Draakon

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About Draakon

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  1. Transfer Update Summer 2024 We made one move in August - Nicolai Boilesen was asking to leave to seek new challenges and I allowed him to move to Dinamo Moscow for £250k. It was a fairly easy decision, because he was clearly our second choice behind Dragisa Gudelj, and we freed some £27,500 p/week salary funds with this move. Small worry is that we don’t have another good left-back, but let’s see if our youngsters can grow to this role during this season. In Eredivisie MVV Maastricht was again spending their cash and brought in several players. Their transfer fees are not remarkable, but salaries are and they are spending by far more than any other team. MVV pay around £27m for wages in this season. We are next in this category with ~£17m. Interesting to see if this kind of money can bring them results, because so far they haven’t have too much success in the league. Eredivisie transfers Brian Wagener from Ajax to Swansea City for £16,5m Ali Messaoudi from FC Utrecht to Lille Olympique for £4,2m Clyde Drenthe from Liverpool to FC Utrecht for £3,6m Calvin Verdonk from sc Heerenveen to Feyenoord Rotterdam for £3m
  2. August 2024 09.08.2024 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 1:0 (ED) - 1. Dejan Meleg We started our Eredivisie season with home game against Helmond Sport. On paper it couldn’t have been easier start - Helmond narrowly escaped relegation in Spring and they’re predicted to finish 18th this season again. And we were ready for it - the game had barely started when Dejan Meleg sent his shot into the net from 18 yards out, totally catching goalkeeper on the heels and giving us the flying start of the season. But the rest of the match wasn’t so smooth - we held possession, but couldn’t create enough chances and our attacking movement could have been better. There was a foul against Justin Kluivert in 41’ and it should have been a penalty, but none was given and that didn’t help us either. Finally, when Helmond just had to attack and leave empty spaces behind them, we created some chances, but then finishing let us down. Sieme Plat had first opportunity in 83’ and then two in a row in 90’, but inexperience perhaps hindered his composure and all of his shots were saved by Helmond goalkeeper. That’s what I didn’t like about this game - it was too narrow win, too slippery to feel comfortable. We should have finished it 3-0 or 4-0, but couldn’t deliver. It’s good to start with a win, but I expected more from performance. Sieme Plat’s three missed chances was the big disappointment - hopefully those won’t haunt him in the next game Francesco Antonucci was outstanding, orchestrating our attacks from midfield 14.08.2024 - Willem II Tilburg - Ajax 0:0 (ED) Willem II are newly promoted and lack quality players, but they have good teamwork and work rate and they stunned ADO Den Haag 2:0 in the first match day, so I had to be careful not to underestimate them. Willem II opted for adventurous 4-3-3 formation - probably element of surprise could help them in this season with this tactics. I chose flexible formation and tuned creativity down to normal. Tom Drost returned to starting line-up. Willem II got an early chance to score in 7’, but Marvin Koops made a brilliant save and avoided the goal. In 20’ Justin Kluivert’s header hit crossbar, but overall it was a drab first half without good chances for us. We got our best opportunity to score in 54’, but Kluivert’s shot was saved and so we had to settle with goalless draw. Poor result, as we were clear favourites against Willem II. We definitely missed our creative players in attack in this game. our crossing didn’t work at all - just 43/2 17.08.2024 - Ajax - NAC Breda 2:0 (ED) - 32. and 38. Dejan Meleg Back in Amsterdam Arena, we switched back to fluid shape and more creative freedom. We had to improve after Willem II draw and show that we can win those games. Emil Brown returned from Olympic tournament and started in attack for us. We got an early chance in 6’, but Dejan Meleg hit the post from open position. He didn’t make same mistake twice however, scoring in both 32’ and 38’ and although we didn’t look too impressive with our gameplay, those two good moments put us in front. Second half was much less exciting. NAC Breda was left to ten men after Dave Bulthuis earned a red card in 58’ and it was easy from there. Noa Lang gave outstanding midfield performance in this game 25.08.2024 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 4:1 (ED) - 9. Dejan Meleg, 22., 28. and 62. Dirk van Grinsven - 25. Rashaan Fernandes The first Klassikier Derby of this season. We analyzed what Feyenoord had done in this Summer and they have to be taken very seriously - they’ve made good moves in transfer window and spent £6m very wisely for new players. We switched back to normal creativity. Fortunately, Holland U-23 players returned from Olympics and were in line-up for the derby match. And that means Mike van der Hoorn and Justin Kluivert were dropped to bench. We opened scoring from a good counter. It was nice play, but Dejan Meleg finished it with excellent shot from the edge of area. Very nice indeed. Dirk van Grinsven extended our lead in 22’, but then Feyenoord got a chance and got one goal themselves - Sergio Alleyne missed