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  1. Youth Intake Update 2032 What I needed from this youth intake is a great right-back and perhaps a striker or two, if we’re not extending Lungisani Senyane contract in this Summer. The rest of the positions are fairly well covered at the moment and in no need of urgent hot prospects. This season’s youth candidate’s team looks like this. Wim Splinter The best prospect of this season’s intake. Fairly good physically, very good flair player and decent technical abilities. His manners (back to goal) and attributes suggest he’s more of a target man and should improve his vision, passing and technique to succeed as complete striker, but we have time to mould him into one. Jelle Sandler Yes! Finally a decent right-back that I really needed. He doesn’t look like much physically, but he is very young (just turned 16) and has plenty of time to improve. Mental attributes look good for his age, especially teamwork and his balanced nature means that I can use our good tutors to make him better mentally. Rob Pluim I didn’t exactly need a goalkeeper, but this lad has potential. No real weaknesses, excellent teamwork and professional attitude. He can fulfill his potential, I’m sure of that.
  2. March 2032 02.03.2032 - AFC Ajax - AZ Alkmaar p0:0 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) After poor result against PEC Zwolle, we needed to bounce back with a win and March started for us with Dutch Cup semi final against AZ Alkmaar. While AZ have done really well in this season, I expected us to be favourites in Amsterdam Arena and chose attacking formation with overlapping fullbacks. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba (73. Koeman), Ari, Verhoeven, Antonucci (63. Stekelenburg), van Grinsven, van der Aar, de Wit (63. Senyane) First half of this semi final was uneventful - no real chances to either sides. We tried to create something, but our attacking movement was off sync and we wandered to offside positions too often. Second half was improvement in this regard - Dirk van Grinsven had two great chances around 60’, but his first shot was saved and second went wide. A bit unexpected from the player of his class. It looked like we’re going to extra time when Sergio Alleyne had a great chance in injury time - our central defender was in AZ box after IFK and ball found its way to him, but the moment ended with a typical central defender’s strike - smashed against goalkeeper with full force. Second half was much better in terms of attack, but our finishing let us down. Extra time was again more careful and teams tried to secure their clean sheet. So the game went to penalty shoot-out. AZ definitely felt that their chances are better in penalty lottery and I was a bit nervous if our young team could keep composure in nervous moments. No need to worry - Lungisani Senyane, Rene Verhoeven, Dirk van Grinsven and Pieter Stekelenburg converted their penalties and when Ismet Gluhalic had saved 2 out of 5 penalties it was enough to secure our win and place in the final. Sergio Alleyne made his 400th appearance for Ajax we will play FC Groningen in the final in April 06.03.2032 - FC Utrecht - AFC Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 66. Tarik de Wit, 88. Omar van der Aar Away game in Utrecht was very important for us and definitely tough challenge. FC Utrecht have played a great season so far, but they have been fragile lately and lost some points since winter break. FC Utrecht players also looked really tired even before kickoff. News from our training ground say that Marvin Koops is back in full training and is on the bench for us against Utrecht. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (58. Verhoeven), Antonucci, van Grinsven (78. Matal), van der Aar, de Wit (75. Ceylan) We were clearly more attacking side in the first half, but couldn’t create any clear chances. In fact, we just got our first half-chances in 36’, so fairly dull game from us. Goalless first half was obviously not what I expected from the team, so things had to improve after half time break and they did. Tarik de Wit got our first good chance in 60’, but his shot was saved. Edward Schans had a great look in 66’ after corner - his shot from close range was blocked. But the pressure on FC Utrecht goal was persistent and the goal came - de Wit headed in his 25th goal of the season in the following attack. We continued to play - young winger Omar van der Aar hit crossbar in 71’ and Engin Ceylan wasted his clear cut chance in 82’. 1:0 lead is always fragile, but we secured all three points when van der Aar doubled our lead in 88’. Good cross from Tom Drost to create this goal. Young striker Engin Ceylan headed against crossbar in 89’ - a little bit unlucky not to score. We improved our game in second half and looked much better. Plenty of chances and two goals - I’m happy with the performance. our shooting was 27/9 we didn’t allow FC Utrecht to get any chances Francesco Antonucci had a great game for us 13.03.2032 - AFC Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 2:1 (ED) - 34. and 53. Tarik de Wit - 83. Papito Bicintini Home game against Go Ahead Eagles should be easy, but that’s what I said about PEC Zwolle and look how that played out for us. Attacking formation and overlapping instructions were in order. Go Ahead Eagles are currently without manager and that should also work in our favour. Marvin Koops returned to goal in this game. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Verhoeven (61. Talea), Stekelenburg, van Grinsven (69. Matal), van der Aar, de Wit (69. Ceylan) We got an early chance in the game - Jeroen Smits played with high foot in the box and penalty was awarded. A bit harsh call from the referee, but we didn’t take that gift and Dirk van Grinsven’s penalty was saved by Eagles goalkeeper. Poor effort. We continued to attack and chances came - van Grinsven had a good shot on target in 29’ that was brilliantly saved, but our right winger created our first goal five minutes later with wonderful cross that found Tarik de Wit behind central defenders. It was 1:0 at half time and although I didn’t have too much to complain about, the early missed penalty made things a bit more difficult for us. We continued well in second half. Pieter Stekelenburg played the role of advanced playmaker in this game and his direct balls behind defensive line caused our opponents much problems. One of those balls found de Wit in 53’ and our striker finished his chance calmly. It was his 50th goals for Ajax. What I didn’t like was that second goal allowed complacency to creep in and our concentration dropped. That allowed Eagles to score a late goal back - Tom Drost lost the ball and Leslie Lichaba missed the run of Papito Bicintini. Marvin Koops, perhaps, wasn’t too alert either. I was furious because it was clearly a goal caused by complacency that could have been avoided. Despite that hickup we held our lead until the end and took the three points that we needed. our shooting was 22/9 Pieter Stekelenburg had a great game for us - 16 key passes from him Go Ahead Eagles named Jordi Clasie as their new manager after that game. 19.03.2032 - PSV Eindhoven - AFC Ajax 0:0 (ED) Away derby against PSV is our most important game in March and perhaps in the rest of the season. A true title showdown between two clubs who are level in terms of points. I know it wasn’t to be easy challenge and we practiced defending set pieces before the game, because I knew that PSV will get at least some corners and free kicks and we couldn’t afford to give them goals from dead ball situations. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Verhoeven, Antonucci (67. Stekelenburg), van Grinsven (63. Matal), van der Aar, de Wet (87. Ceylan) We had an early chance in 2’ - young winger Omar van der Aar had a great look from close range, but the nerves let him down and he sent his shot well wide. The rest of the first half was tightly contested midfield battle and neither of teams didn’t take any risks. Second half was similarly quiet. We didn’t give any chances to PSV and didn’t create anything too dangerous either, but we had one good look in 80’ - PSV goalkeeper came out of the box to make a clearance, Stekelenburg got the ball in midfield and instantly took ambitious attempt towards empty goal. Very unlucky that it only hit crossbar. Final whistle was met with mixed reactions - we had two chances to win this game and we let it slip away, but on the other hand PSV needed to win more and we could be satisfied with away draw. our shooting was 11/1 we didn’t allow PSV any chances International break was full of action to our players. Engin Ari made his debut for Turkey and young defender Rene van den Bosch earned his first cap for Holland. Rene Verhoeven was also called to national team, so it’s nice to see our players making breakthrough in international level. I’m fairly pleased with our March results. Games were a bit nervous, perhaps, but we got good results and we’re still leading the table, although PSV is level on points. Eredivisie FC Utrecht look to be stuck in 3rd place after some poor results in March. Title race is still on and it’s a rarely interesting season compared to some of the previous years. Dog fight near relegation zone is equally brutal - Volendam, Helmond Sport, Fortuna Sittard and Go Ahead Eagles battle for their place in Eredivisie. PEC Zwolle, I’m afraid, looks to be relegated.
  3. February 2032 04.02.2032 - Fortuna Sittard - AFC Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 22. Omar van der Aar, 45.+1 Engin Ceylan Draw in Dutch Cup has been favourable to us and we’ll go against Fortuna Sittard in quarter finals. Schedule has been tight in this week, so I planned to use rotation players against Fortuna, but my assistant advised me to practice defensive positioning before the game. While Dragisa Gudelj turned out for FC Volendam, Justin Kluivert had signed for Fortuna Sittard and he’ll come against us in this game. We miss Johan van Dalen, so Omar van der Aar has to fill left wing for us. Moreno Markiet has recovered from his chest injury and he’ll start in defense. 17 years old Engin Ceylan will get his first start in this game. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Markiet, Koeman, de Groot, Talea, Stekelenburg (62. Verhoeven), Matal, van der Aar, Ceylan There was a drama in 11’ when Fortuna were awarded a penalty - Rene van den Bosch made a completely unnecessary foul near the edge of our box and Fortuna had a great chance to take the lead. Fortunately for us (and not Fortuna, pun intended) Ismet Gluhalic made a great save to keep our clean sheet. Omar van der Aar scored our first goal in 22’ - he made a good interception in midfield and continued with solo run into Fortuna box and finished calmly. Not bad for 18 years old player. It was a good goal for us, because we hadn’t created much until that point and this goal gave everybody a lot of confidence. Fortuna had to open up their game after that goal and opportunities started to come our way. Eugene Talea wasted his opportunity in 30’, Engin Ceylan missed his shot from open look two minutes later and Mario de Groot had a good attempt from 20 meters that hit the post in 36’. Second goal was in the air and it finally came in the injury time of the first half - new guy Engin Ceylan finished from loose ball inside the six yard box - his first ever goal for Ajax. I was fairly pleased with our performance at half time - should have finished better, but we created a lot of chances and I knew that goals will come. We continued to attack after half time - Engin Ceylan sent his shot wide from clear cut chance in 46’ and his shot in 62’ took a brilliant save from Fortuna goalkeeper. We were very wasteful with our opportunities and both Ceylan and Omar van der Aar missed another open look in the last ten minutes, so final score was 2:0. Good win and performance, but finishing, overall, was disastrous. our shooting was 21/8 we created 7 clear cut chances we committed 20 fouls Rene van den Bosch made 6 individual mistakes - including conceding penalty Nketsi Matal had a great game we’re playing AZ Alkmaar in the semi final 07.02.2032 - FC Groningen - AFC Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 16. Omar van der Aar, 53. Tarik de Wit We have had four games after winter break in which we have been strong favourites, but now it gets tougher - away game in FC Groningen is a difficult challenge and to add to that it was a dreadful weather in Groningen. Some kind of sleet came down and pitch was all muddy - not good for our technical football. I was a bit worried how we’d do without Johan van Dalen - we could definitely use him against top teams. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Verhoeven (61. Stekelenburg), Antonucci (65. Talea), van Grinsven, van der Aar (71. Matal), de Wit First half was, in fact, a fairly ugly game on a muddy pitch. We took the lead after great combination from our attacking three in 16’ and FC Groningen’s Vincent Schmidt had a good opportunity to equalize in 25’, but Ismet Gluhalic made a good save to deny him. Both teams had one chance in the first half and I was pleased that we were leading at half time. Tarik de Wit scored our second goal after half time break - Francesco Antonucci delivered long ball upfield and de Wit was the fastest to get to it. Calm finish in the end in 1-1 situation. FC Groningen didn’t give up and they put us under real pressure after our second goal. Ralf Stam came on for opponents and he changed attack and caused all sorts of trouble for our defense. One brilliant save from Gluhalic in 56’ was needed to stop him. Youngster Ferry de Geer had two good chances late in the game, his header in 87’ went against our crossbar. Despite that pressure our defense held and we kept our clean sheet. After final whistle I felt it was a hard fought win for us and for the last 30 minutes we defended really well. Ismet Gluhalic stepped up too and proved he can be our first team goalkeeper. I’m also pleased that we took those chances that we got in attack and our finishing was excellent. we allowed 24 key passes and 22 dribbles for FC Groningen we made 26 defensive mistakes, 6 of those were made by Sergio Alleyne Francesco Antonucci had a great game for us 13.02.2032 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - AFC Ajax 0:0 (ED) Probably the toughest game in February - away derby against Feyenoord. Engin Ari was suspended for this game, but no other news from training camp, so I sent our our usual first eleven and hoped for the best. