Jump to content

[FM22] AFC Ajax - Best Youth System In Europe


Draakon
 Share

Recommended Posts

spacer.png


 

 

 

 

Beginning and terms of the save.


I took charge of Ajax in Summer of 2021 and I knew what I got myself into - the biggest club in Holland, with participation in the Champions League and probably the best youth system in Europe. As always, there is plenty of young talent in the first team and even larger numbers in Jong Ajax and U-18 teams. It’s a shame that all of those players won’t get first team opportunities here in Amsterdam.


 

Johan Cruijff Arena

 

spacer.png




 

As always, I play my Ajax saves as ‘youth only’, so I limit myself to some restrictions that will make the save more challenging and force me to rely on annual youth intakes. These are the rules:

 

  1. Youth only. I do not sign any players from other clubs. Only exception is Ajax CT - talented players from our South African feeder club that are coming through their youth ranks.
  2. Ajax is the springboard for players to get into bigger leagues. Like it or not - the Eredivisie is not the biggest challenge in a footballer’s career. If any big club from England, Spain, Italy or Germany approaches my stars, I usually allow them to leave, for the right amount of money, of course. That rule, combined with youth only makes keeping a strong squad more challenging. 
  3. Maximise the profit. My goal is to make Ajax a profitable club and fill the bank account with transfer profits. Hence the annual updates about finances.
  4. Keep the wage budget sensible - maximum allowed weekly wage is £50,000 p/w. I’m aware that a couple of players in the club earn more at the moment, but for the coming years I plan to trim the wage budget to under £500,000 p/w and limit the earnings of star players.



 

Here we go.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Summer 2021


 

First, let’s take a look at the squad.

 

spacer.png


 

We have a good number of players in the first team, including one loanee (Mohamed Ihattaren) who will be with us for a season and will then return to Juventus. I’m not planning to use the buyout clause in his loan contract, so he will be here in the short term and probably play a minor role in the team.

We have two-three problematic players in the first team squad:

  • goalkeeper Andre Onana - suspended until 04/11/2021 and unwilling to extend his contract, so better to sell him while we can, but I’m not sure if anybody’s willing to make a decent fee for a player who will be unusable for better half of the season, so there’s a chance that he’ll remain Ajax player until the next Summer and there’s a possibility that we use him in certain games. By skills he’s better than Stekelenburg and Pasveer (and a lot younger than those two veterans), so the goalkeeper situation is rather tense and without clear solution at the moment
  • Noussair Mazraoui - the best right-back that would fit into my system perfectly, but he too is looking for a way to a bigger club and doesn’t want to extend his contract that will run out next Summer, so it’s better to cash in now. At least there’s sufficient interest in him and I expect to receive at least few decent bids
  • Zakaria Labyad - fringe player in last year of his contract, attacking midfielder who plays in a position that is rather crowded with better players and young talents and he’s not likely to get enough first team opportunities in this team. He’s well aware of his situation in the club and asked me if he could explore his opportunities elsewhere and I accepted his request without much thought - it’s better to make room for younger players and we won’t lose much if he would depart this Summer

 

I’ll make a more detailed post about the squad and players a bit later, but for now, let’s see how the team should play.

 

spacer.png


 

I use the possession-based tactics that worked well with a 4-2-3-1 formation in the past. We’re favourites for the most games in Eredivisie and rather attacking (or positive) 4-2-3-1 suits us well. We have plenty of young players that fit into the AMC position and it would be a waste to use any formation without AMC. It’s a possession based tactic, but I’ve tweaked it to more ‘neutral’ direction with following instructions:

  • counter-press
  • higher defensive line and higher line of engagement
  • mixed passing (instead of short)

 

One of the key roles in this formation is the striker. I’ve used AFa with good results, especially against teams that come against us with higher defensive lines or more optimistic tactics, because that gives us the spearhead to our attacks and midfield players can deliver  devastating long balls behind the line for clear cut chances after we win the ball back. This time we have Sebastian Haller (pretty much our only clear striker in the first team) who is not that type of player, but looks more like a target man, so I’ll try to use him as CFa and see how that works out for us in the first weeks of the season.


 

Finances

 

Because part of the job is to make profit, let’s take a look at our finances. The club currently has almost £90m balance and looks profitable. Wage budget exceeds the limit a little (in fact, I expect it to be around £500k p/w in normal circumstances), but we’ll get there.

 

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking forward to read your story. Always quietly followed. Thinking about sonething similar. How many leagues have you loaded please?

It is going to be challengee to solve the goalkeeper "crisis". I am also curious how you gonna get wages to 500k per week.

Isn't Ajax CT gone? I have thought that they are no more Ajax.

Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

33 minutes ago, Oliver Roland said:

Looking forward to read your story. Always quietly followed. Thinking about sonething similar. How many leagues have you loaded please?

It is going to be challengee to solve the goalkeeper "crisis". I am also curious how you gonna get wages to 500k per week.

Isn't Ajax CT gone? I have thought that they are no more Ajax.

Good luck!

OMG you're right. Didn't check the affiliated clubs link until just now and I seem to remember news about that link being terminated. So, probably no decent players coming from feeder clubs and that will add to the challenge.

 

I've loaded most of the major leagues in Europe (England to League One, Germany, Italy, Spain, France to second division.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good luck @Draakon

 

I played as Ajax in FM19 I think, virtually youth only. I allowed myself to buy back ex-Ajax players, players who had Ajax listed as favourite club, and Ajax CT players as well. Its fun to bring back some older guys for experience mentoring, similar to what Ajax have done with Klaasen, Blind, Huntelaar in recent times.

I also tried to limit myself to similar restrictions on staff (ex-Ajax & Ajax as favourite club guys). Bergkamp was/is a good one. And then to top up any other vacancies, I tried to find newgen staff who had no club history when I could.

Was one of my favourite saves ever.

Link to post
Share on other sites

July 2021


We played some friendlies with moderate success - showed good football against smaller teams, but trailed 0:2 against SSC Napoli before equalising in the final 15 minutes. Some players were on holiday longer than others, so I’m not too convinced with how good our tactical familiarity really is before the season kicks off.

 

spacer.png


 

There wasn’t too much transfer action in July, but I got myself familiar with the squad and understood that Noussair Mazraoui is on the last year of his contract and without intention to renew his deal with Ajax. He’s our best right-back on paper, but we have young Jurrien Timber in the team and perhaps it’s not too big of a loss to lose Mazraoui this Summer. At least it’s the final chance to sell him while we can. I listened to offers and he finally joined Manchester United for £13,5m - decent fee. The player is probably worth more, but the contract situation clearly affected the price.


Besides friendlies I focused on our backroom staff - listened to their advice, tweaked player training, set piece instructions and so on - but also worked to improve the level of staff that we have at De Toekomst. Coaching staff looked like it needed improvements, so I signed Ajax favourite Dennis Bergkamp as a coach and Paolo Rongoni as the new fitness coach. Franz-Josef Reckels joined our scouting department, but to be honest it’s a pretty pointless role in the club where the manager refuses to even take a look at the scouting reports you provide him. But I guess that somebody needs to scout our next opponents and compile reports of our loan players who are away from the club, so there’s that.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Squad Update 2021

 

When I took a deeper look at the players I understood that we have a really strong squad. Usually in Eredivisie Feyenoord and PSV are not far behind in terms of player quality, but this time they’re much worse. My staff warns me that we lack adequate depth, but I can’t see that - we look good enough to face the long season and with younger players pressing on for more game time it could be that one or two positions are even more crowded, especially when we account the players who are currently out on loan and will return to Ajax next Summer.

We will have some departures as well, no doubt - Andre Onana is on the last year of his contract, Mohamed Ihattaren is currently on loan and will return to Juventus and that will free up some space in the first team. Noussair Mazraoui left in July, but there is enough interest in one or two players and it could be that few moves out will be made in August or in January.

One change that needs some time to get used to - Eredivisie rules permit clubs to name 12 substitutions and use 5 players (in 3 game stoppages). That rule change benefits the clubs with big squads and those that concentrate on youth, as it is easier to distribute playing time evenly and give youngsters some 20 minutes in the game when the result is secured.





 

Goalkeepers

Three good goalkeepers in the squad, but none without problems. Andre Onana serves his suspension until November and has announced his intention to leave Ajax next Summer. Maarten Stekelenburg and Remco Pasveer both look like decent options, but age starts to affect them eventually. In two years we need another solution in this area and Jay Gorter from Jong Ajax could be the answer - no need to worry at the moment.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

 

 

 

 

Defenders

Noussair Mazraoui’s departure shouldn’t affect us too much, because we have Jurrien Timber and Devyne Rensch who will play on the right. Nicolas Tagliafico and Daley Blind on the left and Edson Alvarez, Lisandro Martinez and Perr Schuurs share playing time in central defence.


 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

 


 

Midfielders

Here we are thin. We basically have two midfielders who play DLPd and BBMs positions. Kenneth Taylor and Davy Klaassen will start most of the games. Player versatility could help us when we’re in trouble - Blind and Gravenberch can play as DLPd and Steven Berghuis can replace Klaassen when needed, but I’d prefer not to. Let’s hope that somebody emerges from the youngsters - Kian Fitz-Jim, perhaps?

 

spacer.png

spacer.png



 

Attacking Midfield

Here we are the strongest - Ryan Gravenberch and Mohammed Kudus in the middle (Zakaria Labyad seems surplus to requirements). Antony, Berghuis and Mohamed Ihattaren are on the right and Dušan Tadic with Mohamed Daramy and Naci Ünüvar on the left. Plenty of talent, plenty of youth and one or two departures shouldn’t make too much of a difference.


 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png


 

Strikers

Sebastien Haller is our number one striker and plays as CFa. Tadic can fill in, but his playing type looks completely different. Danilo Pereira is a fringe player, but provides minutes from the bench - he plays as AFa.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2021


 

Results

We had five games in August and we started by trashing PSV in the Johan Cruijff Schaal which is essentially Dutch Super Cup match. We were leading 5:0 by 70’, but substitutions slowed us down and complacency started to creep in, so we conceded two goals in the last 15 minutes - not happy with that, but generally we rolled over PSV without much effort and the performance was extremely encouraging. The win secured me the first silverware as Ajax manager and that’s a nice start to our season.

Friendly with Juventus was our test for the Champions League game - the first time we played against a big team and we did well - it was an even battle until they scored right before the half-time whistle. Again I was generally pleased with what I saw on the pitch and that’s encouraging before our Champions League fixtures.

First three league games were extremely one-sided - we controlled those games from start to finish and had little trouble collecting all of the points, although our opponents were not the weakest teams, but decent mid-table sides. I was actually surprised about how easy it looked - I’m not even 100% convinced what we’re doing right, is it tactics or just the quality of players that made the difference, but it’s been a lot easier than anticipated.

 

spacer.png


 

spacer.png


 

Tactical Notes

  • Sebastien Haller has been superb - he was great against PSV Eindhoven, didn’t score in the first two league games, but provided some clear cut chances to others and then bagged four goals against Vitesse. He’s leading the Eredivisie scoring chart and looks unstoppable in front of goal
  • Antony struggled with injury at the beginning of the month and so Steven Berghuis started on the right wing - he’s been so good and lethal in front of goal that Antony might find it problematic to get back into the first eleven. That’s a positive competition for the place in the team and when the Champions League season begins in September both players will get enough chances to impress
  • We’ve been good from set pieces - both Perr Schuurs and Edson Alvarez scored from a corner and that adds to our attacking threat



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

 

We’ve started extremely well, but so have others - Feyenoord, PSV and AZ Alkmaar have won three out of three as well, so there’s no gap up front. FC Utrecht have struggled to collect points early in the season.


 

Champions League

 

spacer.png

 

Groups were drawn at the end of the month and we landed in Group G with Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Dynamo Kyiv. It looks like an average draw - one big club, but we should be more or less equal to Inter and need to win both games against Dynamo. 


 

Transfer Window

It was a quiet transfer window - after Mazraoui’s departure in July we didn’t receive any big offers for our first team players. On the deadline day I decided to sell two youngsters who did not look like the first team material and it looked reasonable to trim the Jong Ajax squad a little. Both deals included a 30% next transfer profit clause.

  • Liam van Gelderen to Club Brugge KV for £155k + clauses
  • Donny Warmerdam to KRC Genk for £52k + clauses

 

A few youngsters went on loan as well, but nothing significant to report.

Link to post
Share on other sites

September 2021


 

Fixtures and Results

 

spacer.png

 

We had an international break that took two weeks of September and the following two weeks were quite packed with games. The Champions League also kicked off, but we were fortunate that the schedule mixed easier with difficult and Eredivisie games against smaller teams were a good opportunity to rotate the squad a little. We had no major injury problems - only Davy Klaassen had to skip training for a week - but match fatigue started to mount and although we should have won all our league games easily it was clear that some players needed more playing time to familiarise themselves with the formation and roles.

We struggled a little against PEC Zwolle with the performance, but took a solid win. Then the big test of the month - Real Madrid. After a quiet first half we took the lead in 50’, but then Real switched gears and we conceded three goals in 15 minutes (hat-trick from Karim Benzema). I’m not sure if that was naivety tactically, too high of a defensive line or something else, but  our defence was suddenly all over the place and Real had easy times cracking us up. Haller made the final score more respectable with a lovely chip over Courtois, but it didn’t change things much - I was disappointed, because I felt that we had a good chance to get points, but my mistakes as a manager probably lost that opportunity.

Then we struggled to win against SC Cambuur - conceded an equaliser and failed to find a winner until Dušan Tadic curled a free kick around the wall in injury time and that landed in the goal - off the post and untouchable for the goalkeeper. Wonderful moment to score an important goal.

The Fortuna Sittard match was another struggle - I was warned that their attack looked solid and they did well to create chances against us. Haller scored in the first 16 seconds, but we conceded two goals and the last part of the match was way too nervous.

We improved towards the end of the month - 3:0 against FC Groningen was a good win (although Groningen have been terrible so far this season) and 4:1 away against Dynamo Kyiv was another good result and gave us the first points in the Champions League Group.

 

We’re 100% in Eredivisie despite our struggling performances and Champions League games have not been too poor either, so the confidence is high and morale with it.


 

Players and Tactics

I have the first eleven in my mind, but there’s still a fierce competition for the AMR position. Antony has got his chances and he’s played well, but Steven Berghuis is always extremely good when he plays. I still struggle to give Davy Klaassen and Sebastein Haller some minutes to rest - I’ve tested Edson Alvarez and Steven Berghuis as BBMs and Dušan Tadic in ST, but those options haven’t convinced me properly yet.

Sebastien Haller has scored 11 goals in two months and his finishing has been excellent. Dušan Tadic has added eight goals (two incredible free kicks among them). Ryan Gravenberch has dished six assists and he’s the best creator in Eredivisie according to my data analysts. When he plays in the AMC position our attack is so much more dangerous than with Kudus in the same role.

The player of the month for me is Dušan Tadic - scored great goals (especially this late winner against SC Cambuur) and created chances.


 

Eredivisie

spacer.png


PSV Eindhoven won their first six games, but then slipped up and that gave us a small lead in the table. Surprisingly, Sparta Rotterdam is another undefeated team. FC Groningen have started extremely poorly and I’m not sure how long before their manager will be sacked.


 

Champions League

spacer.png

No real surprises here. As expected, our two games against Inter could be crucial to decide who will progress from the group.

Link to post
Share on other sites

October 2021


 

Fixtures and Results

 

Just five games in October, but the teams we face in Eredivisie are stronger and the most important game is the title six-pointer against PSV Eindhoven. We also continued our Champions League campaign and hosted Inter Milan at Johan Cruijff Arena.

 

spacer.png

 

We took a routine win against FC Utrecht with a good performance - scored two quick goals and then continued to control things until the end. FC Utrecht tried to create something after the break and built a few promising attacks, but we defended well and Remco Pasveer’s goal was never under a real threat. We could have added another goal in the second half, but both Sebastien Haller hit the post and Steven Berghuis saw his attempt from 25 metres rattle the crossbar, so perhaps we needed a little bit more luck. Still a solid win for us.

I expected a more difficult battle at Abe Lenstra stadion, but sc Heerenveen provided even less resistance. We controlled this game from start to finish and Heerenveen didn’t pose a real threat with their defensive 4-1-4-1 DM formation. They had their first attempt in 83’ and looked happy to give this win to us on a plate. 

The Champions League game against Inter (at home) was almost a must win game and we started well, scored an early goal (placed shot from Antony after a great through ball from Mohammed Kudus), but then Inter took initiative and we struggled to contain their 5-3-2 WB formation. They had some good chances to equalise and Nicolo Barella hit the crossbar in the second half, but we held firm and defended well to take valuable three points. In truth Inter deserved to get at least something out of this game and a fair result would have been 1:2 or 0:2, but I didn’t mind. Despite the win we haven’t been too convincing in continental games and we need to find a better game plan in case our opponents start to push forward in numbers.

The Topper Derby against PSV Eindhoven was a major failure. We played well in the first half, had some good chances to score, but failed to finish and conceded a goal right before half-time. PSV added their second early in the second half and our substitutions failed to make a change. Not sure what went wrong there - was it tactics or lack of fighting spirit, but that was a huge failure in front of home fans.

We resumed winning in the away game against Heracles - took the lead early on, allowed them to equalise, but then showed our best creativity. Sebastien Haller missed a penalty, but that didn’t make a big difference in the end. Steven Berghuis scored two goals and added an assist.




 

Players and Tactics

October included another international break. Daley Blind and Steven Berghuis played for Holland, Sebastien Haller featured for Cote d’Ivoire. Mohammed Kudus was outstanding for Ghana and scored three goals in two matches (making me wonder how we could extract similar performances from him in the club) and Mohamed Daramy got his first two caps for Denmark - landmark for the 19 years old winger.

