Ajax down bad

How one of Europe's former superpowers fell to the Eredivisie's relegation zone 🇳🇱

Ajax have struggled mightily under new manager Maurice Steijn, having only earned five points in six games to start the campaign following last season's third-place finish. The 36-time Dutch champion have not tasted victory since August (!) and have lost three successive Eredivisie matches in a row, placing them firmly in the relegation playoff spot ahead of the international break.

Ajax are behind a club (RKC Waalwijk) whose squad value is just €13 million…

WTF happened?

While the club's worst-ever start is cause for concern, Ajax's struggles are more that just a temporary dip in form.

Ironically, the club whose philosophy is as Dutch as getting uncomfortably high and going to the Rijksmuseum has strayed from their identity of developing players in multiple positions and prioritizing a style of play that is "attractive, offensive-minded, creative, fast, fair and preferably far away from the own goal on the opponents’ half." 

While we can't speak for the academy, the senior team has failed to embody the club's "Total Football" approach since Erik ten Hag's departure in 2022. Since then, a turnstile of interim and/or out-of-their-depth managers have manned the touchline at Johan Cruyff Arena. 

Former assistant Alfred Schreuder replaced Ten Hag last summer but was sacked in January following the club's joint-longest streak without a league victory (7 games). Interim boss John Heitinga took over but was only able to guide the defending champions to a third-place finish – relatively poor by their lofty standards.

The club turned to Steijn this summer after he led Sparta Rotterdam to a sixth-place finish last season, but he too hasn't lived up to expectations in the Dutch capital. Frustrations that had been bubbling for months finally boiled over in late September, when Ajax fans caused the second half of Der Klassieker to be abandoned after throwing fireworks on the pitch when Feyenoord went up 3-0. 🎆

Kind of a 300 IQ move TBH

Afterwards, riot police had to disperse crowds of angry supporters as they tried to regain access to the stadium. The final 40 minutes of the match were replayed in an empty stadium just days later; Ajax conceded a fourth goal almost immediately. 😬

Who's to blame?

De Toekomst no longer producing top talent? Buying 13 new players in the summer? Steijn out of his depth? Former director Marc Overmars getting fired after sending a dick pic to a female colleague?

A little bit of everything, really, but it starts at the top. Just months after being appointed as sporting director in May, Sven Mislintat was sacked in the hours following the Feyenoord loss, and the club have yet to identify a replacement.

The fix?

The "Iron Tulip," in the flesh. 🌷

Van Gaal stepped down as the Netherlands’ boss following a penalty shootout loss to Argentina in Qatar

Former player and manager Louis van Gaal has taken on an external advisory role with the club, and is hopeful the Eredivisie's youngest team can learn a thing or two from his past success; van Gaal won three league titles and the 1995 Champions League as coach of the Amsterdam side.

Ajax's return to action is against rock-bottom Utretcht on Sunday – a perfect opportunity to carry some momentum into a midweek Europa League clash with Brighton (ouch) and a matchup with league-leaders PSV the following weekend (double ouch).