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci (73. Stekelenburg), van Grinsven (62. Matal), van der Aar, de Wit (86. Ceylan) First half was fairly even football. Both teams had some half-chances, but we didn’t hit our shots on target. Feyenoord danger man was Cameroonian Georges Kongnyuy who had some half-decent looks in the first half, but was generally under control of our defense. Second half was much the same until we got our best chance of the whole game in 84’ - substitute Pieter Stekelenburg had a great look after our counter attack, but his shot was way too weak and it didn’t pose any real threat to Feyenoord goalkeeper. Stekelenburg could have win it for us, but as the final whistle was called, it was fair to say that too teams cancelled each other out and a draw was fair enough. In a long season I’d usually say that away draw against Feyenoord is good enough and not complain about the result too much, but in this year the title race is so close that every lost point is much too valuable to lose. So I hope this miss from Stekelenburg wouldn’t cost us in the long run. our shooting was just 17/5 - decent number of shots, but nothing too dangerous 5 individual mistakes from Mario de Groot stood out - not the kind of impression to make if you want to challenge for first team place Eredivisie clubs are starting to lose patience and some managers feel their positions under threat if results do not improve. VVV Venlo was one of them and they sacked their manager Chris van Weerden after another poor defeat. 21.02.2032 - AFC Ajax - Fortuna Sittard 3:0 (ED) - 38. Dirk van Grinsven, 42. Tarik de Wit, 85. Engin Ceylan I expected us to be a lot better against Fortuna Sittard. Firstly because we just had beaten them in a cup game, but secondly because we played this one at home. We practiced attacking movement before the game and, as usual, ordered fullbacks to overlap. Training for this game was not without incidents, as Marvin Koops injured himself in training and groin strain will leave him sidelines for around 3 weeks. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba (59. Koeman), Ari, Verhoeven, Antonucci (65. Stekelenburg), van Grinsven, van der Aar, de Wit (69. Ceylan) It took us a long time to break Fortuna defense. They looked really solid for the first 30 minutes of the game, but in the end of the first half they finally lost their concentration for a moment and we scored two goals in a quick succession. We had midfield under our control, but didn’t create enough chances in the first half and those two goals made my team talk a lot easier. We could play second half without much pressure and I allowed youngsters to get some playing time in the league game. Engin Ceylan was trying to make things happen - he earned us a penalty that Omar van der Aar missed in 79’, then had a great chance just a minute later that was denied by a brilliant save from Fortuna goalkeeper, but in the end he finally found himself in score sheet after finding the net from corner. It was a good win in the end and good scoreline. I’m pleased with the result and our performance. our shooting was 21/13 we didn’t give Fortuna Sittard any chances in attack Go Ahead Eagles were the next team in line to make the decision and they sacked their manager Virgil van Dijk. 27.02.2032 - AFC Ajax - PEC Zwolle 2:2 (ED) - 37. pen. and 70. Tarik de Wit - 9. and 51. Jos van Leeuwen The last game in February should be easy - home game against PEC Zwolle, who are the last in the table at the moment. I took some liberty to give opportunities to rotation players, but came to regret it after 90 minutes of football. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba, de Groot, Talea (52. Verhoeven), Stekelenburg (52. Antonucci), Matal (74. van Grinsven), van der Aar, de Wit We didn’t start well and some very poor defending in 9’ allowed PEC Zwolle to build up a good combination from centre. Ismet Gluhalic made a good save to stop their first attempt, but 17 years old winger Jos van Leeuwen scored from rebound. Very disappointed with this start. We slowly got midfield under our control after 30 minutes of football and chances started to came. Pieter Stekelenburg had a great look in 32’, but his shot was saved and then Tarik de Wit was fouled in the box and our striker converted the penalty himself. It wasn’t the best penalty I’ve seen, but it still went in and that’s what matters. Nketsi Matal could have given us the lead in 42’, but his shot went wide and despite getting several chances in the first half, we went to the break with 1:1 scoreline. Disappointing stuff. Unfortunately, things didn’t get better in second half - Jos van Leeuwen got his second chance of the game and scored his second goal. Leslie Lichaba was too slow to spot his run behind defensive line. We hada quick chance to equalize, but Rene Verhoeven wasted his opportunity in 54’ and even though Tarik de Wit scored his second goal to equalize in 70’, we didn’t create any good chances in the last 20 minutes and had to accept a very disappointing draw. I was really furious with it, because losing points like that against the weakest team in Eredivisie in this time of the season is completely unacceptable. our shooting was just 23/6 - not good enough we had 5 clear cut chances in this game, but we failed to win I should be happy with our February, but the last game and dropping points against Zwolle is really upsetting. We should be much better against smaller teams, in fact we’re already lost too many points against small sides in this season. It matters little if we put up great performances in tough away games, if we lose points so easily at home. Eredivisie Top three have really put some distance behind us, although FC Utrecht have lost some points in recent weeks and they look like they start to buckle under pressure. At the bottom of the table PEC Zwolle is still about to be relegated and that surprise draw against us gave them little in terms of poins.
  4. January 2032 First of all, I had to deal with some transfers and movements. Rene Verhoeven wanted to move forward and I promised to sell him if we receive acceptable bid. Atletico Madrid is interested, but not willing to pay enough (his release clause is £18,5 and in my opinion he’s worth it), so for now the deal is off. I decided to release both Justin Kluivert and Dragisa Gudelj - six months before their contracts run out. Both players accepted mutual termination, but this move was not greeted by fans, who were saddened by club legends leaving. I brought left winger Omar van der Aar from Jong Ajax to fill in for Kluivert and recalled young left-back Fred Koeman, who was on loan at PEC Zwolle. Because we fell out of Champions League, we have less games in second half of the season and I feel that our squad of 23 men is big enough. I decided to sell young left-back Jordi van Molen to Willem II Tilburg for £75k+clauses (up to £94k). He doesn’t look good enough for Ajax first team and there’s no reason to keep him in the club for longer. With transfers decided, it was time to deal with player contracts. Leslie Lichaba signed contract extension until 2035 and he’ll earn £17,000 per week from now. 24.01.2032 - AFC Ajax - FC Twente Enschede 2:1 (ED) - 28. Leslie Lichaba, 64. Johan van Dalen - 17. Rocky Lie A Kwie Back to Eredivisie action and our schedule is favourable in January - two home games in a row and we should be able to defeat those teams. FC Twente is our first opponent. We practiced defending set pieces, but went to the game with attacking mentality and overlapping instructions for fullbacks. We missed Moreno Markiet, who picked up a chest injury in training. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari (57. de Groot), Verhoeven, van Grinsven, van Dalen (64. van der Aar), de Wit (72. Senyane) First half of the game was uneventful until Rocky Lie A Kwie (funny name) opened scoring in 17’. His cross from our right wing took a direction to far post and somehow surprised Marvin Koops. Questions about our goalkeeper’s positioning and concentration there. We couldn’t find enough chances from open play, but our equalizer came through set piece, as Leslie Lichaba sent a powerful header in from corner. I wasn’t too happy with our display in the first half - we looked OK in the beginning of the game, but lost our rhythm after FC Twente goal and being 1:1 at half time at home is definitely not good enough. Second half was better, though. Johan van Dalen wasted his clear cut chance in 59’, but didn’t miss his second opportunity five minutes later. Good cross from Dirk van Grinsven there - his 10th assist of the season). I asked the players to slow things down after our goal and retain possession, so we led this game to win. I’m pleased with three points, but it was a sloppy performance. I can blame winter break and perhaps we need some match practice to get us going again, but we should have been better. our shooting was 17/4 - only a few really good chances and shots didn’t find the target we made 34 dribbles Dirk van Grinsven had a great game 28.01.2032 - AFC Ajax - VVV Venlo 3:0 (ED) - 28. pen. Francesco Antonucci, 39. Martin Clement (og), 82. Lungisani Senyane VVV Venlo should be easy prey for us at home, so we continued with attacking setup and overlapping instructions. Engin Ari was disappointing against FC Twente, so I dropped him and Mario de Groot started as DMC. Squad: Koops, Drost (56. Alleyne), van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci, van Grinsven, van Dalen (68. van der Aar), de Wit (64. Senyane) VVV almost took the lead in 9’ - Rogier Steemers was open in the box after IFK, but Marvin Koops did well to save his shot. It was a wake up call for us and we reacted well and started to control midfield. We created some good chances, but failed to find a goal. Dirk van Grinsven’s shot in 12’ was saved and Tarik de Wit had a great opportunity in 22’ that he blasted well wide. I was frustrated because of those wasted chances, but then our breakthrough came and it came from spot kick. Francesco Antonucci was fouled in the box and he converted the penalty himself. Well done and that left some weight off our shoulders. Unfortunate own goal from Martin Clement helped us along the way and we went to half time with 2:0 lead. Good scoreline, but I wasn’t entirely happy with our performance, especially with our finishing in front of goal. Second half was much less eventful, only noteworthy event being Lungisani Senyane’s goal in 82’. In the end it was a good win and clean sheet for us, but VVV fans might wonder what could have happened if Steemers had only finished better in the beginning of the game. we created 5 clear cut chances in this game 31.01.2032 - FC Volendam - AFC Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 61. Nick Bos - 11. Dirk van Grinsven, 34. Tarik de Wit Another small team to play against in January. Confidence was high after VVV game, so we continued with attacking tactics and overlapping. Justin Kluivert and Dragisa Gudelj left the club in January and FC Volendam was the club who picked up Gudelj. That meant he played against us so soon after his departure. Our young and very talented 17 years old striker Engin Ceylan was on the bench for this game. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Antonucci (58. Talea), van Grinsven, van Dalen (65. van der Aar), de Wit (69. Ceylan) First half was quiet, but it gave us two goals. Tarik de Wit and Dirk van Grinsven combined on our right wing for the opener and then Tarik de Wit doubled our lead with a good header that went in off the bar. Just a few chances in the first half, but two goals. Johan van Dalen had a great chance after a break, but his shot in 59’ was saved. That was a moment I came to regret two minutes later when Nick Bos got one back for FC Volendam. The winger scored an outstanding goal from well outside of area. FC Volendam were on a counter, cross came from our left and Bos just took a volley and smashed it into top corner. Incredible goal, nothing that Ismet Gluhalic could do about that. 1:2 scoreline made us a bit nervous and things almost turned to sour in injury time when Bos had a half chance to equalize, but this time his shot went wide. Another ugly win for us - I was not happy with performance, but three points was more important. we allowed 24 key passes for FC Volendam - too many against a club like that Engin Ceylan made his Ajax debut in this game Johan van Dalen came off with dislocated shoulder in 2nd half and he’ll be out for around two months Three games in January and three wins. A lot of room for improvement in our football, but winning breeds confidence and we’ve found chances and goals in every game, so I can’t complain too much. Eredivisie FC Utrecht and PSV Eindhoven are keeping up the pace. Really tight at the top in this season.