We have done well to avoid injuries, but the Heracles match left two players injured - Mohamed Daramy twisted his ankle and he’ll be out for around 4-5 weeks. Daley Blind suffered a pulled groin and he needs to recover for a week, so he’ll miss one match.

 

Player of the Month: Antony - Steven Berghuis had a good run and scored several goals, but Antony stepped up when we really needed to and his winner against Inter could be the most important goal in October.

 

Goal of the Month: Antony (vs. sc Heerenveen) - cut in from right and bent his shot to the top corner from 21m, wonderful strike.

 

We have continued to score and when we do, we hit several in one game. Sebastien Haller has now 15 goals (12 in Eredivisie) and Steven Berghuis reached 10 with his brace against Heracles.

I still can’t decide between our goalkeepers, but Remco Pasveer has been in better form and he has got the nod in more important games. He played a really good match against Inter (where we were under pressure) and has been able to keep clean sheets while Stekelenburg has conceded more goals. But Andre Onana suspension will be lifted soon and that could change things.

 

Set piece goals have dried up in October. We scored 6 goals from set pieces in September, but now we have just one penalty and Schuur’s goal from IFK. We get plenty of corners and we practice set pieces in extra sessions, but it hasn’t worked out that well. 



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

PSV Eindhoven celebrated their win at Johan Cruijff Arena, but dropped points in the very next game against FC Twente, rescuing a draw with a goal in 88’, so we have a small lead despite our derby loss.

End of the month brought us the first casualty of managers - Rene Hake was sacked by the FC Utrecht board. Their campaign started poorly and although it seemed like they picked it up in September, in retrospect they won against smaller teams. Three defeats and just one point out of four games in October and the 13th position for the club that was predicted to finish 5th - clearly not good enough. 


 

Champions League

spacer.png

Our win over Inter gives us the second place at the moment. Real Madrid is cruising there and as expected, Dynamo struggles to get points. Our next match at San Siro will be a massive fixture.

Link to post
Share on other sites

November 2021

 

Another five games in November and the fixture list is somewhat similar to that of October - two Champions League games, two relatively easy must-wins against Go Ahead Eagles and RKC Waalwijk and November ends with a tricky away tie against Sparta Rotterdam (who are still 5th in the table and looking strong).

 

spacer.png

 

The first match against Inter at San Siro was a disappointment. We started well and took the lead, but then Lisandro Martinez conceded a penalty and Inter scored their second to take the win. I’m still not good enough tactically against those big teams, especially in away games - we didn’t create enough threat in the second half and although the final score was merely 1:2 our defeat was pretty clear.

Then we bounced back with a 3:0 win over Go Ahead Eagles - that was an easy fixture - early penalty helped us to the win. The Eagles were determined to hack our players and stop us with fouls if necessary (they collected 37 fouls in this game!), but when their midfielder Fivos Botos was sent off in 51’ after receiving his second yellow card, we had no problems wrapping things up. Zakaria Labyad scored a beautiful free kick and used his chance to impress his possible new employees. 

RKC Waalwijk was another routine win - I tried to rotate the squad, give some rest to the players who were tired from the international window and balance the match load. All in all we did well enough to control the game and score three goals in the process. Davy Klaassen hasn’t scored many goals so far, but he led the way with his brace. 

The Champions League game against Dynamo turned out to be much easier than anticipated. We took our time to score, but two corner goals in the first half secured the win and after the break we could just relax and enjoy football. Young Naci Ünüvar made his Champions League debut and managed to score his first ever goal for Ajax - what a day for him!

I expected our away game against Sparta to be a tricky one and it was - they’re an experienced side and currently in 5th position and with a good reason. They played tactically well and our attack seemed to be toothless at times. We took the lead in the first half, conceded an equaliser and then had a chance to score from the spot right before the half-time whistle, but Dušan Tadic failed to convert the penalty and in the second half our chances dried up. Just one point from the game we should have won and I was obviously disappointed about that. PSV Eindhoven made a similar draw in the same round and we could have extended our lead, but we let that chance slip away.



 

Players and Tactics

Injuries have been the issue in November. Antony hurt himself badly during the international break (torn hamstring in training) and he’ll be out for around 2-3 months - that’s a huge loss. To make it worse Steven Berghuis had to skip one week because of a minor trauma and for the RKC Waalwijk match I struggled to find a decent winger for the AMR position. Mohammed Ihattaren and youngster Christian Rasmussen (who made his debut in this match) helped us out.

Mohammed Kudus picked up a groin strain in the Eagles game and he was out until the end of November and Mohamed Daramy also missed most of this month.

Andre Onana returned to competitive football and he instantly got some games for the national team as well, so at the end of November he had good match fitness. Remco Pasveer grew worried about his playing time and now I have a challenge to balance game time between these keepers. I can’t allow to alienate Pasveer - we might need him in next season as well. 

 

Tactically I retained the same positive 4-2-3-1 in all of the games and only changed player instructions from time to time. The formation worked well in Eredivisie, only Sparta appeared to find good answers to our attack and limit our number of chances, leaving me puzzled after the draw. Taking a closer look at our centre-backs I noticed that they could be a bit quicker and playing with a high defensive line allowed the opposition some chances after good balls were played behind our line. Might want to play with a lower line against better opponents.



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

Were in the title race against PSV Eindhoven. The chasing pack consists of Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar and Sparta. Bottom three is also quite clear.




 

Champions League

spacer.png

Still no surprises here. No draws in this group and most of the time favourites have taken all three points. We have gathered a solid goal difference that could be decisive in the end, compared to Inter.

Link to post
Share on other sites

December 2021


 

Fixtures and Results

 

Again - five games in December before we get to go to Christmas break. The most difficult one is probably our trip to Santiago Bernabeu, but the away derby against Feyenoord is the most important match in the league.  

 

spacer.png

 

The first game against Willem II was much easier than anticipated. The Tilburg club came to Johan Cruijff Arena and practically rolled over - we scored five goals without much resistance and we could give our key players some rest in the second half.

The dreaded Real Madrid game was the most difficult challenge for us - I prepared for a long time and tweaked our tactics. The most important change was that we played with both full-backs as WBd and with a balanced mentality. Real had initiative in the game, but we defended really well for the whole 90 minutes, Andre Onana made some key saves in our goal and in attack we had a few opportunities to stun them in counter-attacks - the best moment came in 21’ when Sebastien Haller tried to lob Courtois from some distance, but the ball came back from the crossbar - really unlucky. It was a hard-fought 0:0 away draw that almost felt like a win (at least from a manager’s point of view). At the same time Dynamo Kyiv helped us with a draw against Inter, so our point from Santiago Bernabeu was enough to finish second in the group.

I rotated more with the line-up against FC Twente and after a little struggle in the first half we progressed to the next round. FC Twente’s striker Manfred Ugalde was sent off in 73’ after a two-footed tackle on Mohamed Daramy. They had been in the game until that point, but stood little chance with ten men.

The Klassieker derby against Feyenoord was expected to be a tricky tie, because it was held at De Kuip, but the result was extremely disappointing. We had a small initiative in the second half, so their goal in 31’ came against the run of play. We attacked well and looked more dangerous after the break, but Daley Blind received his second yellow in 77’ (two bookings within six minutes) and that was it. Feyenoord scored their second right after that and even though a penalty from Haller (his 20th goal in this season) kept our hopes alive, it was not good enough. Ryan Gravenberch summed things up with a two-footed tackle in 88’ that earned him a straight red and so we finished the game with nine men.

We looked back to our usual high level in the next game and took a comfortable win against Fortuna Sittard, but that didn’t repair the damage that the derby defeat caused. After we were beaten by both PSV and Feyenoord in the first round of games it starts to look like we can’t deliver in big games and that’s obviously a huge problem. We need to improve before the next title six pointer against PSV that will be held in January.


 

Players and Tactics

A lot of inconsistent performances, as good games varied with poor results. I feel that Antony’s injury has affected us a little, because we could have used his technical ability against Feyenoord and especially in big games I feel that we fell short. At the same time we’ve been able to rotate a little with easier fixtures (FC Twente and Fortuna) so match load is not too high.

Sebastien Haller reached 20 goals before Christmas and Dušan Tadic scored his 10th goal of the season against Fortuna, so at least our attack looks nice. I’d like to see more clean sheets in defence as well. Andre Onana has shown that he’s a much better goalkeeper than Remco Pasveer or Maarten Stekelenburg (his performance against Real was impressive) and we might miss that in the next season.

 

Tactically we didn’t change anything radically. I tweaked some personal instructions and after the Feyenoord game decided to experiment with offside trap against the teams who are not so good off the ball.

 

Player of the month: Sebastien Haller - four goals in four games (he was rested against Fortuna) and was very unlucky not to score against Real. Good month from the striker.

Goal of the month: Sebastien Haller vs. Willem II - calm finish from some way out that went in off the post. There weren’t any spectacular goals from long shots this month, instead we scored four penalties, but that calm finish from Haller earned the award.

 

The award season at the end of the didn’t leave our players empty-handed. Sebastien Haller was named the African Striker of the Year.

spacer.png



 

Youth Intake Preview

 

First peek to the youngsters who will arrive in March. Our head of youth development indicates that it’s an excellent bunch of youngsters and the winger/wide midfielder department includes some great prospects.

spacer.png


 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

Derby failure was a costly one and we lost ground in the title race. At the bottom of the table Heracles finally picked themselves up, collected some wins and finally, as predicted, all the small teams found themselves in the relegation zone.

Christmas was also the time for decisions as both sc Heerenveen and PEC Zwolle sacked their managers (Ole Tobiasen and Dick Schreuder respectively). Heerenveen quickly hired Clarence Seedorf to fill the role, but I’m not convinced it was a good decision.

 

Champions League

spacer.png

We qualified to the knockout stages, but with a narrow margin.

Link to post
Share on other sites

January 2022


 

Fixtures and Results

 

Only four games, but difficult games - mostly away - and the schedule is tricky. 

 

spacer.png

 

The FC Utrecht game was much more difficult than the final result indicates. Dušan Tadic gave us the lead with a lovely strike, but then came off with an injury (pulled calf muscle). His goal was the difference at half-time, but the second half performance was a little bit more convincing and we secured all three points. Steven Berghuis scored his 100th career league goal in this game while Antony played his first game after a long injury lay-off.

I had to make changes for the cup game against Heerenveen. Tadic was out, so Brian Brobbey got his first start for the first team and he scored a quick goal, but then was forced off in 35’ with an injury - damaged foot will keep him out several weeks, so my ST position options have diminished significantly - despite that loss we played a very good game, took a solid win in away and I was happy with the performance. Antony gained match fitness, Ryan Gravenberch was rested and considering the injuries and absentees I was really pleased that we performed so well.

After two good games we travelled to Eindhoven to play the Topper Derby. Due to injuries and absentees we had no decent striker option, so Steven Berghuis started up front. After a quiet first half things got hopeful for us when PSV’s Olivier Boscagli received his second yellow card on 54’ and was sent off. We played over 30 minutes with 11 against 10, but PSV defended well and we couldn’t take advantage of the situation. Substitute Naci Ünüvar had two of the best chances in the game, but the youngster couldn’t finish off his opportunities and so it remained goalless until the final whistle. Not the worst result from an away game, but I felt that we missed an opportunity to take charge of the situation here.

The Noord-Hollandse derby against AZ Alkmaar was another tricky game for us - we took the lead very early in the game, but allowed AZ to equalise from a corner just five minutes later and on 26’ they scored their second goal of the game. Things didn’t look good, but Berghuis’ goal sent us to half-time with 2:2 and gave us momentum for the second half. Sebastien Haller returned to the team after the African tournament and instantly made an impact. He came on for Berghuis before our corner on 68’ and his first touch of the ball was a header that landed in the net. Mohamed Daramy wrapped things up with his goal and the final result 4:2 looked good enough after trailing in the first half.



 

Players and Tactics

January was the month of the African Cup of Nations. It meant that we had to get through the games without Andre Onana, Mohammed Kudus and Sebastien Haller. Forced rotation could be challenging, but we could have really used Onana and Haller in more difficult games. Because of that I expected Dušan Tadic to play more games as a striker and Mohamed Daramy got more starts on the left wing. However, his injury in the FC Utrecht game made things a lot more difficult for us.

We continued to play our usual positive 4-2-3-1 wide formation. I started to experiment with an offside trap, so that the space behind our line would be more difficult to exploit and it hasn’t really backfired, so we’ll keep that instruction on for the future. AZ Alkmaar fielded an interesting 4-1-2-2-1 narrow formation and against that we defended more narrowly, but otherwise I didn’t change much.

 

Player of the Month: Ryan Gravenberch - with some of our stars absent and others injured, Gravenberch stood out this month. He scored two goals and provided plenty of opportunities for others, playing the key role in all games.

Goal of the Month: Dušan Tadic vs. FC Utrecht - nice curling shot to the far post that opened things up for us in this game



 

Transfer Window

After Andre Onana returned to competitive football, Maarten Stekelenburg started to feel like a surplus to requirements and with his contract ending in 2022, he was looking for the new challenge. I tried to get the best out of this situation and so he decided to join a Qatar club Al-Duhail for £100k

I also made a decision on Zakaria Labyad - he joined Lokomotiv Moscow at the end of January and we cashed in £150k for that move. He was going to leave anyway in Summer and with Kian Fitz-Jim and Naci Ünüvar demanding more attention (and playing time) there was less point in keeping him around. With Stekelenburg’s departure in December those two deals brought our wages down enough so I can start extending contracts without getting into trouble with the board.

Jong Ajax includes way too many players at the moment - some are really talented, others not so much. Eric Llansana was one of those players who are already 20 years old and not looking to challenge for the first team place. He’s also not very well suited for the formation that I use (his best position is DMC that doesn’t go with our 4-2-3-1 formation), so when Everton came knocking and were willing to pay £225k + 30% next sale for him I accepted without thinking twice. He took a plane to Liverpool this January.

Andre Onana’s intention to leave in Summer was well known and in January he agreed to sign with Manchester United. Not exactly sure what his role will be next to David De Gea, but good luck to him. With Stekelenburg gone and Onana at the African Cup of Nations tournament in January it was time to promote Jay Gorter into the first team.


 

Contracts

I had a few conversations with players about their contracts. Jurrien Timber signed a £30,000 p/w contract extension that will keep him in the club until 2026 (at least I managed to talk him out of his preferred position) and Kenneth Taylor was made happy with a small increase to £8,000 p/w until 2026. Considering their roles in the club and playing time we’re talking about a fairly small increase.

 

Staff

I took a look at our coaching department and decided to sign Oliver Bartlett to improve our fitness coaching. He’s a 5* coach and a good addition to the backroom staff.

spacer.png


 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

Top of the table gets tighter, but at the bottom three it looks like RKC Waalwijk and PEC Zwolle are the main relegation candidates. I still have faith in Heracles - theyr’e too good to go down.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice save so far. I'll keep a tabs on this.

I have just started an Ajax save after getting bored of my Arsenal save. I struggled to get into the Ajax save initially and only managed a week into preseason but after seeing you youth only challenge I thought I'd give it a try also.

Signing and scouting players is one of my favourite things to do and I've never tried a youth only game before so it will be an interesting change of pace

Link to post
Share on other sites

February 2022

 

The schedule is more packed in February - we have two midweek games. The Eredivisie fixture list doesn’t offer anything special, but we will play against AZ again (this time at AFAS Stadion) and Champions League resumes with the first knockout round where our draw against FC Porto has to be considered as favourable to us. I don’t know why our KNVB Beker draws have been so difficult - we could have had much easier opponents, but so far we’ve played only against Eredivisie teams and the AZ game could be a tricky one.

 

Fixtures and Results

 

spacer.png

 

The first match against Heracles was the one where our opponents didn’t show up, so to speak. There have been a few of such games this season and this was one of them. We dominated the game, enjoyed 74% possession, created chances and scored goals and Heracles couldn’t get a single shot on target. Antony was just superb in this game - he completed a hat-trick (scoring his 10th goal of the season), gave assist to our fourth goal and delivered a 10.0 performance. The only unfortunate event happened on 35’ when Daley Blind appeared to be on the wrong end of a tackle and was carried away on a stretcher. He suffered a broken ankle and the best estimate is that he’ll be out for around 4 months, so his season is over with that injury. That’s a shame - we could have used his leadership and experience in big games. 

The cup game against AZ Alkmaar was an even battle from start to finish. Both teams were well organised and didn’t offer too many opportunities to the opponent, but AZ were more clinical using them. We couldn’t finish our chances and in the final ten minutes needed to take more risks, so AZ scored their second goal of the game. Breghuis grabbed a late goal for us, but we couldn’t find another in the dying minutes, so we’re out of the cup.

We poured our frustration on FC Twente in the next league game - 8 goals really destroyed them. Steven Berghuis was outstanding with his hat-trick and three assists - his turn to produce a 10.0 performance - but virtually everybody played extremely well.Three goals came from corners, so that worked out for us in this game.

The first leg against FC Porto was a great success, too. I opted for a balanced mentality and we defended more narrowly - both changes worked out on the pitch, as we looked well organised and defensively solid throughout the game. Steven Berghuis led the attack again - he scored his 20th goal of the season in this game and his brace put us in good position before Ryan Gravenberch added the third goal with a lovely strike. We lost our rhythm a little after substitutions, but Otavio’s late goal was a mere consolation for FC Porto. 3:1 gives us a strong lead before the second leg in Portugal.

