AZ pipped Feyenoord to third place last season but have lost several key players this summer. A very young, paper-thin squad lead by manager John van den Brom will face a tough task this campaign to repeat the top 3 position whilst potentially having a venture into the Europa League on the side to contend with.

  • By Michael Statham
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AZ
Last season saw AZ leapfrog Feyenoord on the final day of the season into third place, with a team that looked as though it was coming together very nicely, scoring 12 goals in their last 4 Eredivisie games.

This season looks set to be a more challenging one for AZ with key players such as goalkeeper Esteban, defenders Simon Poulsen and Wesley Hoedt, and most notably captain Nemanja Gudelj and winger Steven Berghuis departing. Assistant-manager Marco van Basten has also left to assist Danny Blind with the Netherlands national team.

Summer Transfers

In– Vincent Janssen (Almere City), Jop van der Linden (Go Ahead Eagles), Gino Coutinho (Excelsior), Levi Garcia (Central FC)

Out– Wesley Hoedt (Lazio), Nemanja Gudelj (Ajax), Simon Poulsen (PSV), Esteban (released), Yves de Winter (Sint Truiden), Jonas Heymans (Antwerp), Eli Babalj (Adelaide United, loan)

Gino Coutinho impressed enough at Excelsior last season to earn a move to AZ, he will compete with Sergio Rochet for the number 1 jersey. Vincent Janssen is a young striker looking to prove himself in the Eredivisie following his fine form for Almere in the Jupiler League. Jop van der Linden has jumped ship from relegated Go Ahead Eagles to add options to central defence, whilst Levi Garcia, 17, is an exciting addition for the future.

The number of important players that have left the club will surely be a worry for supporters. However van den Brom is confident that he can replace the outgoings from the club’s academy; last season already saw the rise of Dabney dos Santos, Thom Haye and Derrick Luckassen.

Still, van den Brom has said that his side require another defender, especially now that Swedish right-back Mattias Johansson is making noises about a move away. Danish-American Ryan Johnson Laursen is a name being mentioned to succeed Johansson. On top of this, a replacement for Berghuis must also be found, Alireza Jahanbakhsh of NEC is AZ’s first choice.

Pre-season

AZ have won all of their pre-season friendlies with relative ease. Wins have come against amateurs regional XI (2-7) and AFC ’34 (1-8), Jupiler League sides Fortuna Sittard (0-5) and Telstar (3-0), as well as SPL club Dundee United (3-1) and Al Wasl (1-0) from the UAE.

The highlight of pre-season has to be Vincent Janssen, who has netted 10 goals. Although arguably they have not been tested well enough, but their Europa League tie against İstanbul Başakşehir will be a much sterner task.

Key Players

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Jeffrey Gouweleeuw

The 24-year-old is into his third season with the club after moving from Heerenveen in 2013. He has now been trusted with the captain’s armband so will carry great responsibility leading a very youthful side. “I’ve been here for two years now, I have always been playing and have been important,” said Gouweleeuw, “At one point you see it coming a bit, but it’s always a waiting game until you receive acknowledgment from the manager. It’s obviously a form of appreciation.”

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Markus Henriksen

Norwegian international Henriksen is looking to play a key role in the midfield this campaign after falling out of favour for half of last season. The 23-year-old earned his place back in the starting XI after finding a more effective role for himself in the team, playing more box-to-box instead of a more deep-lying midfielder. The change in mindset on the pitch led to Henriksen tallying 7 goals in last season’s Eredivisie. He will look to add to that this time around and to live up to the potential he was touted to have as a teenager playing for Rosenborg.

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Aaron Jóhannsson

Fans of Jóhannsson will be expecting big things of the American striker this term after struggling with injuries last time out. In his first season in Alkmaar he impressed by scoring 26 goals in all competitions. His poacher’s instinct will be vital in getting enough goals to keep AZ towards the top of the league.

One to Watch 

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Dabney dos Santos

At the tender age of 18, dos Santos is already a regular in the first team. The Netherlands U-19 international is an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal. Dos Santos is very mobile and is creative going forward, a trait which may be relied on more this season now that Berghuis has left.

Predicted Line-Up

Rochet

Johansson – Gouweleeuw – van der Linden – Haps

dos Santos – Henriksen – Ortiz

Hupperts (or a new signing) – Jóhannsson – Haye

AZ have some competition up front, Vincent Janssen and Robert Mühren are breathing down Jóhannsson’s neck for the striker’s berth. Muamer Tankovic is another option for the front three and a new winger is expected to replace Steven Berghuis.

Joris van Overeem is expected to feature heavily in AZ’s midfield this season after being handed the number 8 shirt, apart from him the midfield is a little threadbare, expect youth products to play a part too.

The Alkmaar outfit’s main concern will be the defence which appears unsettled. Mattias Johansson’s potential departure could make way for Derrick Luckassen. Jan Wuytens is also still on the books and could offer some much needed experience to a youthful side. John van den Brom has mentioned he would like an extra defender before the transfer window closes. In goal, Coutinho will compete with Sergio Rochet for the number 1 jersey.

Prediction

Breaking into the top 3 again looks out of reach for AZ after losing so many important players. Top 7 should be a certainty but could become tricky if they suffer some injuries and reach deep into European competition.

Prediction: 4th




Michael Statham (454 Posts)

Writer/interviewer/YouTuber for Football-Oranje. Massive Dutch football fan from the UK. Follow me @EredivisieMike & subscribe to Football-Oranje on YouTube.