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FM20 AFC Ajax - the best youth system in Eredivisie


Draakon
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February 2026

 

Transfer window has passed and it’s time to settle into the rhythm again. February’s schedule is more intense than usual - we have our regular Eredivisie games, but the pressure has eased a little, as our points advantage increases. It’s certain that youngsters will get more playing time because of the players who departed in January and that could benefit the club in the long term.

The Champions League resumes with the first knockout stage and we were drawn against Tottenham. It could have been a little easier, but also a lot worse, so I can’t complain about it too much. Most of the favourites got through the group stage without problems and there weren’t any small teams remaining in the competitions.

The same can be said about the domestic cup - most of the favourites are still in the mix and the competition resumes with quarter finals. We play against Feyenoord in February - another derby, another extremely important game for the fans, so we have to be at our best in this game.


 

04.02.2026 - Willem II Tilburg - AFC Ajax 0:0 (ED)

But first, we traveled to the Southern Netherlands to play against Willem II. Our opponents haven’t changed much over Winter and look like the same mediocre team they were in August. I haven’t noticed that, but Willem II has a new 21,000+ John Feskens Stadium, so as the organization they’re developing well. As the football team - not so much.

We have some good news from physios. Jay Enem got some minutes against AZ Alkmaar and is fit to start. Joel Veltman is also fully fit and Gürcan Dere is close to returning (but I prefer not to risk him just yet). My selection options are much better and the only player still injured is Tim Brown.

Squad: van den Heuvel, van der Sloot, Hillen, Lopes, Salah-Eddine, Regeer, Sangare-Aka, Hansen (61. Promes), Karahasanovic (69. Fitz-Jim), Boer, Enem (58. Braspenning)

The John Feskens Stadium welcomed us with rain and cold weather. It was a damp evening and the football was perhaps affected by it. Our opponent’s intentions were clear - their 4-2-1-3 DM Wide tactics played with strong defensive block and quick counter-attacks and they were difficult to break down. We had a couple of good attempts that required fine stops from their goalkeeper Maarten Paes, but we weren’t really dangerous and couldn’t create proper chances. It has to be said that Willem II defended wholeheartedly - diving into tackles, helping each other out and working hard to stop us and they succeeded.

In the second half I needed to make changes. Jay Enem came off, because he had been completely invisible on the pitch for the first 60 minutes. Sontje Hansen looked a little bit nervous with the ball and he, too, was replaced, but new players didn’t make much of a change and I wasn’t willing to take additional risks and make our formation more attacking. The final whistle was called to a goalless draw and with that result I can’t be pleased with - we should have played better, but nobody stepped up today and Willem II’s plan worked out well.

  • we had 60% of possession, but only 8 key passes in this game
  • our average rating was just 6.78 - nothing exceptional from any of the players
  • Player of the game: Pascal Struijk (Willem II Tilburg) - the centre-back did well to lead their defensive efforts


 

08.02.2026 - VVV Venlo - AFC Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 4. Remy Boer, 27. Sontje Hansen, 38. Ismael Sangare-Aka

The second away game in a row against a little bit smaller team. We’re not travelling to Venlo, actually. Because VVV’s home stadium is closed for expansion, they use NEC Nijmegen’s ground for their home games until April. Not sure it has any effect, but VVV finds it more difficult this season. Their third place finish in Spring catapulted them into continental football, but that has been harsh - all straight defeats in the Europa League group stage have disrupted their rhythm in Eredivisie as well, and if they finally dropped out of continental competitions, their form picked up slightly in December and January as a result. So, let’s see what sort of VVV we’re facing today.

We needed to make some changes too, mostly because of poor performances against Willem II. Kian Fitz-Jim returns to the starting line-up, Gürcan Dere is finally fit and will start and Jay Enem is benched. Anass Salah-Eddine had a tight muscle in training and as a precaution he won’t play.

Squad: Dere, van der Sloot (55. Veltman), Hillen, Lopes (69. Taylor), Douglas, Regeer, Sangare-Aka, Hansen, Fitz-Jim, Boer, Braspenning (69. Claes)

