The challenge of scouting Ajax
Ajax’s impressive run to the Europa League final alerted clubs across Europe to the potential of the young players in their squad, and suggested to many that they had the temperament as well as the skill to compete in bigger leagues.
While clubs have access to video as well as the ability to watch Ajax’s players in person, it helps to visualise the range of possible matches any one scout could have analysed last season.
At one end, they could have seen Ajax pull off an extra time aggregate victory at Schalke, on paper the least winnable match of the season. At the other, a 4-0 win against Go Ahead Eagles was the equivalent of watching an English Premier League team play a League Two side.
This range shows the difficulty inherent in judging a player over the course of a season. It’s near-impossible to watch a representative sample of performances, made harder still when certain key individuals like the head coach may only see the player once or twice.
It therefore helps to get a broader view from the data, where it is much easier to account for this variation in matches. That is why we have developed Acquisition, which provides key decisions makers at football clubs with the assurance of a representative and objective perspective on a player. This process should never replace the view provided by scouts, but it can remove doubts or highlight risks that may have been overlooked by only happening to watch certain games.
The challenge of scouting Ajax is indeed the challenge of scouting any team. While football is never quite “what you see is what you get”, it helps to know if, at the very least, that what you’ve seen is what he’s got.