Things aren’t going well for Alfred Schreuder and Ajax, and to turn things around, the manager should look at how Louis van Gaal has done so with the Netherlands.
Schreuder’s start to life at Ajax hasn’t been a complete disaster with his side winning six of their eight Eredivisie matches and one of their three Champions League games, producing some impressive performances.
However, things have gone horribly wrong in recent times. In their last four games, they’ve lost after being outplayed against Liverpool, have been beaten by AZ, have drawn to Go Ahead Eagles and have been humiliated 6-1 by Napoli.
The match against the Italian side exposed the many, many problems Schreuder’s Ajax have, but he could solve them by emulating Van Gaal.
When the Dutch legend returned to manage his nation again, he immediately decided that, once World Cup qualification was secured, he’d implement a 3-5-2 system rather than the traditional 4-3-3.
There were multiple reasons for this, with two of the biggest being the fact that Oranje lacked a world-class right winger and Daley Blind was too exposed defensively in a back four. Sound familiar?
Those are indeed two of Schreuder’s biggest problems at the moment, with Dusan Tadic failing to replace Antony on the right and Blind being vulnerable at the back.
Van Gaal’s solution has worked excellently, with the attacking freedom the wing-backs are afforded more than making up for the lack of a winger and Blind thriving in such a role.
It’s a system that has given the Dutch – who have won six and drawn two more of their eight matches playing it – defensive stability without taking away any of their attacking threat, and Ajax have the ideal players to play such a system themselves.
Florian Grillitsch could play as the central defender in a back three as he did at Hoffenheim last season and did well, while Jurrien Timber and Calvin Bassey have everything needed to be excellent wide centre-backs; the former has been extremely impressive there for his country.
Ahead of them, Blind has already shown in orange that, despite his lack of pace, he can perform well as a wing-back, and the more attacking role could suit Devyne Rensch perfectly too, while Lucas Ocampos could also be tried there.
The midfield three of Edson Alvarez, Kenneth Taylor and Steven Cerghuis could stay the same and Steven Bergwijn could play up front as he does for the Netherlands, alongside either Brian Brobbey or Mohammed Kudus.
Tadic would lose his place in the starting XI, which wouldn’t be such as bad thing either. The captain has been poor this season, and being dropped could be the wake-up call he needs. If it does lead to an improvement, he can come back in to play as a striker or as the number 10 himself.
What’s more, the setup is one Schreuder has had great success with in the past, with the Dutchman winning the Pro League with Club Brugge last season while using it the vast majority of the time.
In his half a season there, he led the Belgian side to 16 wins in 22 games, suffering defeat with them just twice. Simply put, he did an excellent job.
3-5-2 is a system that he knows how to use and has done extremely well with, and it’s one that suits his current squad perfectly.
He’s going to have to make changes if he’s to turn things around at Ajax, and making the same one that Louis van Gaal did for the Netherlands could be the answer to his and his team’s woes.