The European clubs continue their pre-season friendly matches to adjust their performances aiming for a good start in their leagues. This tactical analysis will bring light to the working system of Ajax in the offensive transition and explore the movements from the players. It’ll show the manager’s work intending to progress the ball to attack.

Line-ups

While Wolfsberger played with all their first-team players, Ajax spared a few of their stars and made many tests in the pitch.

Wolsfsberger aligned in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Michael Novak, Dominik Baumgartner, Nemanja Rnić and Jonathan Scherzer in the defensive line. Mario Leitgeb, Eliel Peretz and Matthäus Tarferner in the midfield. Michael Liendl was more advanced with Cheikhou Dieng and Marc Andre Schmerböck .

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

Ajax was aligned in an initial 4-2-3-1 formation with Sergiño Dest, Jurriën Timber, Daley Blind and Lisandro Martinez in defence. Edson Álvarez and Răzvan Marin in the lower midfield with Zakaria Labyad, Donny Van de Beek and Dušan Tadić advanced in the middle and Quincy Promes as centre-forward.

Although this was the initial formation we saw in the match the players moved from their original position.

Using the left side

Ajax’s preferred way of building up the play was via the left-hand side. In the first half, there were eight replacements from the goalkeeper with short passes to the left side compared to five to all the other options. 

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

In the image above we see a short pass from the goalkeeper from the goal kick to the left-back Martinez. Then Blind inside the area, Marin and Tadić (10)  approach to be options to pass with pressure from the opponent.

In the image below we see Wolfsberger pressuring the Ajax defence even harder. Again from another short pass coming from the goalkeeper, Martinez (with the ball) is lacking space to give a correct pass.

Then Blind makes the move forward and receives the ball from Martinez in a position to make a long ball to Tadić who is running forward and behind Wolsfberger’s defence.

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

To contribute with the movements in the left side of the attack, V. de Beek, who has been linked with top clubs like Real Madrid, was the player that was always moving from the middle to the left to make approaches with Tadić. His original position was as a centre midfielder but the player was sometimes in the deep left side and also going to the inside box to take a shot.

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

In the above image, we see the first movement of V. de Beek inside the box. He ran from the midfield to receive the pass from Tadić and hit the shot off target.

In the image below, we see again another play in the left side with Tadić and V. de Beek inside the area attracting a defender. Tadić ended up putting the ball onto Promes’ head whose header was off target.

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

Finding space on the left side Ajax played most of the time over there by the switching attacking movements of Tadić and V. de Beek. In the image below we see the midfielder aligned in the attacking zone running deep to the left pointing the action to Tadić.

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

Second half same movements

When the second half begins it’s a different match. All the starters from Ajax were replaced except for the goalkeeper. The same formation was kept but this time we had the opportunity to see the youngsters like Mazroui, Gravenberch and the recently signed Anthony, the talented right winger coming from São Paulo.

But what we actually saw was Ajax continues to play most of the time on the left side of the pitch. The experienced left-back and Chelsea target Tagliafico had a lot of ball possession along with Gravenberch who combined with the left-winger Lang.

In the image below we can see that even with high pressure from Wolfsberger in the second half Ajax continues to initiate the play in the left side. This time with Tagliafico, Gravenberch and Lang approaching to receive the ball. Kudus, in the middle, was running to the left side just like V. de Beek was doing in the first half.

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

We couldn’t see much action from Anthony on the right side. When the ball was in possession on that side the movement from the players wasn’t exactly the same as the opposite side. We can see in the image below that Anthony receives the ball deep in the right with three opponents closing his space. Mazroui and Kudus weren’t a choice of pass. Eventually, he ended losing the ball when the defenders tackled him.

Friendly Pre-Season 20/21: Wolfsberger AC v Ajax - tactical analysis tactics

Conclusion

Ajax continues their preparations for the season to come with minor adjustments from last season. We must keep an eye on Gravenberch, Kudus and Anthony who will have an important role in the team’s rotation. We can see from this analysis that they are ready to follow the manager’s methods.

With the young athletes gaining space in the team we can see many of them already adapting to the style of manager Eric Ten Hag. Most of the second half of this match we saw the young players taking the chance to adjust and practice the model of pressuring and retrieving the ball, especially on the left side.

The result of 2-0 to Ajax was less important than the consistency in the gameplay of the team and they will test it more before the start of the Eredivisie on the 13th of September.

Gabriel Pinto