With a loss in Almere, the Ajax Ajax season was officially kicked off last Saturday. In the exhibition game with the local FC, the first contours of the U23 team were visible. No fewer than twenty players made their appearance. Once again Jong Ajax consists of a large selection, which will again fluctuate considerably according to the wishes of Erik ten Hag and his staff.
Every week it is therefore a matter of waiting for trainer Mitchell van der Gaag which players he has at his disposal. Last season the barrier of 250 duels in the Kitchen Champion Division was broken. Not once was the same starting team on that field until that game. This will not be very different in the coming season. A lot of players will commute between the first and Jong Ajax. Gaps that will fall as a result are then filled by kicking, very young youth players.
Goalkeepers – Kotarski still not rented out
Last season, the spot under the bar was shared by Dominik Kotarski and Kjell Scherpen. This is just the question this season. Ajax expressed the wish to rent out the Croat. Scherpen must become the permanent third goalkeeper behind André Onana and Maarten Stekelenburg. The arrival of the 37-year-old goalie will have faced Scherpen with a small disappointment. Moreover, a possible departure from Onana will not make Scherpen shift a place in the hierarchy, given that Ajax will still enter the market for a first goalkeeper.
It therefore seems to have to be sharpened again with First Division football. Against Almere City, however, two other goalkeepers stood between the posts: Daan Reizen and Calvin Raatsie. Both talents did not yet make official minutes under the promises. That will undoubtedly happen next season. There is a chance that it will remain for at least one of the two goalkeepers for the coming season. The past shows that two goalkeepers are usually used and Kotarski is still not rented out.
Defense – New Guard takes over
The defense will look different this year. Five defensive forces left this summer with Boy Kemper, Kik Pierie, Jasper ter Heide, Juan Castillo and Dean Solomons. In addition, the battle in Ajax 1 is still open in several places in the defense. Jurriën Timber is in that regard the candidate to make it ‘the established order’ difficult. Anyone who remains from the permanent defenders of last season is really only Liam van Gelderen.
Fortunately, the Amsterdammers swim in the talented defenders who make the switch to professional football this summer. Centrally, Van der Gaag has access to right-legged Devyne Rensch and Neraysho Kasanwirjo and left-footed Nordin Musampa. On the left and right back Steven van der Sloot, Terrence Douglas and Anass Salah-Eddine also knock on the door.
Midfield – Taylor and Timber are the foundation
A line further, less will change. Two guys we will often see back in the starting XI are Kenneth Taylor and Quinten Timber. They will most likely become the foundation, supplemented by several guys who already smoke at the Kitchen Champion Division. Name a Youri Reign, Alex Méndez or Enric Llansana. In the first practice pot this was at least the case. Taylor, Timber and Méndez formed the diaphragm. Later Llansana also joined the team. Furthermore, Van der Gaag also brought Max de Waal, Tunahan Tasci, Ar’jany Martha and Jaymillio Pinas, who all belong to the selection of the Under 18.
Out of ten, there are even more candidates than the above. Victor Jensen and Jurgen Ekkelenkamp often occupy that place. Both are now twenty, so they are old for Young Ajax standards. Although they do not have to leave the club management, they may have ears for a temporary or non-temporary departure, if the opportunity fails in the first. And then you have Giovanni. The eighteen-year-old Brazilian has already been compared to Kaka, but will have to get used to his new environment before he can show comparable arts. It remains to be seen whether that will be at ten or (first) on the flanks, where the two-legged dribbler made his first minutes.
What applies to Giovanni also applies to Naci Ünüvar. The creative has so far only played as a striker or hanging winger, which Ünüvar often did in the youth as well. The question now is whether that will remain the case, or whether Van der Gaag and his associates will soon be placing the seventeen-year-old behind the strikers. The talent, good for already ten duels, recently added at least until mid-2023.
Attack – Will we see Lang and Traoré again?
In addition to Giovanni and Ünüvar, the front line will most likely often know the names of Brian Brobbey and Sontje Hansen. Both were linked this summer to a switch to the European top, but according to the latest reports, things are looking good with regard to a longer stay and a possible contract extension for the talents. In any case, the eighteen-year-olds seem to be up against the former. The attackers will therefore train frequently at Ten Hag. But with the arrival of Antony and the stay of Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, the chance of a quick breakthrough has shrunk.
Ajax also hopes to say goodbye to Dennis Johnsen, who is returning from a failed rental period at PEC Zwolle. Danilo Pereira, in turn, is loaned to probably FC Twente, hoping that the Brazilian will be able to take the last step elsewhere. Noa Lang and Lassina Traoré, strongholds of the first half of the season last year, are finally going for their chance at Ajax 1. If that does not work in the coming weeks, a return to Jong Ajax seems strong, since they are both the Eerste Divisie outgrown.
An interesting preparation
In short, the preparation of the first and current events on the transfer market will have an impact on Jong Ajax. In the meantime, the promises are quietly practiced. At De Toekomst, Ajax welcomes at least three more opponents: Telstar (August 5), Jong AZ (August 8) and Jong FC Utrecht (August 12). On August 30, Jong Ajax’s first league match will follow, at home against Roda JC. Hopefully by then the puzzle pieces will come together a little easier.
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