younes has 3 goals and 4 assists from 2 shots and key passes per game, while he makes an astounding 4 successful dribbles on average per game according to WhoScored. The fact that he has created 34 chances this season and only has 4 assists is a testament to the finishing of his teammates, but he needs to improve his 42% shot accuracy. His defensive work also leaves something to be desired as he only completes one tackle and one interception per game. Younes has admitted that he needs to be better and encouraged fans to criticize him.

“Form comes and goes, it is very difficult to make tangible,” said Younes to Voetbal International at the beginning of the year. “Of course I thought of how it was last season. I scored a lot and gave assists, and it is difficult. My drive is great and I am the first to look in the mirror. It has to be better, much better. Actions are nice, but it must deliver something,” continued the German attacker. “I know only too well, and therefore ate it to me. Everyone can be critical of me, please do so. That means people expect something from me. They want to see the Younes of last year, I want too.”

Younes has been involved in winning penalties in tight games, like the home leg of the UEFA Champions League Qualifier against FC Rostov and the away match against FC Utrecht. There is something special about him that convinced De Boer to keep him on the team last year, and convinced Bosz to persist with him this season. His ability to dazzle from his favorite pocket of space on the left flank also gets Ajax fans on the edge of their seats, but his lack of end product is frustrating. His willingness to improve is impressive as one can only hope that he can grow into a player who can add some substance to all that ability.

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