Currently, in Europe’s top 5 leagues there are 3 teams who are averaging an age of less than 25.5. One of these is Borussia Dortmund, who are currently catching headlines due to their high position in the Bundesliga. Recently, however, Ajax have stood out more since their result against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Lyon, who are 3rd in Ligue 1 behind Lille and PSG, who were knocked out of the round of 16 in the Champions League, have a team with the average age of 24.2, progressing under the radar while the other 2 teams have been gaining more publicity.
48 years ago Ajax had just won the KNVB Cup and the European Championship, however they were unable to complete the treble as they finished 2nd to Feyenoord in the Eredivisie. This was the Ajax team that won playing Total Football, under manager Rinus Michels. This high achieving team included Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens completing the feat that has only been bettered by Real Madrid and Bayern Munich since, winning 3 consecutive European Championships. This was the start of a period of dominance for Ajax. From 1971-1973 they won 3 Eredivisies, 3 European Cups and 2 KNVB Cups. Sadly, in 1973 this mini dynasty was dissolved by the departing of Rinus Michels, who left for Barcelona alongside player Johan Cruyff, arguably the best player of all time.
Fast forward to today, Ajax have the capability to once again complete this feat of 48 years ago, as they will play in the final of the KNVB cup against Willem II and progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. This young Ajax team is led by Erik Ten Hag and contain notable young players such as Mathias De Ligt and Frenkie De Jong as well as veterans such as Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Dusan Tadic, formerly of Southampton. This Ajax team play a possession-based football which consists of fluid movement when attacking, moving from a 4-2-3-1 to at some points 1-2-3-4 at the pinnacle of attack, this style of play has mainly been influenced by Manchester City manager and former apprentice of Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola. The emphasis on possession can be seen in the stats produced from the Eredivisie, with Ajax averaging 65% possession this season, they are also clinical in attack averaging 3.6 goals per match. Their main attacking threat this season has been Dusan Tadic and playmaker Hakim Ziyech with 18 and 14 goals respectively, as well as assists provided by David Neres and Donny van de Beek all averaging 8 and 7 assists each. As well as their attack, their defence has been solid as well with the team averaging 0.8 goals conceded this season. Unfortunately, we will not see this young Ajax team progress together due to the nature of football these days as it is likely that the players will be bought by larger clubs with larger financial backing, such as Frenkie De Jong moving Barcelona for a fee of £67m. It is believed that Mathias De Ligt will also leave the club in the summer with rumours linking him to Barcelona, PSG and Liverpool. This removes the future core of the club. If the club makes any further progress in the Champions League, the team are likely to face the same fate as Monaco 2 years ago, where their team fell apart after making the semi-finals of the Champions League, and the result of this can be seen this current season where they are struggling at the lower ends of Ligue 1.
Whereas on the other end of Ligue 1, Lyon are currently 3rd with another young team who also have the capability of success in the future if they continue in their current form. Lyon are currently managed by Bruno Genesio, local and former player of Lyon. This current Lyon team, averaging with the age of 24.2, currently in the round of 16 in the Champions League, also being in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France. This Lyon team, captained by Nabil Fekir, contain upcoming players such as, Tanguy Ndombele, Houssem Aouar and Ferland Mendy. The Lyon team usually play with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with an emphasis on attack from the full backs, normally being Kenny Tete and Ferland Mendy, not to be confused with Manchester City left back Benjamin Mendy, but are dynamic enough to be able to track back and not get caught on the counter-attack. Along with the defensive line, they have 2 very promising central defensive midfielders; Tanguy Ndombele and Houssem Aouar, who are both able to play good links with the attacking full backs and wide players such as Bertrand Traore, Maxwell Cornet and Martin Terrier. The focal point of the Lyon attack can be conducted through Nabil Fekir, with Moussa Dembele or Memphis Depay providing the goals.
However, in Ligue 1, despite dominating possession and averaging 61% per game, Lyon do not seem to score the goals they need, averaging 1.7 goals per game, this could be due to the lack of clinical finishing as their shot accuracy rate is 49.86%. Their defence can also occasionally be leaky as on average they concede 1.2 goals per match and have only been able to keep only 7 clean sheets in the 28 games they have played in Ligue 1 this season. Their lack of goals could be due to the lack of a goalscorer in the first half of the season, having only Memphis Depay, who is more of a winger, until in January they bought Moussa Dembele from Celtic, who has gone on to score 11 goals so far this season since his arrival. They do however have the players to create the play for the lone striker in the 4-2-3-1, Memphis Depay has provided 8 assists for Lyon, Tanguy Ndombele and Nabil Fekir have also got 5 assists each. The same feat will happen with Lyon as it likely will with Ajax, with Nabil Fekir nearly leaving for Liverpool and speculation of Mendy and Ndombele leaving for Barcelona and a plethora of Premier League clubs.
Stats: One Football App