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PSV putting up a serious challenge to Ajax’s Eredivisie stranglehold

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]jax are the most successful club in Dutch football history, having won an unprecedented 33 national titles since their formation back in 1900.

The Amsterdam outfit’s domestic dominance has been painstakingly apparent in recent times, continuing their longstanding record of success by winning four consecutive Eredivisie crowns under the stewardship of head coach Frank de Boer.

The former Netherlands international defender has shown faith in the seemingly never-ending supply of gifted players from the club’s fabled youth academy, while also ensuring the Amsterdam outfit are financially viable in the process through the sale of established first-team stars.

However, the 2014-15 campaign has arguably produced the most potent challenger to Ajax’s period of success under De Boer, with a supremely talented and attacking PSV Eindhoven side putting forward a serious title challenge that threatens to end the Amsterdam outfit’s reign of glory.

At the midway point in the Dutch top-tier campaign, Phillip Cocu’s men sit on top of the Eredivisie, four points clear of second-placed Ajax.

The expectant Philips Stadion faithful are hungry for success having not seen their side as the country’s champions since 2008, but there is no doubting that PSV have been the most impressive team in Dutch football this season.

Having finished fourth last season, PSV have been much improved this term and at the halfway stage have scored the most goals in the division while simultaneously conceding the least.

Cocu’s project in Eindhoven started in 2013 by having to consolidate after considerable players sales, but the former Barcelona midfielder has been quick to emphasis that the club are building a long-term project based around a squad of young players.

Apart from reserve goalkeeper Remko Pasveer, veteran midfielder Stijn Schaars (both who have not played at all this term) and Mexican loanee Andrés Guardado, the entire PSV squad are under 25 years of age.

The side have only conceded 14 goals in their first 17 Eredivisie games, with Jeffrey Bruma and Jetro Willems starring alongside shrewd loan captures Karim Rekik and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin.

However, it has been PSV’s attack and their 48 league goals that have created the headlines.

Memphis DepayAn offensive trident of Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong and Luciano Narsingh has been backed up by the sublime distribution of attacking midfielders Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Maher in an irresistible attacking starting XI this season.

Narsingh has been in the limelight for a number of years, Maher is an incredibly gifted youngster and De Jong has proven himself once more with ten goals this season after a botched adventure overseas.

However, the undoubted star of the PSV side is Depay, who has followed up an impressive campaign last term and a couple of star cameos at the World Cup by the most-rounded six-month period of a young career.

Holding onto the 20-year-old will be a real task come the summer but the talismanic Depay could well provide the inspiration to lead PSV to the title in 2014-15.

However, it may well be that the summer of 2013 exodus at the Philips Stadion, which saw international players such as Kevin Strootman, Jeremain Lens and Dries Mertens leave the Eindhoven club, could well be repeated at the end of the current campaign.

Ajax should not be written off just yet given their recent run of success, but having sold their best players consistently at the end of every campaign under De Boer, the Amsterdam outfit are no longer the undoubted dominant force in Dutch football.

The loss of 2014 Dutch Footballer of the Year Daley Blind to Manchester United and Siem De Jong to Newcastle ahead of this season has robbed the champions of real quality, with Ajax not possessing the same strength-in-depth as a result.

Both sides are still in the Europa League and it looks likely that the race for the 2014-15 Eredivisie will go right down to the wire.

Ironically, PSV’s previous Eredivisie success in 2008 was the final triumph of four back-to-back top-tier titles; it may well be that the Eindhoven outfit are set to end a similar period of Ajax dominance this season.

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