Welcome back to the Ajax way, in today’s blog I will look to provide you an update on our third season in Amsterdam.

After three seasons of Feyenoord dominance, can we make it third time lucky and fill the Eredivisie void in the Ajax trophy cabinet, the last time the club has gone over three seasons without a Dutch title was in 2017/18 (PSV 2014/15, 2015,16, and 2017,18, Feyenoord 2016/17).

With respect to our rivals, we were presented with a glimmer of hope before a ball had even been kicked. Manager Arne Slot left his managerial role to move to Spain with Club Atlético de Madrid, replacing Diego Simeone who has taken over from Pep Guardiola after he was sacked after ‘the Citizens’ third place finish. Feyenoord opted to secure the services of Brian Priske, the Dutchman guided Sparta Praha to their third consecutive FORTUNA:LIGA title under his management.

Then to dampen any positive thoughts, fellow Eredivisie challengers PSV flexed their muscles by securing the services of Neymar, the 33-year-old joined them from Al-Hilal, after a bumper season in which the Brazilian contributed with 20 goals, and 16 assists.

I will also be looking to provide you with an overview on how our tweaked tactic is performing, with a focus on the role of the ‘Half Back’. Before analysing our strikers, Ivan Toney and Brian Brobbey, who are both fighting it out for the ‘Number 9’ jersey.

Finally, I will close the blog providing you with a few key takeaways from the opening few five months of the 2025/26 season. But first, let me walk you through the absolute stinker of a deadline day, which sent tremors through AFC Ajax.


On transfer deadline day AFC Ajax felt the full wrath of English Super Clubs’, as Manchester United, and Manchester City submitted offers for both Josip Šutalo and Sivert Mannsverk, which would see two key players from our spine leave for the Premier League.

We already had a gentleman’s agreement with Josip that if a deal of over £57m was received from any club, we would allow the 25 year old to move on to test himself at the highest level. However, there was no agreement in place for Sivert, and when Manchester city came knocking at the eleventh hour, he made his position clear, he wanted to leave Amsterdam for Manchester, to play under Diego Simeone.

Both players had only been at the club for two full seasons, and the club have been able to make over £100m on the pair, given the fact they were initially signed for £24m. To me this feels like the Ajax way, as the club often will see talent move on, often after three years in Amsterdam to pastures new, with the finest talent opting to test themselves in Europe’s bigger leagues. Given the fact these individuals have been headhunted by the more superior ‘super clubs’, I would say job done.

The only difference being our approach to spending the surplus to the transfer budget, which Ajax historically looked to invest roughly 50% of fees received back into player acquisitions, I opted for only 15%!

This would have been significantly higher if our primary target on our shortlist Ousmane Diomande didn’t have such high wage demands. Ousmane would be a terrific replacement for Josip, he had a minimum fee release clause in his contract of £33.5m, enabling any team in the UEFA Champions League to acquire his services from Sporting CP. However, he demanded between £120k and £160k per week in wages, an amount which would smash the ceiling of our current structure, with no player breaking the £100k per week mark.

Given there was limited time to complete any deals, in fact FM pre-warned me of this, stating that due to the limited time, a loan option would be best due to taking less time to complete. I had to utilise the scouting that had already taken place, Ajax. I opted to sign two players, both from Morocco, adding to the line of Moroccan’s which have donned the red and white of Ajax in the past.

Chadi Riad, a deal for the 22 year old could well be seen as a gamble, not because of the fee, some will immediately question the Moroccan’s ability to fill the void left by Josip. The beauty of renaming each save file after each season enabled me to delve into the players stats during his time at Real Betis, and compare his outputs to the baselines established in my ‘Masterclass in Total Football’ blog.

The Moroccan had a pass completion of 93%, tackles won rate of 81%, and headers won rate of 74%, all above the AFC Ajax and Eredivisie average. In fact Chadi closed the season as the 13th best player in terms of his headers won ratio, and 16th with respect to his pass completion ratio, all in a Betis side which had a shocker of a season finishing in 16th place.

