Have you ever wondered what happened to Ajax? There’s something terribly wrong currently happening at Ajax. Despite winning the Eredivisie title just last year, Ajax is now practically embroiled in a relegation fight. They have won only 2 of their first 9 games, lost 5, and drawn the remaining 2. This is a far cry from the Ajax we’re used to seeing, especially in the Eredivisie, where they are usually kings.
Shop jerseys here: Goal90.shop
So, all this definitely begs the question;
What happened to Ajax, What the hell is happening at Ajax?
We could argue that the retirement of Van Der Sar in May 2023 and his stepping down from the role of director-general at Ajax might be the cause of this sudden decline. However, in fairness, the ship began sinking right after Erik Ten Hag left.
While he might be under fire right now at Manchester United, let’s be honest: Erik ten Hag was one hell of a manager when he was still plying his trade in the Netherlands.
When he took over at Ajax in 2017, the club hadn’t won the league in 3 years. He came in and won the league the following season while also clinching the KNVB Cup. But more significantly, he took them to the semi-final of the Champions League for the first time in 22 years.
They knocked out the defending champions Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus on their way to the semis. In fact, they were so close to making the final, but they were undone by a 96th-minute Lucas Moura goal.
After that season, the team was torn apart, with all the big clubs in Europe engaging in a shopping spree at Ajax. They lost de Jong, de Ligt, Dolberg, Wober, Kristensen, Noa Lang, and a few more players all in one window.
Despite losing that many players, Ajax continued to be the best team in the land. They were at the top of the table in 2020 when the league season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They would then go on to win the league once again and complete the double in 2021.
They won the league yet again in 2022. So, it was really the pandemic that stopped Ajax from winning the Eredivisie four times in a row between 2019 and 2022.
But then, having achieved so much in the Netherlands, Erik ten Hag sought a new challenge, and the Manchester United job seemed like exactly the type of challenge he was looking for. So, he left for England in the summer of 2022, and that’s precisely when Ajax’s woes began.
Ajax hired Alfred Schreuder to replace ten Hag ahead of the 2022-23 season, but he turned out to be a less-than-ideal replacement. Ajax finished 3rd in the league that season, marking their first time outside the top 2 in 14 years. Something was obviously wrong, though it wasn’t yet very evident.
What was evident was that this performance fell way below the standards acceptable at Ajax, so Schreuder was sacked. They then hired Maurice Steijn to replace him, not realizing they were going out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The man who was hired from Sparta Rotterdam and given a 3-year contract sank the club incredibly deep, and he did it in record time too. It didn’t take the club more than 4 months to sack him after winning just two of his first 11 games in charge in all competitions.
They replaced him with interim coach John van’t Schip, who was an Ajax player for 16 years. Their hopes are probably that the man’s knowledge of the club’s true identity will save them from the rot. We’ll have to wait and see if it works, but he wasn’t off to the best of starts.
He lost his first two games to Brighton in the Europa League and PSV in the Eredivisie, but he bounced back with a win against Volendam, who just got promoted to the top flight last year.
It’s still too early to tell if van’t Schip will be the one to save this sinking ship called Ajax from completely going under, but what’s clear is that the club desperately needs a savior. They surely have the players to get them out of this mess. Steven Bergwijn, Steven Berghuis, Bona Sosa, among others, have the quality and experience to drag Ajax back to the top.
But speaking of players, could it be that Ajax’s recent history of always letting their best players leave is coming back to haunt them? In the last two years, they have allowed a host of incredible talents to depart. In fact, in the summer of 2022 alone, they lost Gravenberch, Antony, Lisandro Martinez, Haller, Tagliafico, Onana, Mazraoui, Danilo, and a few other top talents. Remember, they also lost their coach that same summer. No matter how good you are at producing talents from your academy, a system like this is just not sustainable, especially for a top club always fighting for silverware. At some point, they were always going to feel the effects.
Even after the poor campaign they had last season, Ajax still sold their best players. In the summer of 2023, we saw Timber, Kudus, Edson Alvarez, Calvin Bassey, Daramy, and even Dusan Tadic leave, all in one window.
How do you expect your club to stay at the top when there’s absolutely no form of consistency in the team? Players perform well one season, and the next, they’re off. You know what? Looking at this culture, it’s not very surprising that the club is currently struggling.
Ajax has been unbelievably bad this season; a team that used to top the table is now 25 points off the lead just 10 games into the season.
Will they manage to dig themselves out of this mess? Or could the unthinkable happen, with Ajax dropping down to the second division? Surely, that can’t happen, right?
What are your thoughts?
Feel free to share them in the comments.