Erik ten Hag will never lose sight of the principles that he has employed during his hugely successful period as head coach of Ajax. It seems inconceivable that critics were actually asking questions of the manager during a period before the turn of last year that saw the Sons of the Gods fail to be their dominant selves. That’s because here they are, top of the table and in line to once again win the Eredivisie title — and despite this they are, in the very words of Ten Hag himself, not creating as many chances as perhaps they should be given their control of games.
But they did enough to maintain their lead at the summit at the weekend when they chalked up a 3-1 win at Heerenveen. And with second-in-the-table AZ Alkmaar also winning (they totally dominated ADO Den Haag and collected a 4-0 win), the victory was imperative.
Currently, the Amsterdam leaders head the rankings with 56 points from 25 points and AZ Alkmaar have an identical record with the former ahead only on goal difference.
The win came courtesy of a double strike from Dusan Tadic — he hit his goals in the 57th and 60th minute — as well as a strike from Quincy Promes in the 63rd minute. It was what you might right describe as a blistering six-minute spell. As well as hitting the headlines for his two-goal salvo, former Southampton winger Tadic also garnered media coverage for his clash with a team-mate. The Serbian flyer erupted in fury after a passage of play involving teen American defender Sergino Dest. The pair subsequently made up and no more was made of it; one aspect it did demonstrate to Ajax fans was just how much Tadic cares for the cause. As the team skipper, this is excellent to see. It also brings a new sense of belonging to Dest in terms of his place in the squad!
Another positive in the win was the continued development of Jurriën Timber. The youngster made his debut at Heerenveen and seemed perfectly at ease in the heart of the back four playing alongside fellow central defender Daley Blind.
Next up for Ten Hag’s outfit is a home game against FC Twente next Sunday (March 15) and given the visitors’ league position it falls within the bounds of credulity to suppose that, bar a disaster, another three points will be gathered to help with the pursuit of silverware. But by the same token, title rivals AZ Alkmaar can also believe that they can pick up yet another win when they go to VVV, who are just a single place above Twente. It’s all up for grabs! Can Ajax see out the campaign in top spot? All will be revealed as the season unfolds.