What Now for Ajax?

Ajax fans thought that the 2022-23 season was bad. But little did they know that the season just gone would be one of the worst in the club’s history. Finishing way out of contention for the championship was just one of the major disappointments of a campaign that brought untold embarrassment on the club.

Whether you are an Ajax fanatic or a soccer fan in the US who needs the concept of moneyline betting explained to you, it is easy to see that things have never felt so bad in Amsterdam. Losing with grace and humility, and showing effort, can be just about excused even by supporters who are used to celebrating lifting trophies. But there has been a litany of errors – on and off the field – at the Johan Cruyff Arena this season.

Now is the time for the fans to forget about the 2023-24 season and somehow enjoy the break before the new campaign. It is also a time for those at the club to put into place a plan to salvage Ajax pride and get back to winning ways. The season just gone has been a disaster and everyone involved with this grand old club must make sure that we never feel like this again.

Defensive Woes

Ajax didn’t just lose games this season. On a number of occasions, the team was completely outplayed and conceded more goals in a campaign than most fans will be able to remember. There were shocking displays all over the field but the defense was particularly woeful throughout.  See all Ajax live results.

Those 4-0 and 6-0 defeats at the hands of Feyenoord were obvious low points. But they were not performances out of the ordinary. Ajax conceded two or more goals in 20 Eredivisie games this season. Fans from other top leagues in Europe already look down on the Dutch league for its lack of potency. But Ajax could not cope with the likes of Utrecht and Twente this year, let alone PSV and Feyenoord.

More worrying is the fact that even the rare standout performers from the team might be on their way out of the club. Jorrel Hato has been rightly lauded despite results, but he is coveted by Arsenal and may leave another hole in the defense. Shoring up those leaks will be a priority for the new head coach.

Lack of Goals

It is not as though Ajax fans had much to take their mind off defensive frailties in the way of goals, however. Brian Brobbey actually managed to net 18 times this season in the Eredivisie. But he could also be tempted away from the club again because of his talent. Ajax, as a club, will have to prove to the top players why it is worth them staying after this last season.

Brobbey might have finished with a healthy goal tally but the team as a whole was not as potent in front of goal. When the defense is so bad, the attacking results need to be better and for the vast majority of the season, they weren’t. Not scoring enough goals meant the difference between wins and draws on many occasions – and a major reason why Ajax finished an incredible 35 points behind champions PSV.

Omari Hutchinson has been an early target for Ajax as the offseason transfer rumors get into full swing. He looked very good on loan at Ipswich Town this season, as that club with a long Dutch connection made it back to the English Premier League after an extensive spell outside. If he does arrive in Amsterdam, he may be able to provide some more goal-scoring chances – but Ajax will need a striker to finish them off.

New Head Coach

After all the speculation about the possibility of Graham Potter becoming the new head coach and then fevered rumors concerning the return of Erik ten Hag as his own future was very publically talked about, Ajax has looked a little further south than England for its new head coach.

It was recently announced that the Italian Francesco Farioli would take over the hot seat in Amsterdam. His appointment will be an intense topic of discussion between Ajax fans and it is likely that not all of them will be overly enthused. Farioli has been grouped in with the likes of Roberto De Zerbi as an example of the new kind of Italian coach that is doing so well now. But Nice’s performances this season have been a little disconcerting.

Still only 35, Farioli began his coaching career in the Turkish Super Lig and signed a two-year contract with Nice last summer. An excellent start to the campaign saw Nice go unbeaten in its first 13 games and reach the top of the French league. Much of that success was down to a miserly defense that conceded just four goals in all that time. That might be welcome news to some Ajax fans after the season just gone but a defensive mindset goes against the club’s core beliefs.

More worrying is the fact that Farioli’s tactics couldn’t seem to turn that defensive might into attacking counter-attacks as often as required. Nice scored just 40 goals in 34 league games, under half of what PSG managed, and endured a poor second half of the season. With the money of Ineos behind it, a fifth-place finish and only a chance of Europa League qualification is probably not good enough. Will Farioli be able to get an Ajax side to perform better on the attack?

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More of these would be a start

Regain Ajax Belief

Much of the job in hand for Francesco Farioii will be for him to put players on the field who believe in the Ajax way of playing soccer. An attacking DNA runs through this club and a belief that it is the best in the country, if not Europe.

After the season we have all just endured, that will be a tough task. But if Ajax can bring in some exciting players that understand the club from the start, the embarrassments of last season can be firmly forgotten and Ajax can announce itself on the world’s stage once more.