We continued to do well in a win over Willem II - a little less fireworks in attack, but controlled the game well. The best goal was scored by Dušan Tadic (a curling free kick from 22m that went in off the bar). 

The last game against the Eagles was another routine win - we scored in just 28 seconds into the game, had a 3:0 lead after half-time and then took our foot off the gas a little in the second half. I wasn’t happy that we gave away initiative for a slight period between 65-80’, but we had control over the game and finished strong. 



 

Players and Tactics

Daley Blind’s injury affected our rotation a lot. I didn’t have a decent left-back option to provide cover and minutes to Nicolas Tagliafico, so I scrubbed through Jong Ajax and our U-18 team and decided to call Prince Aning into the first team. He’s not yet good enough for the first team, but let him train with the squad and perhaps provide 10-15 minutes at the end of games to allow Tagliafico some rest - that could aid his development. He made his debut for the club in our win over FC Twente - first steps on the road are done.

Another position to take the hit was DLPd, but there we have a capable prospect in the first team - Youri Regeer will challenge for more minutes.

Blind’s injury wasn’t the only one this month, unfortunately. In the last minutes of the Eagles game Mohamed Daramy suffered a broken foot and he joined Blind at the sidelines for the rest of the season. That’s a shame, as he was in good form in February and played well in a number of games.

At least we had players back from the African Cup of Nations and so our options were wider and the substitute’s bench looked more formidable in games. Sebastien Haller resumed scoring, Andre Onana returned to goal for some more difficult games and Mohammed Kudus played in midfield. Dušan Tadic and Brian Brobbey also recovered from his injury and returned to action against Heracles, so problems in the attacking department were over with that.

 

I continued to balance game time between Remco Pasveer and Andre Onana. It was a difficult task to keep Pasveer happy and when another Arab club in Al-Jazira (UAE) came with a decent £325k bid for him, I allowed him to leave in February. Jay Gorter might make his debut for the club already this season, Calvin Raatsie is having a decent loan spell at VVV Venlo and I also invited young Charlie Setford to first team training. It’s a big change - we lose all three first team goalkeepers within the first season, but I’m positive we can make it work. 

My social skills as a manager definitely need improvement, because I made a mess with my parting comments to Pasveer and he left feeling insulted. On the other hand - he was a little bit outcast in the team and didn’t really blend in to any of the social groups and his concerns about the playing time spoiled our dressing room atmosphere a little, so when he finally left the morale improved notably.

 

Steven Berghuis reached 21 goals in all competitions, Sebastien Haller has scored 22, but his goals have dried up after the Heracles game. Antony scored his 10th goal against Heracles and Dušan Tadic’s free kick against Willem II was his 13th of the season. Haller leads the Eredivisie scoring chart with 17 strikes and it’s noteworthy that three of our players (Haller, Berghuis and Schuurs) are the league’s best performers so far with over 7.50 average rating.


 

Player of the Month: Steven Berghuis - fantastic form in February, scored 7 goals and assisted another three.

Goal of the Month: Steven Berghuis vs. FC Porto - a lovely strike that opened things up for us in an important game.




 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

Clubs continue to monitor their performance closely and further managers were sacked in February. NEC Nijmegen’s Rogier Meijer was left without a job when the club dropped dangerously close to the relegation zone. Interestingly, PSV sacked Roger Schmidt and that caught me by surprise - PSV was leading the table in January, but just a few poor results (narrow defeat from AZ Alkmaar, 2:2 draw with Vitesse and harsh 0:1 against Heerenveen where the only goal was scored in 90.+4) left them in 4th position in the table. Dropping out from the Conference league didn’t help as well and so, just in three weeks, Schmidt was out of the job. The manager’s life can be really ruthless sometimes.

With PSV losing ground, Feyenoord have emerged as the real challengers. They haven’t lost a game since December and are in exceptional form, so the next Klassieker derby could become crucial in the title race. AZ have also been a little inconsistent (they’ve lost against big teams - us and Feyenoord). FC Twente are dropping down in the table - that 8:1 pounding at Johan Cruijff Arena must have destroyed their morale. Relegation battle is fierce between four clubs.

Link to post
Share on other sites

March 2022

 

Four games - we have a challenging second leg against FC Porto and a crucial derby match against Feyenoord.

 

spacer.png

 

We cruised over RKC Waalwijk easily, but the next games were more tricky.

First, our trip to Porto. We had a two-goal lead from the first leg and actually played a good first half. Momentum in the game was ours and only our finishing could have been better (or the Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa made a couple of great saves to deny us). Things got even better for us when their veteran centre-back Pepe earned his second booking on 60’ (not the first red card of his career) and was sent off. However, we couldn’t capitalise on numbers and instead conceded two goals. The first one from Mehdi Taremi was a brilliant strike from 20 metres, that has to be said, but the second one levelled things for Porto and took the game to extra time. We improved our game then and in the end Sebastien Haller’s header on 115’ was enough to win the tie on aggregate. Tough ending and I wasn’t at all happy with our second half performance, but we won and that’s the most important. We lost Nicolas Tagliafico in this game - he had to come off in extra time and will be out for around a month with a twisted ankle.

Away game against SC Cambuur should have been easy, but it wasn’t. They have a poor squad, but somehow have climbed to the 12th position and that’s why - their defence was well organised and they limited our chances well throughout the game. I remember that we won 2:1 against them at Johan Cruijff Arena when Dušan Tadic scored the winner with an injury time free kick, and the same scenario almost played out here when Davy Klaassen headed in a cross from Devyne Rensch, but it wasn’t to be. Dramatic late attack from Cambuur led to a great chance to Robin Maulun - he missed the opportunity and hit the post, but Kenneth Taylor slid himself to the ball in 

our six yard box and put it over the line. A bit confusing decision from the young midfielder, but that cost us two points on the day. Very disappointing, but my mood improved a little after Feyenoord got only a 0:0 draw against the red lantern PEC Zwolle in the same round. 

Then it was time for the Klassieker derby - extremely important, of course, because of the league standings. We started with our usual positive 4-2-3-1 wide formation and took the lead early when Jurrien Timber found Ryan Gravenberch with a great ball and the midfielder finished well. Sebastien Haller hit the crossbar early in the game and we could have been 2:0 ahead, but instead allowed Feyenoord back into this. Perr Schuurs lost the ball in midfield and gave a chance to Bryan Linssen that the Feyenoord man finished expertly. Then we conceded another goal - this time due to Onana’s poor decision who went out of his line and allowed Patrik Walemark to score from some distance into the empty goal. In an even game we were now behind 1:2 and looked struggling, but Lisandro Martinez sent us to half-time with a 2:2 score line - his daisy cutter from 21 metres was the best goal I’ve seen from a centre-back. His first goal of the season and what a moment to score it! We switched to a balanced mentality for the second half and had a bit better control over the game defensively. The best chance to win this came for Edson Alvarez, who was played open by a good combination from the centre, but the midfielder hit the post with his attempt and so the moment was wasted. It remained 2:2 - absolute derby classic once again and an especially thrilling first half. You might say that we could have edged it, but failed to score our third goal in this game (hitting the woodwork twice didn’t help either), so the title race stays open.



 

Players and Tactics

Injuries have been troubling us a little in March - we’re surely without Daley Blind and Mohammed Kudus, but Sean Klaiber is out again because of a thigh strain - a training injury that he suffered after playing just 45 minutes against RKC Waalwijk. Now he’s out again for around a month. Nicolas Tagliafico's injury against FC Porto leaves us without a proper left-back and Devyne Rensch has to fill in for the next few weeks. To make matters worse, Ryan Gravenberch fractured his hand in training at the end of the month, and we worked hard with the medical team to get him some protective equipment so that he could play through it.

Youngsters got some playing time in easier Eredivisie games. Jay Gorter made his debut against RKC as I started our transition phase in the goalkeeping department. Young left-back Prince Aning seems to be developing nicely and both Kenneth Taylor and Youri Regeer have impressed in training.


 

Player of the Month: Ryan Gravenberch - again, a difficult choice, but he scored twice, assisted two games and didn’t disappear in any of the matches. Consistently good performances from him.

Goal of the Month: Lisandro Martinez vs. Feyenoord - wonderful strike and what a moment to score it in a crucial game.

 

Tactically it’s been pretty straightforward and I haven’t changed our usual positive 4-2-3-1 too much. We started with a balanced mentality in Porto and I’ve tweaked our defensive width according to our opponent’s formation, but otherwise we’ve stuck to what we know.


 

Youth Intake 2022

 

spacer.png

 

Not too bad for our first intake. Two elite talents (both wingers), a good Danish midfielder and Turkish left-back in this group of players. The only position that I feel that needs strengthening is striker, but that could wait for another year.

 

spacer.png

Very young player with great natural fitness. Good technique and off the ball movement despite his young age.

 

spacer.png

Again, very good technical abilities, but his physical stats look the most impressive. Driven character that shouldn’t have any problems fulfilling his potential. Good leadership abilities, but needs to improve his shooting.

 

spacer.png

Young age probably benefits to his potential rating - he has plenty of time to train, but his current attributes doesn’t impress much - low determination could be a hindrance and small size means he could be bullied on the pitch. Has bravery to make challenges, but lacks ability to tackle. Mixed feelings about this one.

 

spacer.png

Has the abilities (especially physical stamina, bravery and work rate) to be a good wing-back, but lacks ambition to work hard for that.

 

spacer.png

Here’s the player that I like much more - excellent determination and good speed. Flair player that could be unpredictable for defenders. I suspect he’d be a great first team option in the future.


 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

We’re still neck and neck with Feyenoord. Top four clubs are way above the rest of the pack. Relegation battle made a sharp turn, as RKC Waalwijk have won four of their last five games and leaped away from the bottom three.

Clubs made decisions about their managerial vacancies. Adrie Koster took charge of PEC Zwolle, Vitesse’s Thomas Letsch took the PSV job and NEC Nijmegen appointed their icon Jack de Gier as their new manager. Vitesse replaced Letsch with Belarussian Viktor Goncarenko and FC Twente appointed Johnny Jansen as their new manager - both look rather mediocre managers to my eye.

 

Champions League

spacer.png

The first knockout round results are here. Manchester City and PSG offered the best battle that went all the way to penalties and City came out of this as winners. Atalanta stunned Chelsea, but in other pairs the favourites went through, as expected. We will play Liverpool in the quarter finals. There are no easy opponents at this stage, so it could be a great test for us.

Link to post
Share on other sites

April 2022


 

Fixtures and Results

 

The schedule was tough, because we had league games every weekend and then two midweek games against Liverpool which really drained our fitness.

 

spacer.png

 

The first away game at Euroborg was a fairly comfortable win in a game that we controlled completely. We scored a flyer on 2’ and then had a couple of good chances to extend our lead - Steven Berghuis hit the post from a good position - but after 20 minutes of football Groningen reorganised their defence and their catenaccio style was difficult to break. They didn’t get any chances themselves, but defended well and made the game ugly enough, until they started to take more risks in the last ten minutes and Antony secured all three points with his late goal.

Three days later we hosted Liverpool at Johan Cruijff Arena. Full stadium - 55,500 crowd watching the game, because it was the Champions League quarter final and it was Liverpool, after all. I tried something new tactically - a balanced 4-2-3-1 with different roles in midfield (BWMd and DLPs/CMs combination, starting with Edson Alvarez and Davy Klaassen. Alvarez was superb in the BWMd role, he was good in defence, made his presence known to the Liverpool midfielders and as we defended really well as a team and limited their chances, it was Alvarez who gave assist to Antony’s goal - squeezed in from a very tight angle. We managed to hold onto that lead in the second half and although we weren’t really attacking and didn’t create any real chances, it was a great win for us tactically. I doubted that it’s going to be that easy at Anfield.

Between two Liverpool games we had an Eredivisie fixture against Sparta Rotterdam - while four teams have been clearly above everyone else, Sparta leads the next pack in the table and they look decent enough to cause us problems. Our main issue was with schedule, though - just three days after our win over Liverpool and three days before our trip to Anfield - some of the players were clearly tired and I wanted to keep my key stars as fresh as possible. The main risk that I took was Naci Ünüvar in the starting line-up as AMC. The game itself turned out to be a great win - we took the lead early on (Daramy with a header after IFK) and then Davy Klaassen scored a beautiful curling strike from 22 metres, went in off the crossbar that was just unstoppable. Steven Berghuis’ goal after half-time secured all three points and I could send out the youngsters. Very happy with the result and also the fact that we could rotate the team - Edson Alvarez, Sebastien Haller, Ryan Gravenberch and Antony had a day off. Nicolas Tagliafico, Jurrien Timber, Davy Klaassen and Steven Berghuis came off early, so we were in quite good shape in the crucial game against Liverpool.

Well, that second leg game at Anfield was… disastrous. We conceded a quick goal from a corner - that wasn’t the worst part, because we held on and absorbed the pressure in the first 15 minutes and then got into the game - we had a couple of good moments in attack between 20-30’, but then Jurrien Timber made a reckless two-footed tackle on Sadio Mane… in our box. Red card, a penalty and then it all went downfall after that. While it’s difficult against Liverpool, it’s impossible with just 10 men and tactically I had no answers to that. Defensive midfield didn’t help and we continued to leak goals throughout the game. Eventually 0:6 marked our record defeat in the competition and it was an embarrassing experience, better to be forgotten quickly. The players shared this embarrassment as well and they decided to refund the fans for this trip to England.

spacer.png

We bounced back with a good win over NEC Nijmegen in a game where Sebastien Haller finally resumed scoring after his long dry spell. The last game of the month against PEC Zwolle was an easy win as well - Mohamed Daramy and Antony ran the show against their defence and Jurrien Timber scored his first goal of the season. 


 

 

Players and Tactics

This time my focus is on tactics - the new variation of our 4-2-3-1 wide that led us to 1-0 win over the mighty Liverpool. I used BWMd-DLPs combination in midfield instead of our usual DLPd-BBMs, turned fullbacks more defensive (countering Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah on our left was the main challenge), but remained true to counter-pressing.

I like that setup because it gives us a more solid base in midfield, Edson Alvarez was tremendous as BWMd (I had struggled to find a proper role for him) and with a variety of roles in midfield in different games, we could use different kinds of midfielders that come through the youth ranks. 

I had to say that most of the players trained really well in April and played well, too. Antony started to show his ability again and got to the score sheet with important goals. Only Sebastien Haller is having a dry spell in attack and he tends to disappear in games as CFa. Steven Berghuis scored his 25th goal of the season against Sparta and Sebastien Haller reached the same landmark against NEC Nijmegen.


Injuries still cause us some problems - Daley Blind and Mohammed Kudus are out long term. Ryan Gravenberch’s minutes were limited because of his fractured arm and Perr Schuurs suffered an achilles tendonitis after the Sparta game - he’ll be out for a couple of weeks. At least I have Sean Klaiber back in selection, so I can move Jurrien Timber to DRC and use Devyne Rensch with Klaiber as DR. 

 

Player of the Month: Antony - he played himself back into the team in April and stunned Alisson Becker with a winner in the first leg.

Goal of the Month: Davy Klaassen vs. Sparta Rotterdam - incredible curling strike from 22 meters that went in off the crossbar

 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

Feyenoord has dropped form in April and we’ve opened up a solid lead. There’s a fierce relegation battle at the bottom of the table. 

 

KNVB Beker

spacer.png

Feyenoord’s chances to win the Eredivisie title have decreased, but at least they won the cup. PEC Zwolle did incredibly well to reach the final, but the final itself was a very one-sided game.



 

Champions League

spacer.png

The quarter finals. Only European giants went through into the semis. Despite that huge defeat at Anfield it has been a great campaign for us - reaching to quarter finals exceeded expectations from both fans and the board.

Link to post
Share on other sites

May 2022

 

Only three league games in May and we focused on securing our league title.

 

spacer.png

 

It didn’t happen on the first try. AZ Alkmaar were five games without a win before we met in a Noord-Hollandse derby and they didn’t get the win here as well, but the result was a drab 0:0 draw with a poor display. We had possession in the game, but couldn’t break down their defence properly and AZ did well to limit our chances. Kenneth Taylor had a free header from a corner and should have directed it into the empty net, but instead the ball steered way over the crossbar. Just one point from Alkmaar and celebrations had to wait for a while.

We clinched the title in the next game and in front of our home fans at Johan Cruijff Arena. We took the lead early in the game, but actually sc Heerenveen had initiative after that and looked much more dangerous for around ten minutes - having two good chances to score and our defence looked all over the place. I then made tactical changes - asked the team to defend more narrowly and switched our mentality from  positive to balanced and we instantly got the game more under our control. We had good chances late in the first half and also after the break. Second half penalty added to our lead before Heerenveen’s goal made it a little bit nervous for the final minutes, but we came through and secured all three points with the league title.

The last league game at Gelredome was a tricky one. Vitesse used an interesting 5-3-2 WB formation with wing play strategy and we couldn’t cope with that at first - their striker Adrian Grbic had a couple of good chances in the first 10 minutes and scored a good goal from outside of the box, before I reacted and changed tactics - I switched to the midfield roles we have used in the Champions League and that gave us some control over the game - Sebastien Haller equalised with a powerful header and Antony had some good opportunities in the second half, but we could get another goal. The Vitesse manager probably asked their players to shoot on sight, because most of their attempts came from some way out, but were nevertheless on target and dangerous. Jay Gorter was between the sticks and didn’t look at all comfortable dealing with those shots. It remained 1:1 in the end.



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png


A few surprises at the bottom of the table. NEC Nijmegen finished last - they were poor, but weren’t predicted to go down. PEC Zwolle retained their place in the top division after relegation play-offs.