  5. Well, yeah. Helmond got promoted to Eredivisie for 2022/2023 season and they built a new stadium with 16 551 seats for the same year. They've managed to hold onto their place in top tier for 10 years, although always predicted to drop down by media. They've been lingering near relegation zone for whole decade, best finish was just 13th in this period. In this season they're back in relegation zone again, but there's always play-off they can win They survived relegation play-offs three years in a row right after their promotion.
  6. December 2031 03.12.2031 - Sparta Rotterdam - AFC Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 63. pen. Corey Moore - 61. Johan van Dalen, 69. Rene Verhoeven After MVV win I wanted to keep our good form going and use our confidence that we gained from that win. Physios reported that Dirk van Grinsven can return to full training. That’s good. However, I decided to drop Marvin Koops and Sergio Alleyne, because their last performances have been less than impressive. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Talea (46. Verhoeven), Antonucci (71. Stekelenburg), van Grinsven (67. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit It was a drab first half from both sides. Only a few half-chances and we got the closest to our goal in 13’ when Johan van Dalen’s header hit the post. But we didn’t create enough opportunities and can’t complain too much. Second half was slightly better. We took the lead in 61’, when van Dalen scored a header after free kick. Sparta goalkeeper had come out from his line and van Dalen directed his header well. Only two minutes later we gifted Sparta their equalizer. Engin Ari tripped Corey Moore in the box and Sparta striker took his penalty well. Sparta took encouragement from that goal and in 69’ Moore had another opportunity to score. Cross found him at the far post, Tom Drost was late to mark him, but Moore sent his shot against post from close range. And in a very next attack we scored our winner - de Wit found Rene Verhoeven in front of goal and young midfielder scored an easy goal. It looked like we wanted this win a little bit more and in the end Verhoeven’s goal was enough. Not the most convincing game, but I’m pleased with three points from away game. we allowed Sparta to make 22 dribbles and made 21 individual mistakes - not our best stats and we should have been better against Eredivisie mid-table side 06.12.2031 - AFC Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 2:0 (ED) - 20. Dirk van Grinsven, 25. Leslie Lichaba Just three days between two games. AZ Alkmaar are not the team to underestimate - they are predicted to finish 12th in Eredivisie, but currently occupy 7th position and are overachieving. Their main strength is their forward duo who have scored 13 goals each and even though they are inconsistent at times, they look really dangerous in attack. In this game, however, they looked a bit tired even before kick-off. I knew we had home advantage in Amsterdam Arena and instructed fullbacks to overlap more than usual. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari (64. de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci, van Grinsven (67. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit (59. Senyane) We took the lead in 20’ and Dirk van Grinsven opened scoring with excellent finish from the edge of area. His shot was strong and went low, past goalkeeper. Five minutes later Leslie Lichaba made a good run into box, received good pass from Francesco Antonucci and had a great chance to score. The left-back is not a natural finisher in those situations, so he needed to take two attempts, but it was our second goal and we were 2:0 ahead. AZ Alkmaar reacted well and started to get chances of their own - Lamin Abdelhadi headed against post in 35’ and Pieter Simons had a shot on target in 40’ that needed a great reaction save from Ismet Gluhalic, but we managed to hold onto our lead and went to half time with two-goal cushion. Second half continued to be even battle and both teams had their opportunities. I made early substitutions to give key players some rest and perhaps that eased off our pressure and allowed AZ to make some good attacks. However, no clear cut chances were given and Ismet Gluhalic was confident between sticks, so our two-goal lead held until the end. I was pleased with result and our performance and especially with clean sheet. Defense have been our problem in recent games and we’ve lost valuable points because of those 1:1 draws, so 2:0 is a nice improvement. Dirk van Grinsven suffered damaged heel in this game and he’ll be out for a week because of that 09.12.2031 - AFC Ajax - Atletico Madrid 0:2 (Champions League Group B) - 71.Joel Piroe, 73. Osvaldo Romero Our Champions League campaign has not turned out very well, so I wanted to finish it strong in front of home fans. However, I was well aware that this last game doesn’t decide anything in the standings, so I gave rest to key players that I could spare. Logically, we prepared for this game practicing defensive positioning. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (70. Talea), Antonucci (58. Verhoeven), Matal, Kluivert, de Wit (64. Senyane) We started the game well, looked good with ball and tried to attack. Our best chance came in 19’ when Justin Kluivert had a great look on goal, but brilliant save from Atletico goalkeeper stopped his shot. Atletico looked most dangerous around 32’ mark - Emiliano Vega had a great chance and it was Koops’ turn to make a brilliant save. Then Ismael Louza headed against our crossbar after corner. First half brought no goals, but I was pleased with our performance so far - we had some chances and weren’t beaten in midfield. Second half was a little bit different story. Atletico tidied up their defense and looked for opportunities from counters. In 64’ Chijoke Ifeanyi got the first great chance to score for Atletico, but his shot went well wide. Goals did came though. Counter-attack gave Joel Piroe a great chance, he was too quick for Moreno Markiet, rounded Marvin Koops and passed it into the net. Two minutes later Atletico doubled their lead after corner - our clearance wasn’t good enough and their central defender Osvaldo Romero won a header against Markiet in our six yard box. Moreno Markiet’s mistakes were not too plain, but youngster perhaps got to know that he’s not yet ready to play in Champions League level. We lost the game and I was disappointed in our second half performance - we didn’t create chances after half time break and my substitutions didn’t make any impact. we made 26 fouls in this game, 7 were made by Leslie Lichaba With this loss it’s time to forget this Champions League campaign as quickly as possible. We weren’t beaten too badly, but fell a little bit short in almost every game. Champions League Group B Atletico Madrid 13 Tottenham Hotspur 9 FC Metz 9 AFC Ajax 2 12.12.2031 - AFC Ajax - ADO Den Haag 3:0 (ED) - 2. Johan van Dalen, 45. Tarik de Wit, 63. Nketsi Matal Back to Eredivisie and the first team that we meet for second time is ADO Den Haag. In August we were beaten in away fixture 0:1, but I was prepared to take revenge in front of home fans. Our defensive line was hampered by suspensions of Leslie Lichaba and Tom Drost. Sergio Alleyne and Dragisa Gudelj are perhaps a little less attacking as full-backs that I like in a home game, but I hoped for the best. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, Ari (62. de Groot), Verhoeven, Antonucci (59. Talea), Matal, van Dalen, de Wit (63. Senyane) We had a great start - Johan van Dalen scored a flyer from corner. Early goal gave us confidence and shook ADO Den Haag. Dragisa Gudelj has not featured in our first team too often in this season. Perhaps it was the reason why his mistake gave Dennis de Jong a great chance in 22’ - good shot was saved by Marvin Koops. After this moment we regained control of the game. Tarik de Wit’s header grazed crossbar in 23’ and in the final minute of the first half another header by our striker made it 2:0. It was great time to score and two goal lead at half time allowed us to be more calm and composed in second half. ADO never really challenged us after the break. Johan van Dalen wasted his clear cut chance in 59’ and four minutes later Nketsi Matal made it 3:0 after another corner. Winning by three goals was a great result and I was happy with our performance in this game. Two goals from corners was a nice surprise - we could use our attacking set pieces more effectively in other games, too. Johan van Dalen had a great game in the first 17 games we’ve got 40 points - just around our target for the first half of the season 17.12.2031 - AFC Ajax - Helmond Sport 2:0 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 48. Nketsi Matal, 66. Omar van der Aar I used mostly rotation players for this cup game, but my assistant manager surprised me with his pre-match advice. While I agreed with his note that we should use overlapping more, I didn’t expect him to ask for defensive positioning training before the game against much smaller team. I was also looking to see our own Mohammed van Leeuwen in action, as he’s been Helmond’s first choice goalkeeper in this season. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Markiet, Gudelj, de Groot, Talea, Antonucci (54. Stekelenburg, Matal (68. van Grinsven), van der Aar, de Wit (54. Senyane) We weren’t really good enough in the first half. Some half-chances, but nothing too dangerous. Tarik de Wit got our best chance in 27’, but his fierce shot was well stopped by van Leeuwen. Our midfield was not creative enough and some players needed probably more time to gel on the pitch. Second half was slightly better and our crossing started to work. Dragisa Gudelj gave excellent cross to Nketsi Matal, who opened scoring with a simple tap in. Similar goal was our second - youngster Omar van der Aar found the net after good cross from Matal. Two goals were enough - nothing spectacular, but job well done. we gave 52 key passes - possession and ball movement was good enough, but last pass was often missed 20.12.2031 - Vitesse Arhnem - AFC Ajax 2:1 (ED) - 28. and 36. Donald Jourdan - 57. Dirk van Grinsven Away game against Vitesse Arnhem is a difficult challenge for us. We won our first encounter in this season in very entertaining fashion 5:3, after Vitesse’s Giovanni Somai was sent off early, but I expected them to be better at home. We practiced attacking set pieces before the game and I tried to set up our team so that Vitesse’s 4-4-2 wouldn’t be too dangerous to our defense. Difficult task, because they have two very good, pacey strikers and have scored a lot of goals in this season. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Verhoeven, Antonucci (65. Stekelenburg), van Grinsven (62. Matal), van Dalen (76. Kluivert), de Wit We started well end got good chances in the first 15 minutes. In 2’ Tarik de Wit turned around his defender and had only goalkeeper to beat, but his shot was saved. Johan van Dalen had a clear cut chance in 12’, but that too was stopped by Vitesse keeper. I cursed those missed chances even more when Vitesse opened scoring - Donald Jourdan scored an easy goal after corner. Edward Schans did poorly to mark him. Jourdan doubled his tally in 36’ - he timed his run well into box to receive cross from our right. Leslie Lichaba missed his interception and easy finish from six yard box for Vitesse. First half finished 0:2 and that was a big disappointment. Very poor first half from both of our central defenders. We haven’t done well to stop Vitesse strikers, although I specifically asked to mark Donald Jourdan tightly. Our tactics in general look OK, but we haven’t finished our chances. Being 0:2 down, it’s difficult to tighten up defensively when we need to throw fullbacks forward to support attack. We looked a bit better after half time break. It didn’t take too long for us to score - Dirk van Grinsven received excellent through ball from Francesco Antonucci and finished calmly. In 86’ Rene Verhoeven took a shot from 30 yards - very well struck attempt, but it rattled crossbar. Very unlucky for youngster not to score from this. So the game finished 1:2 and our poor first half performance cost ust the game. I was very disappointed with this defeat. Our poor defense and two costly mistakes decided this game. Vitesse can proudly celebrate, because they took their chances well and held onto that lead. 31.12.2031 - AFC Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 5:1 (ED) - 43. Francesco Antonucci, 45.+1, 52., 59. and 65. Tarik de Wit - 58. Melvin Jongeling Vitesse defeat motivated us to be a lot better in our next game, and this one was hugely important. The last game of the year, Topper derby and if you consider Eredivisie standings - a true six pointer that could have a huge impact on title challenge. I focused hard on tactics and player selection and tried to keep my mind off upcoming transfer window and winter break. PSV have probably the best strikers in Eredivisie and they play standard 4-4-2. We need our fastest defenders because of their pace and I hoped our finishing is a lot better than it was against Vitesse. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari (70. de Groot), Verhoeven, Antonucci (67. Stekelenburg), van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (70. Senyane) It took a lot of time before first good chance came. Both teams were well organised and defended well. We got our first good opportunity in 24’ - Rene Verhoeven opened with a good run into box, received a well-timed pass from Tarik de Wit, but his shot hit the post. Unlucky again for him. We finally got our goal two minutes before half time whistle - Francesco Antonucci found the net from corner. When PSV tried to recover from this late goal, we scored another - Dirk van Grinsven found Tarik de Wit with his cross and our striker finished from close range. Two late goals in the first half made the difference and PSV morale was seriously damaged by those goals. We had looked more in control after 30’ and it was a deserved lead. In second half we continued in same fashion - another show of technique and passing by van Grinsven gave de Wit another good look and it was 3:0. PSV tried to change things and brought on ex-Ajax striker Melvin Jongelin. He did have an impact in 58’ - he received long ball forward, Sergio Alleyne couldn’t stop him and it was easy finish for him. But it didn’t change the outcome of the game. Just a minute later de Wit completed his hattrick and even added his 4th goal in 65’. PSV changed to 4-1-4-1 after that and both teams slowed down. It was a massive win for us, a crucial game and excellent result. Tarik de Wit was the man of the hour with his four goals and I just wish we could play like that more often. our shooting was 14/10 we had 8.17 average rating we committed 22 fouls Tarik de Wit and Dirk van Grinsven had a great game December was a good month in Eredivisie and were still in Dutch Cup competition. I don’t mind our defeat to Atletico, because it didn’t change anything in our Champions League group. Title race is still on in Eredivisie and it’s perhaps for the best if we can concentrate to domestic league in new year. Eredivisie Top three have moved forward. FC Utrecht are having a great season so far, led by their best striker Sebastian Sosa. PSV were taken aback a bit by this hammering by us. Feyenoord have showed more inconsistency and have dropped some points.
