By Jack Tucker
In December 2020, shockwaves hit the Netherlands as Arne Slot was given an abrupt sacking from AZ Alkmaar, despite having an unbeaten record. A former Jong PSV manager, born in London, entered the locker room, shocking everyone with the news that their legendary leader had been fired.
The decision was because of his close links to the then-available Feyernoord for which Slot was interested. The decision was met with admiration and acceptance from the AZ players. Things did appear to be going south after the loss to Groningen, but after that came an eight-game winning streak, and they continued where they left off.
They only lost four games since Jansen stepped in and finished third in the Eredivisie, qualifying for the Europa League - Jansen was rewarded with the job permanently.
2021-22 Season - Change to Jansen’s System
Losing key players Myron Boadu, Teun Koopmeiners, and Albert Gudmundsson to Monaco and Genoa, respectively, they bought well and trusted in quality already at the club to replace their outgoings.
They replaced their goals and contributions with Vangelis Pavlidis, Dani De Wit, and Zakaria Aboukhlal, whilst giving Jasper Karlsson more creative freedom on the left-hand side. Experience in Bruno Martins-Indi also came in to try and bolten up the defence.
Their start to the domestic season was bumpy, four losses in five games, including a 3-0 home defeat to PSV, may have had many people worrying about AZ, but a 5-0 thrashing of Go Ahead Eagles gave the club the springboard needed to kick start their season.
The style of play was something to behold, using off-the-ball movement to create space for crosses which contributed to them having 5.4 accurate crosses per game - they would do this through having underlapping runs from the central midfielders such as Hakon Evjen and Mees De Wit. They would drag out defenders and create space for the attackers such as Calvin Steng, Karlsson, or Pavlidis to come and finish.
This style of play does come with a price. They conceded many goals - they only kept four league clean sheets that season, defining the ‘score more than your opposition’ memo.
More or less, this meant the midfield and defence had to pull up their socks and get involved in the dark side of the game (defending) - 16.5 tackles, 9.9 interceptions, and 15.3 clearances per game show just how much they had to.
Ajax did put up similar numbers but managed to keep 22 clean sheets. This is because their defence was sturdier and dominated the ball, making it harder for the opposition to break them down - 66.5% average possession compared to AZ’s 55.9%.
Another change was the pressing; it is not the most complex pressing system in the world. It relies on man-to-man marking to force defenders into mistakes in the wide areas, which they will use to create chances - it’s not aggressive, but it does the job effectively.
The goalkeeper, Peter Vindhal, also became more involved in the build-up play. He would receive the ball in his area and progress the ball by placing the pass into space in the midfield for Jordie Clasie, De Wit, or Evjen to receive and commence the transition into the attack.
This ability to outscore their opponents saw them embark on another successful season by their standards and finish 5th, reach the semi-finals of the KNVB Cup, and the round of 16 of the UEFA Conference League, which they qualified for the upcoming season.
The development of players such as Karlsson, Pavlidis, Aboulkhlal, and De Wit made this young team opportunely and scary for the next season.
2022-23 Season - Is there a chance?
With the fifth-youngest squad in the league, the experience and quality ooze in great quantity. Whilst an injury to Jasper Karlsson sees them missing his 27-goal contributions from last season for the start of this one, although they seem to be coping just fine without him.
Six wins from seven with 20 goals already scored and four clean sheets in all competitions shows that they are looking to move towards the Ajax directions whilst sticking to their principles.
In their two Eredivisie games, they have had 63.5% possession showing they are looking to dominate the game with the ball and be a lot cannier in defence.
In the summer, they lost their attacking left-back Owen Wijndal and central midfielder Fredrik Midtsjo to Ajax and Galatasaray respectively and replaced them with Mees de Wit from PEC Zwolle and Djordie Mihailovic from Montreal in the MLS.
The American midfielder, who has seven goals and four assists for the Canadian team this season, is a dynamic player who can change the course of a match with his skill on the ball and creative ability. His loss to Montreal midway through their league season illustrates the calibre of the signing.
Mees de Wit is a very clever replacement for Wijndal. He is an attack-minded full-back who looks to move up the pitch and make overlapping runs in the attack - he scored four goals from the position for Zwolle last season.
These additions, followed by the tweak in the system, show that AZ is looking to go further this year. Make the KNVB final, go deep into the Conference League, and try to challenge at the very top of Eredivese and give the big boys a run for their money.
