Ajax Dominate Despite Depletion
Ajax lost Hakim Ziyech to Chelsea, Donny Van de Beek to Manchester United, and Sergino Dest to Barcelona. Marc Overmars & Edwin Van der Sar did not fret. They brought in the technically sound Mohamed Kudus, trickster Antony, Jurrien Timber, Maarten Stekelenburg, and re-signed Davy Klaassen from Werder Bremen. Best of all, they held onto Erik Ten Hag.
ETH started with a weird experiment, moving Dusan Tadic to the left, allowing others to play the central role. This could have been due to Quincy Promes’ loss of form or David Neres’ inconsistencies. Over on the right, Antony started his career for Ajax in fine form. Despite many similarities with Ziyech, they also had many differences. Antony for one is faster and more direct in his approach. Ziyech is more subdued but more potent. Kudus was showing great form too, dominating the midfield then he suffered a meniscal injury. Ten Hag also had to deal with a mid-season ban for Andre Onana and Quincy Promes being charged for a stabbing. The very important Daley Blind suffered a horrific knee injury that put an end to his campaign prematurely.
All this, but Ten Hag had Ajax playing great and scoring 3 goals per game (91 so far) in the Eredivisie. They also did not give away much with only 21 goals conceded on their way to their way to the Eredivisie title.
Noussair Mazraoui was showing some good form at right-back but injuries did not let him be. Edson Alvarez went from most-hated to most-loved with a brilliant campaign. Summer signing Klaassen contributed some vital goals even though his overall play can be limited. Zakaria Labyad contributed 5 goals. Ponderous winter signing Sebastian Haller is still out and about and Oussama Idrissi has not shown the sort of form he showed for Az Alkmaar. All this and Ten Hag emerged victorious as he led his side to the title for the 35th time in their history. As always, their youngsters played a huge part in their crowning as Dutch champions. Devyne Rensch has shown versatility and immense talent in his 9 starts. Ryan Gravenberch has been fantastic and Jurrien Timber and has been great. The departing Brian Brobbey also played his part with 3 goals and an assist in his 11 appearances.
It was a turbulent season but the winners win, and that is what Ajax did.
Antonio Conte & Romelu Lukaku Spearhead Inter Milan to Their First Scudetto title in 11 Years
Speaking of winners, Antonio Conte has taken down the dynasty that he helped build. After 9 straight Scudetto titles for Juventus, Inter Milan have now regained the title after it became mathematically impossible for anyone to catch up with them. Antonio Conte has done what he set out to do. He went to war with his lethal frontman Romelu Lukaku and they emerged victorious. Their major signing was right-back Achraf Hakimi who gave them a speedier dynamic. They also got Arturo Vidal from Barcelona and completed the fees for loanees Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi. The back three and the goalkeeper were a constant, the front two a constant with Alexis Sanchez alternating. It is the staple of a Conte winning side. A standard first team that barely changes and a handful of sideline soldiers he can call upon.
While AC Milan stole the early match, Inter Milan sprinted in small steps until they made a final burst. 8 wins and two draws in their last ten games as they raced to the title. Romelu Lukaku scored 21 goals and assisted 9 more on this journey. He was simply the best player in the league. Difficult to stop when he gets going, his power gives him incredible holdup and linkup play. His strike partner Lautaro Martinez (15 goals and 5 assists) improved from last season in terms of all-round play but Lukaku was just phenomenal.
Alexis Sanchez made some vital contributions when called upon. Christian Eriksen is finding some form in 2021 and Barella showed why he is one of the best midfield prospects around. Marcelo Brozovic is world-class and he showed it throughout the season. If you want to win the title, you need a stringent defense. Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij, and Milan Skriniar formed that balance.
There are only a handful of coaches that are better than Antonio Conte. His mastery of the 3-5-2 & 3-4-3 is unparalleled in the modern game. His ability to get his team ready for war over a 38-game season is inspiring. 4 Scudettos, 1 English Premier League title, 1 FA Cup, and 2 Supercoppa Italianas. A tailor, one who tailors his squad to suit his system. This title win will be more precious to him. He helped stabilize Juventus after mediocre finishes in the Serie A. Conte started their wave of dominance even going unbeaten throughout the season and finishing with 102 points in his final season.
“Well, you cannot go to eat at a €100 restaurant with just €10 in your pocket, can you?” the Italian manager replied when asked about the next season. He left his role with Juventus after 3 years of building a dynasty. In the 19/20 season, he returned to demolish it. He couldn’t on his first try but he has done it now. Conte was given his 100 Euros and Inter Milan are dining fine.