 

Champions League

spacer.png

Liverpool won it in quite a comfortable fashion.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

spacer.png

 

In summary, we had a very good season - secured the Eredivisie title (which was the most important of my goals) and exceeded expectations in the Champions League. Our cup journey was cut short by AZ Alkmaar, but to my defence we had a very difficult draw - only Eredivisie clubs in all rounds, so our difficult schedule was bound to cost us somewhere.

 

Several of the players impressed. Perr Schuurs had the highest average rating in Eredivisie. Sebastien Haller and Steven Berghuis scored 27 and 25 goals respectively in all competitions and Ryan Gravenberch was our best creator in midfield.

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png


 

Our players won silverware in the season award ceremony as well. Steven Berghuis won the Golden Boot and Ryan Gravenberch won the Young Player of the Season award. Sebastien Haller was the runner-up in the goalscoring table (Feyenoord’s Cyriel Dessers snapped that one) and I was voted for the Manager’s Manager of the Year (that also made the board happy).


 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Offseason

 

The players went on holiday, some of them had international games in June as well, but me and the staff started to prepare for the next season.

 

Staff

Yes, the staff. We had quite a few experienced personnel in our backroom staff and several of them decided to retire after this season. Most notably our long serving scouts Urbain Haesaert and John Steen Olsen, but also U-18 coach Heini Otto. Replacing them was the first task and the second was to improve our performance analysis department of the coaching staff, because we aren’t even the best in the league with our current expertise.

This didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped or expected, because my job adverts didn’t attract good candidates and even if I found them, they accepted another offer from a different club. By the end of July I managed to sign Tobias Süveges as scout and two new performance analysts - Jeff Groen and Joel Schwede.

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png



 

Facilities

Our training facilities were downgraded after the season. I asked the board to upgrade them, so we can keep up with the best teams. I expected them to share my ambition, but the answer was extremely disappointing.

spacer.png

That’s an issue I need to address in the future.



 

Transfers

We have quite a lot of departures and with this being a youth only save, nobody coming in. We still have around 10 players out on loan and they are bound to return and might at least add to depth in certain positions. Some of the leaving players are incredibly difficult to replace and it’s a huge challenge for the next season.

  • Andre Onana said farewell and went to Manchester United. I knew that, but his departure leaves a huge void to our GK position. Jay Gorter has played in three league games this season and hasn’t been too convincing although he’s still young and developing.
  • Brian Brobbey’s loan finished - not the biggest loss, because he was never a first team player, but having him available helped in Winter, during the African Cup of Nations when Sebastien Haller was away.
  • Lisandro Martinez was the first big money move. Tottenham came and offered £41m for him and it was too good a money to turn down. He’s 24 years old, so at the peak of his transfer value, probably.
  • Jurrien Timber was upset at the end of the season, because I didn’t use him enough in his preferred BPDd role. I needed him more in the right defence and my poor people skills and clumsy handling of the conversation with him didn’t help either. He eventually wanted to leave the club and Manchester United offered £46m for him. Chelsea and Real Madrid were also very interested, so it’s fair to say he attracted the attention of the biggest clubs in Europe. I’m sad to see him leave so soon, but at the same time we have enough defensive options to cover for that loss.
  • Nicolas Tagliafico went to Newcastle United for £31,5m. It was a different story with him - his contract was about to run out in 2023 and he didn’t want to sign an extension, so it was the last time to sell him. Not the worst transfer fee, although I liked his personality and would have preferred to keep him around as a mentor and team leader. Daley Blind can fill the full-back role for a while, Devyne Rensch can cover as well and young Prince Aning developed well in his debut season.

 

Manchester United have benefited from that exodus the most. Noussair Mazraoui moved to Old Trafford last Summer, they signed Andre Onana for free and now Jurrien Timber as well. The Red Devils invest a lot in their squad and we’ll see if our players can help them closer to the Premier League title.

A lot of youngsters from Jong Ajax moved away, too. Goalkeeper Joey Roggeveen didn’t make it in Ajax and left after his contract ran out. Rio Hillen and Nordin Musampa weren’t offered a new contract (even though some of my backroom staff advised to keep them in the club) Anass Salah-Eddine joined FC Utrecht. Steven van der Sloot and Danilo Pereira also left after their deals ran out.


To cover all those losses we had players returning from loan and some of them even capable of playing for the first team. Kik Pierie had a terrible season at FC Twente because most of his year was ruined by serious injury, but he can provide depth for both DL and DC positions. Lisandro Magallan is another emergency backup in defence. Hassana Bande can play in both AMR and ST positions (although it could be more reasonable to prefer younger and more talented players). Calvin Raatsie played six months for VVV Venlo and after returning found himself to be the second best goalkeeper of the team. Olivier Aertssen is a talented center-back who helped NAC Breda to secure promotion to Eredivisie and is now on the verge of breakthrough in Ajax. Right winger Jeppe Kjaer had a great run of games for FC Volendam and his attributes made a huge leap forward in Spring.

 

So, in short - we have enough options, especially if we take a good look at Jong Ajax and our U-18 team, but if you ask if we have good options to make it in the Champions League, then… probably not. The quality of replacements is not good enough (at least in the first half of the season) and remembering how Andre Onana carried us in some games against stronger opponents I seriously doubt that Jay Gorter can do that in his first season.


 

Finances

 

It has been a fairly successful season - we have collected some prize money and our Champions League success managed to help with extra revenue, so in June our finance department announced that we’ve cleared all debt and announced new (and more profitable) sponsorship deals.

spacer.png

 

Board’s decision not to invest that money into training facilities is even more frustrating.

Our activity on the transfer market filled our coffers in June, so before the beginning of the new season our bank balance looked like this.

spacer.png

 

We’ve added more than £100m to our bank account in one year and we’re on course to get our wages under control (sales of Timber, Martinez and Tagliafico freed up more than £100,000 in weekly wages).

 

 

Contracts

With transfers made and finances in order it was time to sort out player contracts that were about to end in 2023.

  • young midfielder Naci Ünüvar had a good season for us and he broke into the first team well, he deserved a new deal and signed until 2027 for £8,000 p/w
  • one of the best young prospects Amourricho van Axel Dongen extended his deal until 2025 and he will get £5,250 p/w
  • Jeppe Kjaer impressed with his loan performances and he too was offered a new deal until 2027 
  • I needed to bolster my goalkeeper options, so young Charlie Setford was offered a new deal (£4,000 p/w) until 2026
  • Ryan Gravenberch contract negotiations were one of the most important this Summer. He finally agreed to a £60,000 p/w deal until 2027, but it included a £70m minimum release fee clause. Something that I preferred to avoid, but his manager didn’t back down. 

Daley Blind is the other first team player that is on his last year of contract, but we can afford to delay that decision for a while.

As a result we’re well below our wage budget, although there are some deadwoods still in the squad - players like Hassana Bande and Lisandro Magallan who earn way more than they deserve. Mohamed Ihattaren will return to Juventus in January so that’s almost £20,000 p/w off the payroll in the near future and loans could decrease our wages even more.


 

Loans 

As expected, several young players went away on loan for the season.

  • Dominik Kotarski joined Croatian side NK Osijek
  • Max de Waal joined newly-promoted NAC Breda
  • Jeppe Kjaer will spend his season at NEC Nijmegen
  • Ar’Jani Martha joined Excelsior on loan
  • Stanis Idumbo Muzambo went on loan to Helmond Sport
  • Amourricho van Axel Dongen joined FC Eindhoven for a year
  • young striker Yoram Boerhout went on loan to FC Den Bosch
  • Naci Ünüvar travelled to Poland and joined Legia for a season

Naci Ünüvar was our only first team player (not first eleven player, but first team nevertheless) going on loan. I actually expected him to get enough appearances for Ajax as well, but he had been promised a loan move and I had to fulfil that promise. The other factor to keep in mind was that the number of substitutions is now back to three and I might have less chances to give 15-20 minutes to youngsters than I had last year.

I didn't receive any praise from either fans nor the board for my transfer activities. Fans were happy with loan deals for youngsters and upset with us selling our first team players and fan favourites, but at the same time the board was unhappy that we didn't negotiate (higher) loan fees for the youngsters while my main aim was to maximise their game time and try to find a club with the best possible training facilities. So, if in August the club vision screen indicated that my transfer activities are graded with C- and C by the board and fans respectively, I felt that was a bit unfair, but at the same time accepted that C is good enough - until I keep the club profitable and win games, I can get through that criticism.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Squad Update 2022


 

The squad has changed quite a bit in the first year. All three first team goalkeepers have left and our defensive line looks a lot different, but midfield and attacking players are fairly similar and there’s no big surprises.

If I look at player contracts and consider their qualities, it’s clear that at least four players will leave next Summer and will leave their positions open for youngsters. Mohamed Ihattaren will return to Juventus in January. Lisandro Magallan, Hassane Bande and Sean Klaiber are on the last year of their contracts and have to provide something special to earn a new deal during this season.

I try to build the squad so that we have two solid players for each position and 3-4 youngsters from Jong Ajax to fill the bench each league game. At the first glance it looks like we’re a bit thin in central midfield, but the rest of the positions are more-less covered.


 

Goalkeepers

 

Jay Gorter will be our first choice goalkeeper - not really good enough to be in that position, but hopefully he’ll grow into that role in this season. Calvin Raatsie and Charlie Setford provide backup and play for Jong Ajax.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png


 

Defenders

Here we have some new faces. Kik Pierie returned from loan and his versatility provides cover for both DL and DC positions. Daley Blind will feature in the left defence more than in the last season and Edson Alvarez will play more as a DCd, not in midfield. Lisandro Magallan is another emergency backup, but I actually like his main attributes (good in the air and solid experienced player) and Perr Schuurs will start most of the games in DRC position. Devyne Rensch is our number one right-back and Sean Klaiber is back in full fitness again after he missed most of the last season due to injury.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png


 

Midfielders

No real surprises there. Youri Regeer developed really well in the last season and he’s ready for more minutes. I can’t rely on Edson Alvarez to cover for Davy Klaassen so much this year, so younger players have a great chance to prove themselves - Kian Fitz-Jim and Jenno Campagne look eager to do that. In the AMC slot it’s Ryan Gravenberch and Mohammed Kudus - no changes there.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png



 

Forwards

In the last season I used Dušan Tadic less and less on the left wing and Mohamed Daramy slowly took over that position. Tadic alternates with Sebastien Haller as a complete forward and Antony with Steven Berghuis are the best pair on our right wing. Mohamed Ihattaren can play on both wings and I have to take a look at the youngsters to find a new left wing in around Christmas.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2022

 

Fixtures and Results

Four games in August and we start with our season curtain-raiser: Johan Cruijff Schaal against old rivals Feyenoord.

spacer.png

The Feyenoord game was the one I was a little bit nervous about because they really looked strong, on paper - brilliant winger in Luis Sinisterra, strong defence and last season’s best goalscorer Cyriel Dessers. They also had already one European game under their belt, so match fitness was a bit ahead of us. This was the one game I started with a balanced mentality (despite us having the home advantage at Johan Cruijff Arena) and moved Daley Blind to midfield (as DLPs) with Kik Pierie in left-back position. Blind’s experience and work rate is just so much better than Taylor’s. The game itself started slowly and both teams looked careful in defence, but we slowly took initiative during the first half and Ryan Gravenberch scored a late goal from a nice cutback by Mohamed Daramy. My half-time team talk probably encouraged and inspired the team because Gravenberch added another goal quickly after the second half kick-off. Feyenoord had their first good chance of the game on 55’ - for the first time in the match our centre-backs left too much space between themselves and instantly Orkun Kökcü delivered a ball there on the run for Cyriel Dessers - Jay Gorter couldn’t save this one-on-one situation. However, Gorter did well to parry Dessers’ second chance on 81’, before Perr Schuurs wrapped things up for us with a late header from a corner. Very good win in the end - it’s always important to start the season with a good result and even more important to do so against rivals.

Our league schedule in the first weeks looked extremely easy on paper - first four games against smaller teams who are bound to fight against relegation. However, the first match against Zwolle didn’t turn out to be that easy - we struggled to create chances, Antony and Mohamed Daramy were unlucky to hit the woodwork and despite our control in midfield we failed to break through. It was a frustrating game and I was quick to criticise the team, but it later turned out that Zwolle played all of their first three games 0:0 - against us, Feyenoord and then sc Heerenveen. Perhaps they have just the right tactic against bigger teams - for them getting a point against stronger opponents was definitely a success.

We did better against NAC Breda and VVV Venlo - the first game of those two was a bit rough in the first half and we allowed Breda to equalise after taking the lead, but Antony quickly restored our lead and Dušan Tadic finished things off with a penalty. Luck played its part here as well - another two times we hit the post or crossbar in a game. On a positive note - we looked dangerous from set pieces and with Dušan Tadic delivering our corners there was always a good chance that something might come out of this. We rolled over VVV Venlo in the last game - Antony scored a brace in the first half. Sebastien Haller added another two goals after the break and Steven Berghuis scored his first goal of the season. Antony had two assists as well - tremendous game from him.


 

Tactics

Our main formation remains the same 4-2-3-1 wide and we start most games with a positive mentality. We have quite a few new faces in the team and the defensive line looks very different from what it was in the last season, but midfield and attack is the same - only players are a year older and much more skilled than they were last Summer.

 

spacer.png

One change that I’ve tried out on occasion in this tactic is switching Klaassen between BBMs and BWMs roles. He has a good enough work rate and playing as BWMs contributes to our high pressing. When we win the ball up high on the pitch there’s an instant threat because he has 3-4 attacking players in front of him and against smaller teams that could be another threat from us.

In the first games it looked like we struggled to create chances, but it improved a lot during the first weeks of the season. My club confidence screen points out that the board is not happy that so few goals have been scored, but apart from the Zwolle game I can’t agree with that criticism. We’ve scored 11 goals in 4 games, it makes 2,75 on average - how is it not good enough?

 

Players

We started the season with good level of fitness - only Davy Klaassen missed the pre-season because of injury (he returned to full training before the Feyenoord match) and Youri Regeer was unfortunate to pick up double hernia at the start of the season - he’ll be out until September. Charlie Setford has struggled to avoid injuries and he has missed training more than anybody else in those two months and Kik Pierie suffered a bad injury (torn groin muscle) in the end of August that will keep him out for a while.

Considering the player form I’m fairly pleased with our defence and Jay Gorter has done OK so far - not too many flashy saves from him and he didn’t have too much to do in many of the games, but no glaring errors either. At least he can’t be blamed for dropped points in the Zwolle games. Our attacking creativity has been more inconsistent - Mohamed Daramy didn’t have a good game against Zwolle and in the next games I tried Tadic again on the left wing. Steven Berghuis and Antony will compete for the starting position on the right and with his good performances against NAC Breda and VVV Venlo Antony has the pole position for now.

 

Player of the month: Antony - took a leading role in attack when we needed to find creativity and goals.

Goal of the month: Antony vs. NAC Breda - nicely curled shot that landed in the bottom corner.


 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

All favourites have made one draw in the first three games, so the leading group is on level at the moment. Five goals that we scored against VVV Venlo give us the top spot due to goal difference.


 

Transfer Window

The transfer window in Holland was a rather quiet one. We sold three first team players and cashed in over £100m. I wasn’t prepared to let another first team player leave in August although there were a lot of rumours about FC Bayern being interested in Ryan Gravenberch. They didn’t follow up their interest with any bids, so I sighed with relief once the transfer window closed.

Other top clubs retained their squad, so opponent line-ups didn’t change much. Only exception was PSV Eindhoven who sold their left-back Philipp Max to Bayern for £21,5m (£25,5m) - good transfer fee, no doubt. They proceeded to spend at least part of it in the last week of the transfer window, bolstering their defence and midfield with new signings - they brought in Nampalys Mendy from Leicester (£6,25m) and Valeriy Bondar from Shakhtar Donetsk (£5m)

I used August to sort out further loans to young players and made several short-term deals:

  • Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi to Katwijk
  • Jaydon Banel to TOP Oss
  • Oualid Agougil to Excelsior
  • Sontje Hansen to FC Volendam
  • Rico Speksnijder to Excelsior
  • Christian Rasmussen to Silkeborg IF

Despite all of those moves I still found that Jong Ajax and our U-18 squad are rather big. I’d prefer the youngsters to get first team playing time in their loan teams, but at the same time the board is constantly pointing out that I should be able to get real money for those loan deals. I had given promises to several players about loaning them out, so I had little other chance than to disappoint the board. Hopefully they’ll get over it. After all - they shouldn’t be fussing about those loan fees so much after we’ve collected over £100m profit in the single transfer window.


 

Champions League

spacer.png

The groups were drawn and we got Group B with FC Porto, Atalanta and Besiktas. That’s … more than a favourable draw. We avoided all of the big teams and got FC Porto as the 1st seeded team in our group - the same FC Porto that we defeated in the first knockout round in the last season. So I’m reasonably encouraged that we have a good chance to get through from the group stage if we play our cards right.

Link to post
Share on other sites

September 2022

 

The schedule of this season is all kinds of messed up because of the World Cup. We had an easy August with only four games, but September started with the international window where several of our first team players were away and got a heavy match load for their national teams and then we had three weeks in a row with two games, because the Champions League is about to start as well.

 

spacer.png

Narrow win over SC Cambuur didn’t meet my expectations, to be honest. Yes, we gave rest for some of the international players (Mohamed Daramy, Edson Alvarez, Ryan Gravenberch didn’t start), but we still fielded a strong eleven and should have been way more comfortable with the win. Antony’s first half strike was the difference in the end. Lisandro Magallan played all 90 minutes in central defence and did a fairly good job.

