Overmars deserves credit for improved squad balance

The January transfer window was all about clearing out the deadwood to make a much more taut squad filled out with youngsters. While El Ghazi’s departure might be unfortunate given his immense talent – which he hasn’t harnessed into good and consistent performances at Ajax – it does mean Justin Kluivert will continue to get more opportunities with the first team, together with Vaclav Cerny, while Mateo Cassierra can also fit in on both flanks before David Neres arrives in Amsterdam. The path to the first team for Donny van de Beek and Abdelhak Nouri became much clearer too, and with Mitchell Dijks’ loan move to Norwich City, Jairo Riedewald could be Daley Sinkgraven’s understudy at left back.

Ajax started January with two tight away victories at PEC Zwolle and Utrecht before thrashing ADO Den Haag 3-0 at home, with Kluivert fitting in seamlessly on the right and left wing while Kasper Dolberg ended his goal drought. Lasse Schone and Hakim Ziyech both have three goals in their last three games. With five departures in the first team and one arrival, Ajax have more options on the flanks (if one believes that Casierra and Kluivert can fill in on the left flank when Bertrand Traoré returns), a more well-rounded midfield and two right-backs, four solid choices centre back while the lack of natural left backs is the biggest concern. Sinkgraven has thrived there after moving from midfield while Riedewald can play there as he deputized in the position with the Dutch National Team last season.

Andre Onana will be backed by Diederik Boer and Norbert Alblas in goal as the 20-year-old goalkeeper is currently experiencing the finest run of form in his first season as a regular starter for Ajax. Marc Overmars will also gain more credibility from the higher ups at the club after selling over 80 million euros of talent this season, even if Riechedly Bazoer and Nemanja Gudelj did leave for cut-price fees. Managing to sell Arek Milik for 35 million euros and Franco Antonucci for 3 million euros – even though he is yet to make his first appearance for Jong Ajax let alone the first team – but at the same time keeping a stable squad together shows that he is gradually improving in his role.

David Neres and Ziyech were bought for 12 million euros and 11 million euros respectively, the second and third on Ajax’ list of most expensive signings. Voetbal International spoke about Ajax and Overmars looking to take a step higher on the European football foodchain by buying for higher fees and selling for much higher fees in a similar fashion to FC Porto. Henk Veldmate and his connections in South America have proved a godsend for the club as the man credited with scouting Luis Suarez for Groningen, has proved instrumental in bringing Davinson Sanchez, the rough-edged Casierra and Neres to Ajax in his first season at the club.
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Overmars will also need to continue developing the organisation aspect of his managerial capabilities as he ruled out Ziyech as a possible addition before signing him a week later for Ajax, waited till the last day of the January transfer window before forking out the cash for Neres and has left the team shorthanded at left back with Mitchell Dijks originally being allowed to leave permanently, return to the club to subsequently leave on loan. The murmurs of Ridgeciano Haps challenging Sinkgraven at left back, Sam Larsson challenging Amin Younes at left wing and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar possibly backing up Dolberg up front next season would make Ajax fans salivate at the mouth. Joel Veltman and Davy Klaassen could also be heading for the exit door to search for new challenges after brilliant performances this season.

“Marc (Overmars) has done a good job. The signing of Neres goes hand in hand with the well-anticipated return of Traoré to Chelsea next summer, ” said Head Coach Peter Bosz as he also expressed concern at his options out wide being narrowed next summer.

Bosz has brought Ajax’ groove back and their performances at home have been excellent this season as they embark on a journey for progression in Europe and glory in the Eredivisie. Ziyech has 10 goals and 6 assists in all competitions this season as his move to Ajax has been a success thus far as he is beginning to rise to new heights in Ajax’ midfield. Dolberg and Onana are proof to all the youngsters at Ajax that Bosz is willing to give them a chance if they earn it while the style of play has been breathtaking at times. Bosz believes that Ajax has less options in the wide areas while with the development of Kluivert and the signing of Neres, one could argue that he has more.

Cerny needs to begin to find the form that led up to his game-winning last minute goal away to Celtic last season and his brilliant run and finish at home to FC Twente in the title run-in. Bosz has also brought an element of stability as once he has found his best eleven, he has been unwilling to tinker as the pressing is well-co-ordinated, the build-up and creation of chances are entertaining but the finishing could certainly improve. Ajax’ performances against NEC, the first 70 minutes of the home match against Celta Vigo and their most recent performance against ADO have been far from the uninspired and lackluster performances that were frequent at the end of Frank De Boer’s tenure.

Overmars’ last two transfer windows have been far more impressive than the other windows of his tenure as technical director while he has a great Head Scout and a progressive coach at his disposal. For the first time in a while, Ajax fans can be confident in being in Europe after the winter break while the team will push Feyenoord to the wire in the title race. Overmars’ has worked well in January and laid a marker for the summer which should excite Ajax fans for the first time in years while Bosz has a talented crop of young players at his disposal.

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Written by Lukas Schroder

Lukas writes every Wednesday for AjaxDaily. His love for Ajax is only transcended by his hate for Nemanja Gudelj. Got called 'The worst writer of all time' on Twitter once. Wears that like a badge.

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