Nijmegen welcomed us with similar weather than Tilburg - cold and wet at the kick-off, but at least the downpour ended in the first half. VVV Venlo looked rather optimistic with their tactics - a positive 4-2-3-1 (mirrored our setup) was a little bit bullish against the favourites. I get it - they had a couple of good results in January against smaller teams, home crowd behind them and perhaps they can stage an upset? But they left too much space behind their defensive line and our forwards always had space to run into after we won the ball back. That was exactly what happened - the VVV goalkeeper Michael Verrips was a little bit careless with his pass and Remy Boer made an interception. He was too quick for defenders and his solo run from midfield finished with our first goal. VVV had no other choice now than to continue to take risks, because otherwise the equalizing goal gets even more difficult to score. Their attacking midfielder Michel Vlap got the ball after a corner in 22’ and his good attempt needed an equally fine save from Gürcan Dere. Sontje Hansen was difficult to contain and his goal in 27’ put us in full control - it was a wonderfully taken volley from 15 meters that landed in the bottom corner and Verrips had no chance against it. Hansen was again in the middle of action in 36’ - he was tripped just inside the box and Youri Regeer had an opportunity to score from the spot, but his penalty was saved. That was a wasted moment, but didn’t matter too much, because Ismale Sangare-Aka scored with an accurate shot that landed right next to the post. At half-time we had a comfortable 3:0 lead and it was safe to say that the optimistic gamble of the VVV manager had backfired.

Things turned from bad to worse for VVV Venlo in the second half. Their left-back Ian Maatsen had struggled to stop Sontje Hansen in the first half and in 51’ he received his second yellow card for another foul against Hansen. That left VVV with just 10 men and although we didn’t score another goal, it took all pressure out of the game. I used the chance to substitute early and give youngsters some minutes in the second half. It remained 3:0 until the end and it was a fairly easy win for us. It’s nice to return to winning ways and I was happy with the way the team reacted after our poor display against Willem II.

  • our shooting was 22/11 in this game
  • we still made just 8 key passes
  • Kik Taylor made his league debut in the second half
  • Player of the game: Sontje Hansen - another great performance from the right winger - outstanding goal, assist and very difficult to stop by VVV defenders


 

11.02.2026 - AFC Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 2:1 (TOTO KNVB Beker Quarter Final) - 42. Remy Boer, 45.+2 Carlos Manuel Lopes - 36. Soulyman Allouch

Now then, here’s the derby. It feels like it matters more when we meet Feyenoord in the cup, because it’s a must win there. League points can be recovered (or lost) in the next round, but cup defeat limits the chance of silverware and that’s something that counts for big clubs. It’s my first time to go against Mark van Bommel as the Feyenoord manager - he was a tricky opponent back in his days with ADO Den Haag and it’s interesting to follow what direction Feyenoord will take under his leadership.

The club and players offer little surprises - I know where their strengths lie. Feyenoord had a few injury problems coming to this game, most notably their best goalscorer Tamer Erdem injured himself in training and 2-3 defenders were out as well.

Our situation was much better. Sontje Hansen had minor problems with his muscle tightness before the game, but Anass Salah-Eddine has recovered from his issues and is ready to start. Difficult part is to select our starting striker - neither Jay Enem nor Kik Braspenning have impressed in recent games and Braspenning gets a green light only because of his better match sharpness.

Johan Cruijff Arena welcomed us with the full stadium - 65,000 fans had come to see this derby match - and a fairly decent weather. It’s February, after all, and if there’s clear pitch and nothing raining down, then it’s already a positive.

Squad: Dere, van der Sloot (76. Veltman), Hillen, Lopes, Salah-Eddine, Regeer, Sangare-Aka, Promes, Fitz-Jim, Boer (82. Karahasanovic), Braspenning (69. Enem)

We started with more momentum and had initiative in the first 20 minutes or so. Young Feyenoord goalkeeper Tein Troost had plenty of action, but we didn’t get a clear cut chance, so no goals in the first 30 minutes. Kian Fitz-Jim fired his half-chance on target and Kik Braspenning headed just wide from an IFK - those were the best moments we had, before Soulyman Allouch gave Feyenoord the lead in 36’ - we allowed them to build up patiently from our right wing and left Allouch way too much space in the box and his strong attempt was too good for Gürcan Dere to save. Feyenoord looked comfortable in the lead, but before half-time we managed to answer with two goals of our own. Both came from corners and Quincy Promes made excellent deliveries. Remy Boer headed in the first one and right before the half-time whistle Lopes powered in the second. Feyenoord players looked stunned - all of their hard work in the first half undone by two corners in the final five minutes. Our half-time team talk was much more positive after those goals and the players looked even more motivated after the break, but I knew that we didn’t need to take unnecessary risks and switched to a balanced mentality. Despite that Feyenoord’s striker Milan van de Riet found their best chance of the game in 50’ in a counter, but his attempt from a one-on-one situation went wide of the post. We managed to control the rest of the second half better and Jay Enem almost scored our third in 83’ - hitting the post on a counter. The final whistle marked a narrow win in a close derby game and once again I have to thank set pieces and Quincy Promes for deciding that game for us.