his interception and that lead to shot. Marvin Koops made a great save to parry first attempt, but Fernandes got to rebound first and finished into the empty net. Despite that goal we were in the zone and Dirk van Grinsven showed what we’ve missed in the first three games - his chip made it 3-1 just three minutes later. and he got a chance for a hat-trick, but brilliant save by Feyenoord goalkeeper in 32’ kept their hopes alive. Van Grinsven continued to lead our attacks in second half - his good interception in 48’ led to good chance, but he smashed it against crossbar. However, he finally completed his hat-trick in 62’. It was a great result for us, great derby win for the fans and it looks like we’re back in our best form with our key players back in the squad. Let’s see how it goes from there. we made 30 dribbles in this game Francesco Antonucci, Dirk van Grinsven and Emil Brown were outstanding in this game 30.08.2024 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 10. Dirk van Grinsven, 14. Dejan Meleg FC Eindhoven have had a great start to their season, with three straight wins despite the fact that they were predicted just 15th by media. They are helped by our loanees Peter Mulder and Cengizhan Caliskan this year. We chose flexible shape and higher defensive line. Tom Drost was in and Tarik Gennissen was rested for this game. We took the lead in 10’ - Dirk van Grinsven’s cross went towards goal and surprised goalkeeper, so a fluke goal helped us in this match. Dejan Meleg scored another goal just four minutes later and after that it was easy for us to keep the ball and see the match out. Not the most exciting win, but really professional job and solid result. We’ve had a great start to the season, although Willem II result wasn’t as good as expected. I’m happy with our defense - a lot of clean sheets and we haven’t given too many chances to opponents. Player of the month: Dejan Meleg - Serbian winger have been our best goalscorer so far and filled the role of right winger well. Eredivisie FC Eindhoven are doing well despite that loss against us. sc Heerenveen are also having a great start to the season and Willem II are surprising everybody with their results.On the other side of the table PSV are struggling and are still looking for their first win of the season. Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 5, Dirk van Grinsven 4 Ajax assists: Francesco Antonucci 4, Emil Brown 3 Champions League Groups were drawn in the end of August and we were drawn to group F against Fenerbahce, Sporting and Sparta Prague. To be honest, we couldn’t have wished for the better draw. If you could ever say that Champions League is easy then that, at least on paper, is probably the easiest group we could have got. So everything is up to ourselves.
  3. July 2024 Transfer window has started and we made two moves in July. First was selling our right back Jelmer Koning to MVV Maastricht for £675k+ clauses. He’s old enough now and is surplus for our needs, with talented Peter Mulder coming from U-19. Second deal was more unexpected. Swansea City circled around Brian Wagener for a long time and made all kinds of bids, but finally agreed to match his minimum release fee clause of £16,5m. Enormous bid for a player valued £3m, however talented he is. But I had to accept that and so Wagener is off to Premier League. He was a great player to have, filled in exceptionally well last season when Francesco Antonucci was injured, but now Antonucci is back and Simon Janssen returned from loan and fills the spot in our midfield, so I’m not overly concerned. Loans out: Peter Mulder to FC Eindhoven Peter van Huizen to FC Dordrecht Cengizhan Caliskan to FC Eindhoven Lamin Abdelhadi to FC Groningen Andre Pröpper to Evian TG FC (decided to give him a year in French Ligue 1) For some reason big tournaments always come as a surprise to me. This time it’s Olympics. It’s 2024, of course. But that means Tarik Gennissen, Pieter Stekelenburg, Dirk van Grinsven and Emil Brown are all missing the start of the season as they’re participating with their U-23 teams in Olympic tournament. That means my options for selection are significantly thinner despite the fact that all our players are fit. Striker department is really worrying as I hoped Emil Brown would carry the load this year, but instead I have to go with 20 years old Sieme Plat. 27.07.2024 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 2:1 (Dutch Super Cup) - 4. Sergio Alleyne, 14. Noa Lang - 90.+2 pen. Wesley Hoedt It was a revenge match against Vitesse and we started with real hunger and determination to win. We had a corner in 4’ - Francesco Antonucci saw his shot hit the post, but Sergio Alleye was first to get to rebound and put it in. Noa Lang added another goal in 14’ (wonderful long pass by Nathan Leyder gave his 1-1 chance against keeper). Vitesse then started to pick up their game - they got their best chance in 16’, but the shot went wide. Sieme Plat wasted his opportunity in 34’. Could have been 3-1, but I was happy with our performance in the first half. Second half offered less action until injury time when Mike van der Hoorn fouled Joel Donald in our box and late penalty gave Vitesse some consolation. Poor error by experienced defender, but if I ever had a chance to pick place and time of these kind of mistakes, it’s there. Sieme Plat made his debut for Ajax in this game