Midweek trip to Italy wasn’t so successful. Atalanta were a tricky opponent for us and at home they were slight favourites. I never liked formations with wing-backs, because I haven’t found a good way to play against those, so I expected Atalanta’s formation to cause us some problems. We played a decent first half - both teams were fairly conservative in the first period and really good chances were difficult to find, but in the second half Atalanta switched gears and we struggled to find an answer. Around the 60’ mark we looked under pressure and rarely got a good attack. The first warning was the shot that hit our goal post, but then Mario Pašalic delivered a thunderous strike from 20 metres and that was it. In 81’ our defence was ripped apart even more comfortably and Pašalic doubled his tally to put this game to bed and we returned from Bergamo empty-handed.

We wanted to bounce back with a win in Eredivisie and at the weekend hosted Willem II who were still searching for their first win of the season after a rather poor start to their campaign. They didn’t find it here in Amsterdam either - we dominated the game from start to finish, created good chances and had numerous goal scoring opportunities in the first half… to waste them all. We hit the woodwork twice, Sebastien Haller wasted a clear cut chance and we lacked both quality and luck to score the first goal. Steven Berghuis had a start on the right wing and he was the main creator, collecting 9 key passes and delivering our set pieces (and did extremely well in dead ball situations), but we had to rely on a doubtful penalty in the second half to finally open the scoring. Haller was fouled in the box and a penalty was given, although the contact itself didn’t look like much. I expected VAR to overturn it, but the decision stood and Haller converted from the spot. Otherwise the second half copied our first period - plenty of chances, another two shots against the woodwork and wasteful finishing. Willem II didn’t get a shot on target in the whole game and looked extremely poor. I think they might be relegation candidates, if they continue like that, although in pre-season predictions they were expected to finish 9th. For us it was another three points with a rather unconvincing 1:0 scoreline. 

Our schedule didn’t allow us any rest and next up we had to host FC Porto - a slightly stronger team, but we had the home advantage. It was another fairly closed game where chances were rare and neither of the teams were willing to take significant risks. Sebastien Haller had one good chance before the break and substitute Dušan Tadic saw his attempt being hacked off the line on 70’, but we didn’t find the winning goal and had to settle for a draw. I could have switched to a positive mentality in the second half, but decided against it, so we settled for a point. Defensively we played really well and didn’t allow Porto to create anything really dangerous - I’m happy with that. Atalanta and Besiktas split the points in the other game, so after two rounds both Porto and Atalanta have four points while we share 3-4. position with Besiktas.

The Noord-Hollandse derby against AZ Alkmaar was probably our trickiest game of the month - I wasn’t sure how to approach it - with a positive or balanced mentality. In the end we started with a balanced 4-2-3-1 wide, but after another drab first half, we switched to positive at half-time… only to concede a goal two minutes into the second half. Perr Schuurs quickly restored the order with his goal from a set piece. Lisandro Magallan caused a penalty on 63’ after tripping an attacking player in our box. AZ’s Yukinari Sugawara stepped up, but Jay Gorter made a great save to deny him. I have to say that our attack looked a bit better in the second half, but that penalty could have given the win to AZ and in the end I was  satisfied with a point - all in all it looked a fair result, too.

We finished September with a trip to Turkey. We needed points in the table and Besiktas looked the weakest team on paper, so I was set to use a more attacking setup against them. Jay Gorter was to rescue us again in the first half when Atiba Hutchinson got through one-on-one, but at the same time we couldn’t find a clear chance in the first period. I made a lot of smaller tactical tweaks with player instructions and tempo, but things improved after I sent out Steven Berghuis - he was dangerous in the very first attack and soon after coming on scored the only goal of the game - a great ball, curled next to the post from a difficult position. That was enough to win the game - crucial three points for us in this stage of the competition even though performance lacked creativity once again.

 

Tactics and Players

I’ll start with the international window at the beginning of the month. It was productive for several players. Daley Blind and Dušan Tadic edge closer to their 100th cap for their country. Sebastien Haller scored another two goals for Cote d’Ivoire and Mohamed Daramy found the net for Denmark in his fourth game for the team.

Unfortunately, for the club things haven’t gone so smoothly. Yes, we have won games and made good draws, but we rarely score any more and defensively weren’t not really good despite all of those clean sheets - we constantly gave away chances and most of those results could have been much worse. Yes, we played well against Willem II and should have scored more in this game. And you could argue that some of the teams are good and well organised, so it shouldn’t be a walk in the park anyway, but Ajax means attacking football and goals and for now even fans and the board starts to wonder, where our spark has disappeared since beating Feyenoord at ease in August.

We clearly struggle in the middle of the park - my decision to move Edson Alvarez to centre-back position leaves me short of good and strong (defensive) midfield options. Daley Blind could be one, but he has to fill in for an injured Kik Pierie and to be honest, he doesn’t do well as a left-back either. I’ve tried to switch between WBs and FBs roles for him, but so far he hasn’t got many 7.0+ performances. In the attack it’s quite similar - Sebastien Haller and Dušan Tadic are quiet, Mohamed Daramy a bit inconsistent and even set pieces haven’t helped us too much in September. It looks like we need to change something, but I’m not sure what, yet.

 

All those close games and me trying to find a player who could score or create something on the pitch means that our younger players have got less minutes than I hoped for at this stage. I certainly lost trust in Lisandro Magallan after that penalty against AZ, but am I ready to start with Olivier Aertssen? Don’t think so. The schedule will be packed for another month and wise rotation will be the key.

 

Player of the month: Jay Gorter - with lack of goals, our young goalkeeper will get the award this month. I was afraid that he wouldn’t be up for the task, but he has carried us more than I expected. He did extremely well in the Champions League games and took away the penalty against AZ Alkmaar. Top class.

Goal of the month: Steven Berghuis vs. Besiktas - not much to choose from, but a great goal to give us the needed three points.

 

 

Player Contracts

Transfer window has passed, so I took a closer look at the players who are in the last year of their contract. Daley Blind is a team leader and I need him as a tutor. Also, his versatility is useful to cover several positions. He signed a one-year extension to his current contract and agreed to take a pay cut as well, so that’s beneficial in several ways. 

Domink Kotarski, Lisandro Magallan and Hassane Bande will definitely leave next Summer and free their places in the squad for younger players. Sean Klaiber is another player who, at 28 years old, doesn’t have much to offer for the team - he’s not the best player, certainly not developing any more and his personality is not the type I’d need to keep around, but at the same time we lack good right-back prospects, so perhaps it’s useful to keep him around as a backup for another year? I decided to delay that decision until January and check how young Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi will develop in Katwijk.



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

After our draw with AZ Alkmaar, we’re on level with Feyenoord. PSV have dropped off, a bit surprisingly. At the bottom of the table we find Sparta Rotterdam and Willem II Tilburg - two clubs that definitely shouldn’t be there.


 

Champions League

spacer.png

It looks like Atalanta is the team to beat in this group. They managed to get the away win over FC Porto and that puts them in a very strong position.

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

October 2022

 

Because of the World Cup our October is so packed that I don’t think we’ve ever played so many games in one month. Fatigue starts to kick in after three midweek games in September, so rotation and recovery to avoid injuries will be crucial. At the same time our opponents in the league get more tricky, as there are no easy teams coming up and every game is important.

 

spacer.png

 

The first match against FC Utrecht was one of the most difficult home games we had so far this season. We took the lead on 15’, but after that struggled to create chances and our defence looked error-prone. FC Utrecht had two good opportunities in the first half, but we held our lead. Kudus had the second chance of the game after the break, but that shot was blocked and then FC Utrecht took over - we couldn’t stop their chances coming and Jay Gorter played a superb second half to deny no less than three of their chances. At one point it looked highly unlikely, but we somehow managed to keep our clean sheet and got all three points despite such a poor performance. Jay Gorter was named the player of the game and rightfully so.

I’m happy to say that things improved a lot in our next game - we visited underperforming Vitesse and the game was held in front of half-empty GelreDome (just 16,514 crowd in a stadium with 25,500 capacity). Despite our poor display against teams who use wing play tactics (Vitesse played 5-3-2-WB, pretty similar to Atalanta’s formation, for example) we destroyed them in the first half - goals came from all chances that we created and at half time we had a 4:0 lead. Things got worse for Vitesse on 70’ when Eli Dasa was sent off for his two-footed tackle on Dušan Tadic. It was the first game in a while when I could use our big lead and send out youngsters early on in the second half to give our first team players some rest. Ryan Gravenberch had a magnificent game - he scored twice and earned us the penalty in the first half, wonderful performance from the attacking midfielder.

I hoped to continue in the same fashion against Sparta Rotterdam. It was another away game against an underperforming team. In my previous post I wrote that Sparta look too good to go down, but after taking a closer look at them and studying our scouting report, I have to say that it’s not that unlikely - they had a poor transfer window, letting go their best goalscorer Lennart Thy in Summer (15 goals in the last Eredivisie season) and didn’t replace him, so goals have dried up and defence has become leaky. One thing that affected both teams in this game were international games - despite our mad schedule and upcoming World Cup, African qualifiers were still played in October. We missed Sebastien Haller and Mohammed Kudus for two games (as if selection problems, player fitness and fatigue wasn’t enough), but Sparta similarly missed two first team players. Because of that we had to rotate our front line a lot, compared to the Vitesse game. Sparta indeed didn’t prove to be much of a challenge - we scored an early goal and controlled it from start to finish. Steven Berghuis sent us to half-time with a 3:0 lead and in the second half I could relax and once again give youngsters a chance. Kian Fitz-Jim came on as a AMCa and scored his first ever goal for the club to make it 4:0 - another great result, with all players healthy and no bookings. Can’t wish for more as a manager.

The Topper Derby was another kind of challenge - PSV got a new manager in the last season and I don’t think we’ve ever played against him in charge. Their 5-2-1-2 WB formation looks unfamiliar and perhaps it still needs some work to get used to for them as well - they’ve had a bumpy start to the season and have lost three games already, so it takes a lot of work to get back to fighting for the title after such a poor start. The good news is that Haller and Kudus returned a little earlier than expected and are available for this game - a little tired from international matches and will start from the bench, but at least they’re there if we need them. The game started poorly for us - PSV scored after just three minutes of football when their wing-back Yanis Hamache smashed in from 15 metres - a great strike, but a little bit out of nowhere. For the most part of the first half we searched for equaliser - Dušan Tadic had a clear cut chance on 6’, but it was met by a brilliant save from the PSV goalkeeper and Mohamed Daramy saw his header hit the crossbar on 17’, so we went to half-time with a disappointing 0:1. I asked the team to show a bit of desire in the second half and it had an effect - Antony scored a brilliant strike that curled into the top corner from 22 metres. After that we pretty much controlled the second half - Haller came on and another substitute Steven Berghuis set him up for our second goal - that proved to be the winner. I was very happy with our second half performance and reaction - a great come-back, but what’s more important - a deserved win, as we were the better team on the day.

Three days later we drove to Heerenveen - sc Heerenveen looked like another underperforming team in Eredivisie and their results have been way worse than pre-season predictions. For this game we really needed to rotate, and hard. The PSV match was still in the legs, and the midweek Champions League game against Besiktas was coming up, so I took the risk and made some bold changes in the line-up. I’m still partly amazed that this schedule has not resulted in more injuries so far. Good news is that Kik Pierie was back in full training and available for selection. The game itself turned out to be much easier than anticipated - Haller gave us the lead with a flyer and Daramy’s goal doubled it. Haller completed his hat-trick in the second half and we could relax - with a weakened team it was a great performance and excellent result, only disappointment was an injury to Steven Berghuis - twisted ankle leaves him sidelined for a month. 

I was encouraged before our next game with Besiktas - we looked relatively fresh and had a home advantage. Haller’s header gave us the early lead in the game, but on 31’ Besiktas levelled - not sure what happened, but after a fairly comfortable 30 minutes they had all the momentum. We weren’t really not sharp enough in the second half. Ryan Gravenberch had a good chance to win this on 88’, but his shot was held comfortably by the Besiktas goalkeeper and that opportunity was lost. A draw from a game that we could have won, should have won and needed to win - disappointment.

The fixture list balances easy with tough and the home game against FC Twente wasn’t the most difficult fixture. We scored another quick goal and added another in the second half - the game itself was perhaps a little less entertaining than our previous league wins, but the result was solid enough.

The trip to Portugal was a hugely important match, but we couldn’t meet the challenge. FC Porto started the game better and took the lead, but we got into the game later in the first half and after Gravenberch’s goal went to half-time with a 1:1 score line. Unfortunately, in the second half the momentum was more on FC Porto side and although Sergio Oliveira’s goal came from a great strike from outside of the box, you could say that FC Porto deserved to get that goal. Luuk de Jong added the third one deep in injury time and we returned with a defeat - with just 7/4 shooting in this game and 0.51 xG we can’t say that we deserved much more. To add to our injury problems, Mohamed Daramy twisted his ankle and now he’s out for 4-5 weeks too.

The last game of the month was an away derby against Feyenoord - a title six-pointer, as Feyenoord is our closest contender in the table. While we looked a bit tired from our trip to Portugal, Feyenoord were even more exhausted from their European games, so no wonder that we had momentum in the first half, but Feyenoord stood well in defence and I was reluctant to take more risks in the second half, so we settled with a rather boring 0:0 draw. I lacked attacking options on the bench (with both Berghuis and Daramy out, we don’t have too many wide attackers available at the moment. Defensively a good game, though.





 

Players and Tactics

The great news is that our standard positive 4-2-3-1 wide formation seems to work again - we struggled to get it going in August and September, but in October we finally found our goal scoring form and looked confident and in form, especially in Eredivisie games.

The schedule was extremely difficult indeed and the players performed magnificently to get us through this month. We managed to avoid major injuries, but finally fatigue and physical challenges on the pitch got to Berghuis and Daramy. Still, I feel that I did well to balance the match load and rotate the team. Youngsters had their chances (and used them well), I’m happy for them, too.

 

Player of the Month: Perr Schuurs - extremely difficult to choose one player worthy of the award, because we rotated a lot and goals were evenly distributed between players, but we looked extremely solid defensively and that laid the groundwork to our wins.

Goal of the Month: Antony vs. PSV Eindhoven - a brilliant strike, curled in from some way out to initiate our come-back in this game



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

We have a good lead in the table. AZ Alkmaar, FC Groningen and FC Utrecht have also played well so far. PSV struggles to find form and there are rumours that their board is starting to lose patience with manager Thomas Letsch.

At the bottom of the table are Willem II and Sparta - I still refuse to believe that these clubs can go down, so there will be a true relegation battle after New Year.

Surprisingly, PEC Zwolle’s Elias Mar Omarsson is the first player to get 10 goals in the competition.

 

First managerial casualties: Fred Grim was sacked by Willem II Tilburg and the Sparta Rotterdam board fired Henk Fraser. Vitesse let go of Viktor Goncharenko at the end of October. sc Heerenveen is another club that has done poorly this season, so it’s surprising that Sampdoria approached Clarence Seedorf to call him to Serie A and (not so surprising, that) Seedorf agreed. That leaves Heerenveen without a manager before the Winter break. All these clubs now search for new managers.


 

Champions League 

spacer.png

 

Atalanta have secured qualification and Besiktas have picked up some form in recent games. Technically we still have a chance to finish second in the group - for that to happen we need to win Atalanta in the last game and Besiktas needs to beat FC Porto.

Link to post
Share on other sites

November/December 2022


 

Fixtures and Results

 

spacer.png

Only one game in November before the World Cup - we hosted Atalanta. As I said at the end of the last post - we had a slim chance of progressing from this group and for this to happen, we had to win and Besiktas needed to beat FC Porto in the other game.

Let it be said that Besiktas did their part - they defeated FC Porto 3:0. We, on the other hand, failed miserably - Davy Klaassen gave us the lead in the second half, but we allowed Atalanta to equalise on 69’ and although Dušan Tadic had a chance to win this for us on 86’, we failed to find another goal and so fell short. Not only will this draw keep us out of the knockout stages - Besiktas’ win in the last game gives them third place and we finish fourth in the group, so our continental campaign ends here. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, because remember - in August I thought that this group was a favourable draw for us and I still feel that we should have gotten through here. Small details make a difference between a win and a draw - we fell a bit short against Besiktas and Atalanta at home and that was the difference this season.

 

Champions League 

spacer.png



 

Eredivisie

With no games in Eredivisie in November, the league news mainly circled around manager movement. The former FC Groningen manager Danny Buijs took charge of Willem II. Sparta Rotterdam asked MVV’s Luc Nijholt to take charge. At the same time FC Utrecht lost their manager Ruud Gullit who accepted the offer from Eintracht Frankfurt. sc Heerenveen appointed the Go Ahead Eagles’ manager Kees van Wonderen as their new head coach and the Eagles board gave the vacant position to Rene Hake. Edwin de Graaf left NAC Breda to accept Vitesse’s offer. Henk de Jong was lured away from SC Cambuur to FC Utrecht. Robert Molenaar was promoted to the manager’s position at NAC Breda before the end of the year.


 

World Cup

 

The squad went to the holiday in November, but seven players travelled to the World Cup - five in the Holland national team, plus Edson Alvarez for Mexico and Mohamed Daramy for Denmark. 

Holland looked fairly impressive in their group, defeating Brazil 1:0 and reaching the play-offs. Their form seemed to get better through the tournament until in December the final day came:

 

spacer.png


The country was ecstatic! Manager Louis van Gaal was the mastermind behind the achievement. Five of our players could add “World Cup winner” to their CV-s. Perr Schuurs made his debut for his country in the tournament, but Ryan Gravenberch played the biggest part in the team’s success - he scored two goals, added three assists and was the runner-up in the Player of the Tournament selection.