We are currently witnessing the results of this without their main star Jasper Karlsson, who could give them that extra edge to challenge for some silverware this season and thrust the success right into Arne Slot's face. Pascal Jansen has his young team on an upward trajectory, the steady cash flow has allowed for some significant signings, and his coaching has seen improvement in the players.
How has the Dutch League shaped Eric Ten Hag for Manchester United?
Lionel Messi’s agent refutes claims of Inter Miami stake purchase and a potential move
Best U21 Attackers in Eredivisie
Gabriel Slonina: The goalkeeping prospect Chelsea and Real Madrid clash for
FIFA announces hosts cities for World Cup 2026
Juventus and Italy legend Giorgio Chiellini signs with LAFC
Standout players in Eredivisie outside the ‘Big 3’: season 2021-22
MLS Match Report- Los Angeles FC vs FC Dallas
Lisandro Martinez at Manchester United- a blessing in disguise?
Gareth Bale joins MLS Western Conference leaders LAFC
How will Milan Škriniar transform Chelsea
‘Vietnamese Messi’ Nguyen Quang Hai pens deal with Ligue 2 side Pau FC
LAFC triumphs over LA Galaxy in the enthralling derby at Banc of California
Federico Bernardeschi – Toronto’s Italian Job
Players to watch: Top 3 Eredivisie wingers in the 2022/2023 season
How will Tyrell Malacia compare with Erik Ten Hag’s left-backs
Top three Eredivisie Midfielders to look out for in the 2022/23 season
Five MLS defenders to watch in the 2022- season
LAFC 2 – 1 Seattle Sounders – Bale and Chiellini Win on Home Debut for the Black and Gold
MLS Match Report: FC Dallas vs LA Galaxy
DFL Super Cup 2022 Report: RB Leipzig vs Bayern Munich
MLS Match Report: Nashville SC vs Vancouver Whitecaps
MLS Match Report: Sporting KC vs Austin FC
Summer 2022: A summer of the overhaul for Tottenham that should send fans, and opposition frenetic
How Man City could line up Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips with their current squad
Players to watch: Top Three Eredivisie wingers in the 2022/2023 season
MLS Match Report: San Jose Earthquakes vs Real Salt Lake
An active transfer window to fire Sparta Rotterdam up on the Eredivisie table
Bergwijn, Kezman, Altidore: Premier League’s 8 Biggest Eredivisie flops
England defeat Germany to win the European Championships
Barcelona have made a significant stride forward with the signing of Jules Kounde
Premier League names Alison Brittain as its first female chair
MLS Match Report: Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas
Jesus Ferreira – A USMNT Star in the making
MLS Match Report: San Jose Earthquakes vs Inter Miami CF
Top 3 U-25 wingers in La Liga for 2022-23 season
How will Giovani Lo Celso’s return benefit Villarreal?
Chelsea Eyeing Villareal defender Pau Torres for a £50m Move: Good choice for Tuchel?
An Ode to Aaron Ramsey
Steffen Baumgart- The man behind FC Koln’s recent resurgence
Gareth Bale's debut for LAFC
Aaron Long: Red Bull’s New Centre Back
MLS Match Report- Portland Timbers vs Nashville SC
Thomas Tuchel's biggest bet on Raheem Sterling for Chelsea transformation
Dutch League Match Report- Fortuna Sittard vs AFC Ajax
Dutch League Match Report - PSV vs FC Emmen
Ryan Gravenberch - How Ajax shaped him
Calvin Bassey: Continuing the Nigerian dynasty at Ajax
How will Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit impact Manchester United
MLS Match Report- Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Houston Dynamo
Nathan Byrne heads to the MLS with Charlotte FC
MLS Match Report: Charlotte FC vs Chicago Fire FC
Dutch League Match Report- NEC vs FC Twente
MLS Match Report- Real Salt Lake vs Los Angeles FC
MLS Match Report- Sporting Kansas City vs LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy sign FC Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig
From Haaland’s double score to Ten Hag’s debut defeat- Here’s all from the first week of Premier League
Alex Telles ‘didn’t think twice’ before leaving Man United and joining Sevilla FC
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid join race for RB Salzburg’s Benjamin Sesko
Top 5 clubs with most UEFA Super Cup Title
Nottingham Forest’s promotion, Arsenal’s win, Aston Villa’s defeat- all from the first week of Premier League
MLS Match Report- RD 25 - MLS All-Stars vs Liga MX All-Stars
Carlos Vela: The journey from Arsenal to LAFC
UEFA Super Cup Review- Real Madrid vs Frankfurt
The making of one of MLS’ best strikers - Josef Martinez
Is Marc Cucurella the versatile player Chelsea wanted?
