Amazing Ajax

How little AFC Ajax is beating the best in Europe (a tactical replication)

By taking down two of the biggest names in soccer, Ajax thumbed its nose to the money behind them.

The Dutch team’s astonishing run to the Champions League semifinals, outplaying both Real Madrid and Juventus in their home stadiums, has transformed Ajax from just another once-great club to the hero of the have-less.

The biggest difference between the system used back in December and the Turin-trouncing tactic of recent times in Dusan Tadic in the center forward position. Tadic’s numbers this season are staggering. He has been directly involved in 50 Ajax goals, scoring 32 and assisting 18. The Eredivisie may not be the Premier League but Tadic, in fairness to him, has scored six and set up another three in the Champions League, with four of his goals coming against Bayern Munich, Real and Benfica.

Ajax line up in a very interesting take on a 4-2-3-1 DM Wide (in FM terms).

In possession de Jong (who will play for Barcelona next year) drops down to the LEFT of the defenders to create a back three while Schone takes up the role of lone defensive midfielder. The wingbacks push up creating three sets of diamonds; a defensive diamond, a midfield diamond, and a forward diamond. de Jong’s movement isn’t possible in FM19 so we’re going to get as close as we can in our tactic. Likely using the Goalkeeper to create the defensive diamond and allow de Jong a free role.

We set up in the below formation with the below roles. We look to get close to the de Jong movement by having him as a Deep Lying Playmaker on defense with the “in transition” option for the goalkeeper to distribute to him. This should get to drop BETWEEN, not on the left side of the back line to receive the ball and dictate play. This will not create our perfect diamond, but a lop-sided one. Moving forward, the Inside Forwards tuck in, the Shadow Striker and False Nine drop lower with creating out forward diamond while the progressing wingbacks, defensive midfielder, and shadow striker create the middle diamond.

Average Positions Without Ball
Average Positions With Ball

The gap between the front four and the two defensive midfielders could be a little concerning but in possession in the second screen shot, you can seen the gap gets bridged nicely. You can also see in the second screenshot (representing average position in possession) three diamonds being formed. Albeit, these are three very oblong diamonds because it’s impossible to replicate the defensive diamond of Ajax accurately in FM19.

Three Diamonds? As close as we can get it.

In BLUE we see the offensive diamond formed, in YELLOW the support “diamond” and our makeshift defensive diamond is in WHITE. I would be interested to see if in future versions of the game we’ll be able to manipulate movement differently to create these types of space better, but until them, we’ll take what we can get!

Results Against FC Groningen

I think we can all agree that FM Groningen is not Real Madrid or Juventus but in looking at the player movement, stats, and overall team play, I think this system is just about as close as we can get to Amazing Ajax in FM19

After a half season we are 3rd in the league with one less game played. Our next game after the break is against the 14th placed team so I figure to win it. A couple of 0-1 losses saw us gave up 6 points we should have had and 1st place.

If you extrapolate out the results our pace is somewhat off where Ajax is in real life but so is the rest of the field. After 31 games played in real life Ajax is tied with PSV at 77 points. In our world, Feyenoord would be on 67 points after 31 matches and we’d be on 64.

If you enjoy these types of replications and would like to see us take a crack at another, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.

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