 

 

Youth Intake Preview

It looks to be another promising youth intake. The one position where we need more talent is right-back, but unfortunately there’s no good news about that.

 

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

January 2023


 

Fixtures and Results

 

Two months of break went past quickly enough and January welcomes us with an extremely difficult schedule once again - another eight games to play. All of them are domestic competitions and because we dropped out of the Champions League our season from now on is a bit less congested than it could have been. We restart the season without Sebastien Haller - the striker suffered sports hernia in training and will be out for January and part of February as well. Antony still needs some time to recover from a pulled groin and he’ll miss at least a couple of matches.

 

spacer.png

 

We started with two home games. Fortuna Sittard wasn’t supposed to be much of a challenge. They came to the away game, parking the bus, but it didn’t work out for them, because they struggled when defending set pieces. They committed 26 fouls in the game. Dušan Tadic had some good opportunities to test his skills and he scored two brilliant free kicks in the first half, completing his hat-trick from the spot after Daramy was fouled in the box. The second half wasn’t as comfortable, though - Fortuna came out and scored right after the kick-off and on 53’ they ripped our defence completely apart to score another goal. Good thing that Gravenberch and Daramy had answers on the other end, but when John Verhoek scored the third Fortuna goal with a thumping header, I got furious at the sidelines - really clumsy defending in the second half, clearly below required standard. Some signs of complacency, but I wasn’t completely sure where we went wrong there. Jay Gorter failed to make an impact and couldn’t save any of the opportunities that Fortuna players had in the game. So, generally OK result and three points to the table, but some weaknesses in performance were addressed in the post-match team talk.

Few days later we destroyed Heracles Almelo 6:0 - they conceded an early penalty and then lost all confidence. Our attack was clicking and running smoothly - Dušan Tadic and Steven Berghuis were just superb in creating chances and we went to the break with a 5:0 lead. Mohammed Kudus added the sixth goal before the final whistle and wrapped up a great game for us. Heracles didn’t put up much of a fight and, considering that we hit the woodwork three times in the game, it could have been even worse for them.

I decided to rotate the squad for the next game - away against Go Ahead Eagles. In the first half it looked like I made a judgement error with that, because our attacking movement was out of rhythm and defensive teamwork wasn’t working either - one part of the team was always pressing while others were holding positions and even the Eagles players were able to find gaps in our defence. It all culminated on 22’ when a former Ajax player Nicolas Kühn (who gave torrid time to Sean Klaiber on our right wing) got one-on-one against Jay Gorter, but our keeper made a great save to deny him. My harsh words straightened some players up before the second half, but in truth momentum turned to our side after Mohammed Kudus was pulled down in the box and we scored from a penalty. To be honest, the foul happened some distance from the ball and it looked like a lucky call at first sight, but it was given and when Tadic converted from the spot, it calmed the whole team down. Kudus added the second goal soon after and there were another three points in the bag. Not the best performance, but OK result.

The cup game against FC Utrecht was a tricky one - I still remember how we barely survived our league game against them in October and knew that we had to be careful at Galgenwaard. We also missed Davy Klaassen because of the flu and I didn’t dare to start with a positive mentality. Mohamed Daramy managed  to score early in the second half, Simon Gustafsen hit the post on 62’ when he had a good chance to  equalise and once again we scored a narrow win over FC Utrecht. It wasn’t confident or comfortable, but a win is a win.

We then travelled to Eindhoven to meet PSV Eindhoven in the Topper Derby. It should have been a fairly easy fixture - PSV had just fired their manager Thomas Letsch and their best creative midfielder Cody Gakpo was injured. We still missed Sebastien Haller, Davy Klaassen and Steven Berghuis due to injuries, but had so much more confidence and a good winning streak, so we looked like a favourites even though it was an away game. The first half was a very typical derby - both teams were rather careful and even though there were a couple of half-chances to both sides we went to half-time without goals. Our shooting was poor and we couldn’t find the target with any of our eight shots in the first period. The second half, on the other hand, was a disaster - two minutes after restart Carlos Vinicius scored with an audacious lob over Jay Gorter. On 55’ Edson Alvarez made a foul in the box and PSV doubled their lead from the spot. The centre-back Armando Obispo added the third goal after a free kick and we fell apart completely. Statistically it was much more equal than the 0:3 final score indicated, but there’s no hiding from that embarrassment. Nothing went our way in - inability to hit the target (16/4) strangled our attack throughout the game and there were some poor defensive performances as well. I lost all control after the game in our dressing room - it was our first league defeat this season and we’ve gone incredible 34 games without a defeat in Eredivisie (a streak that began in the last season), so perhaps I shouldn’t have been too harsh, but the scoreline and poor performance was way below what is expected of that team.

Because we won our first cup game, we had another one pressed into the schedule - FC Volendam were our third round opponents. A bit easier than FC Utrecht, of course, but Volendam is currently leading the Keuken Kampioen Divisie so they’re no amateur side either. For us it was an OK fixture, but FC Volendam manager Gertjan Verbeek used the chance in the pre-game press conference to announce his disappointment that they couldn’t get a bigger team with the draw. I’m sorry, Gertjan,  that there’s no Real Madrid or Liverpool in Holland, you have to settle with us.

 

spacer.png

 

In the actual game FC Volendam couldn’t pose too much threat. We rotated a lot and the first half finished 1:1 after our defensive mistake in the end of the first period, but we improved a lot in the second half - Dušan Tadic scored a quick break and when 63’ one of the Volendam midfielders received his second booking, it was game over for them. The 4:1 final score was a fair reflection of the balance of power in this evening.

Against FC Groningen we put in probably the best performance of the season - we battered them from start to finish and probably should have scored even more than five goals - 30/18 shooting, 16 chances, xG 5.04 and average rating of 8.00 - I can’t ask anything more from the team. Dušan Tadic and Antony scored a brace and Mohamed Daramy was inspiration on the left flank - two assists from him, always in dangerous positions and/or winning the ball back. Great game.

We were similarly convincing against Sparta Rotterdam and NAC Breda. Both opponents struggled to find form in their previous games and we scored five goals against them, without conceding a single chance. Steven Berghuis scored the best goal of the week with a curling shot from 20 metres against NAC Breda.

 

So, we played fairly well against smaller teams, offered entertaining and attacking football to our fans, but bigger opponents caused us some problems - it was a narrow win against FC Utrecht and a humbling defeat from PSV. We need to improve in that regard.





 

Transfers

 

We had a few departures in Winter. Mohamed Ihattaren’s loan finished and he returned to Juventus - he was a fringe player for us, so it’s not too much of a loss and some of our youngsters look already good enough to fill the bench in Eredivisie games. Lisandro Magallan was another player whose contract was about to end in Summer and in January he accepted the offer from PAOK. I moved forward to push the transfer earlier and PAOK agreed to pay £50k to get him in January. I accepted without hesitation - Olivier Aertssen is a young centre-back who looks way better than Magallan and is capable of providing cover to Perr Schuurs and Edson Alvarez and there was no point keeping Magallan here until July with his £16,250 p/w wages.

At least the Magallan transfer was one move that was widely greeted by fans and accepted by the board as well. Some of the supporters didn’t even try to hide their excitement about the news.

spacer.png

 

Third player in our list titled as ‘to offload’ was Hassane Bande. He attracted some bids from foreigner clubs and I accepted a £73k offer from the Greek side AEK for him. He’s merely an emergency backup for us and failed to make a single appearance in the first half of the season, but his £12,000 p/w wages could be used elsewhere and the player himself is eager to get first team football in order to find a way back into the Burkina Faso national team. Youngster Jeroen Campagne signed to Keuken Kampioen Divisie side RKC Waalwijk - his youth contract was about to end in Summer and he wasn’t offered a professional deal.

Danes Victor Jensen and Eskild Dall also have expiring contracts in Summer and both players agreed to the terms with their home countries NordicBet Liga clubs for the next season. For us they’re just not good enough - decent potential, but what bugs me about some of the attacking players is their work rate (or lack of it) - we play with high pressing football and it’s demanding for attacking players, too. You can’t get into the team with a work rate less than 11 and both Danes failed in that category.

On the transfer window deadline day I accepted a loan bid from Serie A team Empoli for Sean Klaiber. He is a fringe player for us and has 18 months left of his contract, but perhaps it was time to move on. Empoli’s bid included a loan fee and £2,1m future fee after 15 appearances. That looks decent enough for a 28 years old backup right-back. 


 

Players and Contracts

With more than £50,000 p/w in wages freed up after the players who were deemed surplus, I used this money to sort out player and staff contracts. Prince Aning got a new deal until 2027 with a small increase in wages. Perr Schuurs signed a new contract (£20,000 p/w until 2027) and these negotiations were a bit unpleasant, because he has an extremely annoying agent. 

With four players leaving in January and many talented youngsters on loan, who do I have lined up for chances in the first team? One name is Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson - an Icelandic attacking midfielder who had a great loan spell in Breidalik and returned to the club in November. He made his first team debut against Fortuna Sittard. Young striker Jay Enem made his debut against Heracles to give some minutes off for Dušan Tadic and Charlie Setford had the first start against FC Volendam. I needed another option in defence after Sean Klaiber left, so I called the young Tristan Gooijer to the first team training. He’s not really good enough just yet (1,5*), but has a decent potential and perhaps could gain something from experienced teammates.

 

Player of the Month: Dušan Tadic - he scored 11 goals in those 9 games and carried our attack. Sure, some of those goals were penalties, but nevertheless he’s been impressive with both finishing and creating chances. He has now scored 15 and assisted 9 in all competitions and leads the Eredivisie scoring chart with 13 goals.

 

Goal of the Month: Dušan Tadic vs. Fortuna Sittard - a beautiful free kick, curled around the wall from 22 metres. 



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

 

The top three have clearly separated from the rest of the pack. FC Utrecht is doing well to keep pace with us and Feyenoord. At the bottom of the table Vitesse and Sparta are surprisingly in the relegation zone at the moment. Both teams look too good to go down.

Teams struggling in the bottom half of the table continued to sack their managers. Next in line was VVV Venlo’s Jos Luhukay who was fired in the beginning of January. Foeke Booy took charge of SC Cambuur, abandoning his position as a director of football in the club. PSV Eindhoven made their decision and appointed Ronald Koeman as their new manager after sacking Timo Letsch.

Link to post
Share on other sites

February 2023


 

Fixtures and Results

We still have a number of games to play in February, too, but the schedule is not as tough as it could have been with all the Champions League fixtures in it. However, we will continue our journey to KNVB Beker and each round requires enough time to prepare and recover and our schedule is still heavier than usual, so we still have plenty of games.

Opponents are perhaps easier (on paper), but February includes the Klassieker Derby against Feyenoord which is essentially title six-pointer if both teams continue their respective winning streaks.

 

spacer.png

 

We started with a trip to Sittard. Fortuna showed us their teeth in January and they weren’t easy opponents this time either. They took the lead on 25’ and although we reacted well and Berghuis restored 1:1 soon after that, we struggled to win it. Youri Regeer filled in for Klaassen, but was inadequate in midfield as a BBMs. Kian Fitz-Jim started on the left flank and was so poor that he was taken off at half-time. The second half was a little bit better - Sebastien Haller blew his clear cut chance, but later earned us a penalty. Tadic got another goal from the spot (his eighth penalty of the season) and we took a hard-fought win. A few lessons about our players and tactics in this one - Davy Klaassen was injured in our last game in January. He’ll be out for a month with a twisted ankle and it will be difficult February for us without him.

Back at Johan Cruijff Arena we resumed our usual winning ways against PEC Zwolle - five unanswered goals and a comfortable home win. Curiously, four goals came from crosses (one of them from a corner) even though our tactics insist  on working the ball into the box and we are not known for just banging crosses into the box. Perhaps this was something that Zwolle wasn’t expecting as well and we took full advantage of our good deliveries.

We continued to perform well against our cup quarter final at Cambuur - Dušan Tadic put on a real show, scoring five goals and assisting the sixth one. SC Cambuur got to score-sheet after a penalty (pointless tug of a shirt in our box by Kik Pierie).

The Klassieker derby against Feyenoord was a massive fixture. We conceded an early goal - Daley Blind got his foot in to block the shot and a deflection left Jay Gorter standing in the goal - but created two clear cut chances in the first half and took control of the game after that. Sebastien Haller missed his penalty on 90’, but despite that we held onto our lead and thoroughly deserved to win that game. That result gives us a five point lead in the table and puts a dent to Feyenoord’s title ambitions.

I was a little bit afraid of the certain hangover after the derby win and indeed, our trip to Almelo was much more difficult than anticipated. The weather was poor, players lacked the fighting spirit and performances were affected by it. We couldn’t create chances and the first half was drab football, but in the second half substitutes Sebastien Haller and Mohammed Kudus combined for a goal to secure us a narrow win in that poor game. Our shooting was just 6/3 and we made only 6 key passes. It’s not often that we play so poorly in the league.

But while we took all three points despite that poor display in Almelo, we lost all points at home against Vitesse. We had a good first half - Olivier Aertssen scored his first ever goal for the club to give us the lead and we missed some good chances in the process, but all those missed opportunities came to haunt us in the second half when Vitesse stunned us with two goals in the final 15 minutes - you could say that we were FM-d in that defeat, because we were clearly the better team, but dammit, we need to finish off those chances that we create so easily. Steven Berghuis, Sebastien Haller and Ryan Gravenberch looked especially sheepish after the game - they knew they should have done better.



 

Players

We have done really well to avoid major injuries, but fatigue and our difficult schedule continues to cause problems. Edson Alvarez returned to the team for the Zwolle game and we had Sebastien Haller back, but Davy Klaassen missed out the whole month because of the ankle injury that he suffered in our last match in January. 

Our attacking prowess means that several players have reached landmarks in scoring and assisting - Dušan Tadic reached 20 goals and 10 assists in the game against SC Cambuur (sure, he’s scored 10 goals from penalties, but the number itself is still impressive). Sebastien Haller and Mohamed Daramy scored their 10th goal of the season against PEC Zwolle. Steven Berghuis surpassed our previous record of 12 assists in a season and is now on 15 assists.

Player of the Month: Dušan Tadic - scored 7 goals in those 6 games and led the team in attack

Goal of the Month: Antony vs. PEC Zwolle - good finish from winger

 

I made a few decisions about players and their future after the January transfer window had passed. It was time to take a look at the players who have deals running out in 2024. Davy Klaassen was the first one to sign a new deal until 2026 - I need his leadership around and £34,000 p/w is not too much to pay for it. Olivier Aertssen is pretty much our third choice center-back despite being just 18 years old and I tied him down until 2027 for £8,500 p/w. I also fulfilled the promise to Devyne Rensch and we signed a new deal until 2027 (£26,000 p/w with £60m minimum release fee clause).


 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

We increased our lead in the table with the win over Feyenoord, but defeat from Vitesse brought it back to two points. At the bottom of the table VVV Venlo and Willem II are getting closer to relegation while Sparta fights to get out of the danger zone.

Link to post
Share on other sites

March 2023

 

Fixtures and Results

spacer.png


 

We picked ourselves up after the Vitesse defeat and won all four games in March. The cup semi final against Heracles was much more comfortable than our previous league game against them and it counts as a routine win for us. We didn’t give Heracles any real chances in this game and scored three goals.

FC Utrecht is a tough opponent this season and I was a bit nervous to meet them at Galgenwaard. It was a tough game indeed, with both teams very organised in defence, but Dušan Tadic scored from a counter in the first half (lovely finish from him just outside of the box) and we managed to hold on to that lead. FC Utrecht’s tall striker Henk Veerman has had a terrific season so far, but we managed to keep him from scoring and I’m happy with that. 

We should have scored much more goals against Willem II than we actually did. Our opponents are true relegation material and we dominated the whole game, but just couldn’t score. Sebastien Haller missed his penalty in the first half and only Antony’s goal on 60’ finally gave us all three points. It wasn’t due to lack of trying, though - our shooting was 37/20, we created 12 chances with 5.50 xG, but the finishing wasn’t there. Or, perhaps it was a superb performance from the Willem II goalkeeper - Jakob Busk made several terrific saves and finished the game with 9.5 rating. So - a great game from us, but just a narrow win.

I chose to rotate the team for our home game against VVV Venlo - the weakest team in Eredivisie this season. Charlie Setford had his second game of the season in goal and key players had some rest. We looked fairly comfortable in the first half and went to half-time with a solid 2:0 lead, but VVV managed to get a goal on 81’ and the second half wasn’t as smooth as expected. Win is a win and I’m happy that rotation players and youngsters got some minutes, but I feel that we should have done better.


 

Players

The most important fact to note is that all players are finally fit before the most important part of the season. Davy Klaassen returned from injury before March and we had no major fitness problems in recent weeks. Schedule is getting more normal (no weeks with two games any more) and that helps with training and fitness. I’ve had a chance to rotate players and distribute playing time and I see that youngsters are progressing well and that makes me happy.

Player of the Month: Edson Alvarez - curious choice, but the centre-back delivered two good assists this month and put in solid games defensively. With attacking players showing more inconsistency, he deserves the award.

Goal of the Month: Mohammed Kudus vs. Heracles Almelo - great strike from outside of the area



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

 

Feyenoord have finally shown that they can drop points too. In fact it was their goalkeeper Justin Bijlow that was injured for two games and in those two games they lost one (0:1 against PSV Eindhoven from injury time goal) and drew another and suddenly we’re seven points clear in the table. 

VVV Venlo and Willem II look to go down, but Sparta is still better than their 16th position indicates. I suggest that either Go Ahead Eagles or Fortuna Sittard could be in the relegation play-offs in the end.