  7. November 04.11.2031 - AFC Ajax - Tottenham Hotspur 2:2 (Champions League Group B) - 7. Dirk van Grinsven, 9. Tarik de Wit - 61. and 64. Aimar Lopez We were encouraged by our good display against Tottenham in London, but I knew that if we lose our home game, we’re out of this group. We practiced attacking set pieces before this game, but our squad selection was limited, because both Edward Schans and Engin Ari were suspended. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, van den Bosch (71. Matal), Lichaba, de Groot, Talea (61. Verhoeven), Antonucci, van Grinsven (71. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit We had an excellent start to this game. Johan van Dalen made a good run from left wing and crossed for Dirk van Grinsven, who put us in the lead - his 10th goal of the season. Just two minutes later Tarik de Wit doubled our lead after IFK. We were looking really good, confident and Tottenham was in serious trouble. Leslie Lichaba almost found the net in 12’, but his shot clipped crossbar and went over. Tottenham slowly composed themselves. In 29’ they had a free kick from dangerous place. Luca Di Meglio curled it over wall, but smashed crossbar. We were still leading by two goals at half time and I was happy with our goals and overall performance. Second half was another story, though. Tottenham made substitutions and their striker Aimar Lopez came on and made the difference. He was too quick for our defenders with ball on his feet and scored two goals in a row. Tottenham were level and it was anyone’s game after that. Aimar Lopez had a great chance to complete his hattrick in 84’, but sent his shot wide, fortunately for us. The game ended 2:2 and I was disappointed with our second half collapse. We couldn’t create anything after half time break and Tottenham changed the game with good substitutions. We desperately needed this win, but let it slip away. 08.11.2031 - sc Heerenveen - AFC Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 70. Daniele Guglielmi - 48. Tarik de Wit sc Heerenveen are a strong team, predicted to finish 11th, but after difficult game against Tottenham it’s another tough fixture for us. Even though sc Heerenveen have a fairly good squad, they’re 6 games without win and starting to lose their confidence, so I hoped it might give us advantage. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne (70. van den Bosch), Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Talea, Antonucci (65. Verhoeven), van Grinsven (10. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit It was a drab match in the first half. No real chances for either teams and I had to make early substitutions because Dirk van Grinsven picked up a knock. Second half started better and Tarik de Wit gave us a lead in 48’ - he took the ball into box and his strong shot was too good for sc Heerenveen goalkeeper to stop. His 50th goal for Ajax! Chances remained rare for the rest of the game, and unfortunately we allowed sc Heerenveen to equalize in 70’, after IFK. Sergio Alleyne made a good tackle, but Daniele Guglielmi was first to react and his shot found its way in from near post. It was another situation for Marvin Koops where our goalkeeper should have done better - he allowed one goal in from his near post in Tottenham game and now again. The game finished with 1:1 and it looked like a fair result. On stat sheet we looked like a better team, on the pitch - not so much, so probably draw was a fair result. We have conceded some costly set piece goals against smaller teams and that has to improve in the future. surprisingly, we lost possession battle 48/52 we committed 23 fouls, 7 were made by Leslie Lichaba Dirk van Grinsven came off with twisted ankle and he’s out for 3-4 weeks November international break was significant for Rene Verhoeven - 20 years old midfielder earned his first cap for Holland and did fairly well in the game, so we’ll probably see him featuring in national team again in the future. 23.11.2031 - AFC Ajax - Helmond Sport 1:1 (ED) - 45. Francesco Antonucci - 48. Brahim Verhoeven After long international break we returned to Eredivisie games with home encounter against Helmond Sport. It should have been easy game against small club - attacking tactics and overlapping instructions were easy choice. We were strengthened by Pieter Stekelenburg’s return - his back injury kept him away for three long months, but our midfielder looks much stronger with him. Rene van den Bosch looked tired after international break and was rested in this game. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Markiet, Lichaba, de Groot, Verhoeven (58. Talea), Antonucci, Matal, van Dalen (63. Kluivert), de Wit We controlled game completely in the first half. Tarik de Wit got the first clear cut chance already in 3’, but his close range shot was saved. Nketsi Matal wasted his chance in 38’, but in the end of the first half our much needed goal came. We won the ball back in Helmond’s half and a couple of good passes gave Francesco Antonucci a good look. Experienced midfielder kept his composure and finished calmly. I was happy with this late goal, because we deserved it, considering how many chances we created in the first half. Our own Mohammed van Leeuwen stood in Helmond goal in this game and he looked really good, making some good saves in the first half. I changed tactics for the second period and asked players to retain possession. Not sure if this was the reason, but Helmond instantly got some good attacks in the beginning of the second half. One good counter gave them a great chance in 46’ and Marvin Koops saved us from the worst, but two minutes later the equalizer came - Brahim Verhoeven is a fairly short striker, but he can direct headers really well and when he somehow squeezed himself between two central defenders and directed his header to far post, it was too good for Marvin Koops to save. Johan van Dalen had a chance to reply quickly, but his shot from great chance in 49’ went wide. Tarik de Wit had a fierce shot on target in 72’, but it was met by brilliant save from van Leeuwen and when final whistle blew, it was a very disappointing draw for us. I was furious with our second half and because we dropped two points very cheaply. We had enough chances in this game to score more goals, but we didn’t take them and were punished because of that. our shooting was 28/11 we made 55 key passes, 19 from Francesco Antonucci Tarik de Wit had a great game Nketsi Matal made his 200th appearance for Ajax 26.11.2031 - FC Metz - AFC Ajax 2:1 (Champions League Group B) - 20. Ali Boukhari, 70. Nabil Alioui - 32. Johan van Dalen After two draws with Tottenham, it was now or never to win our next game. We weren’t favourites for away game and practiced defensive positioning before the game. Leslie Lichaba was suspended, so I used Dragisa Gudelj in DL and set him to FBs instructions because his lack of pace. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Gudelj, Ari, Talea (66. Stekelenburg), Antonucci (70. Verhoeven), Matal, van Dalen, de Wit (80. Senyane) We got our first great chance in 13’ - Tarik de Wit gave excellent through ball to Johan van Dalen, but his shot was saved. In 20’ FC Metz built up attack from our left, cross came in and Ali Boukhari headed in. It was a bit unfortunate, because we had played well so far, but this goal derailed us a little and just a minute later FC Metz got another clear cut chance. Marvin Koops was able to save this one and in following attack Tarik de Wit headed against crossbar. Unlucky! We deserved to get something out of this game and our equalizer came in 32’ through Johan van Dalen, who sent a great shot to far post. We looked more confident after equalizer and FC Metz started to look nervous. At half time it was 1:1 and I had a strong feeling that small details or clinical finishing could decide this game in second half. We looked better in attack in second half. No real chances, but we had possession and looked to create something, until in 70’ FC Metz got their second goal. Out of nowhere Nabil Alioui took a volley from the edge of area and fired it into top corner. Unstoppable shot for any goalkeeper, outstanding goal and no way to defend against goals like that. It felt unfair. We continued to look for our goal - Rene Verhoeven and substitute Lungisani Senyane got good chances in the last ten minutes, but we were unable to break through and had to return from France with a loss. It was unfair result - we played well and didn’t deserve this loss. I assured the lads that we were just unlucky, but it also shows you have to take all your chances in this level and clinical finishing is a key factor in Champions League our shooting was 16/9 - very good for away game we’re 4th in the group now and can’t gain any places regardless of the result in last game 29.11.2031 - AFC Ajax - MVV Maastricht 2:1 (ED) - 16. Johan van Dalen, 63. Tarik de Wit - 44. Raul Ibanez Nothing has done well for us in November and we desperately needed to finish this month in better mood. But the challenge was not easy, because MVV are a really strong team - they’re predicted to finish 6th and although they’re just in the middle of the table because their poor August, MVV have picked up their pace after that. Besides that our own youngster Clyde Sastrodimedjo has made some good performances in their ranks. MVV used 4-2-2-2 2DM tactics - something we haven’t played much against in this season. It was a game to celebrate, because it was my 800th game in football management. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari (62. de Groot), Verhoeven, Antonucci (67. Stekelenburg), Matal, van Dalen, de Wit (82. Senyane) We looked extra motivated from start and Johan van Dalene opened scoring in 16’ - it was our first good look on goal and good finish from our left winger. However, right in the end of the first half Raul Ibanez equalized - he got some space between defenders, turned around and sent it into goal. Marvin Koops let it in from his near post - another doubtful positioning from our goalkeeper. First half was fairly even - chances were rare and small details could decide this game. I changed tempo to quicker for 2nd half and it almost brought us a goal in 47’ - Nketsi Matal picked up a loose ball and had a great chance, but his poor shot was weak and easily held by MVV goalkeeper. We found a winning goal, though, and Tarik de Wit was the man who scored a header from corner in 63’. We managed to hold our narrow lead until the end. However nervous it was in second half, it was very important win for us and after such a poor month I’ll take any win I can get. our shooting was 23/9 November has been poor month - nothing much has come our way and we’ve lost points in games that we should have achieved better results. Our Eredivisie position was especially hurt because poor performances against sc Heerenveen and Helmond Sport and our Champions League campaign is essentially over. One good moment in November was in the first week when Dirk van Grinsven extended his contract with us until 2034. Negotiations took a lot of time, but finally we agreed with £49,500 per week. Eredivisie FC Utrecht are looking strong, PSV Eindhoven are virtual leaders in my eyes and we’ve lost some ground on them in November. One marker for me has always been 40 points in the first 17 games - that can still be achieved, but competition is really tough in this season.
