It is no secret that Ajax have one of the most famed youth academies in world football. Ever since the days of Johan Cruyff, the Dutch giants have put immense focus on development. Two of their latest offerings, Jurrien Timber and Ryan Gravenberch are causing a stir.
The former has developed into an adept centre-back while the latter is on the verge of moving to Bayern Munich. Erik ten Hag may be leaving for Manchester United, but the revolution will rumble on.
One of the leading lights from the next batch of youngsters is Kenneth Taylor.
18-year-old Kenneth Taylor made his AFC Ajax debut against PEC Zwolle last weekend.
It's been a long time coming, he's excelled in just over 100 appearances for Ajax's junior sides over the past few years. Distributes brilliantly, retrieves well; just a really tidy footballer. pic.twitter.com/vzybUsUHKK
— Scouted Football (@scoutedftbl) December 16, 2020
The prodigious talent is making an impact on both the senior and Jong Ajax teams. Though he is not a regular yet, Taylor has already shown the promise of an explosive future. If he continues on this trajectory, it won’t be long before the European giants come circling.
Playing career so far
Kenneth Taylor is another graduate of the famed 2002 batch. Hugo Ekitike, Aaron Hickey, Georginio Rutter, and others make up that illustrious list. Taylor was born in Alkmaar and started his career with the amateur club SV De Foresters. In 2010, Taylor joined the youth program at Ajax.
Kenneth Taylor vs Excelsior
84% pass accuracy
3 key passes
2 big chances created
6 tackles won
3 aerials won
I don't enjoy watching Jong Ajax this season. They're underperforming but Kenneth Taylor is a real thing. Huge, huge talent. pic.twitter.com/n7cetoB6rB
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) March 1, 2021
He was initially playing as a striker before coaches noticed his all-around talent, on the defensive end of things too. Therefore, Taylor converted into a central midfielder of a box-to-box nature.
Kenneth Taylor made his debut for Jong Ajax in late 2018 as a substitute. However, it did not take long for his expert qualities to blossom. Taylor became a regular for his side in 2019-20, featuring 19 times.
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Moreover, his solid performances had not gone unnoticed at the international level either. Taylor was an important member of the Netherlands squad that won the UEFA Euro U17 tournament in Ireland in 2019. He has continued playing for Jong Ajax while making his first-team bow in late 2020.
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Since then, he has become an attacking threat for both sides. Taylor has racked up 14 goals and five assists for Jong Ajax. Furthermore, he has also scored and assisted (twice) in the Eredivisie in 2021-22.
Kenneth Taylor has not been putting up any eye-popping numbers. However, it’s his underlying fundamentals that need a good look. Firstly, Taylor’s shooting accuracy has improved tremendously. His shot-on-target (SoT) percentage has jumped from 44.7% in 2020-21 to 56.3% in 2021-22.
Kenneth Taylor! ⚽️🎯 Is this your favourite Ajax #GoalOfTheMonth?
👇 𝗩𝗢𝗧𝗘 𝗡𝗢𝗪!
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) June 1, 2021
That means he is working the goalkeeper on more than half of his strikes. Moreover, Taylor is averaging 0.92 SoT/90 which is extremely good for a young prospect. The whole foundation of Ajax is based on quick, attacking, and beautiful football. That’s why Taylor is actively encouraged to follow his style.
Netherlands U17's have won the Algarve Cup after a 3-1 victory over Germany!
Sontje Hansen (Ajax), Mohamed Taabouni (AZ) and Kenneth Taylor (Ajax) scored the goals! pic.twitter.com/uqjpeTyJAy
— Dutch Football 🇳🇱 (@FootballOranje_) February 12, 2019
He has become an integral member of the line-up, mostly playing almost the whole 90 minutes. His teams perform better with him on the pitch as evidenced by a +13 and +8 team success for Ajax and Jong Ajax.
What the stats do not tell
Kenneth Taylor is a modern-day pass master. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he looks up to Georginio Wijnaldum. The veteran Dutch midfielder is one of the most formidable sights on the ball. Wijnaldum was a key piece behind Liverpool winning the Champions League and Premier League.
Taylor wants to emulate his idol, both in terms of style of play and career trajectory. However, that is not all. Taylor always has a great love for Pep Guardiola. Taylor’s style of play is akin to Toni Kroos or even Kevin De Bruyne playing exquisite passes in dangerous areas.
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Similarly, Taylor is also a very calm head on the ball who assesses his options beforehand. He can run by defenders, leaving space behind, or aim for distance himself. Truly an all-around package.
What makes him special
Kenneth Taylor is biding his time and waiting for his chances. Ajax have been playing him occasionally and he has racked up 10+ appearances for 2021-22. Therefore, it is no surprise that featuring regularly will impacts his numbers.
Taylor’s passing and dribbling accuracy has fallen, given the increased quality of the opposition. However, that is not to say Taylor will not improve with time.
“Kenneth Taylor was outstanding. He had a very good contribution to our game on the left side. Besides Taylor, I also want to point out that both Jurriën Timber and Maarten Stekelenburg had an excellent game also.”
— weTalk Ajax (@wetalkajax) April 24, 2022
It is important to remember that the midfielder is only 19-years-old. His best years ahead. Moreover, his versatility means Ten Hag has played him in defensive positions. Taylor has featured in front of the backline and as a center-back too.
The youngster has excelled in gliding past opponents with ease alongside winning back the ball effectively. There is rising excitement surrounding Kenneth Taylor, and it does look like the future of Ajax’s midfield is in safe hands.
An area with immense growth potential. Kenneth Taylor is going to replace Ryan Gravenberch in the starting line-up. The graduation of academy graduates to the first team is always the path to success at Ajax. However, there are some questions regarding what the future holds. For one, a new manager will be arriving. Erik ten Hag was a master at bringing out the best of his players.
Another one #ForTheFuture! 💫
Kenneth Taylor ➣ 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟒! 🥂
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) September 3, 2020
Secondly, it is a given that there will be a good amount of buzz surrounding Taylor. Moreover, Kenneth Taylor can also provide an effective deputy to Edson Alvarez, who’s on Europe’s watchlist. Therefore, the future is bright and unpredictable. Ajax will be careful in how they continue to nurture his skills and talent.