Ajax have recorded yet another Dutch title success this season, keeping hold of their Eredivisie crown in impressive fashion. And there are some impressive facts and figures behind Frank de Boer and co. Inside Futbol present ten of the best on the Dutch champions:
1: Ajax ended their 2011/12 campaign with 14 straight wins. This impressive run fired the Amsterdam outfit from sixth place to win their 21st national title, overtaking Feyenoord, Heerenveen, FC Twente, PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar along the way. After a 2-0 win in Breda against NAC on 11th February, Ajax beat NEC Nijmegen (4-1), Excelsior (4-1), Roda JC (4-1), RKC Waalwijk (3-0), ADO Den Haag (2-0), PSV Eindhoven (2-0), Heracles (6-0), Heerenveen (5-0), De Graafschap (3-1), Groningen (2-0), Twente (2-1), VVV-Venlo (2-0) and Vitesse (3-1). In the club’s entire history, only two coaches have done better than Frank de Boer: Louis van Gaal in 1995 with 19 consecutive victories and Stefan Kovacs (twice), in the 1971/72 season (19) and the 1972/73 season (17). De Boer can now take his streak into the next campaign.
2: Despite being a tender 20 years of age, Christian Eriksen is Ajax’s most essential player. For the second year in a row the Denmark international has been the club’s assist king, creating 15 goals. Next best are Theo Janssen and Siem de Jong, with seven each. In 2011, Eriksen had nine assists to his name. The midfield maestro could well have played his last game for Ajax though, with the Dutch champions having signed another number 10, NEC Nijmegen’s Lasse Schone.
3: Ajax’s defence has been transformed from their Achilles heel to their strongest point within the season. At the start of the campaign, De Boer’s men only recorded their first clean sheet on 29th October after a 4-0 win over Roda JC. At the time, Ajax had conceded 20 goals in 12 games. Things changed completely in the second half of the campaign however, as in the club’s last ten matches, only three goals were let in, with central defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderwiereld, right back Gregory van der Wiel and defensive midfielder/left back Vurnon Anita, amongst the Eredivisie’s best performers.
4: Pay Less, Pay All, was a slogan thrown around by US President Barack Obama about paying tax. Ajax could easily change this to Score Less, Score All. As in 2011, the club’s top scorer could not manage more than 13 goals. One year ago it was Moroccan striker Mounir El Hamadoui, while this season the chief goal-getter was Siem de Jong, a man pushed up by De Boer after striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson picked up an injury. Apart from the goalkeepers, in the 2011/12 campaign, almost everybody at Ajax scored at some point, with 18 players finding the back of the net.
5: Ajax striker Dmitriy Bulykin is the most efficient goalscorer in the Eredivisie, thanks to nine goals scored in only 633 minutes, making an average of one strike per 70 minutes of play. Four other Ajax players are also notable: Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (second with seven goals in 638 minutes – average 91 minutes), Lorenzo Ebecilio (14th with six in 936 – average 156 minutes), Miralem Sulejmani (15th with eleven in 1725 – average 157 minutes) and Derk Boerrigter (20th with seven in 1254 – average 179 minutes).
6: Jan Vertonghen was once again a key man in Ajax’s success. The Belgian defender, who is ready to fly the Amsterdam nest for a bigger league, is undoubtedly much better at playing football than lifting trophies though. For the second time in a row, Vertonghen came close to damaging the Eredivisie trophy, the Schaal. Last season the Belgian, along with former team-mate Maarten Stekelenburg, let it slip when on the club’s bus during Ajax’s celebration tour. And the same happened again this year, during an interview with TV channel AT5, with it slipping from his grasp. “Me and the Schaal are not made for each other,” joked Vertonghen after the trophy hit his toe.
7: Utrecht were Ajax’s bogey side throughout the season. The Dome-city club inflicted two painful defeats on De Boer’s men. First Utrecht won 6-4 at the Stadion Galgenwaar (it was the first time since 1964 that Ajax had not won a game despite scoring four goals) and the Amsterdam outfit slipped to fifth, eleven points off table toppers AZ Alkmaar. Utrecht also won 2-0 at the Amsterdam ArenA, leaving Ajax languishing in sixth, with just 14 games left.
8: In Mounir El Hamdaoui, Ajax had the Eredivisie’s highest paid player in 2011. However, the striker has not played a game since 24th April of that year, due to his troubled relationship with coach De Boer. “He will never play for Ajax again while I am head coach”, De Boer was reported to have said in the Ajax dressing room after a bust-up with the player more than a year ago. The former Barcelona defender has not changed his mind, leaving the Moroccan, who was top scorer in the 2009 Eredivisie at AZ Alkmaar, playing with the youth team for the entire season.
9: Former international Jaap Stam celebrated two titles in less than a month. The first came as Zwolle’s assistant coach, as that side won the Eerste Divisie, winning direct promotion to the Eredivisie, while Stam then joined the feast at Ajax, where he works as a coach with the club’s youth team.
10: One of the most bizarre blood relationships between two players is that concerning Ajax left winger Lorenzo Ebecilio and Excelsior attacking midfielder Roland Alberg. The two are, respectively, nephew and uncle, as Ebecilio’s mother is Alberg’s sister. Last March, Ebecilio, who is 20 years old, and Alberg (21), played together for Holland’s Under-21 side against Denmark. The two players consider themselves brothers, especially after in 2005, Alberg, with the help of a dentist, resuscitated Ebecilio after a heart-attack. Lorenzo Ebecilio also has a brother and two cousins who play football: Kyle Ebecilio (Arsenal), Jeffrey Bruma (Hamburg, on loan from Chelsea) and Marciano Bruma (Rijnsburgse Boys).