Azzedine Ounahi, a player which caught my eye in the 2022 World Cup had only made four starts for Marseille in 2024/25 in Ligue 1, along with a further 12 appearances from the bench. The Moroccan is technically adept, agile, and has the ability to cover lots of ground for the entire match, which is reflected in his DNA score. Given his situation in France, Azzedine was happy to agree a deal as a fringe player, meaning there would be no pressure on me to play him week in, week out.


I detailed in The Ajax Way – 2024/25 Season Review that I would be making a tactical change, incorporating the Half Back into the Iron tulip, with the view to improve our defensive stability. If you can remember, our opposition were assisting too many goals from central areas, which instigated the move away from a Deep Lying Playmaker in the DM strata.

I am pleased to say that the minor adjustments to both our game model (removing the pressing trap TI), along with the above role change has really improved our defensive statistics. Taking the expected goals against metric, which fundamentally is the most important, we have reduced from the 1.23 expected goals per 90 from season two, to a much lower number 0.82, a percentage change of 33%!

We have also seen a 50% reduction in goals conceded per game (0.59 plays 1.18). Now, whilst some of this has a direct relationship with the improved save rate (Jay Gorter 95%). I am attributing some of the impact down to the Half Back, as having this extra player on a defensive mentality is absolutely helping to keep the xG per shot against numbers down, I will walk you through a few examples below.

In the above image Benjamin Tahirović is the acting Half Back, we have just been dispossessed trying to enter the oppositions final third. Note the position of Tahirović compared to the more advanced location which would have been occupied if I were still using the DLP on support. Tahirović has positioned himself alongside Adamo Nagalo, acting as a CB. This use of off the ball intelligence protects us from the counter, as if he was in the DLP position, the opposition’s striker would have an opportunity to run either channel, with clear access to goal.

In the above image Silvano Vos is the player acting as the Half Back, given we look to build from the back the use of this role enables us to use the +1 principle to create numerical superiority. Vos has dropped back into the defensive line to partner Adamo Nagalo, providing us with more passing options, aiding our ability to progress the ball, and allowing a WCB to move to a higher line and progress the ball past the pressure.

We are the most efficient side in the Eredivise defensively, conceding fewer shots per game, along with conceding fewer goals than would be expected from the number of shots we face.

The above image of assist locations amplifies the added value of the implementation of the Half Back, we have conceded no assists in the Eredivisie to-date from a central location outside our area. Showing the value the Half Back has brought to providing the much needed defensive stability.


We are performing well above average in attacking statistics, and are scoring a high number of non penalty expected goals per 90 compared to the average. In fact, we have improved our goals per game by 10% from 1.92 to 2.11. Interestingly our non-penalty xG per shot has reduced marginally from 13.6 to 13.3, this demonstrates that despite taking shots of lesser value, we are scoring more goals, again an interesting statistic, one which is heavily influenced by the quality of striker we have leading the line.

The last statement is really emphasised in the below visual, we are a complete outlier in the Eredivisie, generating a high non penalty expected goals, and more importantly converting our opportunities into the all important goals. Don’t forget, it is goals that win games!

Given that ‘The Iron Tulip’ operates with a lone striker, management of both individuals has played its toll in the minutes played battle. Ivan Toney (Important Player) has played 57% more minutes than Brian Brobbey (Regular Starter) in order to keep Toney happy.

Comparing the two players’ statistical outputs above, you will note that both players are in the form of their lives. It could be argued that both are attempting to put pressure on me to be my first choice.

Using the Statman24 skin below which compares players outputs to those playing in a similar role across the top 20 leagues, cements this statement with both players in the top percentile for most of the key striker metrics.

What makes these outputs even more impressive is that both strikers appear to have ice in their veins, both hold an excellent conversion rate, now some credit has to do with their supply line, which is reflected in the shot xG. However, both are not volume shooters, if they are provided a shooting opportunity, the likelihood is that the ball is being picked out of the back of the net.