  • Player of the game: Quincy Promes - outstanding game from the veteran; two corners led to goals


 

15.02.2026 - AFC Ajax - Heracles Almelo 1:1 (ED) - 88. Sontje Hansen - 51. Aime Omgba

The February league schedule is fairly easy - at least it looks so on paper. It’s strange that we lost to Heracles 3:4 in the away game, but they’re still their usual bottom half team and in recent months their main problem seems to be scoring goals - four last games without scoring and that certainly has hurt their morale, too.

Playing at Johan Cruijff Arena should give us an advantage and I’m thinking about the amount of rotation and changes we could do for the game. Steven van der Sloot is injured, so Joel Veltman starts in his place. The club doctor treated Remy Boer for a nasty gash on his arm that he suffered in the Feyenoord game and it’s perhaps best to give him a day off (and Alen Karahasanovic is eager to get a start). Kik Braspenning hasn’t shown much in recent games, so Jay Enem gets back his place in the starting line-up.

Squad: Dere, Veltman, Hillen, Lopes, Salah-Eddine, Regeer, Sangare-Aka, Promes (65. Hansen), Karahasanovic, Fitz-Jim, Enem (46. Braspenning)

That was a very disappointing game. Weather was dreadful - cold and rainy - and the first half was completely uneventful. We couldn’t create a single noteworthy chance in the first period and Heracles sat deep to prevent us any space.

I switched to an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation in the second half, but that backfired quickly. Heracles had an IFK in 51’ and the ball found its way to Aime Omgba, who fired in from 15 meters. Straight into the top corner - just one of those shots that the goalkeeper can do nothing about. We were desperate to turn the game around in the final thirty minutes, but it didn’t seem to happen. Kik Braspenning had our best chance of the game in 85’, but his shot was saved and it looked like a miserable failure against Heracles (again!), until Sontje Hansen stepped up and scored a late equalizer to rescue a point for us. I was relieved with the goal, but nowhere happy with the performance - unacceptable against the smaller team, at home. We couldn’t create chances and Heracles looked way too comfortable in defense.

  • we had 60% possession in this game
  • we made just 9 key passes
  • our average rating was just 6.78 - nothing praiseworthy
  • our shooting was 20/9 - flattering stats, but not enough good opportunities
  • our attacking players were in offside 8 times - that hindered our attacks as well
  • Joel Veltman managed to make 9 fouls in this game - another referee could have sent him off, but he didn’t get a single booking!
  • we’re now unbeatable in 18 games
  • Player of the game: Aime Omgba (Heracles Almelo) - best goal of the game

 

22.02.2026 - AFC Ajax - NAC Breda 0:1 (ED) - 10. Ayhan Kurt

Another home game, another smaller team and I expected us to do much better in this game. We don’t seem to do well against Heracles, but NAC Breda is a different story.

Squad: Dere, van der Sloot, Hillen, Lops, Salah-Eddine, Regeer, Sangare-Aka, Promes (61. Hansen), Karahasanovic, Fitz-Jim (70. Boer), Braspenning (61. Enem)

NAC is a different team, but their approach to this away game looked very similar to Heracles’ - defensive 4-2-2-2 DM formation with two defensive midfielders is again extremely difficult to break in attack and to make matters worse, we had a really poor first ten minutes of the game. NAC’s Andre Vidigal hit the post with a powerful shot in 7’ and three minutes later we allowed them to score - criminally poor defending from the right (Steven van der Sloot and Rio Hillen to blame) allowed Ayhan Kurt to score and that suited NAC extremely well. For the rest of the game they sat in defense and gave us all possession, but we failed to find an equalizer. I tried all kinds of tactical changes in the second half - made our attacking formation wider, switched to attacking mentality and tweaked individual instructions, but it didn’t help. Our best chance came in 53’, but Kik Braspenning’s close range attempt was blocked by the arriving defender and the final whistle was called for a frustrating defeat. I was absolutely furious at the sidelines - it was by far our worst performance of the season in front of home fans. All creativity was lost for several games now and I had no idea how to change things. None of the attacking players seemed to perform at their usual level and there were some harsh conversations in my office after the game. We’ve now dropped five points in two games and need to bounce back quickly, or the other team will start to catch up.

  • our shooting was 28/10 - decent stats, but no use for us without good chances
  • we made only 8 key passes - lack of creativity evident again
  • our average rating was just 6.78
  • Player of the game: Ayhan Kurt (NAC Breda) - scored the winner 

 

25.02.2026 - Tottenham Hotspur - AFC Ajax 1:0 (Champions League 1st knockout stage 1st leg) - 22. Dele Alli

After two poor games we travelled to London. Tottenham isn’t the worst possible opponents to meet in the knockout stages and there we some happy reunions, because several of our former players now play in Spurs (Andre Onana, Perr Schuurs), but our confidence was low and I didn’t expect us to win the game after performances against Heracles and NAC. 