How will Denis Bouanga fit with the current LAFC squad?
Why has Manchester United suddenly gone Dutch?
How will Andreas Christensen fit with the current FCB squad
MLS Match Report - Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers
Sevilla fc winger Oussama Idrissi returns to dutch league for another season
Daniil Medvedev records 250th win of career in Los Cabos
Graham Potter – can the progressive head coach work his magic yet again?
Things we learned from Wayne Rooney’s stunning D.C. United managing debut
MLS Match Report - Los Angeles Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Manchester City, Arsenal, and Aston Villa win big in the second week of the Premier League
MLS Match Report- Los Angeles FC vs Charlotte FC
Manchester City’s new versatile sensation Sergio Gomez
Strikers to look out for in the 2022-23 season of Premier League
MLS Match Report - Nashville SC vs Minnesota United FC
Steven Gerrard and Tyrone Mings bury the hatchet
MLS Match Report- Austin FC vs Sporting Kansas City
Dutch League Match report- Go Ahead Eagles vs PSV
MLS Match Report- Seattle Sounders FC vs Real Salt Lake
Dutch League Match Report- AFC Ajax vs FC Groningen
Feyenoord sign San Jose Earthquakes’ left-back Marcos Lopez
Five new signings in the Eredivisie to watch in 2022-23
From Fulham’s win to Tuchel and Conte’s public feud- all the drama from the second week of Premier League 2022
Grand Prix Badminton League 2022: Sharks & Bulls score thrilling wins, face-off with Wolves & Falcons confirmed
MLS Match Report - FC Dallas vs Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati acquire Matt Miazga from Chelsea
Chelsea sign Inter starlet Cesare Casadei
EPL Predictions- Top 3 clubs in standings for this season
Real Salt Lake acquire Danny Musovski from LAFC
How will Jorge Sanchez fit at Ajax?
Jarrad Branthwaite: An underrated wunderkind wanted by every club
Can Robert Lewandowski get Barcelona back on top?
MLS Match Report: Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake
How is SL Benfica Academy so successful at producing and developing young talent
Celtic under Ange Postecoglou
Why Brandon Vázquez should be in the USMNT squad for the World Cup in Qatar this winter
30 years of EPL: How the League changed
Sebastian Driussi, the striker who lifted Austin FC to unthinkable heights
MLS Match Report- Chicago Fire FC vs New York City FC
Pozuelo and Inter Miami on The Precipice of Greatness
Joao Cancelo’s emergence as one of the world’s best full-backs
MLS Match Report - Los Angeles Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders FC
Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City- big names that disappointed in the third week of the Premier League
Spurs, Crystal Palace, and Fulham win big in the third week of the Premier League
MLS Match Report – San Jose Earthquakes vs Los Angeles FC
Alvaro Morata - The Spanish Conspiracy
MLS Match Report – Nashville SC vs FC Dallas
Dutch League Match report- RKC Waalwijk vs Feyenoord
Antoine Griezmann: Underrated wunderkind yet to show his worth
Dutch League Match report- Sparta Rotterdam vs Ajax
Real Salt Lake breaking new ground with their purchase of 18-year-old USYNT playmaker Diego Luna
How will Christian Benteke fit at DC United
Luchi Gonzalez all groomed to bring World Cup-level standard to San Jose
Top 3 managers in La Liga before 2010
Will Casemiro save Man United’s chaotic season
From Spurs to Everton: Dele Alli's fall from grace
LAFC midfielder José Cifuentes: Transfer target for Premier League's Brighton
How Pascal Jansen changed AZ Alkmaar
Xavi Simons: Can the youngster live up to the hype?