  8. October 2031 01.10.2031 - Atletico Madrid - AFC Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group B) - 10. and 90.+2 Dennis Jansen Away game against Atletico is tough anyway, but we were severely hampered by injuries. Dirk van Grinsven and Nketsi Matal were both out and Justin Kluivert had to start in AMR. Good news is that Eugene Talea is back in full training and that gives at least some options in midfield. We practiced defensive positioning before this game and honestly I believed that draw would be really good result for us. I set our fullbacks to FBs and switched tempo higher, in hope to create some counters. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans (70. Markiet), Lichaba, Ari, de Groot (61. Talea), Verhoeven, Kluivert, van Dalen, de Wit (70. Senyane) First goal of the game came fairly quickly. Dennis Jansen broke offside trap and converted his chance when only 10 minutes were played. I realised soon that our tactical tweaks are not working properly and switched our tempo to normal in 22’. Atletico got a great chance to double their lead in 38’, when Ismael Louza was completely unmarked at far post, but Ismet Gluhalic made a great save to keep our hopes alive. Despite that we gave away two clear cut chances the first half wasn’t too bad. We got enough possession and attacks to create something, but we didn’t have too many good chances and our shooting was off target. Gluhalic has made two key saves in first half. Second half was a bit different. Atletico looked much more in control and the were more confident. When game moved on it was obvious that our opponents were a lot better individually and it got too hard to control all their attacking moves. Because 0:1 is a narrow lead, we had small hopes until the end of the game, but Dennis Jansen finished it off in injury time with a header and that was it. Brave fight from the lads, but Atletico was too good. our shooting was 10/1 - we didn’t get good looks and shots went off target we allowed 40 dribbles - way too many and clear indication that Atletico were better individually Ismet Gluhalic had a great game for us - two key saves in first half coupled with two brilliant saves in second - outstanding performance from our young goalkeeper 04.10.2031 - PEC Zwolle - AFC Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 19. Tarik de Wit, 46. Justin Kluivert Eredivisie game against PEC Zwolle should be easy, because they’re one of the smallest teams in Eredivisie and in fact predicted to finish 18th in this season. Still, we haven’t been to our best in recent games and my assistant manager advised us to practice defensive positioning before this game. Marvin Koops and Dirk van Grinsven returned to full training, but they were both too unfit to start in this game. I started Eugene Talea in attacking playmaker role and because he’s not really a dribbler, his position was APs. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba (61. Gudelj), Ari, de Groot, Talea, Kluivert, van Dalen (64. van der Aar), de Wit (61. Senyane) We started slowly, but Tarik de Wit opened scoring in 19’ from our very first good chance, with a great strike. PEC Zwolle players started to look nervous after our goal. First half as a whole was rather uneventful. We didn’t create enough chances after our goal and our shooting at half time was just 10/2. Justin Kluivert changed things right at the beginning of the second half. His strike from 25 yards landed in PEC Zwolle goal and that secured us all three points. Outstanding shot and a bit unexpected from experienced winger, but we really needed to put this game beyond doubt and that goal secured us all three points. Young winger Omar van der Aar was brought on later in the game and he really wanted to make impact. He got two great chances in the final ten minutes, but both shots were saved and youngster looked a bit disappointed. I was pleased with three points, but expected more chances from attacking players, so we have room for improvement. our shooting was 21/7 we had 61% possession 17.10.2031 - AFC Ajax - FC Utrecht 4:1 (ED) - 8. and 37. Dirk van Grinsven, 13. Francesco Antonucci, 28. Tarik de Wit - 68. Engin Ari (og) We needed this international break desperately because all of the injuries and we had a number of players back for this game against FC Utrecht - Francesco Antonucci, Dirk van Grinsven and Marvin Koops were ready to start. And we needed them all in this game - FC Utrecht were predicted to finish 3rd, but they were leading the table in this moment, so this game counted as real six pointer for us. International break forced me to make some changes, though, as both Rene van den Bosch and Johan van Dalen looked tired before the game and were rested. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Verhoeven, Antonucci (62. Talea), van Grinsven (62. Matal), Kluivert, de Wit (67. Senyane) We started this game really well and scored two quick goals. Dirk van Grinsven took the ball into box in 8’, needed two attempts, but got it in. Francesco Antonucci doubled our lead after follow up of the corner - great to see him score after injury - and Tarik de Wit scored our third goal with a very good shot from just inside of area. Dirk van Grinsven doubled his tally in 37’ and the first half finished 4:0 - fantastic half from us and perhaps the best football I’ve seen in a long time. Second half was much less attractive. Nothing much happened, only significant moment was unfortunate own goal by Engin Ari that didn’t give FC Utrecht much reason to celebrate. In the end it was a great result for us in a very important game and excellent performance defensively - we shut FC Utrecht down and didn’t give away any chances. Dirk van Grinsven, Francesco Antonucci and Tarik de Wit had a great game 22.10.2031 - Tottenham Hotspur - AFC Ajax 0:0 (Champions League Group B) We have played Tottenham only once in the past, but I had no illusions - this away game in London is going to be really difficult for us. We practiced defensive positioning before the game (obviously) and I hoped that our players could at least put up a real fight. Tottenham came with 4-4-2 tactics and I replied with setting our fullbacks to FBs again, because I expected their wingers to cause us most of the problems with their crossing. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, de Groot (62. Talea), Antonucci (66. Verhoeven), van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (76. Senyane) Tottenham were favourites and they created better chances in the first half. Aimar Lopez namely was their danger man - he had one good look in 26’ after IFK and Marvin Koops had to make a brilliant save to deny his shot. Then in 40’ he had a free header from point blank range, put sent it well over. Tottenham were better team, but we survived the first half and I was pleased to see that our defensive positioning worked almost perfectly - Tottenham were called offside for no less than 9 times in the first half. Our defensive line moved with very good cohesion and excellent timing. We improved our game in 2nd half and limited Tottenham chances better. What’s even better - when game started to end, chances started to come our way, too! Dirk van Grinsven headed against post in 67’ (so unlucky), the sent his shot just wide four minutes later. Substitute Lungisani Senyane made a great interception in 86’ and went on goal, but his shot was parried by Tottenham goalkeeper - great stop and I cringed at the sidelines. There was the chance to win it and we didn’t use it. Edward Schans received his second yellow card in 89’ and was sent off. Fortunately that didn’t change final score. I’m fairly happy with 0:0 in away game - we deserved that point and it fought well for entire game. Edward Schans and Engin Ari made 6 individual mistakes each - we’re still lacking individual skills in this level Tottenham collected 17 offsides in this game - we neutralized them really well with our offside trap 26.10.2031 - Go Ahead Eagles - AFC Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 35. and 49. Tarik de Wit, 80. Rene Verhoeven With positive emotion from Tottenham draw, we went to Deventer to meet Go Ahead Eagles. It was a must win game for us, as Eagles are predicted to finish just 15th in the league, but my assistant manager warned me of their set pieces and we practiced defending in dead ball situations. Still, I expected us to dominate midfield and asked fullbacks to overlap more. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba, Ari (46. de Groot), Verhoeven, Antonucci, van Grinsven (54. Matal), de Wit (70. Senyane) We controlled the game since the beginning and Dirk van Grinsven got the first good chance in 9’, but his first attempt went wide. It took us 35 minutes to find our first goal - Leslie Lichaba sent a cross into near post area and Tarik de Wit timed his run well to arrive on time. Easy finish and his 10th goal of the season. Dirk van Grinsven wasted his second clear cut chance in 42’ and first half finished 1:0. I was little disappointed, because we deserved to score more goals, but couldn’t take our chances. Things improved after half time break - Tarik de Wit doubled his tally with a header and we slowed things down after that, concentrating on possession and taking care of the ball. Rene Verhoeven scored our third goal in the end of the game with excellent shot from 30 meters. He has a very good long shot and I gave him permission to take more attempts from distance and bang - that’s what happened. Confident win in the end for us. Tactically we were spot on and I was really happy with players and my tactics. we had 62% possession our shooting was 21/8 we didn’t allowed Eagles to have any real chances Tom Drost and Rene Verhoeven were outstanding for us in this game 29.10.2031 - Achilles’29 - AFC Ajax 0:5 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 9. Rene Verhoeven, 13., 14. and 41. Justin Kluivert, 45.+1 Lungisani Senyane Dutch Cup 3rd round game against Jupiler League side Achilles’29 was supposed to be easy for us and in truth it was. I sent in rotation players and expected them to do the job. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, van den Bosch (68. Markiet), Schans, Gudelj, de Groot (68. Ari), Talea, Verhoeven (63. Antonucci), Matal, Kluivert, Senyane It was no contest from the start. We were leading 3:0 inside the first 15 minutes and Justin Kluivert completed his hattrick before half time break. Lungisani Senyane header finished the first half with 5:0 scoreline and that was good enough. Second half was more quiet, but we didn’t have to try too hard at that point. Lethal finishing from us and confident win against smaller team. our shooting was 14/10 we had 8.53 average rating Justin Kluivert, Rene Verhoeven, Eugene Talea, Nketsi Matal and Sergio Alleyne were all outstanding for us October was a good month for us in Eredivisie. I’m especially happy with FC Utrecht result, but overall we improved our performance and goalscoring form compared to what I saw in September. We finally got our first point in Champions League group and that’s a sign of improvement, too. I spent much time in this month for contract negotiations. Sergio Alleyne extended his contract until 2034. Young prospects Clyde Sastrodimedjo, Mithat Arabaci, Kevin de Jonge, Stef Veldman and Omar van der Aar signed new deals until 2035. Eredivisie With several good results we find ourselves in top of the table. A bit surprising, actually, but the rest of the teams lost some points and we took advantage of that. PSV and FC Utrecht still look like the strongest contenders. There’s a lot of football ahead of us - we can’t be too relaxed and have to concentrate seriously for every game.