*clicking on the below images will reveal the player chalkboards for the relevant match.

These two performances are a great example of whatever you can-do, I can do better. I am witnessing a true battle of the number 9’s here at Ajax.

Thankfully, much to the delight of myself, and our supporters, Brian Brobbey has agreed to a new five-year contract at the club. Amazingly, he was happy to put pen to paper with a continuation of his regular starter agreed playing time. His £96k per week makes him our highest paid player, £3k above Steven Bergwijn on £93k, who also signed a new four-year contract.


Given I have revealed in this post that Ajax are performing above average in both attacking and defensive metrics, it shouldn’t take a genius to come to the conclusion that we are again performing well in the Eredivisie.

* List of Eredivisie results.


As you will know I have been working hard to develop the playing squad, ensuring the alignment to our DNA stays true. The below visual shows that we have been making progress year-on-year with the average DNA at its all time high in season three.

You will note we are harvesting some serious talent, with 12 of the playing staff now in the ‘Key Player’ pathway segment. There is also a continuation of a breadth and depth of talent in the pipeline with healthy volumes in the ‘First Team Player’ and ‘First Team Integration’ pathways, we are well set and replicating the Ajax way effectively.


For those of you who are interested in our performances on the pitch, I have provided another whistle-stop review of our performances thus far.


It is important to remember that we have seen a drop off with regards to our performance in both seasons post the winter break. However, early signs are promising as we have managed to secure victories against the two other big Dutch clubs.

It may have taken five attempts (3D, 1L) but we have finally broken our hoodoo against PSV, the away victory at the Philips Stadion was secured late on in the game after Tobias Gulliksen should have at least given his side the lead, the Norwegian left the field with an xG of 0.45, and missed an opportunity work 0.24 xG.

The Ajax Arena has become a total fortress, with our only defeat at home coming all the way back in October 2023 (1-2 vs AZ). Incredible when you put it that way, we have that Chelsea and Mourinho vibe going on from way back when, funny how things can change!

The result and more importantly another clean sheet against the reigning Dutch champions indicate that tides could well be changing. Below are some impressive stats stemming from the match.

  • Possession 70% vs 30%
  • Expected goals 1.28 vs 0.48
  • Headers won 78% vs 12%
  • Final third passes 106 vs 35


The importance of good performances in continental football are fundamental to elevating the profile of your club, they also bring with them a sizable income stream which helps to retain talent, as seen above with Brian Brobbey.

The most pleasing result so far has come against Liverpool, the fact we managed to keep a clean sheet at Anfield has proven to me that we do have the desired level of resilience and determination in the squad. Last year’s performance in Europe was not a fluke, we are building one of the most attractive sides on the continent.

Just a few of the top performers thus far this season.


I am sure you all will be as pleased as I am regarding the news that the Board have approached me with a new contract. This deal will see me put pen to paper on an offer which will see me at the helm until the end of the 2030 season.

The Ajax way continues.


  • SteinkelssonFM

    SteinkelssonFM is a distinguished tactician in the Football Manager community, celebrated for bridging the virtual and real football worlds through meticulous analysis. His knack for recreating iconic real-world tactics in-game, like Mário Zagallo’s 1970 Seleção strategy, offers a nostalgic yet innovative gameplay experience. An active blogger on Medium and WordPress, SteinkelssonFM shares his football philosophies and FM adventures, enriching the community with guides on youth development and tactical masterclasses. His contributions extend to the official Football Manager website, affirming his position as a reliable mentor for aspiring virtual football managers. Through his content, SteinkelssonFM continues to blend historical football charm with modern-day FM gameplay.

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1 thought on “FM24: The Ajax Way – A Tale of Two Strikers

  1. Please can you provide a provide a step by step on how you extract the dna into google sheets/provide the google sheet or formula

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