Total Football 2.0:  Ajax & Erik ten Hag
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Total Football 2.0: Ajax & Erik ten Hag

September 18, 2019


The final match of Group E in this season’s
Champions League will not affect the standings, but there will be a lot of interested parties.
For one, it matches Ajax with Bayern Munich, two sides who won consecutive hat-tricks of
European Cups between 1971 and 1976. Secondly, Ajax boast one of the most exciting young
teams in Europe and, under coach Erik ten Hag, who took over just under a year ago,
one of the most exciting coaches. As a coach, ten Hag exceeded expectations
at FC Utrecht, but it’s perhaps his time working with Pep Guardiola as Bayern’s reserves
coach that has most shaped him. Ajax play with an emphasis on possession, pressing,
and movement between the lines that certainly show the Guardiola imprint – ten Hag has
also shown imagination in the way he sets him team up, and lets them play. As these stats from the OneFootball app show,
Ajax have dominated possession in the Eredivisie – they also have the best passing accuracy
and take more shots per game than any other side in the league. Ajax have lined up in a sort of 4-2-3-1 this
season, but it can also look like a very staggered 4-3-3. The side like to build from the back,
taking two different approaches depending on how much they are pressed by the opposition.
In both strategies, though, the midfielder Frenkie de Jong is crucial. If Ajax are being pressed high, de Jong tends
to drop into the back three but on the left hand side, with first choice centre backs
Daley Blind central and Matthias de Ligt on the right. A central midfielder, either Lasse
Schone [LASS-UH SHER-NER] or Zakaria Labyad [ZUH-CARE-EE-A LUH-BYUD], will drop back to
create a shifting rhombus of passing options. The full backs push high, while the wide attacking
midfielders drop into the half spaces flanking the more advanced central midfielder, usually
Donny van de Beek. Ajax try to keep the ball and push up from the back unless vertical
movement by the midfield allows them to find space, or de Jong is able to drive forwards
from the left cente back position and break the press with his ball carrying. If Ajax are not being pressed high, de Jong
drops centrally and creates a triangle with the two centre backs and they progress the
ball between them, with excellent goalkeeper Andre Onana also an option. The movement ahead
is similar and, again, de Jong is always an option to break forwards with his dribbling
and ability to carry the ball. Both Ajax’s centre backs are comfortable
on the ball. In the tradition of Total Football’s use of the spare centre back as an auxiliary
midfielder to overwhelm an opposition midfield two or three, either Blind or de Ligt will
often push up, leaving the other spare as a sweeper. Both are comfortable carrying the
ball and this sometimes gives Ajax a kind of 1-2-3-4 shape, with the full backs tucking
in or advanced and the wide attackers either high and wide or dropping in. In attack, Ajax push van de Beek high, but
how he plays depends on whether Klaas-Jan Huntelaar or Kasper Dolberg play. Huntelaar
is less mobile, more of a focal point to get on to crosses and chase through balls, while
Dolberg drops off more, allowing van de Beek to run beyond him and offer an additional
attacking threat from deep. The wide players are superb: in David Neres,
Dusan Tadic, and Hakim Ziyech, Ajax have three players for two berths, all of whom are creative
playmakers who can also score goals. Tadic likes to drop in and direct play from slightly
deeper, allowing left back Nicolas Tagliafico to push very high, and playing passes across
for Neres or Ziyech to run onto. Neres tends to stay a bit wider to use his explosive pace
and dribbling, while Ziyech poses a huge threat cutting inside onto his left foot. Tagliafico and right back Noussair Mazraoui
[NOOSE-AIR MAZ-ROW-EE] move high or push up and in, depending on whether the wide attackers
have dropped in or stayed wide. It’s clear that the concept of creating passing triangles
and generating superiority through a spare man are part of the ten Hag way. This is especially
clear on the left, where de Jong tucks in behind Tadic and Tagliafico, but it happens
on the right too. It’s one of the clear ways that Guardiola has influenced his former
colleague. Defensively, Ajax press where possible, triggered
by loose touches or balls played towards the side lines. The front three try to cover passing
lanes as they run back, while the central midfielders harry and snap in to tackles.
Ajax can be vulnerable to counters because they defend so high and sometimes with the
sweeping defender on his own – if the opposition can bypass the initial press, Ajax can be
caught out especially as the full backs push up to provide width. Nonetheless, this weakness aside, and it’s
only a weakness that stems from their desire to attack and control possession in the opposition
half, Ajax are a great side to watch who play a tactically interesting style of football.
While Guardiola’s influence on ten Hag is clear – the pressing, the build-up out wide,
the tactical fluidity and positional use of the defensive midfielder – the Dutch coach
is making a statement in his own right. The last time Ajax were in the Champions League
Group Stages was 2014/15 – the last the time they progressed from the Groups was in
2004/05. Ajax are through already – the question now is how far ten Hag and his vibrant
young team can go.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. After Ajax's stellar performance against Real Madrid today, this video should become viral. No wonder I love your channel so much.

