Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag
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Erik ten Hag

Current Club/Country: Ajax.

Previous Clubs/Countries: FC Utrecht, Go Ahead Eagles.

Honours: Dutch Eredivisie 2018/19, Dutch FA Cup 2018/19, Dutch Super Cup 2019/20.

Ten Hag favours the high press, high intensity game that many of the modern managers go for, more in the style of Jurgen Klopp, with its quick sweeping attacks, than the ball retention model of Pep Guardiola. Like both he emphasises the team over the individual, expecting his players to harness their talents towards the team first, rather than themselves.

He has also shown an ability to keep the team performing despite losing key players such as Frenkie de Jong in the summer. His profile was massively boosted by a good run in the Champions League last season, which showcased his ability to get the team performing beyond the level of their actual ability.

With Ajax, ten Hag is sticking with their tried and trusted 4-3-3 'Total Football', with little variation from the way Johan Cruyff set out when he returned to the club. Unlike others who have been in charge between then and now, ten Hag has returned to a system very close to the way Cruyff wanted the club to play. He has, in many fans eyes, brought back the club's soul.

Within the context of the Eredivisie, ten Hag has shown an ability to change games with substitutions and/or tactical tweaks to the team. To a degree he has been able to do the same in the Champions League, but the quality of players he has available to him, compared to the quality of the opposition team, is much lower, and so the effect is often reduced.

While no judgement can be drawn on his ability to recruit players, he has developed the players available to him, not just bringing through young talent, but getting improvements out of older players who had not lived up to their reputation in the past. Players like Dusan Tadic, who had real ability but were never able to harness it effectively for the team were brought in and became effective team players.

That is the key to ten Hag's success, not tactics, it is that ability to make the whole into a well-organised team unit that works together as one which is bringing him success. The issue will be when/if he steps up to a club that leaves him working with players who have a bigger ego, can he handle them?

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