  9. September 2031 13.09.2031 - VVV Venlo - AFC Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 88. Mark Richards - 55. pen. Francesco Antonucci Two weeks of international break is behind us and Champions League campaign is starting soon, but the month starts with Eredivisie game against VVV Venlo. VVV have established themselves as solid mid-table side in recent seasons and they’re predicted to finish 8th in this season. International break is always like a restart to the season - you have to regain your rhythm and confidence when league games start again. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (67. Alleyne), van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, de Groot, Talea, Antonucci, van Grinsven (56. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit (67. Senyane) We controlled the game in first half, but weren’t able to score. We had a couple of half chances and Eugene Talea tested VVV goalkeeper with very good free-kick that was parried with difficult save. We were helped in second half with a poor decision by VVV central defender Clyde Shakison. He tripped Tarik de Wit in the box and because he was the last man, red card was given as well as penalty. Francesco Antonucci converted the spot kick and we were up 1:0 and had advantage for the rest of the game. Nketsi Matal came on from substitution and his well-measured crosses created the most dangerous moments in 2nd half. One of those found Johan van Dalen on the counter in 76’, but left winger missed his opportunity and then disaster struck. VVV got IFK late in the game, ball was delivered into our box and Mark Richards beat Edward Schans to it and scored. What a blow! We had one more chance in this game - another great cross from Nketsi Matal and open look for Johan van Dalen in 90’, but he wasted another chance. Final whistle came too early for us and we had to leave with a disappointing draw. I was furious with the late goal we conceded and especially with van Dalen for blowing two great chances for us. Things like that should not happen with the team like ours. Absolutely unacceptable loss of points. our shooting was 18/11 - we had enough chances to secure all three points Eugene Talea suffered calf strain in the game and will be out for 2-3 weeks 16.09.2031 - AFC Ajax - FC Metz 0:1 (Champions League Group B) - 44. Ali Boukhari Our Champions League campaign started with home game against FC Metz. In a very tough group it’s perhaps the easiest game on paper (although FC Metz are a really strong side), so if we want to get anything out of this group, we probably need a good result here. We practiced defending set pieces before the game. Rene Verhoeven started in midfield with Simon Janssen. Holland boss Unai Emery was on the stands for this one and a lot of players had a chance to show their skills and earn a place in the national team. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Verhoeven (71. de Groot), Janssen (29. Antonucci), van Grinsven, van Dalen (63. Kluivert), de Wit We started the first half really well. FC Metz players looked nervous and we almost took advantage of that. A couple of half chances and shots went narrowly wide of goal and Tarik de Wit headed against crossbar in 14’. Then Simon Janssen was forced off with injury and it changed our rhythm a bit. Dirk van Grinsven had a good chance in 36’ - he made interception of throw in and went 1-1 against goalkeeper, but sent his shot wide. And while I felt that we had edged first half, we gifted a goal to FC Metz. Edward Schans gave extremely poor backpass to Gluhalic, that was easily intercepted by Ali Boukhari and FC Metz striker fired it in with a fierce shot. It was very disappointing end for the first half and didn’t reflect the course of the game. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find an equalizer after half time break. FC Metz defended well and our chances became rare. A couple of shots on target, but nothing too dangerous and in the end of the game it was another frustrating defeat for ous. Things have not come our way in recent games and Edward Schans has made some costly mistake. Small details have decided difference between win and draw, draw and loss. Simon Janssen suffered damaged cruciate ligaments and is out for the season, that’s a serious blow after the game was over 20.09.2031 - Fortuna Sittard - AFC Ajax 0:0 (ED) Back to Eredivisie, Fortuna Sittard game should be rather easy - Fortuna is a small team and predicted to finish 16th in this season. Our squad selection was rather limited because of injuries - that could be either good or bad for us. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba (54. Gudelj), Ari, Verhoeven, Antonucci (23. de Groot), van Grinsven (69. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit It was a disappointing game for us. We couldn’t create any good chances against Fortuna defence. Francesco Antonucci picked up a knock and de Groot-Verhoeven central midfield pair couldn’t create anything in attack. I tried to tweak tactics in 2nd half, increasing tempo and individual orders for players, but it didn’t make any difference. In the end it was another disappointing result away from home and to be honest we can’t afford to lose those points against smaller teams. we committed 23 fouls and that helped Fortuna to control tempo of the game Tom Drost was responsible for 5 individual mistakes Francesco Antonucci is out for 2 weeks with twisted knee It’s been tough September for us. We haven’t played well and results have not come our way. Injuries have not helped us too, and we have too many first team players sidelined. Nothing much to do, but keep our head down and work hard to improve things. 23.09.2031 - FC Oss - AFC Ajax 1:2 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 84. Sjoerd Bierma - 19. Justin Kluivert, 52. Nketsi Matal We desperately needed to get some confidence back and Dutch Cup game against Jupiler League side FC Oss provided a good opportunity for that. Tom Drost and Leslie Lichaba were suspended for this game, so in addition to injuries we missed two more players and I was not able to fill our bench with substitutes. We went against FC Oss with attacking tactics, overlapping instructions for fullbacks and I also tweaked corner setup. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Markiet, Gudelj, Ari, de Groot, Verhoeven, Matal, Kluivert, Senyane Justin Kluivert got the best opportunities in the first half. His first great chance in 13’ was parried with a brilliant save from FC Oss goalkeeper, but he executed better in 19’. Nketsi Matal pace and crossing caused FC Oss defenders all sorts of problems. We had the lead at half time, but I still expected us to improve after the break. We continued to attack in second half - Matal doubled our lead in 52’ with easy finish and he also got a couple of half chances that he couldn’t convert. We expected to see out the game and control things until the end, but we were surprised by Sjoerd Bierma goal in 4’ - FC Oss midfield took the ball and scored an absolute screamer from 25 yards out. Truly outstanding goal and unstoppable shot for any goalkeeper. At this moment I was really glad that we’d already scored two goals in this game, because it’s almost impossible to completely eliminate chances of something like this happening. Final result marked a good win for us - it’s OK, but I expected even better performance against Jupiler League side. our shooting was 15/11 Nketsi Matal had a great game for us Nketsi Matal suffered calf strain in this game and will be sidelined for 2-3 weeks - injuries are just piling up 28.09.2031 - AFC Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 8:2 (ED) - 7. and 82. Johan van Dalen, 13., 24., 28. and 78. Dirk van Grinsven, 30. and 39. Tarik de Wit - 6. Gregory Otten, 70. Georges Kongnyuy September finished with Klassieker derby in Amsterdam Arena. In the beginning of the month I hoped that we can build up for this game with a string of good results and high confidence, but instead it is more like a matter of life and death game for us - we haven’t been good in September so far and if we fail to get the result here, it could mean that this season turns out to be a real disappointment for us. We practiced attacking set pieces before the game, but I had only 16 players available for this match, so nothing to choose from and I had to use any players that were fit. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (66. Alleyne), van den Bosch, Schans (70. Markiet), Lichaba, Ari, de Groot, Verhoeven, van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (66. Senyane) We started slowly and weren’t defensively alert in the first ten minutes. Feyenoord quickly showed what it might lead to - cross came in from our left and Georges Kongnyuy had a great chance to open scoring, but Ismet Gluhalic made a great save to deny him. But Feyenoord did get a breakthrough from following corner - we lost two headers in a row, Rene van den Bosch missed his header, ball cracked against crossbar and with Gluhalic out of position, it was easy finish for Gregory Otten. It took just a minute for us to equalize, though. A powerful header from Johan van Dalen surprised Feyenoord goalkeeper and it was 1:1 and although Dirk van Grinsven missed his clear cut chance in 10’, what followed was completely his show. Quick equalizer gave us our confidence back and we ruthlessly exploited Feyenoord’s left flank and goals flooded in from everywhere. Dirk van Grinsven completed his hat-trick in 28’ and when Tarik de Wit added our fifth goal, Feyenoord looked destroyed. We went to half time with impressive 6:1 lead and it was simply fantastic football from us. Great goalscoring and a lot of created chances. Tom Drost was lethal with his crosses and provided three assists and Feyenoord didn’t have an answer for it. We took our foot off the gas in second half and substituted key players. Feyenoord got one chance to score in 70’ - cross from our left found Kongnyuy behind and between central defenders and good finish gave Feyenoord their second goal. Still, we added two more goals to finish this game strong. Johan van Dalen doubled his tally and Dirk van Grinsven added his 4th goal. Emphatic 8:2 win, exactly what we needed to end this otherwise poor month and excellent night for all home fans. our shooting was 24/10 we had 8.58 average rating Dirk van Grinsven, Tarik de Wit, Johan van Dalen, Tom Drost, Rene Verhoeven and Mario de Groot were outstanding for us Dirk van Grinsven suffered stubbed toe in this game and is out for a week - that’s a shame, we could really need such performance in midweek Champions League game September has not been easy for us - a lot of points lost in Eredivisie and while it’s almost inevitable to lose some points, we have lost too many against smaller teams in a short space of time. Injuries are tearing us apart and I can’t wait for the next international break to get some time for players to recover and return to full fitness. We have our two best midfielders out for a long time and it surely makes our Champions League campaign really tough. Eredivisie We’re 4th in the table. Considering how poor results we’ve had, it’s not the worst position. PSV have looked the strongest early in the season and FC Utrecht are picking up their form, too. Bottom of the table doesn’t offer any surprises either - smaller teams there with PEC Zwolle and Helmond Sport one of the main candidates for relegation.
  10. Squad Update 2031 Midfielders This is the part of the pitch where talent is concentrated. We have all sorts of different options and it’s difficult to give hot prospects like Rene Verhoeven, Eugene Talea and Jaap Hoogdorp enough playing time. Pieter Stekelenburg’s injury will make it a bit easier, though. Long term question is the future of Francesco Antonucci - I don’t want to offer him another big contract and he’s our second choice as APMa behind Simon Janssen. Perhaps it’s time for Italian to leave in 2032? Wingers No changes here, but it’s probably the last season in Ajax for Justin Kluivert. He too has starting to decline with age and Johan van Dalen is our first team choice on the left. Strikers Jeroen Capobianco left in this Summer and Lungisani Senyane will provide minutes from bench. South African is perhaps not the ideal player for single striker formation, but against smaller teams and when we have comfortable lead, he’ll do OK, until younger and better options will become available.
  11. Squad Update 2031 Goalkeepers It’s fair to say that we have two fairly equal keepers now. Marvin Koops being more experienced and physically better, but otherwise not much difference between those two. I thought about giving Ismet Gluhalic one more season on loan and there were interested parties, but Koops’ injury in August means that I need him here in Ajax. Right-backs No changes here, Tom Drost looks as strong as ever and Sergio Alleyne provides cover for both DR and DRC positions. Centre-backs Rene van den Bosch has developed a lot in the last season and I feel comfortable in this department. Sergio Alleyne is tutoring Moreno Markiet and it results in his determination. Three reliable option for me in defense. Four, if to include Alleyne. Left-backs Perhaps our weak point in defense. PSV Eindhoven tried hard to get Leslie Lichaba in this Summer, but I couldn’t give him away. He’s our best left-back at the moment and with Dragisa Gudelj getting older and slower, using the Serb against quicker wingers becomes increasingly risky. But Lichaba is rather error-prone and does not contribute in attacking phase as much as Tom Drost does on our right flank. That’s the difference in class between two full-backs. It is probably the last season in Ajax for Gudelj - he doesn’t justify his £21,000 p/week salary on our bench and we have young and talented Fred Koeman coming up from Jong Ajax to claim his place. Defensive midfielders Two very solid options. I use Mario de Groot as regista, but Engin Ari is my first choice as DMCs against stronger teams and in Champions League level.
