Nick Viergever is Ajax’ most improved player

Daley Sinkgraven rediscovered himself at left-back, Davy Klaassen and Joel Veltman have stepped up a level while Lasse Schone has been irrepressible at the base of midfield. Nick Viergever’s rise from fourth choice centre-back to being first choice next to Davinson Sanchez while the centre-back has also received a call-up to the Dutch National Team has marked a sharp rise in his performances under Peter Bosz. He played regularly last season after Jairo Riedewald’s injury in January but has truly sewn up the centre-back position this season.

Lasse Schone and Viergever are the elder statesmen of the Ajax side and their experience has been integral to steering a ship manned by young players as Viergever has also featured in two Europa League Quarter Finals with AZ Alkmaar. The defender’s talent was honed in the fabled Sparta Rotterdam academy before four years at AZ. He proved to be a bit-part player after joining Ajax and an indictment of Marc Overmars’ failings in the transfer market but made progress last season alongside Mike Van Der Hoorn before a large upturn in his performances under Bosz.

Viergever’s start to the season did not go so swimmingly as in the second-leg of the UEFA Champions League Qualifiers against Rostov, he was at fault for the first two goals as he was gesticulating for offside while Sardar Azmoun got in behind to score the first goal before losing his marker to put Veltman in a compromised position to concede the second from a free-kick.

On a slippery pitch against Celta Vigo in the Europa League, he played in a fledgling defensive duo with Davinson Sanchez as their distribution suffered with them relying on Sanchez driving the ball out of the back. Viergever and Veltman then allowed Facundo Roncaglia a free-header in just one of many defensive miscalculations between the two in that game. Viergever also had the unfortunate instance of the ball bouncing off of the man he was marking in Fontas from a free-kick to score Celta’s first equalizer in that game.

With time, Viergever and Sanchez began to grow into a rigid back four with Veltman and Sinkgraven as Viergever’s positioning made it possible for Sanchez to make forays forward and charge out of position to make tackles. Viergever is very neat and diligent in regards to his defensive responsibility as he made crucial last man interceptions when Sanchez was caught in the higher positions but the mistakes the Dutchman made continued to overshadow his progressions.

Sinkgraven picked up an injury at the start of the year which allowed Viergever to move to left back as his physicality, strong and explosive running style and ability to play accurate deliveries into the box led to some impressive performances in the position while he scored a matchwinning goal against Legia Warsaw which allowed Ajax to progress to the Europa League last 16. Viergever was then erratic away to Kobenhavn as he looked 17 compared to Matthijs de Ligt with some careless turnovers and losing aerial duels.

In the home match against Kobenhavn, he produced another stunning performance at left back with his ability to win balls early as he matched the physicality of the Kobenhavn wingers. He also nearly had an assist in that game with a cross to Kasper Dolberg as the young Dane hit the post while in a recent match against AZ Alkmaar he played a ball in between the lines to Bertrand Traore who spread the ball wide for Kluivert to cross for the Chelsea loanee to tap in. Viergever has become reliable for Bosz in two positions and has even earned a call-up to the Dutch National Team as he has kept the vastly talented Jairo Riedewald on the bench.

“It was getting better and then came Bosz, with quite a different approach. His arrival did me good because it gives me confidence. His way of playing is very close to how I experience football. That’s positive,” said Viergever to FCUpdate earlier this year. “The way of putting pressure ahead defend, always wanted to play football and by covering backward. That sort of thing, I networked with. We demonstrate frequently at Ajax.”

Viergever makes 66 passes at an 87% pass succession rate with three accurate long balls as his ability to play balls out of the back is an integral facet of his game. He has also created 17 chances this season as he has played at center back and left back this season while he wins 2 aerial duels per game according to WhoScored. The 27-year-old has won 18 tackles at a success rate of 60% with 19 interceptions, 30 clearances and five blocks as his anticipation at winning balls when Ajax are in the attacking phase and ability to be tough in one on ones has kept him in the side all season.

Viergever started the season by making a few blunders which he is beginning to iron out of the game as he brings an impeccable sense of calm when he is playing centre-back and wins the ball early and charges forward to great effect when playing left back. He has gone from fourth choice centre-back to first choice centre-back and second choice left back as the season has progressed as Bosz values his reading of the game and his ability to lead by example at the back. Despite Ajax bedding in a new defense in an attacking style, they have claimed many clean sheets this season with a run of seven in a row ended a few weeks back as Viergever is an important part of the rearguard.