Former Ajax match analyst Michele Santoni explains their weaknesses against Roma in the Europa League quarter-final, but also that this is ‘the strongest team’ under Erik ten Hag.
Santoni is now working at ADO Den Haag, but spent five years at Ajax as a video analyst.
He was interviewed by Romanews.eu ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final in Amsterdam.
“Perhaps this is the best Ajax we’ve seen in the Ten Hag era. Everyone remembers the Ajax with De Ligt, De Jong and van de Beek, the side that eliminated Real Madrid and Juventus from the Champions League.
“They had more talented players then, but have now improved tactically and are more of a team unit. Ten Hag’s football is focused on vertical passes and constant pressing, so if you can escape the press and pull one of the centre-backs out of position, you can hurt Ajax, especially attacking their full-backs.
“If we analyse the Ajax games, we can see they struggled if the first press in transition didn’t work.”
Maarten Stekelenburg is injured and Andre Onana suspended for doping, so 21-year-old Kjell Scherpen will be in goal.
“He’s very tall and good at one-on-one situations, but his weakness is he often gets the passes wrong playing out from the back,” continued Santoni.
“Knowing Ten Hag, he won’t have any problems playing Brian Brobbey, even if he has already signed for RB Leipzig. I also don’t believe Ajax are too upset that Sebastien Haller was left out of the Europa League squad, as they did better with a ‘lightweight’ front line of Neres and Antony supporting Dusan Tadic.
“Daley Blind is the big loss for Ajax, as he is the leader of the team and is fundamental, both technically and tactically.
“In terms of their quality, Roma could without doubt win the Europa League. The problem is that they lack focus, as there always seems to be some controversy or tension. I don’t see much unity between the coach and players at the moment.”