  12. Summer 2031 transfer window roundup Even though it was very quiet Summer for Ajax, it was a very busy Summer for Eredivisie as a general. PSV and Feyenoord were responsible for the biggest transfers of the Summer, but there were other teams who invested at least a couple of millions into their squad. PSV sold a couple of their key players in June and spent that money in August - their squad looks a lot stronger now than it was in last season and it certainly shows in Eredivisie standings, too. Biggest transfers of Eredivisie in this Summer: Yassin Yilmaz from PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United for £15,5m Dominique van der Laan from FC Groningen to Aston Villa for £4,7m Roberto Jonkers from Feyenoord Rotterdam to Manchester United for £4,7m Frank de Reus from PSV Eindhoven to Newcastle United for £4,6m Zakaria Baltham from Genclerbirligi to PSV Eindhoven for £4,5m - Moroccon 28 years old complete forward, lured to PSV with a huge £61,000 p/week contract offer Georges Kongnyuy from Schalke to Feyenoord Rotterdam for £4m Jasper Achterberg from Vitesse Arnhem to PSV Eindhoven for £4m - PSV decided to spend big money for another striker
  13. August 2031 I didn’t predict a busy Summer transfer window, but I hoped that at least some players will attract enough attention to receive decent bids, but it wasn’t about to happen. Instead I spent my Summer fixing up a lot of backroom issues. Staff I knew I needed to find a new head physio, but June started with news that our U-19 manager Rob Hoskins decided to leave and join Liverpool as a coach. I’m really sorry to see him go, because our academy was successful with him in charge and I saw potential in him, but attraction of Premier League giants was too big. Long serving coach Richard Witschge retired in this Summer and I decided not to extend Darragh Tuffy contract (the lad has been trying to get his Continental Pro level for the past ten years, but always failed). No wonder that first week of July was spent on job market. I signed Ken Gillard as the new U-19 manager, Italian Matteo Moranda as a coach and appointed Vitesse’s Jos Kortekaas as our new head physio. All good additions to our backroom staff. Transfers In 1st of July I let five players go. Peter van der Wal was the best of them - 25 years old midfielder could probably be first team starter for any Eredivisie team, but we have a serious surplus of talent in midfield and I saw no point in wasting his talent on our bench. The rest of departures were Fathur Irawan (young right-back, didn’t progress enough), goalkeeper Louis van Duijvenbode, South African keeper Thabang Mthethwa (spent his last season on loan at sc Heerenveen, but failed to break into first team there) and central defender Desley Verbong. As I said, no significant bids for our first team players, at least any acceptable bids, but I accepted to offer for fringe players. Jeroen Capobianco went to sc Heerenveen for £700k+clauses (up to £825k) and young defensive midfielder Job ter Borgh moved to NAC Breda for £230k. Both were surplus to our needs and have more talented players in their position. Contracts Player contracts is the main question in the club in this Summer and probably in Autumn too. Plenty of contracts are ending in 2032 and negotiations are difficult. My aim has been to keep key player salaries around £30,000 per week, but players like Pieter Stekelenburg, Tarik de Wit, Dirk van Grinsven are asking a lot more for new deals and at the same time there’s no real hope that any big club would come and buy them for appropriate fee. I extended deals for Edward Schans - his new £19,000 deal will last until 2034, and talented youngster Germain Siereveld. But those have been easy affairs. Tarik de Wit signed a new £26,000 p/week deal and I negotiated Pieter Stekelenburg down to £43,000 p/week - huge salary, but he’s 29 years old and at his prime. Johan van Dalen also signed a new deal and in the end of August our salary extends to £450,000+ p/week and not all deals have been signed. That’s a lot of money to spend for wages and surely I should offload some players sooner rather than later. Loans At first it looked like we will have fewer players on loan, but in the end of August it was again a very long list. Two players moved to La Liga, Marco Oomen went to Portugal Premier League, but most of the players remained in Eredivisie. Stef Veldman to Helmond Sport Sjoerd de Jong to Getafe (La Liga) Clyde Sastrodimedjo to MVV Maastricht Igor Soares to Almere City Marco Oomen to Chaves (Portugal Premier League) Mithat Arabaci to PEC Zwolle Germain Siereveld to sc Heerenveen Mohammed van Leeuwen to Helmond Sport Kevin de Jonge to PEC Zwolle Steven Otten to FC Volendam Jaap Hoogdorp to Racing (La Liga) Fred Koeman to PEC Zwolle 26.07.2031 - AFC Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 2:1 (Dutch Super Cup) - 45.+1 Dirk van Grinsven, 88. Nketsi Matal - 36. Kees van der Werff PSV have had a busy Summer so far. They made the biggest transfer in Eredivisie, selling Yassine Yilmaz to Manchester United for whopping £15,5m and also their fullback Frank Reus. Both were integral for their team and so far PSV haven’t really used this money to upgrade their squad. Instead, they’ve expanding Philips Stadium and probably use this money on long term goals. They have a very good squad, although they definitely need some more depth in midfield and they’re looking for a new left-back (namely making bids for Leslie Lichaba), so I expect them to use at least some of this cash to improve their squad before transfer window is over. We too have all players fit and ready for this Super Cup game, so no real excuses if we lose this one. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (67. Antonucci), van Grinsven (64. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit (83. Senyane) We started the game better than PSV. Tarik de Wit got a couple of early chances and we put PSV defensive line under pressure. Tom Drost made a raid to PSV box in 27’ and had a great look on goal, but his shot was saved. PSV didn’t have any noteworthy chances until 36’, when ball somehow found a way through challenges and missed interceptions to far post where van der Werff was running. He hit the post with his first shot, but collected rebound and finished his second attempt. Goal came completely against the run of play. Fortunately we equalized right before half time whistle - excellent cross from Johan van Dalen found van Grinsven in front of goal and we went to break with 1:1. That goal made my half time team talk so much easier, but I still feel we were unlucky not to have a lead at that point. Second half was more even and neither of teams didn’t get good looks. Substitutions didn’t seem to have positive impact and looked like extra time is the only possible outcome here, when Nketsi Matal found a way to score a winner in 88’. Another great cross from Johan van Dalen and Matal scored a late goal to secure us Super Cup win. There was no time for PSV to react and find an equalizer. It was a scrappy win, in the end I have to admit that we just scraped it, but it felt good to beat PSV and give our season a positive start. Nice to see that the players fought until final whistle for that win. Still, our game has a lot of things we need to improve in the coming weeks. we committed 23 fouls Leslie Lichaba managed to make 6 individual errors Edward Schans suffered damaged foot in the game and he’ll be out for 2 weeks 13.08.2031 - ADO Den Haag - AFC Ajax - 1:0 (ED) - 82. Dennis Graafland Two weeks have passed and we were ready to start our first league game of the season. Pre-season has been really good - not only Super Cup win over PSV, but all the friendlies and good games, even against big teams. In pre-season we worked with different corner routines and I’m ready to switch between them in competitive fixtures, depending on which players we have on the pitch. ADO Den Haag were predicted to finish 7th and I expected it to be tough game in away stadium, but I was confident that we can win this. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (54. Talea), Janssen (58. Antonucci), van Grinsven, van Dalen (70. Kluivert), de Wit First half was poor from both sides - neither we or ADO didn’t want to risk it and tactics was rather careful. I was more disappointed with our inability to create chances in attack, but I expected us to improve after half time break. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. Tarik de Wit got the first good shot on target no earlier than in 75’ and in 82’ ADO scored their goal. Good cross came in from our left, into our six yard box where ADO danger man Dennis Graafland had already ran. Rene van den Bosch should have marked him, but lost his man and it was easy tap-in for Graafland. We couldn’t improve even after goal and I had to accept a very disappointing defeat. Scoreline is one thing, but our performance was really disappointing and we didn’t pose any serious threat to ADO goal. Impossible to explain, how that happened or how ADO could shut us down so well. Very disappointing start to our campaign and we lost early three points. Stat sheet didn’t offer any consolation - we were poor in most of key areas. our shooting was just 9/1 and we had no chances whatsoever we made only 17 key passes we committed 20 fouls we allowed 25 dribbles Tom Drost looked to struggle and he made 7 individual errors 16.08.2031 - FC Twente - AFC Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 89. Johan van Dalen Just three days to recover from this defeat and we’re up against FC Twente. Another away game and tricky fixture against mid-table side - FC Twente are predicted to finish 13th by media and bookies. However, three days is enough gap for bad things to happen - Marivn Koops suffered double hernia in training and he’ll be out for around two months. It’s a great chance for Ismet Gluhalic to prove himself and stake a claim for first team place. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Lichaba, Ari (60. de Groot), Stekelenburg, Antonucci (69. Janssen), van Grinsven (72. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit FC Twente got an early chance in 6’ - Isaac Osei got through defenders with a ball, but his shot was met by very good save from Ismet Gluhalic. After that the first half was under our control - Johan van Dalen sent his shot inches wide in 25’ and Dirk van Grinsven’s header scraped post in 30’. Despite controlling midfield, we were not creative enough in attack and could find a goal, so first half ended with 0:0 scoreline. It looked like a carbon copy of ADO game - we looked a bit out of ideas and I couldn’t see a way how we could change things for better. I made some tactical changes in the beginning of 2nd half - ordered fullbacks to overlap more, but it made no significant difference. In 53’ we got our best chance of the game - Johan van Dalen had a shot, it took deflection and bounced in front of Pieter Stekelenburg. The midfielder was in six yard box alone, nobody around him and somehow managed to make a poor shot that was saved by goalkeeper who rushed back into action. Unbelievable miss that could destroy our anyway fragile morale. It looked like it could become a goalless draw, but we were saved late in the game by Johan van Dalen. Tom Drost sent a cross in and van Dalen headed it in off the underside of the bar. Dramatic winner alte in the game, real saviour for us. Final whistle gave us a reason to celebrate, but I was still unhappy with our performance and attacking game (or lack thereof). However, I kept my feelings to myself and praised team for the win - in those situation gaining confidence is more important in long term than criticism, however justified it could be. our shooting was 17/5 - only small improvement from ADO game 20.08.2031 - AFC Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 5:3 (ED) - 9. and 62. Johan van Dalen, 27. and 75. Dirk van Grinsven, 80. Lungisani Senyane - 60. Harun Firat, 64. Donald Jourdan, 88. Niko Loose Two away games have not been too good for us, so our first league game in Amsterdam Arena will hopefully be improvement. What makes it more difficult is our opponents - Vitesse are predicted to finish 5th and are top half team, for sure. In addition it’s a bit of a grudge match after they humiliated us in the last season. What counts for our favour is the fact that their best striker Ronni Nissen is injured and has to sit this game out. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (59. van den Bosch), Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (59. Verhoeven), Janssen, van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (54. Senyane) The game had an unexpected start when Vitesse’s fullback Giovanni Somai went into Johan van Dalen with very late, two-footed tackle and received straight red card for his move when only three minutes were played. Vitesse was down to 10 men before game could even start and that gave us all the advantage that we needed. Surely, we took advantage and Johan van Dalen opened scoring in 9’. First half was under our control, we wasted some chances and used others. Dirk van Grinsven missed his opportunities in 19’ and 23’ before he finally doubled our lead in 27’. First half ended 2:0 and I was happy with that. We were in full control of the game and had two goal lead. I asked players to slow things down and retain possession in 2nd half. Vitesse didn’t look like a threat from open play, but they managed to get some corners and one of those helped them score their first goal in 60’. Corner was flicked on from near post and central defender Harun Firat headed it in from far post. Rene van den Bosch should have marked him there, but was caught ball-watching on his feet. We composed ourselves quickly and Lungisani Senyane got a great chance just two minutes later. His shot was saved, but Johan van Dalen tucked it in from rebound and we regained our two-goal lead. Our joy was again short - another two minutes later it was 2:3 - our defensive line was completely outplayed, Donald Jourdan was left alone in front of goal and ball got to him on time - easy finish for Vitesse. At this point I was furious at the sidelines - to concede two goals against 10 men was completely unacceptable. It didn’t help when Dirk van Grinsven wasted his clear cut chance in 66’ and Rene Verhoeven’s opportunity was denied by brilliant save from Vitesse goalkeeper. However, we continued to create chances and goals finally came - Rene Verhoeven sent a long shot towards goal in 75’, it was saved with difficulties and van Grinsven scored from rebound. Five minutes later substitute striker Lungisani Senyane put this game beyond doubt with our 5th goal, but Vitesse still had another trick in their sleeve - Rene Verhoeven’s poor backpass was intercepted and following attack resulted in their 3rd goal. Final score 5:3 was undoubtedly entertaining for fans and neutrals alike. I was happy with our attacking game (finally plenty of great chances and number of goals), but that was expected with our numerical advantage. However our defense made some unacceptable errors in this game and perhaps we were just lucky with that red card. I can imagine how different this game could have been 11 against 11. our shooting was 16/12 we created 9 clear cut chances Lungisani Senyane scored his first ever league goal for Ajax Dirk van Grinsven had a great game 23.08.2031 - AFC Ajax - FC Volendam 5:1 (ED) - 25. Renaat Gillard (og), 32. and 44. Tarik de Wit, 43. Eugene Talea, 87. Nketsi Matal - 41. Jos Kurt With at least one good win under our belt and our confidence back, newly-promoted FC Volendam looked like a must win game at home. FC Volendam are predicted to finish 14th, they have a fairly good and young team and I hope they’ll do well in this season, but stronger teams are too difficult challenge for them at the moment. I wanted to make a few changes in our line-up, to try some new players and rotate team. