What’s in store for the Eredivisie?

While this season has not broken the trend of the two-horse title race that is the Eredivisie, there is plenty to look forward to in the second half of the year. How Ajax will fair with newly appointed manager Erik ten Hag is unknown, and whether PSV will be able to keep their four-point lead atop the standings will be tested. Defending champions Feyenoord have to recover from a sloppy start, and upstarts PEC Zwolle will have their credentials tested as it remains to be seen if they can eke out a top-four finish. In the relegation zone, Roda JC Kerkrade and Sparta Rotterdam sit tied on 11 points apiece, and they will have to make significant changes to ensure survival.

Ajax seem to have quelled the backroom civil war that erupted this summer, as de Godenzonen made the bold choice of hiring ex-Utrecht boss Erik ten Hag. With ten Hag’s arrival comes a number of departures from the Ajacied old guard, including a number of famous names – Dennis Bergkamp, Hennie Spijkerman, and Marcel Keizer (the former head coach). Ajax are a club notable for their traditions – after all, they did invent total football (with the help of a certain Johan Cruyff) – as the 4-3-3 style is deeply ingrained in Ajacied culture. Indeed, Ajax preach a specific philosophy throughout their entire academy, which has produced many world-class talents. Whether or not Ajax and the board of directors lets ten Hag control the same aspects of the club as he did at Utrecht – ten Hag is a notorious control freak – remains to be seen. With the news that Kasper Dolberg sustained a foot injury and will be out for up to two months, Ajax desperately need their squad, including newly-signed left-back Nico Tagliafico, to step up if they want to catch first-placed PSV. Perhaps a surprise loan move for recent departee Davy Klaassen, who has been frozen out of the squad at Everton, would benefit both parties.

Over in Eindhoven, PSV continue spending big money to secure top talent. The Eindhoven outlet signed wonderkid winger Hirving Lozano in the summer, and joining him atop the PSV attack will be Argentine wonderkid striker Maximiliano Romero. The striker, who joins on an eleven million dollar transfer from Velez, was rumored to be a target for both Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund. With those two young stars in attack, PSV will look to maintain their strong four point league lead. With no European competition to hinder them, expect PSV to win their second Eredivisie in the past three years.

Feyenoord scored an astonishing 7 goals against relegation candidates Sparta in their last game before the winter break (a result that can only be beaten by Ajax’s 8-0 demolition of NAC Breda), but the defending champions still languish in fifth place, 14 points off leaders PSV. While serious transfer activity is unlikely, look for Tonny Trindade de Vilhena and Nicolai Jorgensen to be the main contributors for the Rotterdam side in the second half of the year.

22-year old Fred Friday and 21-year old winger Dabney dos Santos arrive on loan from AZ Alkmaar to Sparta Rotterdam, a team desperately in need of their firepower; they have scored only 13 goals all season. If Dick Advocaat does not get this team scoring (and defending – they have conceded 37 goals in only 17 games!), the Jupiler League awaits. A similar fate awaits Roda, as the Kerkrade outfit have a 70% chance of dropping down to the Jupiler League per FiveThirtyEight.

Vitesse are having their standard mid-table season with the help of Chelsea loanees, and they are unlikely to do anything spectacular. The same goes for free-scoring Groningen, who despite their scoring abilities are unable to defend (their defense is almost as poor as that of Sparta Rotterdam). Utrecht, now without the head coach who revitalized their club, will almost certainly falter some in the second half of the season. After a string of early losses in the beginning of the year, a tactical switch from an attacking 4-3-3 to a more defensive 4-3-3 has led to more success for ADO den Haag, and they sit comfortably in the middle of the table. SC Heerenveen need to rediscover their home form, as they currently have lost half of the games played at the Abe Lenstra Stadion. For the other teams not mentioned, expect mediocrity. With little to fight for except for Eredivisie survival, teams like Twente, Willem II, Excelsior, Heracles Almelo, and VVV-Venlo will likely use a usual mixture of youth and experience to survive the rest of the Dutch season.

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