Tonight sees our hardest challenge of the season so far and a match that will be a good barometer of how much we have progressed since Ange took up the reigns.
We have a 47% chance of winning tonight and that is similar to our probabilities versus Midtjylland at home. AZ Alkmaar are a far better side than Midtjylland so that tells you how much we have progressed to be given a similar probability than we had against a weaker team previously. AZ Alkmaar ELO rating is 70 while Midtjylland's is 113. (For info Celtic's is 137 and Jalonec's is 266).
With Rangers ELO rating as 72 this gives us an indication on how we can play versus a team equivalent to Rangers.
AZ Alkmaar were 3rd in the Eredivisie last year 1pt behind PSV who beat Midtjylland home and away and 4-0 on aggregate. AZ Alkmaar beat PSV in both league games last year. 2-0 at home and 3-1 away.
AZ Alkmaar's most played team last year was as opposite and you can see they had a fairly settled side. Averaging 70.7% of minutes played per player.
However they will be missing a few players for the game tonight.
Up front and the strength of their team Karlsson is suspended for tonight's game and Boadu and Stengs have been sold.
In midfield Koopmeiners (their captain) is linked with a move away and was left out of the team at the weekend. Midtsjo didn't start either. (Both came on as subs).
They have sold their keeper (Bizot) and their ever present Wijndal is out injured. Although Sugawara had the most minutes as right back Svensson was the first choice right back come the end of the season however he has also been sold.
AZ Alkmaar have only played one game this season so far and they lost to RKC Waalwijk 1-0. RKC Waalwijk ended 15th in the league last year.
Opposite was their team against them and the accurate passes by player. You can see the right centre back, right back and right sided midfield player all had more passes than their left sided counterparts.
38% of their attacks came down the right flank (35% left) and 32% of their shots were from the right (5% left), which may be as a result of Wijndal being out the team. With Karlsson also out then expect more attacks to come down the right wing.
They play a 4-2-3-1 with Reijnders and Clasie as deep lying midfielders (or that could be Koopmeiners and Midtsjo) with de Wit (new signing) playing in the No.10 role.
The average positions of their players from last weekend were as opposite;
- 12 Verhulst
- 2 Sugawara, 22 Letschert, 4 Indi and 25 Oosting
- 24 Reijnders and 20 Clasie
- 10 de Wit
- 11 Karlsson, 28 Gudmundsson and 17 Aboukhlal
Gudmundsson played more as a winger or a No.10 last season but has been put in as central forward due to player sales.
New signing up front Pavlidis could feature.
If you are looking for more in depth detail on AZ Alkmaar then I would recommend listening to both;
- The Cynic - The Team Talk where Christian Wulff, Aaron Connolly and Stephen Russell are outstanding with their tactical analysis, and
- 20 Minute Tims on Patreon - The Tactics Board where Chris McLaughlin gives you his thoughts on how AZ Alkmaar are going to tactically line up against us.
From listening to both it sounds like AZ Alkmaar are a very disciplined and tactically astute team which is a concern given how inexperienced (tactically) our team is. We could out possession them for long spells (even though they are a good possession based team) but that could lead to complacency in our team and I worry about us defensively as a team.
I'd also imagine TheHuddleBreakdown will be out with a Podcast today and they will be worth listening to as well to supplement all the above info on AZ Alkmaar.
Forrest or Abada, Edouard and Kyogo is more worrying from a defensive point of view versus Abada, Kyogo and Forrest and McGregor, Rogic and Turnbull is a worry defensively. If we don't win the game tonight I believe it will be because McGregor, Rogic and Turnbull weren't good enough defensively. However McGregor as the No.6 could be a major factor so it's a tough call for Ange. Especially when he doesn't have the option of Christie who would help defensively (either when playing left wing or in the midfield three).
Negatives are that as a team they are more tactically astute than us and they can be compared to a team like PSV. However the positives are that only 3 of their most prominent 11 from last season could start against us if they play the same team (minus Karlsson) from the weekend. Other positives are that they have only played one competitive game and that they got beat as well.
My prediction is that AZ Alkmaar will score and while I'm hoping we can get 3 goals it may end up a 2-1 victory for us. Their goal (an equaliser) will come from de Wit with Aboukhlal assisting as he'll be too fast for Taylor. Our goals will come from Kyogo and would you believe it ....... Ralston again.
Enjoy the game.
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