If there is one department in which Ajax are not struggling this season, it’s finding the net on a consistent basis.
After the Eredivisie’s opening 15 games, Erik ten Hag’s men have scored an incredible 54 goals (exactly one scored every 25 minutes), making them the league’s most prolific club by some distance, although 13 of the 54 came at VVV-Venlo’s expense in October.
Premier League stats
Appearances (minutes): 48 (3,198)
Goals + assists: 11
Chances created: 34
Aerial duels won: 285
Dribbles completed: 33
But even this can be improved upon and the stark reality is, for all Ajax’s prolificacy, they’ve regularly played without an out-and-out striker, and when that hasn’t been the case, we’ve seen two extremes deployed. Despite showing no signs of letting up, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is at the tail end of an 18-year professional career while Lassina Traoré has only just started his.
So, with the focus on successfully defending their title as well as having another real go in Europe, the powers that be decided to find a middle ground and the solution they came up with could become another Marc Overmars transfer masterstroke. Sébastien Haller, who is now Ajax’s record signing, is no stranger to Dutch top division football. The 26-year-old Ivorian international previously bagged 41 goals across 82 matches for FC Utrecht with 65 of those outings (resulting in 30 goals) coming under the leadership of Ten Hag.
Back then Haller announced himself through good timing and strong positional awareness consequently developing into a menace inside the penalty area. He also usually played in a two-striker formation with Ten Hag, fresh after coaching Bayern Munich’s second team, often utilising a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 diamond. That isn’t going to be the case in Amsterdam as 4-3-3 is king there, meaning Haller will lead the line, but with plenty of attacking support to feed off.
Time spent at Eintracht Frankfurt and then West Ham sees Haller return to the Netherlands as an even better prospect. For as much as we can praise the Eredivisie, it is a few rungs below those where he recently plied his trade. Haller’s attributes (which shone abundantly in Germany) incidentally makes him perfect for the role he’s about to undertake. continue reading
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