Ajax 4-2 Vitesse

Ajax 4-2 Vitesse, 14/08/2010. Two vastly different interpretations of 4-2-3-1.

Vitesse’s euphoria at an opening day victory over ADO Den Haag was short-lived, Ajax – admittedly uncomfortably – returning to winning ways.

Despite Luis Suárez’s suspension and cover in the midfield conspicuous by its absence, Martin Jol was still able to construct a strong ‘2-3’ as he restored his side to 4-2-3-1.

The 4-3-2-1 deployed against Groningen was shelved because another negative mob of wave-breakers lay in wait for this clash. Yet it wasn’t the formation that cost Ajax in Round One – rather, defensive lapses at set-pieces proved their undoing.

Fortunately for the Fulham-lusting tactician, his rearguard was at full-strength; Jan Vertonghen returning in place of Oleguer. Their opponents from Arnhem were also virile in the personnel department. Well, sort of….

Theo Bos has a minuscule squad, and this *strong* XI had a midfield with an average of <20. Stalwarts Piet Velthuizen (GK) and Dalibor Stevanovič (left-sided attacking midfielder) were excluded, both on the verge of book-balancing departures. Continue reading

Groningen 2-2 Ajax

Emanuelson was Ajax's most potent weapon, forcing Luciano to cover his runs onto scooped passes. The Ajax flyer was aided by Kieftenbeld's roaming. While the Belgian's indiscipline proved costly, Fredrik Stenman's overlaps were coherent and punishing. Like Ajax, Groningen's threat came from the left, but in a different sense tactically - winger/full-back one-twos rather than hit-and-run football.

Ajax squandered a two-goal cushion in their first game of the 2010/11 league season, inexcusably dropping two points. The Amsterdammers can’t even cite the absence of a suspended Luis Suárez as a defining factor – if anyone, it was Jan Vertonghen whom they missed most.

A point apiece was by no means an inaccurate reflection of what was an enjoyable contest for the neutral spectator, one that pitted débutante coach Pieter Huistra against the club whose backroom he departed to join Groningen.

Huistra wasn’t alone in taking a welcoming bow at the Euroborg; Maikel Kieftenbeld, Jonas Ivens and Dušan Tadić shared their manager’s first-game nerves, while Mounir El Hamdaoui made his debut for the visitors.

The Moroccan led the Ajax line well, justifying his selection by burying two awkward-looking right-foot pokes that gave his new employers a 2-0 cushion.

Given the amount of play Vurnon Anita and Urby Emanuelson saw down the left-flank, it increasingly become inevitable at 0-0 that all El Hamdaoui had to do to open his account was time a slide into the six-yard-box. Continue reading

Roda JC 0-0 FC Twente

The systems deployed. Only one out-and-out winger apiece, both intriguingly deployed on the same side. Eric Addo was often caught by the more direct Emir Bajrami, whereas Laurent Delorge had too many defensive duties to really test Luke Carney on the other side.

This early-round scoreless draw was a bitty, bitey affair that failed to reflect the enjoyable attack-friendly mantra of Holland’s highest-tier.

Roda’s minuscule Limburg Stadion hosted this Eredivisie 2010/11 curtain-raiser in a Friday evening kick-off, but if followers of the two clubs or casual fan anticipated goals, they went hungry.

Under Michel Preud’homme, Twente look to be continuing in the same unspectacular vein ingrained by the Belgian’s predecessor, Steve McClaren.

2009/10s champions showed their superiority in spells, but Roda’s dogged determination and impatience at the away side’s cynical melina succeeded in its discomfort-inducing mission.

Both sides were guilty of littering this contest with fouls, and although Twente’s midfield trio all invaded the ref’s book, they brutally impeded any swashbuckling counters from the hosts. Continue reading