    P. S.: Please do a video on today's Real Madrid vs Ajax from the UCL R16.

  2. This video should be viral now ffs after what happened at the Bernabeu.

    Edit: and at the Allianz Stadium in Turin as well 👌🏼

  3. tadic plays more like a false 9 now though. You should however do a tactics analysis on man united's rescue operation by solksjaer

  4. Let's get one thing straight here: Guardiola learned the Ajax-way from Johan Cruijff. It's the Dutch school of total football. Ten Hag didn't learn it under Pep at Bayern. In fact, Pep specifically hired a good young Dutch coach to train the 2nd team because he needed Bayern's upcoming youngsters to be coached in the Dutch way, before moving up to the first team.

  5. You morons clearly don't know anything about football.. Read this and learn! The Spanish bastards like the Guardiola and the Catalan club Barcelona are bonkers, motherfuckers and they COPIED what has been the Dutch traditional way of football ! It's called TOTAL VOETBALL ( Total Football ).. It's a 'll due to Jack Reynolds who emphasis on rigid formation of 4-3-3 and making sure the whole team gets the touch of the ball with the strict rule of possession and also pressing high in order to get back and obtain the ball as fast as they can.. Jack Reynolds who was the Ajax coach passed down this to Rinus Michels who was also a DUTCH !! He maintained the same philosophy as Jack Reynolds and his apprentice was Johan Cruyff. Cruyff added spices to the tactics by implementing more fluidity with the introduction of positioning switch and he made clear the primal rules of Total Football which were

    1. Stay in position of formation

    2. Attack starts from the defenders

    3. Defence starts from the attackers

    4. Switch position during attack and other players take over and fill the gap left by other players in which maintain the formation structure

    5. Pressing high with the defensive line up to the opponents half

    6. Retrieving the ball within 6s

    Thus known as the Clockwork Orange

    When Johan Cruyff left to Barcelona he made it clear to implement this system as the fucked up Catalan dog club Barcelona's philosophy within the academy La Masia.. With the arrival of Frank Rijkaard (who is also a DUTCH!!!) made even better by introducing more quick and faster passing eventually moulds into TIKI TAKA.. Everything the Spanish fuckers have now is all due to the Dutch and they should appreciate it by not claiming it as their own creation ! Everything started with the Dutch and Ajax Amsterdam as the club's true DNA is on Beautiful Football and their best talent producing academy De Toekomst .. Fuck you Spanish mongrels!! Hail the great DUTCH !!

  6. literally nothing of what is said in thise video is true. how the fuck do you come up with players' roles when they dont even fucking play?

  7. Watching this after the 1-2 win of Ajax over Juve, just a few hours ago. What a win and well explained also.

    I have to say Pep had this vision of Cruijff who had it from Rinus Michels again. All Dutch magicians and who made football totally different. Total football. And in this Ajax team there are some tweaks, Tadic plays more often as a false 9. And the last games they had some problems with the backs, but anyway they are thru the semi finales, which is just amazing for Ajax and the dutch football.

