Ajax need more zeal and intensity to become great again
AS AJAX Cape Town prepare for a daunting road trip to tackle Polokwane City on Saturday afternoon (3.30pm kick off), they face the same hoary, predictable challenges.
When Roger de Sa was coach, he regularly lamented the team’s inexplicable acquiescence during key moments in a game. Another of the former coach’s constant gripes was the team’s inability to convert promising positions into goals.
After De Sa departed and Stanley Menzo stepped in, there was gradual improvement, so much so that Ajax won five of their last six games last year. Now, just two games into the second half of the PSL season, the Cape side have lost 5-0 to Wits and 2-0 to neighbours Cape Town City.
Based on the defeats, it’s abundantly evident that the same problems that besieged Ajax during De Sa’s days have now resurfaced. Here we look at the areas of concern that require Menzo’s attention.
Be it De Sa or Menzo as coach, Ajax have regularly been prone to some naive blunders. They dominate possession, everything looks comfortable, they look to be in control, and then they spoil all the good work by recklessly giving the ball away. The opposition gleefully accepts the gift, nips in and scores, and Ajax are on the back foot, from which they never recover. If they are to return to winning form, then this is a discipline Ajax are going to have to improve upon – and quickly, too.
LACK OF RESOLVE
This has been a persistent refrain from Menzo – as it was with De Sa before him – that possession means nothing if the team cannot create and score goals. Whenever Ajax play, invariably they hog the ball for most of the 90 minutes, but they just can’t find any consistency with regards to putting the ball into the net. In Menzo’s own words: “Keeping the ball for a long time won’t make you win games. Out of possession, you have to create chances and score goals.” It’s a sphere of the game where Ajax, at this stage, just seem to lack the decisiveness required. Menzo, after losing to City in the Cape derby, spoke highly of how clinical the opposition were in attack. He highlighted City’s ability to take advantage of “key moments” in the game. It’s perhaps time for Ajax to take leaf out of the noisy neighbour’s book. The one thing Menzo said, that was missing from the Ajax players this year, was “fire” – referring to passion, commitment, determination, desire, hunger and courage. To get things going again, the players need to re-discover the vigour, passion and emotion that drive teams to victory. In fairness to Ajax’s poor start to the year, they have added a few new faces to the squad. There will be a period of adaptation as the new players fit into the squad. Two of the newbies are Zambian – Rodrick Kabwe and Aubrey Funga – and, with the duo in a new country, a new league and new surroundings, a little patience, is needed. But, with Ajax in 11th position on the PSL log with 18 points – only six more than the nearest relegation candidate – there’s no room for error. The adaptation will have to be quick, or else.