Now is the time for a strategic integration of players like Davy Klaassen into more integral roles in the National Team setup. However, with the variation of roles and positions he has played in at Ajax, it is imperative he holds down an attacking midfielder role for club and country.

  • By Chaka Simbeye
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klaassen aja123The Dutch National Team is currently undergoing a change in generation which has greatly affected it’s frontline. Strikers like Van Persie and Huntelaar are reaching the twilights of their careers while midfielders like Wesley Sneijder, Rafael Van Der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay are unable to replicate the form of the past. Unlike the forward-line, the Dutch midfield is blessed with a fine array of developing young talent at it’s disposal but it is debatable whether most of them are ready to take up the mantle of their predecessors. However, Davy Klaassen may have the strongest claim to that spot.

Klaassen hails from Ajax’s industrious De Toekomst academy like Sneijder and Van Der Vaart and can easily be compared to be both. However, one may have easily baulked at these claims when Klaassen first broke into the first team as many thought he was a less creative and more goalscoring midfielder, much like his former teammate Siem De Jong. In this past season, Klaassen has added another dimension to his game by vastly improving his passing ability and movement around the box seeing his assist stats elevate. Klaassen has also managed to maintain his goal-scoring prowess which mixed with his energy and spatial awareness, is proving to develop him into an all-action midfielder.

Klaassen spent his pre-season adding to his game with the help of Ajax assistant manager and Dutch great Dennis Bergkamp who is fast becoming a figurehead at De Lutte, Ajax’s training ground.

“Bergkamp played in the same sort of position,” Klaassen said per an interview with “I’ve trained alot with him on my first touch and finishing. He’s a player I liked when I was young. I think I’ve learned the most from him.”

It is said that with more power, comes more responsibilty and that has proved to be the case with Klaassen as his improvement has seen him play different positions in the Ajax midfield. Ajax manager Frank De Boer used him as a box to box midfielder to bring more cohesion into their midfield while also using him as a sitting midfielder to bring more stability to the Ajax midfield.

Early in the summer, the team from the capital secured the services of AZ Alkmaar’s Nemanja Gudelj who can play in both aforemention roles. Ajax coach Frank De Boer outlined the importance of the strength that Gudelj brings off the ball, upon signing the player.

“We looked at what type of player we were lacking in our selection,” said De Boer per the Ajax website. “In the end we concluded that we were missing a certain type of energy in our team,” continued De Boer. “In some matches, you need players who can make the difference not only technically, but also physically in terms of what they exude.”
The Ajax captain is needed further up the pitch as he can prove more effective in an attacking midfield role for club and country. One of Guus Hiddink’s biggest pitfalls was his persistance with Ibrahim Afellay in the Dutch National Team when younger and more suitable options were available. Klaassen started in Holland’s friendly win against Spain earlier in the year. Klaassen brought intensity as he charged to close down Spanish defenders but remained clever with his movement evading the Spanish midfield and defence to always remain available for passes. The Dutchman even nabbed his first international goal as Memphis Depay danced past his marker on the left flank and laid a pass to Jetro Willems who helped the ball onto Klaassen who had his first shot saved but duly despatched the rebound.

Klaassen has a fine blend of creativity as well as a dangerous sense of goal but his exploration of different midfield roles at Ajax have given him an understanding of the defensive side of the game. At this moment in time, there is a need for a reinvigoration of the Dutch attack and although most of the hope lies with Memphis Depay, Klaassen is a player that can also help refresh the Dutch front line. It is a hope that new national team manager Danny Blind gives him a chance before it is too late in the European Qualification process.

Klaassen scored 9 goals last season, creating 41 chances and 10 assists. According to WhoScored, Klaassen exhibited his fine range of passing with an 83% pass succession rate from 49 passes with 2 successful long balls and 1 key pass per game. It is also intriguing to know that although Klaassen was shifting into different positions throughout games, he managed to complete 1191 passes to which 72% were forward passes. However, Klaassen is not just a luxury player as he accumulates 3 tackles, 1 interception and 2 clearances per game.

It is a big season ahead for both Ajax and Holland as Ajax hope to regain the Eredivisie title from rivals PSV while Holland hope to salvage hope of qualifying for Euro 2016 without having to play a playoff. The hope is that Klaassen can awake both sleeping giants, influencing them from a role further forward as he begins to prove himself as the next great Dutch midfielder.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)