  8. HOW FAR, YOU SAY?!!!! What about WINNING the whole thing!!! Goodbye Bayern, Goodbye Madrid, Goodbye Juve (and f-off Christiano!) Hello Amsterdam!! ❌❌❌

  9. This video…along with the one you did on Mo Salah on his premier league return when Liverpool signed him have aged fantastically well…

  10. Ajax vs Manchester City will be the best football match in this season. At least for Johan Cruijff huge fan like me.

  11. Tadic plays a false nine now. His role is to waste the centerbacks (juves 2 centerbacks constantly marked him) and to be something like a ball playing option which worked great because ajax exploited the gaps juve left open on the wings

  12. And Guardiola was in turn influenced by Cruyff, who came from the Ajax school of football. Ajax is becomming like Barca's little brother

  13. Erik ten Hag is from the east of the Netherlands. That is the accent with which he talks. Dutch journalists often ridicule that and say that this does not fit with Amsterdam (Ajax).
    True Amsterdammers don't care where you come from, as long as you are honest.

    Erik ten Hag is honest and a good coach. That is why Marc Overmars and Edwin van de Sar (the directors and former players of Ajax) have appointed him as coach of Ajax.

  14. Have been watching highlights from Ajax's last two Champions League knockout rounds and man the overloads they create on the wings is unbeleiable. They have 6 attackers in a space of less than 5 square metres!

  15. I guess something ajax have used after this video was made was tadic as the striker with neres, ziyech and van de beek behind him. If you think about when they thrashed Real Madrid 4-1, tadic dropped deeper in order to orchestrate the attacks from behind even if he was the actual striker, and the three wingers would press as high or sometimes higher than he did. There is hence an interchangeability between Ajax's attackers in who attacks the furthest up the field. This allowed Tadic to set up goals and start attacks as well as score when he was further up field, and probably added the pace and chemistry with neres and ziyech that huntelaar and dolberg may lack. The tactic then, and I was actually more shocked by this, against Juventus. Now into one of the greatest UCL semi finals ice ever seen, they'll play Tottenham, and I hope they play their hearts out cos both haven't been this far in ages.

  16. I don't think this isn't about how far they can go, not anymore. They have proven their game, now can they lift the big ear?

  17. So with Man City getting knocked out, we missed out on a master/student matchup in the UCL semi finals. That wouldve been an amazing series.

  18. FIRST video I've seen from you guys at TIFO and i must say i was dearly impressed with the content. AJAX are on a storm right now…i sure hope they take the UEFA CL title, very much deserved! cheers

  19. Easily one of if not the best soccer related channel on YouTube!!!🔥🔥watching this a second time after ajax knocked out juve⚽⚽

  20. I think they have the strength to go to the final and eventually to win it. As a Barca fan but also as a fan of this superb concept of total football it is hard to choose a favorite between those two sensational teams.

  21. I am watching it today and still trying to figure out their tactics. Although you can see similarities with Pep's teams, there are a couple of elements i saw differently to Pep's.
    They have the ability to transition back or forth VERY FAST. They can also defend (game with juve) and close all paths and counter attack.
    They also dont do the excessive passing thing which gets me bored of pep's teams( seems different and better at city nowadays though!!). passing passing passing. and sometimes with no real point.

    Ajax will take the meters and move forward, and their players have unbelievable vision, imagination and chemistry. especially at the last 1/3…
    I started believing that the Management team recruits players with high IQ. I think alongside with the new methods of training i.e football analytics, new gym exercises focusing on strength , the next big thing will be to recruit clever players.

  22. Who could imagine but now they play in semi final and after first leg has a clear chance to go to final

  23. Poch thought he could use Cryuff's diamond to beat Cryuff's old team.. but that's not the case, unfortunately. Dolberg and Huntelaar were benched. Tot's defender literally fighting no one. Tadic drops back deep, keeping possession until they got free space to pass and score.

  24. Ten Hag will replace Kovac.
    It is said that Bayern is watching his developedment closely. Since he had worked already
    for Bayern ll regarding Bayern as one of "his" favourite teams he likes to follow.

  25. Great analysis. Ajax have scored goals in the champions league by the ways you have mentioned. They have been hard to stop tactically. They have great shot against Barca as well.

  26. as arsenal fan, would be full supporting ajax, they gifted bergkamp, and our football philosophy is based on this total football, their current team is playing like the invincibles !

  27. It's not total football if you can't defend a long ball. Tony Pulis and Big Sam would beat you every week. 😉😉😉😉 Come on you Spurs. Great respect though Ajax for sticking to your club ethos. ,

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