Ajax – The Johan Cruyff Way Part Two

This is the second piece written by guest author Ö-zil to the Arsenal! off the SI forums. You can check him out and his posts here Ozil’s profile

Finding and Developing Complete Players

Playing this style of football is not an easy task. Very Fluid systems give players more freedom than any other shape so it is essential that you use the right players. Very Fluid also encourages your defenders to play with the ball and your attackers to lead the defence.

The concept of the complete footballer is central to Total Football.

Regardless of position, in order to use this system effectively every player must have:

  • Technical Skills: Technique, first Touch and passing
  • Intelligence: Vision, anticipation, composure, concentration, decisions, off-the ball and teamwork
  • Fitness: Determination, work rate, stamina

Depending on position, we may require additional skills:

  • Defensive Positioning: Positioning, marking, tackling, strength, jumping, heading
  • Dribbling: Dribbling, pace, acceleration, agility, balance
  • Finishing

Example: Captain Fantastic – Davy Klaassen

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Klaassen is a great example of a Complete Footballer. Klaasen is my captain, an Ajax Legend and generally first name on the sheet when it comes to the big matches.

Interestingly, there are now players in the squad with a higher level of current ability than him now, however they fail to match his contribution to the game. Looking at his attributes, he is the personification of this style of play and exactly what I want from a captain.

Simple Guide to Youth Development

Seen as we don’t all have the budget to snap up a Mats Hummels, Paul Pogba and Luis Suarez, I strongly recommend you think about your youth development approach. I typically use a 3 step approach and it has served me well:

  • Season 1 – Assign a tutor with high Determination and a positive personality such as Professional, Perfectionist, Resolute etc. and assign a broad individual training program whilst in U19 squad.
  • Season 2 – Progress to Jong Ajax or loan to gain playing experience and continue individual training.
  • Season 3 – A) Progress to First Team squad for backup, cup matches and easier league games – teach PPMs and address any weaknesses. B) send out on loan for experience, C) Sell.

At this point, you have a player with a good personality and 2-3 years of individual training in their best position. You can generally see if they are going to be of interest to the first team at this stage.

Individual Training

Choose individual training programs which effect a wide range of attributes. I generally use Ball Playing Defender, Deep-Lying Playmaker, Roaming Playmaker, Complete Wing-Back, and Complete Forward.

Despite not using these roles on the field, the end product of these training programs is a well-rounded player.

Squad Structure

I believe SFraser actually talked about this a number of years ago. I’d like to provide a link but can’t find it, if you have it please share!

The most important aspect of youth development is to actively develop those who have potential, and to lose those who don’t. There is no benefit of keeping players in the U19s to “see what happens”. If they don’t have potential, don’t have good tutoring and don’t get game time then 99% of the time, they won’t develop.

More concerning is that if they do have potential, but don’t have a good tutor or get game time then it is also more unlikely they will develop – in this case you have just wasted a potential star.

The point I am trying to make is that if they do have potential (even if it’s not huge), get them a tutor and give them game time. Get the best out of them. Worst case you send up selling.

Sample Progression

Ajax U-19 Squad

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Jong Ajax Squad

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Loans

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Key Points

  • Keep your squads small.
  • Make sure every young player has a tutor (unless already determined with a good personality).
  • Make sure every young player gets gametime, at the appropriate level.

Success Story – Che Nunnely

Aside from fielding 7 academy players in our starting team for the 2020 Champions League Final, Che Nennely has been the first superstar to come through this system.

At the start of the game, Che is 16 years old in his first season with the U-19s.

After being tutored by Ivica Olic and spending a year in the U-19s followed by a year with Jong Ajax, Che joined the first team and at 19 years old won European Golden Boy.

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The following year, he backed that up with World Player of the Year, becoming a Holland regular and adding a Champions League title in the process.

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2 thoughts on “Ajax – The Johan Cruyff Way Part Two”

    1. I can’t speak for Ozil, but game time and the correct personality are biggest contributors to developing players. So I ALWAYS keep them at the club and never loan, while tutoring them and teaching them PPM’s.

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