12 out, 12 in and a new boss – What has changed at Ajax?

Liverpool last faced Ajax in two Champions League group games in 2020, with a number of changes for the Amsterdam club since then. So what’s different?

When the balls were drawn for this season’s Champions League Group A, there was a familiar feeling for Liverpool fans.

Ajax were drawn from Pot 1, Napoli from Pot 3 and Rangers from Pot 4. That meant two reunions with teams Jurgen Klopp has faced before in his tenure and a clash with a club north of the border.

In the case of Ajax, this brings the third and fourth meetings between the Liverpool and Amsterdam clubs in just three years.

But things are much different for Ajax since their back-to-back 1-0 defeats to the Reds in the group stage of the same competition in 2020.

So what has changed for the Eredivisie outfit between then and now?

Who stayed, left and joined?

It’s a situation Ajax members have long known as, despite their prowess in the Netherlands and Europe, they remain outside the continent’s top five leagues.

Amsterdam’s most notable talent will most often be sought after by clubs in England, Germany, Italy, France and Spain, which has certainly been the case over the past couple of years.

Of the 18 players to feature in both Ajax and Liverpool clashes in 2020, only six remain with the club.

They are Dusan Tadic, Daley Blind, Davy Klaassen, Edson Alvarez, Mohammed Kudus and Perr Schuurs.

Six other holders in one or other of the two meetings have moved on, with Andre Onana (Inter Milan), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Ryan Gravenberch (Bayern), Antony (Man United) and David Neres (Benfica) all leave the Netherlands.

Lisandro Martinez (Man United), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Lassina Traoré (Shakhtar Donetsk), Jurgen Ekkelenkamp (Royal Antwerp), Zakaria Labyad (free agent) and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (retired) all came off the bench but have since deceased.

Steven BergwijnAjax

Ajax have always been excellent at replacing them, with goalkeeper Remko Pasveer, centre-back Calvin Bassey, midfielder Steven Berghuis and winger Steven Bergwijn among those likely to take on key roles in both Group fixtures. HAS.

Brian Brobbey, Jay Gorter, Jorge Sanchez, Florian Grillitsch and loanee Lucas Ocampos could also feature, while newcomers Francisco Conceicao, Ahmetcan Kaplan and Owen Wijndal fill backup roles.

Academy graduates Devyne Rensch, Jurrien Timber and Kenneth Taylor have all become top pick starters since 2020.

Probably Ajax XI vs Liverpool (4-3-3): Pasveer; Rensch, wood, bassey, blind; Alvarez, Berghuis, Taylor; Tadic, Bergwijn, Kudus

Who’s in charge now that Erik ten Hag is gone?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Monday August 22, 2022: Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (R) greets Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford.  (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

When Liverpool faced Ajax two years ago, in the dugout was an established manager with a budding reputation in Ten Hag.

The Dutchman had already been in Amsterdam for three years, having joined in 2017 after spells with Go Ahead Eagles, Bayern Munich II and FC Utrecht, and led them to the Eredivisie title in 2018/19.

“I want to see a brave Ajax against Liverpool,” said Ten Hag ahead of the first leg at home.

“A team that plays with confidence and can implement the principles we agreed on the pitch, that’s why I think Liverpool are the best team in the world.”

But after two more years in charge of Ajax, Ten Hag made the decision to leave this summer to take over at Man United, eventually bringing Martinez and Antony with him.

Assistant manager Mitchell van der Gaag and analyst Kevin Keij also swapped Ajax for United over the summer.

Alfred Schreuder, a 49-year-old Dutchman who has been largely untested as a manager, succeeds Ten Hag, his only other tenures being brief stints at FC Twente, Hoffenheim and Club Brugge.

Triumph with Club Brugge in the Belgian top flight saw him named as successor, however, returning to the club where he previously worked as assistant manager to Ten Hag from early 2018 to mid-2019.

Schreuder largely uses a 4-3-3 system at Ajax, with the main tactical adjustments coming in midfield, where two defensive midfielders or a single No.6 are deployed depending on the opposition.

His playing career spanned RKC Waalwijk, NAC Breda, Feyenoord, Twente and Vitesse.

Has all this change had an impact on Ajax’s form?

AMSTERDAM - (lr) Dusan Tadic of Ajax, David Neres of Ajax, Davy Klaassen or Ajax celebrate the 2-0 during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax and SC Heerenveen at Johan Cruijff Arena on October 18, 2020 in Amsterdam, in the Nederlands.  ANP MAURICE VAN STEEN

No way.

Ajax clinched the Eredivisie title with a two-point lead over PSV Eindhoven in Ten Hag’s final season in charge, scoring 98 goals and conceding just 19 for a goal difference of +79.

So far this season, Schreuder has overseen an unbeaten start, with six wins from six in the Eredivisie and a 4-0 victory over Rangers in their Champions League opener.

Bergwijn, who returned to his boyhood club Tottenham in a £26.4million deal in July, is their top scorer with eight goals in eight games, while Kudus has netted five.

Questions can be asked about their ability to replace 34-goal striker Sebastien Haller, but their other main source of goals remains Tadic, who already has five assists this campaign.

Ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Anfield, Ajax have won all seven games, keeping five consecutive clean sheets, with 25 goals scored and three conceded.

12 out, 12 in and a new boss – What has changed at Ajax?

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