Former Ajax star Rafael van der Vaart believes his old club must recognise they are in a relegation battle following their dismal start to the season.
The Dutch giants were beaten again on Sunday in a seven-goal thriller against Utrecht, as they conceded a late goal to lose 4-3 after play was suspended when a cup was thrown onto the pitch.
That was Ajax’s fourth league defeat of the season, and they have picked up just five points from their opening seven games, leaving them second bottom of the Eredivisie.
Ajax are used to challenging at the other end of the table having won a record 36 league titles in their history, but Van Der Vaart feels Maurice Steijn’s team must change their mentality and accept they are in a relegation scrap.
‘I think that Maurice Steijn has ended up in a terrible situation,’ Van Der Vaart told Studio Voetbal on Sunday.
Ajax’s match against Utrecht was briefly suspended on Sunday after a cup was thrown on the pitch
Ajax went on to lose the match 4-3 and are now sitting second bottom of the Eredivisie
Rafael van der Vaart think his former club must starting ‘thinking like a relegation candidate’
Your browser does not support iframes.
‘Everything goes wrong. If you have one hundred percent, he might be able to do something about 20 per cent and not 80 per cent.’
‘Ajax has to play like Excelsior. You are no longer Ajax. You have to assume that you are not better than your opponent, because they simply do not have the qualities for that.
‘Even the good players are dragged along with the level. Then there is little left. It sounds a bit lame, but you have to think like a relegation candidate at the moment. That’s very sad, but it’s true.’
Ajax overhauled their squad in the summer, spending £100m on new players after finishing third last season, 13 points adrift of champions Feyenoord.
Steijn also arrived at the club, but has been under immense pressure in the opening months of his tenure, with then-sporting director Sven Mislintat reportedly storming into the dressing room to talk about his potential dismissal last month.
Mislintat was subsequently fired, but Steijn has remained in his role for now, and Van Der Vaart has defended him.
Van Der Vaart has defended manager Maurice Steijn (pictured) despite Ajax’s dismal start to the season
His fellow pundit Pierre van Hooijdonk suggested Van Der Vaart was only standing by Steijn as they are friends, but Van Der Vaart hit back, claiming the manager’s hands are tied by the poor quality of players at his disposal.
Responding to Van Hooijdonk’s remarks, Van Der Vaart said: ‘Nonsense. I just see – I’ll just say it – a f*cking team with f*cking players and he has to make do with that.
‘Has the situation ever been so extreme that a technical director brings in twelve players? With €115m (£100m) you have to be a champion with two fingers up your nose. I would continue with Steijn, but you have players on the field who cannot perform it.’
Ajax return to action on Thursday when they face Brighton in the Europa League on Thursday. They are still searching for their first win in this year’s competition after drawing their opening two matches against Marseille and AEK Athens.