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba (53. Koeman), de Groot, Talea, Janssen, van Grinsven (53. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit (57. Senyane) We started much more confidently in this game. Eugene Talea got his chance to impress in midfield and he had our first great chance to score in 20’, unfortunately his shot went wide, although opportunity was there to make impression. We took the lead in 25’ after unfortunate own goal by Volendam goalkeeper Renat Gaillard. Ball bounced in six yard box, Johan van Dalen created some of the mess and distraction for Volendam defenders, who were unable to make a proper clearance and somehow ball bounced into goal from Gaillard’s back. Our right wing created problems for Volendam - Tom Drost supported attacks well, he and Dirk van Grinsven sent dangerous crosses into box and one of those found Tarik de Wit who fired it in with a force. In 41’ Volendam scored unexpected goal - Simon Janssen missed his interception in midfield, following attack led to opportunity for young winger Jos Kurt and he took his chane well - 1:2. We bounced back well from this and before first half was over, we scored two more goals. Eugene Talea converted superb through ball from Simon Janssen and de Wit doubled his Tally from another cross from our right wing. I could be happy with 4:1 scoreline at half time. Second half was less exciting. We had some half chances and out of three substitutes Nketsi Matal was most motivated to make impact. He hit the post in 86’ and managed to score a minute later - even though he needed two attempts to find the net. It was a well deserved win, good goalscoring form and the sort of game that we should show against smaller teams. our shooting was 20/11 we made 30 dribbles in this game - Volendam defenders clearly struggled against our skillful players eugene Talea scored his first ever goal for Ajax Simon Janssen and Tarik de Wit had a great game 29.08.2031 - AFC Ajax - FC Groningen 4:0 (ED) - 30. Simon Janssen, 60. pen., 78. and 83. Tarik de Wit Five games in August finished with home encounter against FC Groningen. We wanted to finish the month strong and go to international break with good spirit, so for us it was very important game. FC Groningen are mid-table team, predicted to finish 10th in this season, but to my eye there is a lot of quality in their squad - a very young team, with best teamwork in Eredivisie, who usually play 4-4-2, with two good strikers and wingers who can cross balls into box. I needed a good strategy to eliminate that threat and I ordered Leslie Lichaba specifically to close down their right winger Pim de Reuver. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (73. van den Bosch), Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (69. Verhoeven), Janssen, van Grinsven (60. Matal), de Wit We were perhaps slightly better team in the first half, but not by much. One good attack in the first half gave us the lead - Tom Drost brought ball into box and passed it to Simon Janssen, who fired it in with a strong shot. We didn’t have too many good chances in the first half, even though Tarik de Wit won several dangerous headers from set pieces. Second half didn’t offer much exciting moments until Aziz Zaidi tripped Leslie Lichaba in the box in 60’ and referee awarded penalty for us. de Wit confidently converted it and after that we were in control of the game. Pieter Stekelenburg was forced off with injury in 67’, but that didn’t stop us. Tarik de Wit scored two more goals to complete his hattrick and FC Groningen had no way to stop him in this game. Great result for us in this game, excellent second half and I’m equally happy with our clean sheet. our shooting was 21/8 our average rating was 8.00 we didn’t allow FC Groningen a single chance through the whole game Tarik de Wit, Simon Janssen and Tom Drost had a great game Pieter Stekelenburg will be sidelined for 3 months with slipped disc Eredivisie campaign started poorly for us, but we picked up after narrow win over FC Twente and in the end of the month our confidence is back and we look like title challengers once again. We’ve found our scoring form and I hope it can continue into September and Champions League games. Champions League groups were drawn and we received a tough group B, with Tottenham, Atletico Madrid and FC Metz. No easy opponents, truly a death group, where even a 3rd place is not guaranteed for us. It’s a tough challenge and we have to be ready for it. Eredivisie No surprises in the top of the table - PSV have had the best start, with us and Feyenoord following the lead. August has not offered too many shock results and it shows in the table.
  14. Season Summary 2030-2031 Eredivisie Champions, as expected, although our points total was a bit short of 80, which is usually a good indicator of consistency and form. Despite that we were well ahead of other clubs in Spring and it’s mostly because our competitors were even more inconsistent and dropped points in unexpected games. Champions League We achieved our minimum aim and progressed from group stage, but couldn’t do much against Arsenal and it proved that we lack quality in squad at the moment to compete with European giants. Not sure how much it will change in 1-2 seasons, but to make improvement we probably should introduce some youngsters into first team to make changes over time. Real Madrid were crowned as the Champions League winners after the did beat PSG in the final. Dutch Cup We retained Dutch Cup - unexpected, because we haven’t been too successful in this front in the past, let alone two seasons in a row. To be fair, the draw was favourable to us and the toughest opponents on paper were MVV in 4th round, and they finished 8th in the league, so well… Toughest game in reality was the final, which went to penalty shoot-out. Youngsters Jong Ajax finished 18th in Jupiler League. Not very impressive. They had a couple of good games and results, but only a couple, and most of those came because Peter van der Wal played a lot for them in 2nd half of the season. Stef Veldman scored 15 goals in Jupiler League, but that alone wasn’t enough when the defense is leaky and you lose your advantage in the end of the games. U-19 offered more positive emotions - our youngsters finished 2nd in the league and won U-19 cup, so their manager Rob Hoskins did his job well enough Stats and observations To start with our defense - we looked a lot more vulnerable in this season defensively. Over the entire Eredivisie season we conceded 35 clear cut chances (good would be under 30) and goalkeepers had to make a lot of crucial saves to keep goals from flooding in. Attacking part of the game looks more interesting. We scored a lot of goals - 72 (more than 2.1 per game), but at the same time we created only 73 clear cut chances (in previous seasons this number has been closer to 90). What strikes out is that in this year we were particularly poor from attacking set pieces. Corners and free kicks led to only 4 goals compared to 15 from previous year. Our best creators were Dirk van Grinsven and Tarik de Wit, with 15 and 13 clear cut chances created respectively. Tarik de Wit has shown in this season that he can fulfill complete forward role, linking up plays up front and giving through balls behind defensive line for other players to run for, so that’s a real advantage that we could use in the future. His 10 assists are the proof of that. While de Wit scored 27 goals, he also was the unlucky one, hitting framework for 9 times in all competitions. Fans Player of the Season Tom Drost Pieter Stekelenburg Francesco Antonucci Goal of the Season: Engin Ari vs. FC Groningen 05/10/2030 Young Player of the Season: Leslie Lichaba Eredivisie Awards Golden Boot: Ron Bosman (FC Utrecht) Dennis Graafland (ADO Den Haag) Laurens Antoine (PSV Eindhoven) Top Goalscorer: Laurens Antoine (PSV Eindhoven) - 26 Dennis Graafland (ADO Den Haag) - 24 Raul Ibanez (MVV Maastricht) - 21 Goalkeeper of the Year: Boyd Derksen (FC Utrecht) Marvin Koops (AFC Ajax) Joost Nijhuis (Sparta Rotterdam) Young Player of the Year: Manuel Santamaria (Feyenoord Rotterdam) Francesco Martino (ADO Den Haag) Johan van Dalen (AFC Ajax) Manager’s Manager of the Year: Me Erik ten Hag (FC Utrecht) Sander Duits (PSV Eindhoven)
  15. May 2031 Nothing serious to play for, so it’s time to share playing time. For me the marker has always been 40 games - it’s good rotation, game time distribution and sign of squad depth if no player has to start more than 40 games. In this season we’ve done really well and everybody are well under 40, even Marvin Koops, as Ismet Gluhalic has had his chances between sticks. Pieter Stekelenburg, Edward Schans and Tarik de Wit have been carrying the load, but most others are between 20-30 games, which is just good to keep match fitness, but also train hard. These last two games in May are surely for rotation players. 04.05.2031 - Sparta Rotterdam - AFC Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 65. Ratko Nijs - 61. Rene Verhoeven Sparta are doing well in this season and find themselves 8th in the table. We’re still training attacking movement and because of my squad selection I expect it to be rather tough battle. Edward Schans serves his suspension in this game. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Markiet, Gudelj, de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci (67. Janssen), Matal, Kluivert (60. van Dalen), Capobianco Perhaps because of our weakened line-up, but we didn’t play well in this game. In first half we looked poor with ball - most of opportunities to create something ended with bad pass or we just lost possession. While our defense was good enough against Sparta attacks, they did get a lot of set pieces and looked really dangerous from corners. We lost too many headers in our box (often we weren’t really trying) and to go to half time break was more of a relief. I changed tactics for 2nd half - Jeroen Capobianco started to play as false nine - but it didn’t change much. We scored opener in 61’ and it was rather lucky goal than consistent pressure to Sparta goal that led to it. Rene Verhoeven took a shot from 20 meters and it went in off the post. It was his first ever league goal for Ajax and showed what sort of danger he could possess from outside of box. But soon enough it was 1:1 - Moreno Markiet left Ratko Nijs too much space in our box and it was easy goal after cross came in from our left. In the end, draw was fair result, but I was disappointed with our performance - we were not good enough. our shooting was just 6/1 we allowed Sparta to make 21 key passes and 24 dribbles Rene Verhoeven scored his first ever league goal for Ajax 11.05.2031 - AFC Ajax - Helmond Sport 5:0 (ED) - 13. and 41. Nketsi Matal, 21. Justin Kluivert, 61. and 79. Omar van der Aar Despite the result of Sparta game, I wanted us to end our season in a high and home game against Helmond Sport was a must win because of that. We continued to practice attacking movement and, because of home advantage, overlapped more. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Markiet, Gudelj, de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci, Matal, Kluivert (52. van der Aar), Senyane It’s fair to say that against Helmond Sport we looked a lot better. After Justin Kluivert missed his initial chance in 5’, we took control of the game and never looked back. Nketsi Matal was a threat with his space and crossing down our right flank, Helmond defensive line couldn’t cope with our movement and goals did come. Helmond Sport was left to ten men just before half time whistle, after Fred Koeman (our own player on loan) made a reckless two footed challenge on Tom Drost. Why on earth did he do that, I can’t understand. That move doesn’t bring him a lot of friends in dressing room when he’ll return in July. Young winger Omar van der Aar came on in 2nd half and instantly made impact with two goals and final result 5:0 was excellent finish to our season. our average rating was 8.45 our shooting was 23/15 we created 5 clear cut chances Nketsi Matal and Rene Verhoeven were outstanding for us Omar van der Aar scored his first league goals for Ajax End of the season was like it should be. Youngsters and rotation players got their share of playing time, nobody got injured and we had no problems with yellow cards. Last matchday forced some clubs to make decisions about their staff, and Danny Schreurs was sacked by FC Groningen, to be replaced by Robin van Persie. To be fair - FC Groningen should have done better than they did in this season and to look elsewhere was normal action by FC Groningen board. Eredivisie Last two games made a difference in top three. PSV Eindhoven moved up to 2nd place and FC Utrecht climbed 3rd, while Feyenoord dropped to 4th. At the bottom of the table SC Cambuur were relegated, while Go Ahead Eagles and AZ Alkmaar survived relegation battle. In Jupiler League FC Volendam were crowned as champions and they will be promoted to Eredivisie in next season. Ajax goals: Tarik de Wit 27, Nketsi Matal 15, Johan van Dalen 11, Dirk van Grinsven 10 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 14, Nketsi Matal 12, Justin Kluivert 11, Tarik de Wit 10