A game that ends five goals apart rarely has a big story behind it. Unless it’s in a predictably very equal game or when something has happened at halftime that justifies the end with a difference of this size.
Before the game Ajax was 1st, and Fortuna Sittard second last. The first condition described above is not met.
In this tactical analysis, we will see how the two sides played out 90 minutes and what were the main changes at the break. We will also analyse Ajax’s goals, Fortuna’s errors and what would be expected in a result like this.
The formations had some similarities, as both had only one spearhead and four defenders. However, the dynamics and game philosophy of each were quite different. While Fortuna played a defensive system, Ajax looked to attack.
This season Ajax have not yet lost in the Eredivisie. So far seven games, five wins and two draws. Fortuna in the same seven games did not win any, they have two draws and five losses. An easy win for Ajax was predicted.
The Ajax midfielders positioned themselves in such a way that in attacking situations the defensive midfielder, usually Edson Álvarez, retreated to the defence and protected the two centre-backs to prevent the counter-attack. To support the attack, the wingers climbed the ground along the lines, looking for overlaps. The two central midfielders surrounded the striker while the extremes appeared at the entrance of the area to cause the danger.
Fortuna, meanwhile, closed well in the middle, with two defensive midfielders supporting the one attacking midfielder and the wingers trying to close space out wide. This defence and attack strategy resulted in a lackluster 45 minutes in terms of chances. In the first half, Ajax had a ball of 58%, completed 259 passes and had 10 shots.
The decisive change
At the break, Ajax changed Álvarez for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Fortuna’s counter-attacks couldn’t be too dangerous because it only had one player in the middle and didn’t have much space because of Ajax’s three men in midfield. He played with two strikers. With this strategy, he began to outnumber his opponent in front of the ball line, counting on the shooting player like the image below.
Another situation that came to be seen in the second half were the spaces created along the lines, as the image below shows. In this analysis it can be seen that defensively, Fortuna was not well because groups of three players were covering one, or two to one, and then lacked defenders to cover the wingers.
The statistics that underlie the tactical analysis in the second half are clearly better for Ajax than in the first half and show that the changes took effect. In the second half, Ajax had 66% of the ball, shooting 15 times, completing 326 passes against Fortuna’s 147. Over the course of 90 minutes, Ajax made 97 dangerous attacks and Fortuna only 22. Another interesting fact is the goalkeeper’s saves, in which Alexei Coselev made eight saves and André Onana only one.
Ajax knew they were favourites for this game and as such, only counter-attacking situations could pose a threat to the Amsterdam club. However, even with the 3-0 lead, Ajax defended with six men. The four defenders plus the defensive midfielder.
On the other hand, Fortuna’s counter-attack couldn’t be too dangerous because they played with one man through the middle and didn’t have much space to operate in.
Ajax would have expected one of their two strikers to score in a 5 goal rout. Neither Huntelaar nor Tadic got on the scoresheet. As we have seen, the goals came from the wingers when they were closer to the line.
This early season has shown the Ajax coach that goals may come from other places. Hakim Ziyech’s injury was the perfect occasion to put Quincy Promes and David Neres in to try different tactics, both in their usual positions out wide. It worked like a charm as Promes scored a hat-trick and a Neres got his goal too.
The speed and pressure Ajax imposed on their opponents was made even clearer when they put a defensive midfielder in, defending with three players. Two players providing stability in midfield and the remaining five overloading the wings and waiting for the cross to score inside the box.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the August issue for just ₤4.99 here