PSV sends Ajax warning shot for 21/22 Eredivisie

PSV Eindhoven season preview

Editor’s note: World Soccer Talk writer Mike Tyrrell looks ahead and shares his PSV Eindhoven season preview.

PSV Eindhoven, led by Noni Madueke, routed Ajax 4-0 last Saturday in the annual season curtain-raiser, the Johan Cruyff Shield (Dutch-equivalent to the English Community Shield).  A first-half brace from Madueke followed by second-half strikes from substitute Yorbe Vertessen and Mario Götze condemned Ajax to their worst defeat against a domestic opponent since January 2019. PSV also were aided by Ajax left-back Nicolás Tagliafico’s reckless red card five minutes before the half, which enabled the two late-second-half goals to pile on further misery.

For Madueke, 2021/22 will be a massive season. Following a year in which he scored seven Eredivisie goals and contributed four assists, several clubs abroad are already monitoring the youngster, and his stock will unquestionably have skyrocketed after last week’s victory.

 

PSV Eindhoven season preview

The significance of the outcome for PSV cannot be overstated. Domestically, it was the club’s first win over Ajax in three years and the largest since September 2013.  Despite their second place finish in the league this past season, PSV Eindhoven struggled against top competition. The club did not win any any of their matches against Ajax, Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar. They came close twice against Ajax, drawing in both their league meetings. This includes conceding an equalizer in the 92nd minute at home against Ajax after leading 2-0.

However, the 4-0 win in the Johan Cruyff Shield may end up becoming a psychological turning point for PSV in the Eredivisie.

Additionally, the club’s success in UEFA Champions League qualification will only boost their spirits. Four wins in four games against decent opposition can go a long way in terms of development. To emphasize, a dominating 7-2 aggregate rout of Galatasaray preceded two shutout wins over Danish side Midjtylland, 4-0 on aggregate. The victories put manager Roger Schmidt’s side one tie away from the Champions League group stage. Their final hurdle is a two-game tie against Portuguese side Benfica.

Yet, European dominance might be too tall of an order for this season. The Eredivisie is undoubtedly their primary focus.

 

A talented, dangerous side

PSV’s squad is surely capable of achieving this.  Despite the loss of Donyell Malen, who bagged a team-high 19 last season, there are attacking options in the wake. Zahavi and speedy winger Cody Gakpo, scorers of 11 and seven goals in 2020/21 respectively, join Madueke as the strike force. Left-back Philipp Max contributed eight assists, mostly from getting up the pitch and crossing into the box. Midfielder Götze, who joined PSV from Dortmund on a free transfer last summer, has also settled into Dutch football.  He has already scored four times this season, showcasing his raw talent and ability that once prompted Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich to spend over $40 million on him back in 2013.

Then there is star right-back and club captain Denzel Dumfries. The 25-year-old Dutch international starred at Euro 2020, where his impressive performances have attracted attention from the likes of Everton and Inter Milan.  If PSV were to lose their leader it would be a huge setback, but they have prepared for the eventuality. Dumfries’ expected replacement is Austrian Phillipp Mwene, who has started in the right-back position for all four of PSV’s competitive matches, after joining the Dutch club on a free transfer from Mainz in June.  His performance this season will go a long way in determining how far PSV can go toward dethroning Ajax.

It is only one match, but Roger Schmidt and PSV set a warning for 2021/22. A 4-0 rout of the presumptive favorites does not go unnoticed.

 

Ajax’s plan going forward

Despite Ajax suffering their worst defeat in two and a half years, there is no reason for the club to panic. Manager Erik ten Hag can point to the fact that after conceding the early goal to Madueke, his side responded superbly. Steven Berghuis hit the crossbar off a header in the eighth minute before Sébastian Haller had a goal disallowed due to offside via a VAR check. Ajax’s high pressing and movement were excellent, before getting hit on the break for PSV’s second.  Even then, they were still in the match, before Tagliafico’s careless sending off.  Unsurprisingly, it can be hard to enforce their team press and expanded movement playing down a man.

Still, Ajax bring back the core of their title winning team that finished 16 points clear of PSV Eindhoven. Captain and talisman Dušan Tadić led the squad in both league goals (14) and assists (17) in 2020/21. Davy Klassen and Haller bring more attacking threat, posting 12 and 11 goals respectively.  Haller’s production is especially expected to skyrocket, considering he only signed for the club in January. Ten Hag can also count on 19-year-old midfield sensation Ryan Gravenberch, who made an appearance in all but two league matches last year.

READ MORE: ESPN+ renews Eredivisie rights to continue coverage of Dutch football

And then there is Berghuis, the 29-year-old right-winger who signed with Ajax for $6 million after four seasons with Feyenoord. The acquisition of Berghuis is a massive coup for the champions. First off, Berghuis brings exceptional talent to an already-deep squad. The winger slotted 18 goals to go along with 12 assists the previous season. Secondly, Ajax simultaneously, added a great talent and took one away from one of their rivals. Like Luis Figo transfering from Barcelona to Real Madrid, this transfer is one of the most controversial in Dutch history. While Berghuis is no Figo, he is still one of the most talented footballers in the Eredivisie, and his presence on this Ajax team will only make them more formidable.

Keeping perspective on the match

Yes, PSV Eindhoven lifted a trophy for the first time in four seasons. However, many supporters and pundits point out that this contest was largely a preseason game.

Nevertheless, PSV’s shock rout over defending champions Ajax (in Ajax’s home ground) will serve as a wakeup call for the Amsterdam royalty. It may provide the Eredivisie with the competitive title race it desperately needs.

Learn how to watch the upcoming Eredivisie title race.

 

Have any questions about our PSV Eindhoven season preview? Let us know in the comments section below.

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