Pascal Jansen was sacked by the AZ Alkmaar board before the international break. Apparently 6th position is not good enough.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Youth Intake 2023

 

This year’s youth intake was deemed “excellent” by our Head of Youth Development Said Ouaali, and indeed - it included a couple of great prospects and overall bunch looked good enough. I offered youth contracts to almost ten players who had at least 2,5*-3* potential and decent personality, but three players stood out among the others. 

 

spacer.png



 

spacer.png

Gregory Riou is perhaps the most talented youngster this year, if only his unambitious nature wouldn’t keep him back. He has a very good teamwork attribute and not a lot of weaknesses, besides the fact that he’s really, really small. With height of only 160cm you’d expect him to be pushed over by most full-backs in Eredivisie, but at the same time his balance and dribbling look good enough, so if he’ll improve technically he could turn out a little like Sherdan Shaqiri. Is a right-footed player, but has a trait to cut in from right wing - I’m curious how that will work out for him.


 

spacer.png

Can Tas is an excellent centre-back for the future. Born in Amsterdam to Turkish parents, he joined the academy and now looks ready to make the next step in his career. Brave and aggressive (our squad seems to lack these qualities in general) and has no major flaws. Balanced personality, but that can be improved. Very good at tackling and possesses decent enough technique, passing and first touch to be a ball playing defender. Leader on the pitch, at least in youth classes and somebody that other players look up to.


 

spacer.png


Luciano Gladon is another Amsterdam lad. He’s a right-footed left winger who could play inside forward (IFs) in our system. Generally average at the moment and his only major flaw is low natural fitness - he’s susceptible to injuries.

Link to post
Share on other sites

April 2023

 

Fixtures and Results

 

Five games in April, including the cup final against NAC Breda - the team who are not doing well in the league, but somehow managed to beat Feyenoord after penalty shoot-out in the semi-final and find themselves in the final. The fixture list is not the most difficult, but the clubs we will go against are mostly stronger opponents than the ones in March. The biggest test on paper should be AZ Alkmaar.

 

spacer.png

 

We took a narrow win against FC Twente with a mediocre performance. Mohamed Daramy gave us the lead, but FC Twente managed to create two good chances in the first half, splitting our defence with good direct balls. Jay Gorter had to make a good save to deny the first one and was relieved to see the second chance go wide. At the end of the first half FC Twente’s Ramiz Zerrouki was sent off for a professional foul and that made our situation easier. However, in the second half it didn’t look like we played against 10 men - only a few half-decent chances and a narrow win, while I expected at least a couple of more goals after the break. Not impressed with the performance, but three points to the table.

The home game against sc Heerenveen was much better in that regard. We had a good first half and went to half-time with a solid 2:0 lead. sc Heerenveen constantly tried to break our offside trap, but couldn’t do it and without possession they chose to disrupt our rhythm with constant fouls. In the second half they managed to get one goal back when Roberto Fernandez finally timed his run right, but two minutes later Klaassen answered with his second goal and youngster Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson wrapped things up with his first goal for the club.

We then travelled to De Kuip for the cup final - I had promised the board to win the cup in this or next season and we had a good chance to do that against NAC Breda - our opponents struggled in Eredivisie and it should have been an easy win for us, but against all odds Breda was the first to score on 16’ and in the rest of the first half we pressured hard to get an equaliser. We created good chances, but wasted them one after another - Prince Aning had a clear cut chance and Dušan Tadic couldn’t score from a good position, so at half-time I had every reason to show my disappointment in the dressing room. That helped - we found the goal quickly after restart, but then cramped again - Dušan Tadic missed the penalty on 55’ (the player who has scored all eight penalties this season - he too is not immune to pressure) and finally Mohamed Daramy scored what proved to be the winner. Well deserved win (we had 3 clear cut chances with 3.98 xG), but how we could waste so many easy chances is beyond me.

Home game against AZ Alkmaar turned out to be a bit easier than anticipated. They offered us a real fight in the away game, but in Johan Cruijff Arena we looked to have much better control over the game. Two goals from Steven Berghuis in the first half, plus another from Dušan Tadic gave us a comfortable lead at half-time and we didn’t give away our winning position.

A day before our next game in Cambuur we received news from Enschede - FC Twente managed to beat Feyenoord at home and that result secured our league title. I promptly used the chance to rotate the team - youngsters started in most positions. Antony led our attacks and his hat-trick secured us a 5:2 away win. Two conceded goals indicated shaky defence, but that was expected with youth and inexperience. Good win nevertheless.




 

Players

 

In Spring I’ve realised where I’ve gone wrong with our contracts. Some players have agreed to pretty significant roles (star player for Ryan Gravenberch and Dušan Tadic, important player for Perr Schuurs, Daley Blind etc.) and some of them (especially Gravenberch and Blind) are starting to get concerned over their playing time. I’d like to rotate more and distribute playing time more evenly, but with a low number of injuries (which isn’t a problem in itself) I struggle to keep everyone happy. Sharing playing time got more difficult as our schedule went back to normal after very busy January and February. Monitoring player happiness is starting to affect my team selection decisions and I can’t avoid it at least until I’ve changed their player status in Summer.

Injuries have started to creep in again - our schedule is not difficult in the last months. Perhaps it’s just fatigue from the season or random poor luck, but Perr Schuurs was down with a twisted ankle (4-5 weeks) and Sebastien Haller pulled his ankle ligaments just one day before the cup final. Both were training injuries, so perhaps there’s something in there. 

What is the good part in this is that training performances have improved - we finally have enough time to train, train (moderately) hard and put some extra sessions in (we couldn’t afford that with just a couple of days between games earlier in the season). Mohamed Daramy, Kenneth Taylor and Devyne Rensch are great prospects and attract attention from big clubs in Europe. Olivier Aertssen and Prince Aning have improved nicely, Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson and Prince Aning scored their first goals for Ajax against sc Heerenveen and SC Cambuur respectively. Selection headaches are ahead, if we don’t sell anybody this Summer.

 

Our attacking numbers are still good - we have shown some weaknesses in defence and haven’t been able to always keep a clean sheet, but at least we score (more) goals ourselves. Steven Berghuis reached the 10th goal of the season and Dušan Tadic holds the lead in the Eredivisie scoring chart with 17 goals.


 

Player of the Month: Davy Klaassen - excellent month from the midfielder, scored two goals and added three assists in four games, with 8.03 average rating.

Goal of the Month: Steven Berghuis vs. AZ Alkmaar - not spectacular, but curled nicely to the far post.



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

Top three is clear, but the battle for the final European place continues. At the bottom of the table Sparta have picked up some points and moved away from the relegation zone. Go Ahead Eagles is currently 16th.

Link to post
Share on other sites

May 2023


 

Fixtures and Results

spacer.png

 

Two games remaining in the league and I used the chance to give minutes to youngsters. Charlie Setford started both games in goal. Youri Regeer, Olivier Aertssen, Mohammed Kudus, Prince Aning and Kian Fitz-Jim played, too. Despite our weakened team the first game against Go Ahead Eagles was a pretty comfortable win - we dominated from start to finish, had 31 key passes and 3.18 xG in the end of the game and scored three unanswered goals. Setford didn’t have much to do in this game and the result confirms my feelings that Eagles are perhaps not good enough to stay in Eredivisie.

We struggled to get our shots on target against FC Groningen and they, in turn, scored from the very first attack that they had in this game, but we reacted well - in few minutes Mohamed Daramy equalised with a beautiful strike and Antony added two more goals in the second half to finish our season in a proper manner. 

 

Players

We rotated heavily in May and most of the first team players had two games off. I tried to avoid injuries and suspensions that would affect the start of our next season and we managed to do well in that regard.

 

Player of the Month: Antony - led our attack and scored three goals.

Goal of the Month: Mohamed Daramy vs. FC Groningen

 

 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

 

Play-offs managed to offer some surprises at the end of the season. PEC Zwolle stole the last continental place and left AZ Alkmaar out of the competition. Go Ahead Eagles lost the relegation play-offs and will go down to Keuken Kampioen Divisie. RKC Waalwijk, ADO Den Haag and FC Emmen will be promoted to Eredivisie.

Link to post
Share on other sites

spacer.png


 

Goals and Results

We accomplished our two major goals - winning the Eredivisie title and KNVB Beker. The latter was also one required achievement in my contract (to win the cup before 2023/2024) so to win it one year earlier counts as a major success. 90 points in the league looks very convincing and a few poor results apart, we looked nearly unstoppable.

Major criticism from the board involved the Champions League. We were expected to be competitive, but managed to be just fairly competitive. Apparently the difference between ‘competitive’ and ‘fairly competitive’ is one point (or, finishing 3rd instead of 4th). Next season’s aim is to reach knockout stages, so the challenge will definitely be more difficult.

 

spacer.png


 

Players

Our best eleven this season looks like this.

spacer.png

Dušan Tadic was our best goalscorer with 24 goals and 14 assists, but keep in mind that he also took our set pieces and scored 8 goals from the spot. I’m personally more impressed with Mohamed Daramy this season who contributed enormously. Sebastien Haller had a fairly average season (especially after his injury) and Steven Berghuis wasn’t as dominant in attack. Perr Schuurs continued to have the best average rating of the team.

 

spacer.png


 

Some individual landmarks stood out. Steven Berghuis gave 15 assists and Jay Gorter kept 25 clean sheets. Both are the new records. 

spacer.png



 

Eredivisie Awards

Due to our team success several of our players earned individual awards at the end of the season.

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png



 

Finances

We’re doing OK, but because the January transfer window was quiet our bank balance looks pretty similar compared to last September. With more than £250m in the bank and wages well under the wage budget, at least that’s one department where I receive praise from the board.

 

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Summer 2023


 

Staff

Some staff contracts were expiring this Summer and I’ve worked quietly the whole season to find good replacements. I felt that although our head of youth development Said Ouaali was good enough, we could find someone better in that role. The first candidate that I had was perfect for the role, but couldn’t be tempted away from Hamburg SV. I finally signed Nick Doesburg to this role - slightly better attributes and better personality - that’s also very important for HoYD.

spacer.png

 

We also improved the coaching staff. I asked Agustin Lopez to become the new assistant manager and found unemployed Ashley Rogers from England who is easily 5* coach in several categories.

spacer.png



 

 

Transfer Window

We released some youth players in June and July. Sean Klaiber had a transfer clause in his loan contract that was activated when he played more than 15 games for Empoli - with that, he joined them permanently for £3m. Good enough money for a fringe player. We sent some youngsters on loan and waited for some big bids. There were a few for Perr Schuurs and Edson Alvarez, but neither of the players were really interested in leaving themselves. Then PSG managed to rattle Dušan Tadic with their bid. I rejected it, but the player got a little upset. Fortunately he didn’t receive much sympathy from the dressing room, but that certainly affected our morale in pre-season. Tadic didn’t want to back down on his transfer demands and I reluctantly promised to let him leave in the next transfer window.

Two biggest moves concerned our defenders - Edson Alvarez joined Newcastle United for £60m and on the transfer deadline day Perr Schuurs went to Real Madrid for £46m. Both deals were too good to turn down and both players deserved a chance to move to a bigger league, but losing two of my first team centre-backs at the same time will be extremely difficult to patch up.

I also made decisions about some of the players in Jong Ajax - Jaydon Banel, Christian Rasmussen, Tom de Graaff, Mohamed Hamouchi and Nick Verschuren left the club. In closer inspection those players lacked the qualities that were needed to make it into the first team. Most of the transfers had a 40% next sale profit clause in it, so we got some money, reduced our wage bill and even if they do well in their next club, we’ll profit from it.

 

spacer.png

 

spacer.png

 

Both Feyenoord and PSV virtually cleared off their first team. Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow went to Crystal Palace for £34,5. Lutsharel Geertruida joined Chelsea for £24m and Orkun Kökcü went to Atalanta for £29,5m. PSV sold their stars Cody Gakpo to AS Monaco (£22m), Olivier Boscagli and Jordan Teze to Everton (£12,5m and £15,75m) and Noni Madueke to RB Leipzig for £36m.

That means both of our competitors had easily around £80m-£90m to spend this Summer and they did put at least some of that money in use - Feyenoord added no less than ten players this Summer. Although all of their signings didn’t look to be first class players, they have incredible depth as a result.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2023

 

Fixtures and Results

spacer.png

We started our season with a traditional curtain raiser and hosted Feyenoord at Johan Cruijff Arena in the Johan Cruijff Schaal final. It was a fairly even match in the first half, although we probably had a small initiative until 55’ when Feyenoord’s midfielder Fredrik Aursnes received a straight red card for his late tackle on Sebastien Haller. It didn’t take us long after that to score (Schuurs from a corner) and we comfortably dominated the rest of the game. Feyenoord were patient to wait for their chance and they did have a couple of promising attempts, but they didn’t manage to create any really good chances against us. Good 1:0 win to us in the first derby game of the season and bragging rights with it.

Next up - FC Utrecht. Third place team from the last season - they haven’t changed much over Summer and I anticipated a tough game. The feeling was correct - Utrecht were extremely difficult to break, but set pieces did it and Perr Schuurs headed in another goal from a corner. We had a penalty in the second half that Dušan Tadic missed (very unusual for him), but he was first on the ball, passed it left to Mohammed Kudus and the second goal put this game to bed.

The last game of the month was against newly-promoted RKC Waalwijk - we struggled with injuries (both right wingers Steven Berghuis and Antony were out) and at the same time I was tempted to rotate heavily against minnows, despite it being an away game. In the end I took a calculated risk - Charlie Setford was in goal and 17 years old winger Bas van Lopik started on the right wing. We dominated the game, but managed to score only one goal - we were a bit unlucky with some of the chances and poor with others - there’s space for improvement, indeed.


 

Players and Tactics

No real changes in our formation and setup, only players are slightly different. We’ve had very many injury problems early in the season and that’s surprising - Steven Berghuis struggled with a back strain, Antony was out for a week, Prince Aning had ankle problems and Naci Ünüvar will be out for three months with a torn muscle. It has made our selection choices easier and more difficult at the same time.

Performances have been inconsistent. That’s partly expected at this stage of the season - our rhythm has been disrupted by injuries, new players in the squad and transfer rumours that haven’t allowed all players to concentrate fully. At least we have looked solid defensively and have three clean sheets to show for it. Hopefully our form will improve in September.

 

Player of the Month: Perr Schuurs - the centre-back played his last three games for the club this month and scored two important goals. Farewell, Perr.

Goal of the Month: Perr Schuurs vs. Feyenoord Rotterdam - not much to choose from in terms of beauty, but the award goes to the most important goal.



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

Only two games played in August and no surprises - favourites started strong.


 

Champions League 

Groups were drawn and we ended up with Group H with AS Roma, Olympique Lyon and KRC Genk. Could be a lot worse - at least we avoided big giants and Premier League clubs, but expectations are high (the board wants us to reach the first knockout stages) and every game will be extremely important. The big question is - will our defence be good enough after Alvarez and Schuurs have gone.

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Squad Update 2023
 

With the new season getting closer, I found that our squad hasn’t changed too much over Summer. We didn’t make any major transfers in June and July. Several loan players (notably Naci Ünüvar) returned to the club and bolstered our ranks, so my general feeling was that we had more depth and quality, because younger players had some match experience in the last season and developed well in training.


 

Goalkeepers

No changes here. We have three goalkeepers which is good enough in training, but actually not good for game time. I should find a loan move to at least one of the two (Charlie Setford or Calvin Raatsie). Jay Gorter has proved himself as a pretty good goalkeeper in the past few years and I can rely on him in the foreseeable future.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png


 

 

Defenders

Here we are more thin. Olivier Aertssen and Prince Aning had a good season and they’ve developed well, but obviously need some more training. Tristan Gooijer is actually not ready for first team football, but we have little options in the right defence. Edson Alvarez departed to Newcastle United after the Johan Cruijff Schaal final Perr Schuurs moved to Real Madrid at the end of August. That means Olivier Aertssen needs to step up big this season. We have options in central defence - both Kik Pierie and Daley Blind are capable of playing in the DLC position - but I added young Mateja Milovanovic to the squad - he’ll be training with experienced players and hopefully will get some minutes here and there. There has been enough interest in Devyne Rensch and Kik Pierie to make me worry - with all the departures in previous transfer windows we might become too thin defensively (or probably already are).

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png





 

Midfielders

Bold transfer decisions in defence means that Daley Blind will probably move to the centre-back role this season, so there’s more playing time available in midfield. Kenneth Taylor will be our first team option next to Davy Klaassen. Youri Regeer offers depth, but as we loaned out both Rico Speksnijder and Gabriel Misehouy, we probably need to find a youngster from U-18 who would provide some minutes in easier games.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png


 

Attacking midfielders

Against all odds there have been no changes here - I was prepared that Ryan Gravenberch’s minimum release fee will be met by some clubs this Summer, but despite some interest no bids have been made. Antony is another player who has attracted attention from Chelsea, Tottenham and Juventus, but so far remains in the club. Mohamed Daramy is perhaps the most developed player in the team and has played great on the left. I decided to loan out Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson to get him more competitive minutes elsewhere, but Naci Ünüvar returned to the club and will compete for a bigger role. It’s a difficult challenge for Kian Fitz-Jim to get playing time (and earn himself a new contract) among such talented players. 

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png

spacer.png


 

Strikers

Two main options - Sebastien Haller and Dušan Tadic - and one youngster (Yoran Boerhout) in Jong Ajax. Both Haller and Tadic were tempted elsewhere, but I rejected bids for them. Boerhout has injury problems (damaged cruciate ligaments will keep him out until the end of October), but I expect him to get into the team after Christmas.

