Since returning to Ajax from Manchester United in 2018, the versatile Daley Blind has become an essential part of the Ajax set up. Whether he’s playing centre-back, left-back, or centre-midfield, his presence as a leader combined with his unique skill set is something Ajax clearly miss during his time of absence. With 66 caps to his name for the Netherlands and an impressive number of caps at various youth levels, his rise to becoming an important player for one of the biggest clubs on the planet should come as no real surprise. In this tactical analysis scout report, we will analyse Blind’s tactical and technical components both on and off the ball, as well as highlighting his presence as a leader. It is a player analysis that focuses on tactics.
Blind boasts an impressive facet of the modern game – versatility; he has shown he is more than comfortable playing numerous positions over the years. This is something he has carried into the later years of his career with Ajax. These days, the dutchman often finds himself as their first-choice centre-back. However, he has displayed talents operating as left-back on a number of occasions, or even slots into a central midfield position, in which he has undertaken different roles. Such experience in different areas of the pitch has provided Blind with a high level of competence in many technical aspects – making him a fine “all-round” player.
At an elite level of football, leaders and role models are arguably harder to find than they were 10+ years ago. However, Daley Blind defies this notion. His experience at the top level over the years has enabled him to develop such skills like communication, tactical awareness, composure and defensive organisation – honing his craft as a leader. While his game is not flawless, his leader-type presence and his experience are just as priceless as his technical talents to the Ajax team, and the defensive unit, in particular, looks much more stable and confident with his presence.
Perhaps stemming from his experience as a midfielder, Blind shows clear indications that he possesses a natural talent in the passing department. Far from the type of player to hit-and-hope, he picks his passes in line with Ajax attacking tactical strategies – often passing to a teammate in a wide position or a player in zone 14 (often the attacking midfielder or the striker).
The analysis above shows Blind’s desire to progress an attack – instead of passing sideways, he selects an option which is more dangerous for the opposition; in a high and wide position with lots, if space ahead to create a goal-scoring opportunity. It is worth noting how he misses out the teammate in the middle to speed up the attack.
Another example of his talents which aren’t typically associated with centre-backs, Daley Blind has an ability to confidently dribble past players on occasion. He knows his limits, however – releasing the ball at the correct time after carrying the ball to an effective area.
In line with his dribbling talents, he possesses an ability which is becoming more and more common from central defenders of elite clubs – the ability to carry the ball out of defence himself before offloading the ball to a teammate. This is a skill that requires confidence and technical talent, as well as tactical awareness: carrying the ball out at the wrong moment could risk a turnover in possession with the defensive unit’s positioning in disarray, gifting the opposition a chance to score.
The image above shows Blind carrying the ball from a potentially dangerous area, past three opposition players – up to the half-way line before attempting a through ball. This shows a high level of talent and confidence, as it would be the “easy way out” to clear the ball and avoid any immediate danger.
It goes without saying that capable tackling ability is a must for a midfielder or defender, with many aspects involved. Blind is able to put in strong challenges where needed, or just nicking the ball should the chance present itself – both are performed with good timing and strength with effective body positioning prior to the tackle itself. His ability to win the ball back pairs well with his desire to progress the attack; he quickly looks to keep the attack going with pace instead of slowing down – unless the situation requires such action.
Above, Daley Blind can be seen rushing towards the ball with an opponent doing the same. The result is a 50/50 tackle, which Blind comes out on top thanks to his tackling technique and strength. He first managed to sense the danger following a poor pass from a teammate which almost resulted in a goal-scoring chance – his positional sense and reactions allowed him to eradicate such danger.
As mentioned, the ex-Manchester United has demonstrated his ability to organise and command his defensive unit. This isn’t possible without having high levels of positional sense and tactical awareness. Being able to read a situation and position accordingly is essential in preparing to defend an attack. Defending is an art – flying into a tackle isn’t always the most effective action to take. Some scenarios require patience and brains to force the attacker where the defence needs him to be (often out wide). This action will often result in the attacker being unsure what to do, presenting a chance for Blind to take the ball back.
The above image displays the skill which was discussed above – instead of rushing into a tackle at the first opportunity, Blind runs at an angle alongside the attacker, gradually narrowing his angle and options going forward. This caused the attacker to slow down, allowing Blind to put a tackle in and regain possession for Ajax. This was all made possible because of Blind’s starting position before the attacker received the ball – a result of his positional sense and tactical awareness.
For his many talents, there are holes in his games. Blind isn’t a player blessed with pace, and while he tries to use other areas of his game to balance this out, he finds himself chasing an opponent on the odd occasion. This isn’t the only physical weakness in his game. Centre-backs are typically tall and imposing figures, whereas Blind isn’t. This impacts his effectiveness in aerial duels; however, he sometimes combats this by dropping off and not leaving space behind him for an opponent to run into.
A calm and composed midfielder-cum-defender, Daley Blind will be difficult to replace when the day comes for Ajax. Not only does he demonstrate exemplary skills to fulfil his role in most games, but he boasts the career experience and game understanding to guide Ajax in troubling times especially. As mentioned, as it stands, the Ajax team appears more unstable defensively without the Dutchman at the heart of it.
It has recently been made public that Daley Blind has been diagnosed with a heart condition, keeping him out of action for a period of time. Everyone at Ronnie Dog Media wishes him the best, and hopes for a full and speedy recovery.