Frank de Boer’s Ajax finished four points ahead of Feyenoord Rotterdam last season to claim their 33rd and Frank’s fourth consecutive Eridivisie title. Despite a few hiccups in the first third of the season, Ajax did not lose any of their last 21 leagues matches and maintained their first-placed position from matchday 18 to the end of the campaign. Seemingly poised to win the league once more despite their stars being customarily linked away, Ajax will be turning to the Champions League for new challenges, and will be looking to advance from the group stages for the first time over ten years.
Beginning of the Season
Ajax has one of the more difficult starts to the 2014/15 season. Their first match is home to Vitesse Arnhem, and Ajax’s first nine matches sees them playing the aforementioned Vitesse, Feyenoord, FC Groningen, PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, FC Twente, and PEC Zwolle. However after that they have a stretch of easy matches. A schedule such as this could have their season looking very much like the last- hiccups in the beginning and steamrolling after that till the end.
A rrivals and Departures
Putting all the rumours and what-ifs aside, Ajax have done some tidy business in the market. Captain Siem de Jong joined Newcastle for a sum of €8,70 million following his disappointing season, while striker Danny Hoesen moved to Eridivisie club Groningen for €800.000. Barcelona man Bojan Krkic returned to his parent club following the expiration of his loan, young keeper Mickey van der Hart was loaned out to Go Ahead Eagles, and veteran Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen was released on a free transfer.
As for arrivals, Ajax’s on loan players Eyong Enoh, Jody Lukoki, and Mitchel Dijks all rejoined the club while Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik arrived from Bayer Leverkusen for a one-year loan spell. Purchased from AZ Alkmaar for €2 million was 24 year old defender Nick Viergever. Ajax brought in some young talent as well. 17 year old Groningen wonderkid Richairo Zivkovic arrived at Ajax for a fee of €1,90 million off the back of a breakout 10 goal season with the first team. Dinamo Zagbreb’s 18 year old winger Robert Muric also joined the club for a yet to be disclosed fee.
League finish: 1st- Ajax simply have too much quality and are a step, albeit not a huge one, above the rest of the league. However they will be pressed hard by PSV and Feyenoord if the clubs don’t lose their stars after the World Cup is complete.
Top scorer: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson- Despite the arrival of Richairo Zivkovic, Sigthorsson will fight to the death for a starting berth in the squad. And should Zivkovic eventually dethrone his Icelandic counterpart and start for the Amsterdam club, it will be too late for the youngster to pass Kolbeinn in the scoring charts.
Top assister: Thulani Serero- Ajax’s South African star will be competing with Ajax top assister last season Lass Schone as well as young Davy Klaasen for this season’s edition of the award. However Serero will just narrowly nudge them both because of his superior ball distribution- 89% success rate to Schone’s 82% and Klaasen’s 81%. Combining that with his defensive aspects and speed, Serero could easily win the ball from the opposition, launch a counterattack, and get himself an assist time and time again.
Player of the season: Joel Veltman- Due to Ajax not possessing any world-class finishers, their title defense will have to come from the back, not the front. With Moisander’s now captain following Siem de Jong’s departure the Finnish defender’s future is unclear due to several offers from English and other European clubs, and the burden of being a defensive rock may have to fall to Veltman. Eridivisie’s top defender last season as well as one of the best in the world (performance wise), Ajax’s season will be heavily dependent on whether Veltman does well or not. Daley Blind will give Veltman a run for his money though, and the two international teammates will be the two far and away best players on their team.
Cup run: Quarter-finals- with all of Ajax’s focus on the league and European cup, they will not take the KNVB Beker as seriously as other clubs, for who a cup win is their only shot of a European competition place. Although Ajax won’t crash out first match, as soon as opposition becomes a bit difficult, key players won’t be risked and the Amsterdam giants will bow out.