Are AZ Alkmaar genuine contenders for Eredivisie title next season?

Stijn Wuytens - AZ Alkmaar

Cheeseheads finished third last season

It’s now nine years since AZ Alkmaar last lifted the Eredivisie title. But after some comparatively lean years, the Cheeseheads announced themselves with a third-placed finish last term.

John van den Brom’s side chalked up an impressive 71-point haul, and finished up with the league’s second-best defensive record.

The Coral News Team inspect whether AZ can put in a serious title challenge in 2018-19…

Young side continuing to improve

One thing Alkmaar very much have on their side is youth. A staggering 18 players who featured during the campaign were 23-years-old or less when the campaign began.

Without doubt, the most eye-catching has been Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh. He followed a haul of 22 goals and 12 assists in Eredivisie last term, and has also gained valuable experience for Iran at this summer’s World Cup.

Amongst the other rising stars are centre-back Pantelis Chatzidiakos, and 20-year-old midfield maestro Guus Til.

However, they’ve also retained the few experienced heads in the squad – which could prove vital. The likes of Ron Vlaar and classy Belgian defender Stijn Wuytens are still on the books ahead of the coming campaign.

Mixed transfer business this summer

There’s one sizeable loss for Alkmaar this summer – Wout Weghorst. The giant target man scored 27 goals in all competitions last term, but has now joined VfL Wolfsburg for a shade under £10m.

He’ll be tough to replace, and so far there’s not even been a partial replacement.

However, they have added a few promising new players. Powerful defender Henri Weigelt arrives from German side Arminia Bielefeld. They’ve also bolstered their backline with Ajax youngster Leon Bergsma.

Meanwhile, Marko Vejinovic has made his move to Alkmaar permanent following an injury-riddled loan stint from Feyenoord last term.

Add a proven target man and it’ll be a good summer of business. Otherwise, real doubts will remain over AZ’s title hopes.

Struggles against the big three

AZ lost just seven games in Eredivisie last term. It’s not a bad record, but the games they did lose were very telling – and costly.

The Alkmaar outfit lost all six meetings against the traditional big three of PSV Eindhoven, Ajax and Feyenoord, conceding 17 goals in the process.

In their defence, some of that may be down to a slow start to the season, which saw the only other defeat – a 2-0 home loss to Excelsior.

But whether it’s just a lack of cutting edge or a mental block against the traditional heavyweights, there’s a definite hurdle that Van Den Brom and his side need to tackle if they’re to have a serious shot at the title.

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