A magical and emotional evening at the Johan Cruijff ArenA ended with tragedy, as the Ajacieden were eliminated from the Champions League following a 2-2 draw against French side OGC Nice last week. Another season of Europa League football awaits, should we succeed in eliminating Rosenborg in the last round of qualifiers.
But we’re not there just yet. Today marks the start of a new Eredivisie season for the Amsterdammers, in which they will travel to Almelo to face Heracles. Will Ajax be able to kickstart the competition with a convincing win? Here’s what the insiders have to say.
Floris Roos [@FlorisRoos] – Blogger for AjaxLife
The Dutch league is starting again. Thankfully! No, really. For me, there’s nothing better than our own little “Mickey Mouse” Eredivisie. The football might not be good all that often – often not to be truthful – but it’s always incredibly exciting. And most of all fun to watch. I love it.
For Ajax, a good start to the campaign is a must. That much was made clear last season. Ajax lost a lot of unneeded and very expensive points early on in the season. At the last game of the season, it proved to be the points we needed to win the league title.
From that point of view, an away game against Heracles isn’t the best possible way to start. I see this game, played on the dreaded artificial pitch in Almelo, as a potential slip-up. That’s why I hope the players will be aggressive and motivated to drag out a win from the get-go. If so, it shouldn’t be a problem (then again, it never really should be).
The double-header with Nice has given us faith about Ajax’ capabilities. Of course, it ended in defeat, but at times the squad showed it’s inadvertent ability on the pitch. Regardless, this Ajax is already further in development than last year’s, so there are no excuses to be made.
Arco Gnocchi [@arcinho] – Ajax insider
I really, really hope the players can focus on the away game against Heracles. I for sure can’t. Still grinding my teeth about the way we got thrown out of the Champions League qualifications. I’m also not very happy with having to play Rosenborg next. And most of all I’m worrying about losing key players (Dolberg and Sanchez) before the transfer deadline. So, no, Heracles is not the first thing that comes to my utterly Ajax-obsessed mind.
📼 Kasper Dolberg. The most complete Ajax striker since Patrick Kluivert. Yeah, we said it. pic.twitter.com/oOIZahvq3d
— AjaxDaily (@ajaxdailydotcom) 20 juni 2017
But it should be! The Eredivisie is about to start! I would love for Ajax to be able to have a much less precarious style this season, although the games against Nice seem to prove we have a long way to go still. It’s simply hard to predict whether Ajax will ‘show up’, and if they do, if they can finish a game properly without getting themselves in too much trouble.
Heracles will be looking to cause an upset at home in their first match of the season, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to. As I said, I fear for our players to have their heads elsewhere, which might lead to conceding costly goals. Great to get this show on the road again though, s long season ahead of trying to keep PSV and Feyenoord at bay, with Utrecht and Vitesse as the most dangerous challengers to the traditional Top 3. My prediction: a 2-3 goal scoring and conceding extravaganza!
Yordi Yamali [@TheFev] – FC Afkicken host
Will Marcel Keizer be the coach who can mimic last season’s Europa League performance in the league? That’s my main question this week.
The players have had some rest after the disappointing result against Nice. Keeping in mind everything that has happened during pre-season, they showed some real good football against the French side. If they’re capable of bringing the same football and intensity tonight, Heracles cannot be a problem.
But as always, we’re starting a new Eredivisie season with plenty of uncertainties. Who will still be here on the 1st of september? Clubs are reportedly closing in on Sanchez and Dolberg, and I feel at least one club will make a bid for Younes. And knowing Overmars, Amin will get sold in a heartbeat.
With those three players gone it’s a different cook, as Louis van Gaal would say. I have no faith that there will be replacements of the caliber of those three players, and the squad that remains isn’t even strong enough to compete in the Eredivisie in the long run, let alone in the Europa League. But let’s stop with the negativity; they are all still Ajax players. The main reason I keep complaining about this, is because last season we ended up second in the league because of potentially the exact same reasons.
— Foquintha (@Foquintha) 4 augustus 2017
I hope that Heracles won’t be our new Willem II and what might seem as a foolish mistake will cost Ajax the title in the end. Do I have to share again that I want Donny on the spot of Schone and Frenkie de Jong in the starting line-up? I hope not. And let Younes start on the bench, I think we should reward Kluivert after that first half against Nice. And it’s really time for Neres to start.
Yaya [@yayaajax] – Ajax insider
After a disappointing return game against Nice, which resulted in getting eliminated from the Champions League, we can now finally focus on the Eredivisie. The league we all love. Expectations will be very high right from the get-go. It’s been a couple of years since Ajax last won the title, so pressure from the media will be big.
It will be interesting to see if the new manager, Keizer, can handle that pressure in his first season as Ajax head coach. Although a couple of important players left, the squad still looks strong.
Heracles is the first opponent for Ajax this Eredivisie season. The Almelo side lost a couple of important players themselves, namely Hoogma, Gosens, Bruns, Te Wierik and Fledderus. On the other hand they also managed to grab hold of a couple of interesting players. They bought two talented players from the Jupiler League in Van den Buijs and Monteiro, and brought back Gladon – who flopped at Wolverhampton last season – on loan. Add a couple of decent Eredivisie-level signings like Hardeveld, Wuytens and Van Hintum and you have yourself a decent mid-table team.
Most of the danger will come from Kuwas and Armenteros, who scored a combined total of 25 goals last season. I doubt they’ll be capable of pulling that off against De Ligt and Sanchez, however.
Heracles want to play attacking football which makes them vulnerable to teams like Ajax, and I don’t see them beating the Amsterdammers in the first round of the new season. The Amsterdam side already played two Champions League games in which they showed they picked up where Bosz left off.
I don’t expect Keizer to change his line-up from the one against Nice. It will be Onana, Veltman, Sanchez, De Ligt, Viergever, Van de Beek, Schone, Ziyech, Kluivert, Dolberg, Younes. It’ll likely be an entertaining game to watch, with two teams who want to press forward and attack. However, individual skill levels of the Ajax players will make the difference, resulting in a 1-3 win with Van de Beek, Dolberg and Viergever to score.
Priya Ramesh [@Priya8Ramesh] – Writer and journalist
From an Ajax point of view, there are not many fixtures you might want to start your season with, than against Heracles — Ajax have never lost to the side from Almelo since they were promoted in 2005. But of course, during the 90 minutes itself, this counts for little.
Under Stegeman, Heracles have established themselves as a more consistent mid-table side with some talented players in the mix. The midfield ‘battle’ between Pelupessy and Van de Beek should be interesting. Dario van den Buijs was impressive with FC Eindhoven in the Jupiler League, and faces a stern test in keeping Kasper Dolberg at bay. That Armenteros is not fit enough to start also strengthens Ajax’s chances. Games like this are where Keizer can also probably afford to tweak around in attack and midfield to strike the right balance, and one would hope this balance is found soon, with the games versus Rosenborg looming.
I think it will end 1-4 to Ajax. As always, thoughts and prayers with Appie Nouri and his family. I hope Ajax can pull off league title #34 for their #34.
Bart Sanders [@bart_sanders] – Ajax insider
When looking at the overall quality of the Heracles squad, it definitely worsened compared to last season. With the departure of Gosens, Hoogma and Bruns, three promising players left and nothing special came back in return.
Ajax normally don’t have too many problems with artificial pitches. I say they will win easily: 0-3.