We started with our balanced 4-2-3-1 formation and London welcomed us with rain (who would’ve thought?!), so it was to be a poor evening overall.

Squad: Dere, van der Sloot, Hillen, Lopes, Salah-Eddine (70. Douglas), Regeer, Sangare-Aka, Hansen, Fitz-Jim (70. Karahasanovic), Boer, Enem (57. Braspenning)

Tottenham had a slight initiative in the game and that was expected, but only one good moment. Harry Kane found a one-on-one opportunity on a counter in 19’, but was denied by a brilliant save from Gürcan Dere. That didn’t save us from conceding a goal, though. Dele Alli headed in three minutes later and that was it. The rest of the game was a drab affair - we couldn’t create much in attack, but our defensive organization was good enough and we limited their chances fairly well. The Spurs’ players were individually better than us and in certain situations it showed, but overall we did OK. It was an away game, after all, and to return from London with 0:1 wasn’t too bad in the end. Tottenham looked comfortable in this game and were never really threatened, but they might need a better cushion before the second leg. We have now over a month to get ourselves sorted and let’s see what happens then. The only really worrying thing for me was that this defeat was our second in a row and we’re now three games without a win - that starts to hurt our morale.

  • our shooting was just 5/2 in this game and we couldn’t create decent chances
  • our average rating was just 6.70
  • we made only 2 key passes
  • Player of the game: Dani Olmo (Tottenham) - created moments from midfield and controlled the game well 

 

28.02.2026 - Helmond Sport - AFC Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 76. Jannes Wemmer - 44. Rio Hillen, 61. Carlos Manuel Lopes, 74. pen. Youri Regeer

A number of games have gone poorly and we need a win to bounce back and regain some of our lost confidence. We play our last game of the month against minnows - Helmond Sport is heading towards relegation play-offs and they’re in equally poor form. Our problem is morale that has been hit by the results and harsh team talks, but also fatigue - Tottenham match is still in our legs and we have to rotate the starting line-up solely on purpose of keeping our first team players fresh. Also, some of the players are in really poor form over the last 3-5 games and there’s little point in playing them if I know that they produce the same kind of performance - it’s better to give someone else a chance.

Squad: Dere, van der Sloot, Hillen, Lopes (65. Taylor), Douglas, Regeer, Sangare-Aka, Hansen, Fitz-Jim, Boer (68. Karahasanovic), Braspenning (73. Enem)

Helmond welcomed us with heavy rain and that left the mark on the whole match. Our opponents came against us with a simple 4-4-2 and we continued to play with our usual positive 4-2-3-1 formation. In the first half we controlled the game, but it didn’t lead to good chances. Kik Braspenning was very active up front and two of his headers touched the crossbar on the way over, so we were a little bit short of luck, too. I asked the team to play wider to create more space and it looked to work out a little bit better. In the end of the first half Braspenning took a free kick from 25 meters and it was a very good attempt towards the top corner. The Helmond goalkeeper was in trouble, but managed to make a save. However, Rio Hillen was the first one on the ball and finished from close range. That late goal gave us the lead at half-time.

The second half continued well for us. Another set piece led to our second goal when Carlos Manuel Lopes headed in from an IFK (another delivery from Braspenning). Braspenning tested the goalkeeper with another good header in 63’ and Kian Fitz-Jim blew his easy chance in 68’. The third goal came from the penalty after Braspenning was pushed in the box and although Helmond’s Jannes Wemmer scored a consolation goal for them, it was a solid win for us. I was satisfied with the performance - we were careless with the conceded goal, but conceded three from set pieces and that’s a big improvement compared to our previous games.

  • we had 68% possession in this game
  • our shooting was 25/13
  • we created 3 clear cut chances - good enough
  • Player of the game: Carlos Manuel Lopes - scored a goal and was solid defensively



 

Summary

It’s been ups and downs in February. Too many points dropped in the league, too many poor performances with equally poor results, with the only bright moment our 2:1 derby win over Feyenoord. We’ve hit the slump and need to get ourselves sorted quickly. For a moment it looked like we don’t miss Donny van de Beek and Perr Schuurs too much, but perhaps we still do. Ismael Sangare-Aka needs to pick up his form and start to contribute more in midfield and most of our attacking players haven’t scored for a long while now.

The only good thing is that we’re still leading the table and we still have a small gap with AZ Alkmaar.

 

Eredivisie

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AZ Alkmaar is our closest competitor. FC Utrecht, PSV Eindhoven and sc Heerenveen have all played good football, but they’ve dropped points too and so haven’t made a real challenge for the title.

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