A possible winger shortlist for January

The first half of the season has largely been a success for Ajax, but manager Peter Bosz has said that he is still looking to improve the squad, especially on the wings. After performing well last season, Amin Younes hasn’t been able to provide the same spark to the Ajax attack for much of this season. It is widely believed that Bosz wants to bring in a player to compete with Younes for a starting position on the left wing. On the right side, Bertrand Traoré has taken over the starting role after Hakim Ziyech moved to a midfield position, with Anwar El Ghazi and Vaclav Cerny competing for a backup role. Traoré has been far from spectacular this season, and Bosz has clashed with El Ghazi in the past. While a rotational player transfer is on the cards for the left wing, a starter may be required for the right wing.

Henry Onyekuru (KAS Eupen)

The 19-year-old left winger has been nothing short of spectacular for newly-promoted Eupen in the Belgian First Division, scoring 10 goals and providing 6 assists in the league thus far. The right footed Onyekuru likes to cut inside before making a decision, similar to current Ajacied Amin Younes. Henry’s speed and dribbling ability have allowed him to dominate fullbacks in Belgium, while his passing and finishing are solid for a winger his age. Under the right tutelage, which Ajax can surely provide, the Nigerian could become a top-class winger.

Onyekuru certainly doesn’t lack in the ambition department, going on record with the fact that he wants to become a Premier League star for Arsenal one day. He also ruled out a January move from Eupen, but the opportunity to use Ajax as a stepping stone to England might be too good for the youngster to turn down. However, having relied on Henry for nearly a third of the team’s goals this season, Eupen aren’t likely to let him go without a significant fee in return.

Leandro Trossard (KRC Genk)

Over the summer, Ajax bid for Genk wonderkid Leon Bailey but were priced out of a move for the Jamaican winger. Leandro Trossard is another winger for Genk, and although the 22-year-old Belgian isn’t as sought-after as his teammate, he would be a great addition to the left side of the attack. After a few successful loan moves to second division Lommel United in 2014/15 (16 goals) and first division OH Leuven in 2015/16 (8 goals and 7 assists), Trossard has finally broken into the Genk first team this season. Although he is forced to make many appearances from the bench, due to him playing in Bailey’s position, he has taken his chances well with 2 goals and an assist in 2 starts and 14 substitute appearances in the Belgian first division.

Despite Trossard’s lack of starts for Genk, last season’s loan spell at Leuven showcases his ability to finish tough chances and pick out quality passes. He likes to cut inside on his right foot, but is adept at using his left as well. Trossard has good composure, which allows him to keep a cool head when being closed down by defenders. He still needs to hone his skills to become a successful player at this level, but competing with the Ajax team should allow him to do just that. As Trossard hasn’t claimed a starting position in the Genk squad, they may not need to much convincing to let the winger leave.

Sam Larsson (SC Heerenveen)

Last year, Sam Larsson finally made his Sweden international debut at the age of 23, but many knew he had the talent to compete at that level for a long time. The left winger moved to Heerenveen from his boyhood club IFK Göteborg in the summer of 2014, and has gone on to score 21 goals and provide 18 assists in 70 Eredivisie matches. Larsson is able to tear apart defenses in Holland, and his ability on the ball allows his teammates to play better as well. In just 15 matches this season, Larsson has tallied an unbelievable 7 goals and 5 assists in the league. The Swede is capable of driving past multiple defenders before providing a perfect pass to an open teammate, or even blasting a long shot past the keeper himself. As an added bonus, Larsson’s free kicks are reminiscent of those hit off of the right foot of Dimitri Payet.

A move to Ajax would be great for both the club and player, but Larsson would likely demand a starting position on the left wing. With the poor form of Younes, however, Peter Bosz would likely start the Swede anyway. The winger’s magnificent form will definitely create some hesitancy at Heerenveen to let him go, but with a decent fee Ajax shouldn’t have too much of a problem completing the transfer. Transfers from Heerenveen are usually a hit-or-miss for Ajax, but Larsson seems like a quality player who has definitely proven himself at the nation’s top division for years.

Milot Rashica (Vitesse Arnhem)

Seen as a potential international star for Kosovo, 20-year-old Rashica has been proving his worth at Vitesse over the past season and a half. The tricky right winger’s ability to dribble past his man and deliver either an accurate cross into the box or a hard shot at goal is what has helped him to tally 8 goals and 10 assists since joining Vitesse in the summer of 2015. Rashica has taken up more of a creative role this season, already registering 5 assists but scoring no goals.

Having already proven himself in the Eredivisie at such a young age, a step up to a larger Dutch club would seem like the most logical next move for Rashica. However, it has been reported for a while that many large clubs are considering a bid for him, including Vitesse’s partner club Chelsea. Despite the rumored interest, nothing has happened as of yet. Ajax were able to purchase Hakim Ziyech over the summer, a player who many believe already has the ability to compete in Europe’s top leagues. With the right transfer fee, Ajax may well be able to pull off a similar transfer for Milot Rashica.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar)

A familiar name to those who follow Dutch football, Jahanbakhsh is a 23-year-old Iranian right winger who got his start in Holland at NEC Nijmegen before making the step up to AZ in the summer of 2015. After two stellar seasons for NEC, one in the Eredivisie and one in the Jupiler League, the winger has cooled off slightly since moving to AZ. Nevertheless, Alireza has amassed 12 goals and 14 assists in his two and one-half seasons in the Eredivisie. Just by looking at him run down the wing, you can see how physically fit and powerful he is. The Iranian has shown a great ability to deliver accurate crosses into the box, but also has the ability to use his weaker left foot and drive towards the middle of the pitch.

His finishing can definitely be improved, but he has still tallied an impressive number of goals with both his left and right foot for a player mostly utilized as a winger. Jahanbakhsh is definitely not scared of doing his defensive duties either, as evidenced by his 14 yellow cards since his move to Holland. His manner on the pitch can be likened to that of a bull: he is constantly charging down the right flank, stopping at no challenge until he either makes a play or draws a foul. Jahanbakhsh would be a great signing for Ajax, a club in dire need of that sort of passion and talent on the right side of the pitch. But with over 3 years left on his contract, don’t expect Ajax to walk out of the deal without having spent quite a few million euros.

While there are a couple other problems the club needs to address to start playing at its full potential, the wings are definitely at the top of the list. With Kasper Dolberg playing great at the apex of Ajax’s attack, he needs some consistency in his sides to aid his goal scoring capability. If Ajax is able to complete one or two of these signings, the club would undoubtedly be in a much stronger position coming out of the winter break. The club-record summer sale of Milik brought a lot of funds to the club, and it would be surprising if Overmars decided not to use some of them to strengthen these positions in January.

Written by Alex Dieker

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Crossbar Post, as well as a writer for AjaxDaily and lover of all things Ajax!