The 20/21 Eredivisie season begins this Friday and we will preview the expectations of each Eredivisie club. In this article, we look at AZ Alkmaar.

Last season, AZ Alkmaar ran Ajax close at the top and could have ended up as title winners if the season wasn’t ended early. They defeated Ajax home and away and only missed out on top spot due to goal difference.

Arne Slot’s exciting young side had an excellent campaign in the Eredivisie last year but now goes into the new campaign with the weight of expectations on their shoulders. Will they once again be able to challenge at the top and this time take the title?

Transfers

It has been a relatively quiet summer for AZ Alkmaar with back-up goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst, centre-back Timo Letschert, and young striker Jesper Karlsson their only signings.

However, AZ have managed to keep hold of all their key players including Oussama Idrissi, who looked almost certain to leave at the end of the campaign. Stijn Wuytens is the only key player that has decided to depart, while Thomas Ouwejen has been loaned to Udinese. A load of Jong AZ players have also been allowed to leave.

The coach

Arne Slot had a great first campaign in charge of AZ Alkmaar, and the club are now considered to be title challengers again after years of being the fourth club in the Netherlands.

Slot has an attacking and fluid style of play and he has got his AZ side motivated to win games, and outplayed Erik ten Hag’s Ajax twice last season.

The 41-year-old is considered one of the best up and coming coaches in the Netherlands and he will grow his reputation even further if they run for the title again.

Key Players

Captain Teun Koopmeiners is the club’s midfield general, who is also capable of filling in at centre-back when needed. He dictates the AZ play perfectly and is a penalty expert. A leader on the pitch, Koopmeiners will soon be the next AZ star that is capped by the Netherlands.

Marco Bizot had an excellent season in goal for AZ last season and is one of their underrated starts along with Fredrik Midtso in midfield.

In the attack, the front three of Idrissi, Myron Boadu, and Calvin Stengs will once again be one of the most exciting frontlines in the Eredivisie. Stengs and Boadu are two of the most exciting young Dutch talents around and will be aiming to use this season to earn moves to big clubs with the likes of Barcelona said to be following the duo.

Young Players to watch

Left-back Owen Wijndal (20) was a revelation in the Eredivisie last season and was recently called into the Netherlands squad, but didn’t earn his debut. Norwegian midfielder Hakon Evjen (20) will look to impress, having failed to make a big impact after his move to the club in January.

22-year-old striker Jesper Karlsson will be back-up to Boadu and could make a big impact in the Eredivisie.

The new kids looking to make an impact this season are midfielder Kenzo Goudmijn (18) and attacker Mohamed Taabouni (18)

Pre-season

AZ had a poor pre-season, losing 1-0 to Genk, Utrecht and PEC Zwolle before they finally recorded a 2-1 win over Lille. That was followed by a 2-0 loss to Monaco, a 1-1 draw with Telstar, a 1-0 loss to ADO Den Haag and a 1-1 draw with Gent.

Their season got off to an early start with their Champions League second round qualifier against Viktoria Plzen. They drew 1-1 thanks to a last minute equaliser before earning a 3-1 win in extra-time.

Strongest line-up

Bizot, Svensson, Wijndal, Letschert, Vlaar, Koopmeiners, Midtso, De Wit, Idrissi, Stengs, Boadu

Predicted finish

AZ Alkmaar were a breath of fresh air in the Eredivisie last season with their young talents shining and the club pushing Ajax all the way.

This season, AZ will once again be looking to challenge at the top but Feyenoord and PSV look stronger than they did last season, making it a four-horse race at the top.

AZ has the thinnest squad of them all and may struggle if something happens to one of their key players. However, if the front three stay fit and Koopmeiners continues to impress in midfield then there is no reason why AZ cannot be the ones with their hands on the league trophy. Any position from 4th to 1st is possible for Slot’s men.




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