Vulnerable Ajax yearns for quick return Kudus


The difference between the end of an era and the hope for new successes can be made by one player: Mohammed Kudus.

Pas three times the summer purchase played a full game, before hitting his right knee after just a few minutes in the European match against Liverpool. But in those three games, the connoisseurs saw enough.

No risk

The 20-year-old Ghanaian has almost recovered from the knee injury he suffered on 21 October. However, tonight's away game with Willem II is still too early. "He doesn't feel quite sure yet", said Ajax trainer Erik ten Hag Tuesday afternoon. "So we're not taking any chances with him."

The expectation is that Kudus will be back in January, when the top games are scheduled.

"He really has everything", said Ibrahim Afellay in Studio Soccer. "He is strong, technical, makes the right choices and has efficiency. A pleasure for the eye."

Kudus dribbled, dribbled and immediately played a leading role in the field. With the flair they currently lack at Zakaria Labyad and the much-discussed Quincy Promes. The accent that gives Amsterdammers' football a special touch.

Significant was Ten Hag's analysis after the cramped cup victory at FC Utrecht, a struggle that ended in a victory (5-4) to quickly forget.

Thirty percent duels lost

"For the Netherlands we have to be good enough", Ten Hag judged his team, which in any case could not be blamed for a lack of commitment. But work football, that is unworthy of Ajax in the eyes of the supporters. Moreover, in the absence of some basic forces, the team looks pretty vulnerable.

Stronger still, this century was never as often lost as in 2020, almost thirty percent of the official matches. And that while the corona outbreak means that the top matches in the premier league are only finished after the short winter break.

In the years after the turn of the century Ajax was looking for a new face, when the golden generation of the mid-nineties had left. The current selection does not have such a vacancy.

Tens of millions

After the near-final place in the Champions League a year and a half ago, there were nevertheless several tastemakers for many tens of millions of euros per person. At the moment there are still six players left from the successful base team, but it is mainly the boys who made the difference, who now play football elsewhere.

"At the moment we are not good enough for the highest European podium", says Ten Hag. "That's the reality."

Ryan Gravenberch breaks through in the meantime, Davy Klaassen is back on the old nest and Perr Schuurs is now a mature defender. But especially in attacking terms, the Amsterdammers lack decisiveness when it really matters.

Antony and Kudus, together decisive when Ajax won a victory against Vitesse with one less man, are the newcomers who now have to prove themselves.

Critical purchasing policy

This would also be a success that Marc Overmars could put to good use. The director of football recently received criticism of his purchasing policy, in which the level of the premier league is the standard for most newcomers. "There's always an expectation here that Ajax is just as highly regarded in Europe."

With purchases such as Edson Álvarez (15 million), Razvan Marin (12 million), Lisandro Martínez (7 million) and Hassane Bandé (9 million), Overmars has failed a few times. But these disappointing purchases pale into insignificance financially with the transfers of Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech.

After winter

"We are building a team worthy of the Champions League. It needs to take shape after the winter", Ten Hag promised after the unstable game of the last few weeks. "I think we're in the right direction."

To Kudus to reverse the negative sentiment around the team. Twenty years only, but already saddled with high expectations. With him, the searching Ajax can face the future with a smile, should the omens be true.

Mohammed Kudus feels at home in Amsterdam:

 

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