 

spacer.png

spacer.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

September 2023

 

Fixtures and Results

spacer.png


The first game against sc Heerenveen turned out to be easier than expected. We had an early penalty, then Olivier Aertssen headed in from a corner and two quick goals in two minutes, both combined between Antony and Tadic ripped sc Heerenveen defence apart. We could relax after that and send in youngsters in the second half. That resulted in sc Heerenveen consolation goal, but that didn’t matter much. Tadic’s hat-trick was a great moment and I relied on him for most of the next games, but his goals dried up after that.

It tooks us over 70 minutes to score against Vitesse in the next away game - we were always in control, but the goal just didn’t come. Davy Klaassen wasted a clear cut chance in the first half, Antony hit the crossbar twice after the break, but finally Mohamed Daramy found the net and substitute Haller doubled our lead before Buitink scored for Vitesse. Vitas defended really well and they absorbed most of the pressure with their catenaccio tactics, but in the end our attack was just too good.

Our first Champions League game against Lyon was our most important win in September. Aertssen scored with a powerful header fairly early and gave everyone a lift with that goal. We looked confident in possession after that. Daramy added another goal in the second half and we had several good opportunities and attempts to make it 3:0. Lyon woke up and started to take more risks in the final 15 minutes - it resulted in an injury time goal, but it was too late for them. Great result to start the campaign with.

The SC Cambuur match was a disappointment. I’m sad to say that we were nullified well defensively and couldn’t create much in the away game against them. Both teams had a couple of half-chances, but according to xG-s it was an even game and both had xG less than 1.00, so probably a fair result, but performance was more than disappointing - we could get only two shots on target in the whole game. Should have won this without much effort.

The next game against PEC Zwolle was a tricky one again - the first half was the copy of what I saw against SC Cambuur - poor attack and not a lot of chances. To make matters worse Antony had to come off with an injury on 38’. In the second half I sent on Gravenberch and Haller and then things started to change - in the last 10-15 minutes we kept Zwolle under real pressure and scoring looked like a matter of time. Finally it was Steven Berghuis who broke the deadlock and 1:0 was good enough to get all three points. Not an impressive performance, but at least didn’t drop any points.



Players and Tactics

Three games in August wasn’t enough to give anyone enough game time. International break in September allowed players to get some good games for their national teams and gain match fitness in the process. Kenneth Taylor and Devyne Rensch made their debut for Holland. Sadly, it looks that Daley Blind is overlooked by Louis van Gaal - I hoped that he’ll get to his 100th cap, but at the moment it looks like his international career will stop at 98.

Player injuries got better in September and after the break we were almost back to full fitness (except Naci Ünüvar), but Antony twisted his ankle in the PEC Zwolle match and he’ll be out for whole October.

 

I had to change some things in our tactics - moving Daley Blind to the DLC position and starting Olivier Aertssen in DRC, it made sense to make Blind BPDd and Aertssen plays as CDd, essentially switching sides where our BPDd plays. At least against sc Heerenveen I didn’t see any signs of it backfiring. The second thing was my (stupid) promise to Mohamed Daramy to play him as IWs instead of IFs. I gave this promise without thought in June when we extended his contract and now I started to regret it. He grew concerned, because in August his role remained IFs, but in September I started him as IWs and again, so far - so good. Let’s see how it works out.

Few games in the league allowed me to give youngsters a chance, so Mateja Milovanovic made his debut in the sc Heerenveen game. 


 

Player of the Month: Olivier Aertssen - our attack has been a little inconsistent towards the end of September, but Aertssen has been solid in his role and scored two important goals against sc Heerenveen and Lyon, so he’ll get the nod

Goal of the Month: Dušan Tadic vs. sc Heerenveen - more of a combination than just goal. Ball was going to bounce over the byline, but Antony sprinted and got there on time to cut it back in front of the goal and Tadic volleyed it home with his first touch.



 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

All other favourites (AZ Alkmaar, PSV Eindhoven, FC Utrecht) have faltered at one point or another, so it looks like we’re competing again with Feyenoord for the title. We have done well early in the season and are still undefeated, but Feyenoord look from another planet. Five straight wins (including 6:1 over AZ Alkmaar) give them an advantage. AZ didn’t look to recover from this beating and they haven’t been able to get a good run going - at the end of September they’re 14th in the table. FC Groningen find themselves in the relegation zone.


 

Champions League

spacer.png

One round has been played and the group stage is just in the beginning. AS Roma needed a penalty to beat KRC Genk 1:0, but they got their three points and look like favourites in this group.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Keep an eye on the development at Jong Ajax. I can tell you in my save that player development really stalls there. If I loan B team players out to other KKD teams their development picks up again. I don't know if there is some kind of glitch with those games not counting as first team football, but keep an eye on it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

October 2023

 

Another five games in October - we have two Champions League matches and the Eredivisie fixture list offers the first Klassieker derby in the league that could be crucial in the title race.

 

spacer.png

 

First - trip to Roma. Not always do we have the chance to play in a bigger stadium than Johan Cruijff Arena in those away games and Stadio Olimpico with its 68,000 spectators was a great experience. We played a fairly balanced game in the first half and I was quite happy with our first 30-35 minutes in the game, but then Roma slowly started to take initiative and they had a couple of good moments in the end of the first half. Devyne Rensch struggled to contain Henrik Mkhitaryan on his flank and the Armenian caused us problems with his movement and technique. The second half was even more one-sided - we struggled to create anything in attack. Defensively Jay Gorter had to make some important saves to keep us in the game. We almost conceded, but managed to keep our clean sheet and then substitute Steven Berghuis had a chance to win this for us on 88’, but his shot skewed wide of the goal. It ended goalless, but it tasted like a tactical win - not the best performance, but I’m really happy with the result.

We were a little tired from the midweek game, but I kept the same starting eleven against NAC Breda. NAC is known for parking the bus and I expected a tough game at Rat Verlegh, but we scored an early goal and in retrospect it helped us a lot in this game. It came out of nowhere after three minutes of game - Sebastien Haller crossed it for Mohamed Daramy, who headed it into the top corner. It wasn’t a real chance, not even a good attempt, but somehow it happened to be unstoppable for the goalkeeper. In the second half we added to great goals - Ryan Gravenberch fired in an unstoppable strike and then Steven Berghuis scored a low drive from 19 metres (both candidates for the goal of the month award). Excellent result in the end.

We had an international break before the Klassieker derby and I was disappointed to see some of our younger players return absolutely exhausted from the games. National team managers (especially U-21 ones) have no respect for players fitness - perhaps they’re used to the fact that youngsters will often get less minutes in their club and so should play as much as possible for national teams, but in our case it’s the other way around - U-21 players like Olivier Aertssen and Kenneth Taylor are in our first eleven, Ryan Gravenberch also played to games for Holland main team, and all of them looked a bit out of shape ahead of the important match with Feyenoord. Luckily, Feyenoord faced the similar problem, so perhaps the odds were even in that regard. The derby match started well and we took the lead in 16’ - Gravenberch scored with a placed shot after a great ball from Berghuis, but after the first 30 minutes the initiative turned to Feyenoord - Tomas Bašic saw his free kick clip the post, Moses Simon wasted one good chance and then hit the post right before the half-time break. The loose ball bounced in front of the goal where Keita Balde had time and space to score into the empty net, but somehow managed to hit it wide. That’s why I felt rather lucky to be 1:0 ahead at half-time. We managed to do better defensively in the second half, but still conceded a late equaliser. It finished 1:1 and both teams probably had regrets after the game - we could have avoided that late conceded goal and Feyenoord rued their missed chances in the first half. Some of the players weren’t up to the task and looked anxious rather than fired up for the derby game and that’s one of the factors that crippled our game.

We bounced back well with a win in the Champions League - we were favourites at home against KRC Genk and after a dull first half scored two good goals to take the lead, before KRC Genk midfielder Kristian Thorstvedt gave them hope with a low drive from 18 metres - a great goal, but a little bit too late for them. Despite that late goal, it was a defensively solid performance and we didn’t concede any proper chances to them, so I was pleased with what I saw on the pitch.

The last game of the month was against minnows of the league - FC Emmen are not good enough to stay up in Eredivisie and I was bold enough to rotate heavily, despite it being an away game. We were unlucky in the very first minute when Aertssen headed against crossbar from a corner, but then I was almost made to regret my squad selection when Emmen took the lead on 21’ - fortunately, Dušan Tadic scored two goals late in the first half to make my half time team talk more happy occasion to everyone and the second half was much better. Aertssen wrapped things up with an injury time goal. The game should have been more comfortable for us, but the result was OK and my bold rotations didn’t backfire.



 

Players and Tactics

In our first Champions League game against Lyon we used our regular Eredivisie formation, because it was a home game. I only tweaked our mentality to balanced instead of positive and I dare to say it worked fine. You might say that it worked out because Lyon was way too defensive and passive in the first part of the game and only started to play attacking football somewhere in the last 15 minutes when it was already too late to save the game. Champions League football is something different and the difference between home and away games (and mentality that AI teams use in those games) varies a lot, so I took some time to decide what’s the best tactics against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico. In the end I revisited my old Champions League setup - generally the same 4-2-3-1 wide, with a balanced mentality and some tweaks in the player roles - Kik Pierie was on support duty and our line of engagement was lower. 

We have been without Antony in October and I’m happy to see that other players are answering the call. Ryan Gravenberch scored his first goals of the season against NAC Breda. Steven Berghuis is finding his form again after his season started with injury. Good news is that Naci Ünüvar returned to full training after the international break.



Player of the Month: Ryan Gravenberch - scored important goals in three games - really happy to see him step up in attack.

Goal of the Month: Steven Berghuis vs. NAC Breda - driven low from 19 metres.




 

Eredivisie

spacer.png

 

Feyenoord look almost unbeatable and we’re trying our hardest not to lose ground to them. Heracles Almelo has been the surprise story early in the season, but in the bottom of the table FC Groningen are still in the relegation zone.


 

Champions League

spacer.png

Seven points from the first three games - really good start for us. Hopefully we can keep this going.

Link to post
Share on other sites

On 23/06/2022 at 03:58, Nimmy said:

Keep an eye on the development at Jong Ajax. I can tell you in my save that player development really stalls there. If I loan B team players out to other KKD teams their development picks up again. I don't know if there is some kind of glitch with those games not counting as first team football, but keep an eye on it.

Yeah, I'm aware of that. It's probably partly because Jong Ajax have way too many players in the start and all of them won't get enough game time even in KKD. At the same time I know that although all real players (youngsters) are shown as 'balanced' personality, in reality they're much more mixed in hidden attributes and there are some that won't make it simply because they lack the necessary mental attributes. And obviously all loans are not successful. Now in 2022/2023 I try to get better players into the first team and make them available for Jong Ajax, so they train and can be mentored with the first team players, and get occasional minutes in Eredivisie. That seems to work well. The core of Jong Ajax is mostly youngsters with 2,5-3* potential who are not really good enough for the first team, but still have a year or two left of their contract.

Edited by Draakon
Link to post
Share on other sites

November 2023


 

Fixtures and Results

spacer.png

We started with the home game against FC Twente and it was again one of those matches that we seemed to control effortlessly in midfield, but lacked creativity and couldn’t find the final pass or finishing touch to score. Antony was the one in the first half who missed the goal from point blank range, Steven Berghuis hit the post in the second half and it started to look like a disappointing goalless draw, but in 87’ we finally found the goal. Prince Aning delivered a deep cross, Haller made an important flick-on and Antony was at the far post to put it over the line. Poor performance, but three points were the most important.

Our next game in the Champions League was the crucial one - the win here could have secured our qualification from the group stage, but we fell short. The first half looked pretty good - we had a small initiative and Sebastien Haller missed the best chance of the first period. Steven Berghuis opened things up with a fantastic free kick from the edge of area, but after that we made a few terrible errors in defence - Prince Aning’s missed interception and Daley Blind’s poor pass were left unpunished, because Jay Gorter made two fantastic saves to keep the lead, but in the end we couldn’t avoid the equaliser - Kenneth Taylor lost an aerial duel and KRC Genk scored from an IFK - it was a fair result, to be honest, because we didn’t play our best football in the second half, but that was a massive chance that we gave away here. I hope that we won’t regret it later, as we have two really difficult games against AS Roma and Lyon ahead of us and I certainly feel the pressure from the board to get into the knockout stages.

We returned to winning ways against Sparta Rotterdam - in the home game we were clear favourites, but were a little bit lucky in the first ten minutes, because we scored two goals without getting proper chances. Mohamed Daramy directed his excellent header into the top corner from some way out and Prince Aning fired in his first goal of the season. Being 0:2 down, Sparta started to panic - they switched their mentality to more attacking and that resulted in two more goals - Tadic converted from the spot after Davy Klaassen was brought down in the box and for the fourth goal we truly played the pants off from the Sparta defence - Antony could finish into the empty net from close range. We got a little careless after that one and Sparta hit one back after restart, but that didn’t change the final result - a comfortable second half and convincing 4:1 win.

We then travelled to Groningen for our next game. Our opponents were without a proper manager and underachieving according to their position in the table, but they had been undefeated in the last six games, so it could have been a tricky tie and it certainly was. We were surprisingly dull in the first half and couldn’t create anything dangerous, despite having over 70% of the ball. In the second half it got a little bit better, especially after Steven Berghuis came on for Antony - he hit the post twice in short period of time, but FC Groningen then got their best chance of the game - their striker Myziane Maolida received a perfect through ball and even managed to beat Jay Gorter with his attempt, but it went just wide of the post. Berghuis didn’t have luck with his finishing, but another substitute Mohammed Kudus was the one who found the net - his goal came deep in injury time (probably the very last attack of the game) and the corner where away fans were watching erupted with cheers. Massive goal from Kudus to secure all three points and the second time this month when we left it very very late.

We finished November in Amsterdam, hosting Jose Mourinho and AS Roma. I didn’t consider us favourites and we started with a balanced mentality, but it looked like AS Roma had come to the away game with way too defensive mindset. They gave all the initiative to us and in the first half we had far better moments. Steven Berghuis was unlucky again - he managed to hit the woodwork three times in the first half, but we scored two goals (including Ryan Gravenberch’s curling strike into the top corner from 20 metres). However, Henrik Mkhitaryan scored with the very first attempt that AS Roma had in this game and we went to half time with a narrow lead. In the second half Roma’s defender Marash Kumbulla was sent off for a two-footed tackle on Sebastien Haller and that gave us even more control over the game - Haller continued to lead the attack with two more goals and the final score 4:1 was impressive. Massive win - that result puts us on top of the table and takes us to the knockout stages. Mourinho was sour in his post-match comments, refused to compliment opponents and was obviously annoyed by the result, but it looked like he was misjudging the situation completely with his tactics.



Tactics

I haven’t changed my main formation (positive 4-2-3-1 wide) but we’ve suffered from inconsistency of attacking players and in some goals we struggle to score a single goal. We look extremely solid in defence, but we’ve scored just two goals per game in Eredivisie and that’s not too many by our standards. Feyenoord has around three goals per game. Given a few games when we manage to find the net, we have way too many narrow 1:0 wins that could lead to lost points very easily. I’ve had to chat with several players about their form in November and I hope that they can improve in the near future.

 

Players

I’ve rotated attacking players enough this season, but our defensive line has largely remained the same and younger players start to suffer fatigue. Olivier Aertssen has had a huge match load both for the club and country. I rested him for a full two weeks in November, but then he played a lot of minutes for Holland U-21 team and at the end of November he was again tired. Kik Pierie filled in for him in central defence and Prince Aning got more minutes on the left.

International break was a memorable one to Jay Gorter who made his debut for Holland.

We hadn’t had too much luck with injuries. Match load has started to take its toll here as well, and although we don’t have too many injuries at once, we almost always have at least one key player out because of that. In November it was Dušan Tadic who came off in the FC Groningen match and he’ll be out for 3-4 weeks with pulled knee ligaments.

 

I also sorted out player contracts that were about to end in 2024. Daley Blind extended his deal for one year (and agreed to take a small pay cut), Tristan Gooijer and Calvin Raatsie also signed new contracts, but it looks like Kian Fitz-Jim is not good enough to remain in the club. He hasn’t improved a lot, has played rather poorly in games that he has got some minutes and several youngsters (Naci Ünüvar, Amourricho van Axel Dongen, Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson, Stanis Idumbo Muzambo, David Kalokoh etc.)  are already better than him, so this could be the end of his journey in Ajax. 


Player of the Month: Kik Pierie - played four games and impressed in both left-back (FBa) and centre-back (CDd) roles. Average rating 7.75 and collected an assist in the AS Roma match.

Goal of the Month: Ryan Gravenberch vs. AS Roma - a curling strike from 20 metres that landed in the top corner



Eredivisie

spacer.png

We’ve had a great run so far this season - we’re still undefeated, but Feyenoord have put together an incredible campaign. They’re just not flinching and collecting wins at ease. Getting 40 points in the first 17 games used to give you a solid lead in the table at Christmas, but Feyenoord have got 40 with just 13 games and they’re not stopping. Unbelievable. We’re playing catch-up at the moment and can’t afford to lose any more points.

Meanwhile, Heracles Almelo is third (!) and FC Groningen continue to struggle - they hired the FC Emmen manager Frans Adelaar (not sure if hiring from the red lantern club predicts success for them) at the end of November. Otherwise the table looks quite how it’s supposed to be - big clubs in the top half and smaller teams at the bottom.



 

Champions League 

spacer.png

With the win over AS Roma we are granted to finish first regardless of the result in the final round. I’m very happy with that campaign, because we’ve fulfilled one of the two goals that the board set for us and that could get me closer to my new contract here in Ajax.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This site uses cookies - We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.