From Ajax to Ajax- Season 2 Preview

Transfers Out

Released

Here’s a reminder of the players we let go. Everyone from Jacobs down was a youth player who wasn’t going to make it here, and all of whom have found new clubs. Among the first team players, Khumalo has signed for SuperSport and Teyise has signed for Orlando Pirates, but the rest remain free agents for now.

Sold

Total: $155,000

We’d been preparing to lose Petersen and Nxumalo to Wits for a long time: their transfers were pre-arranged at the start of the save. Mukumela, however, was a sale we weren’t planning for. But I’ve made a rule of letting my players go to Europe if they want, and Eredivisie runners-up Groningen made an acceptable offer for our star right back, so off he goes to the next step of his career. I’ll certainly miss him, but I wish him all the luck in the world.

With those transfers out, our depth chart looked like this, with a lot of 2nd XI spots to fill for the upcoming season. Thus, my work began.


Transfers In

Internal Promotion

We filled our backup keeper spot with 23-year-old Darren Johnson, our Reserves keeper who moves up from fourth choice to second choice with the departures of Petersen and Shu-aib Walters. Though he doesn’t quite look like #1 material, he is a very capable backup and will get plenty of match experience this season.
Rating: Blue
We filled the center back spot with 18-year-old Keegan Johannes, an incredibly talented young prospect who jumps straight from our U19s to the first team. He looks a natural fit for the standard CD role behind another big young talent in Kiyaam Bull. Like Bull, he should be part of our plans for years to come.
Rating: Gold
I had to be a bit more creative to fill the holding midfield spot behind Riyaaz Koopstadt. With good natural Registas very hard to come by in South Africa, I decided to give another 18-year-old in Cade Erickson a go there instead of taking a risk in the transfer market. While Erickson is far more suited to standard CM roles and is one of our best prospects there, his attribute spread matched up well with those required for the Regista, despite having no familiarity there. I’m hoping he can now become a dual-threat player, able to contribute at both DM and CM. His potential certainly indicates that he could.
Rating: Gold

Purchased

Total: $525,000
Our first transfer in was 20-year-old midfielder Jesse Donn from fellow iKapa club Ubuntu Cape Town on a free. I was initially looking at Donn to be our new Regista, as he can also play DM, but his lack of flair meant he probably wasn’t suited to such a creative role. Instead, he will serve as our second-choice BBM behind Grant Margeman, but he very well could challenge for the 1st XI spot immediately. He looks like the perfect workhorse to drive forward moves, and I couldn’t be happier to have him at the club.
Rating: Gold
Next in was Jomo Cosmos’ 17-year-old winger Kyle Christian, also on a free. Christian is understandably raw at 17, at least as far as his technicals go… he’s absolutely rapid physically. Though he’s listed as a right winger, I’m going to use him as an inside forward on the left, as that’s the role we use on both wings and he’s right-footed. If that works out, he’ll be a weapon on both sides of the pitch, and although it might take some time for him to truly break through, he’s someone the club sorely needed in a position with few legitimate prospects.
Rating: Gold
The first player we’ve spent money on is 20-year-old winger Kamohelo Mahlatsi, who was listed for cheap at SuperSport. He’s another right winger by trade, but we’ll actually use him there, unlike with Christian. He will be trained on the left to try and make him a dual-threat as well, but it won’t be a problem if it doesn’t work out. My scouts thought he had more potential than my coaches do, but I think he’s still a smart signing for the price we paid.
Rating: Green
Coming in for a significant sum from AmaZulu at left back is 20-year-old Sbusiso Mabiliso, who I’d been tracking as a Khumalo replacement for months. Though Sasman is ahead of him in the pecking order (and for good reason), this guy has way more potential and has all the makings of an extremely dangerous attacking wing back. I don’t mind overpaying for him, as he’s exactly the kind of player I’m looking for in this position. He should be one of the key players in the 2nd XI this season, with serious 1st XI potential to boot.
Rating: Gold
Mabiliso’s teammate Boiki Modisakeng follows him here on the opposite flank on deadline day, taking the 2nd XI spot of a promoted Sirgio Kammies following Mukumela’s departure. I’ve taken in Boiki on a loan basis to start with, with an optional $120K future fee clause in place. I’ve done this because I’m not convinced he’s a fit for our system, as his crossing attribute is well below what we expect of our wing backs, but I was having trouble finding other suitable players and he certainly has the potential to be of great use to us if he can develop the way we need him to. Let’s hope he comes on leaps and bounds this season, so I can be confident that he’s the guy for us.
Rating: Green
I’ve saved the biggest transfer for last. Nxumalo’s replacement comes in the form of 19-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns youth product Promise Mkhuma, who looks to be one of South Africa’s most promising young strikers. He lit up the First Division last season in a half-term at Richards Bay, including a brace against us that handed us just our third (and final) defeat of the season. That certainly made a big enough impression on me to chase him, though we did pay a small fortune (by South African standards) of up to $375K to bring him here. I’m hoping he makes good on that fee’s promise by scoring plenty of goals here in Cape Town. He does have some glaring weaknesses- his strength, jumping reach, and determination all need huge lifts- but overall he looks a terrific signing for us who should be the danger man for years to come.
Rating: Gold

Finalized Depth Chart

With our transfer business complete, the squad now looks like this heading into the season. February, Kammies, Bull, Sasman, and Verhaar have been promoted to the 1st XI, and Nhlapo has switched from CD to BPD to accommodate Bull’s promotion. Masilake Phohlongo is still the odd man out, but I plan to switch formation to a 4-2-3-1 at times to incorporate him as either an Enganche or Trequartista, so he won’t be out in the cold by any stretch of the imagination.

Kammies and Abrahams’ ratings have decreased from Gold to Green as a result of their potential taking a hit, and Monama’s has increased from Blue to Green thanks to some excellent performances last season.


Prediction

The media predicts that we’ll finish in 7th this season, with a 16-1 shot of winning the whole thing. Sundowns have the best odds at 3-1, but I’d be surprised if they did after a poor 5th-placed finish last season. Fellow new boys Cape Umoya are predicted to go down, with last season’s surprise packages Black Leopards slated to finish in the relegation playoff spot. Nel and Bull are expected to be our key players, which shows how far they’ve both come already.

The board expects that we finish in the top half in the Premiership, reach the quarter final of the Telkom Knockout, reach the semi final of the Nedbank Cup, and go all the way from the qualifiers to the quarter final in the CAF Confederation Cup. That’s a bit higher than I thought it would be for our first season back in the big time, but I’m confident that we can meet most- if not all- of those goals.


Friendlies

Our friendly campaign started routinely, but got truly impressive at the end, when we held Argentine champions Boca Juniors to a scoreless draw and then comfortably beat Mexican giants Chivas 3-1 at the Cape Town Stadium. I don’t know exactly what this means in terms of how good we are, but it was delightful to watch and gives us even more confidence heading into the season.

I can’t wait to get this show on the road. As I’ve said many times before, I think it’s going to be another incredible season.

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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