Thomas Frank - The Daring Dane
Ibrahim Sangare: PSV’s Ivorian Midfield Powerhouse
MLS Match Report - Orlando City SC vs New York City FC
MLS Match Report - Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders FC
MLS Match Report - Chicago Fire vs CF Montreal
Dutch League Match Report- FC Utrecht vs AFC Ajax
Haaland scores a hat-trick; Liverpool thrash Bournemouth 9-0: All from the fourth week of Premier League
MLS Match Report- Austin FC vs Los Angeles FC
Dutch League Match Report – Feyenoord vs FC Emmen
MLS Match Report - Charlotte FC vs Toronto
Dutch League Match Report- FC Volendam vs FC Twente
Bruno Lage transforming Wolverhampton Wanderers FC
Top 3 EPL Managers before 2010
MLS Match Report – New England Revolution vs LA Galaxy
How Toronto FC transformed their squad for the 2022 season
MLS Match Report - FC Dallas vs Real Salt Lake
Punk-Moxley set for a rematch to claim AEW World Championship: AEW Dynamite Recap
Karthik Thulasi: An Indian Origin 24-year-old footballer in La Liga
MLS Match Report- Austin FC vs Portland Timbers
Chelsea, Crystal Palace, and Aston Villa fail to impress in the fourth week of the Premier League
Dutch League Match Report- PSV vs FC Volendam
Anthony Gordon: Merseyside’s latest boy wonder on the verge of a breakthrough
Karim Benzema vs Robert Lewandowski: Who will rule the 2022/23 season
LAFC signs former Barcelona and Real Betis forward Cristian Tello
City Win Big, Liverpool Squeak Through And Arsenal Win Again In Match Week Five Of The Premier League
Granit Xhaka - The Swiss Enigma who turned it around
Jesus Ferreira-Alan Velasco-Paul Arriola: Best attacking trio in the MLS?
MLS Match Report- Houston Dynamo vs LAFC
MLS Match Report – Toronto FC vs LA Galaxy
Wilfried Zaha: What makes this winger so special
Renan Lodi at Nottingham Forest
Can Brandon Vazquez be USMNT’s World Cup striker?
DP Asia Cup 2022 Review- Pakistan vs Hong Kong: Pak wins big against Hong Kong
Dutch League Match Report- AFC Ajax vs SC Cambuur
Is Kayla Harrison the best fighter in Professional Fighters League?
Dutch League Match Report: Go Ahead Eagles Vs Feyenoord
Manchester United, Chelsea, and Brentford win in the sixth week of the Premier League
MLS Match Report - Columbus Crew Vs Chicago Fire
Dutch League Match Report- FC Emmen vs AZ Alkmaar
Kenny Omega: The return of one of the greatest wrestlers on AEW
Arsenal, Fulham, Leicester, and Southampton fail to impress in the sixth week of the Premier League
MLS Match Report – LA Galaxy vs Sporting Kansas City
MLS Match Report - New England Revolution vs New York City
Enes Unal: Is the lethal striker the best talent from Turkey?
MLS Match Report – New York City FC vs FC Cincinnati
Mukhtar vs Driussi - Who is the ultimate MLS star?
Luciano Acosta: The perfect No. 10 for FC Cincinnati
MLS Match Report- Atlanta United vs Toronto FC
Dutch League Match Report- AFC Ajax vs sc Heerenveen
Dutch League Match Report- PSV Eindhoven vs RKC Waalwijk
MLS Match Report- FC Dallas vs Los Angeles FC
Dutch League Match Report- AZ Alkmaar vs FC Twente
MLS Match Report- Chicago Fire FC vs Inter Miami CF
MLS Match Report: Feyenoord vs Sparta Rotterdam
MLS Match Report – Real Salt Lake vs DC United
Carlos Alcaraz becomes the youngest US Open Champion after defeating Casper Ruud in the finale
Ismael Kone: Canada’s next rising young star
MLS Match Report- Minnesota United FC vs Los Angeles FC
Sammy Guevara: AEW Mainstay
Denis Bouanga: Will LAFC’s latest acquisition solidify the MLS Cup title for the team?
Aaron Hickey: The Golden Boy Nominee Ready To Light Up The Premier League
MLS Match Report- Houston Dynamo vs New England Revolution
Late Birdies Deliver Japan’s Kazuki Higa Shinhan Donghae Open Title
Why Chelsea snapped up Graham Potter
MLS Match Report- Colorado Rapids vs San Jose Earthquakes
Brennan Johnson: The next superstar striker with the potential to play for big clubs
EPL Review: Haaland at it again, A sigh of relief for Gerrard, and Chaos at the City Ground
Hany Mukhtar - The German making his name Stateside
Dutch League Match Report- Vitesse vs FC Volendam
MLS Match Report- Los Angeles FC vs Houston Dynamo
Orange Cassidy: The King of Sloth Style
Dutch League Match Report- PSV Eindhoven vs Feyenoord
MLS match report- New York City FC Vs New York Red Bulls