  4. June 2024 It is European Championship Summer in 2024. Tom Drost and Dirk van Grinsven narrowly missed out from Holland national team, but Nathan Leyder and Dragisa Gudelj were in the competition. In Amsterdam, we found out that our youth facilities needed upgrading and the board were willing to invest £2,7m for that project. Meanwhile, I was headhunted by several big clubs. I declined job interviews from Valencia, Dortmund Borussia and Swansea and there were rumors that connected me to AS Monaco and Arsenal jobs. I extended contracts of youngster Peter van der Wal and Dragisa Gudelj, but Danny Rutte didn’t get a new contract after returning from FC Groningen. He had a good season there and there’s a lot of interest in him, so he’ll get a good contract offer for sure. Loans: Peter Mulder to FC Eindhoven Peter van Huizen to FC Dordrecht
  5. Season Update 2023/2024 Once again, we’ve won Eredivisie title, but this time our season wasn’t so smooth as predicted. In recent years some 80+ points have been needed to secure the title, but this season we didn’t make it to 80. Fortunately the other big clubs are not in their prime and while sc Heerenveen made a great 2nd half of the season, they collapsed in the end under the pressure. We hoped to defend our cup win, but lost in the final. Undoubtedly it was a disappointment, but while last year our win was aided by very easy draw, in this season we offered some good wins in our run to the final - we defeated PSV Eindhoven, for instance. In Europe we were again just a little short of progressing from Champions League group, but as before, we lacked skills and experience when we needed it the most. But our biggest disappointment was 0:2 defeat from PAOK - that was the game we were able to win, I believe, but failed to deliver. Champions League final was Portugal affair this time - Sporting Lisbon defeated FC Porto 3:0. Fans Player of the Season: Dirk van Grinsven - it was our right winger’s true breakthrough season and while he wasn’t most impressive in goalscoring, his 24 assists is the new record and it were his crosses that provided most of Justin Kluivert’s 19 goals. Goal of the Season: Francesco Antonucci’s bicycle kick against FC Groningen in 05.05.2024 Young Player of the Season: Dirk van Grinsven Golden Boot: Justin Kluivert - Ajax Ramon Loswijk - Sparta Rotterdam Simon Janssen - FC Twente Enschede (on loan from Ajax) Goalkeeper of the Year: Charl Simonse - sc Heerenveen (just 18 years old!) Hidde Jurjus - FC Groningen Rody de Boer - PEC Zwolle Top Goalscorer: Luc Castaignos - FC Groningen (19) Ali Messaouid - FC Utrecht (17) Daan Thomassen - MVV Maastricht Young Player of the Year: Aschraf Flemming - Ajax Simon Janssen - FC Twente (on loan from Ajax) Brian Wagener - Ajax Manager’s Manager of the Year Me Mitchell van der Gaag - FC Eindhoven Robin Maaskant - sc Heerenveen
  6. May 2024 05.05.2024 - Ajax - FC Groningen 3:0 (ED) - 26. Andre Pröpeer, 45.+2 Dragisa Gudelj, 50. Francesco Antonucci We needed just one win to secure our Eredivisie title and we did it with 3:0 win over FC Groningen. I chose fluid shape tactically. Mike van der Hoorn and Sergio Alleyne were our central defensive partnership to defend against aerial ability of FC Groningen’s Luc Castaignos. We started very well and applied good pressure to opponent’s goal from the first minutes and it resulted in a goal in 26’ - Andre Pröpper’s header bounced back from crossbar, but he finished it from the rebound. Our young 18 years old striker was in action again in first half injury time - his long shot smashed crossbar (again), but this time it was Dragisa Gudelj who reacted first and tapped it in from close range. And in 2nd half Francesco Antonucci added perhaps the most beautiful goal of the season - his bicycle kick was wonderful individual performance and that lifted the spirits in Amsterdam Arena sky high. FC Groningen got their best chance in 57’, but Castaignos somehow put it wide from open position. Dragisa Gudelj and Francesco Antonucci were outstanding in this game. 12.05.2024 - Helmond Sport - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 14. and 41. Dejan Meleg, 66. Emil Brown I sent our rotation players for our final game of the season. At the same time, Helmond Sport had literally everything to play for - they’ve finally climbed to 17th position and needed a good result to keep their place of relegation play-off. But they weren’t good enough and while our team had some players not completely match fit, we did well enough to score a few goals. Dejan Meleg had the best chances in the first half and he found the net twice. We offered good attacking football without pressure. Emil Brown scored our 3rd goal in second half after good cross by Nketsi Matal. Helmond had given up by that time. our shooting was 20/10, as it should be against smaller club it was Sergio Alleyne’s 100th appearance for Ajax Eredivisie We had a good end to this season. FC Groningen secured their 3rd place and PSV Eindhoven somehow leaped a few places and finished 4th in the end. FC Eindhoven were the biggest overachievers in this season, but sc Heerenveen were the most impressive and they gave us the race until the very end. Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 19, Dirk van Grinsven 17, Aschraf Flemming 12 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 24, Justin Kluivert 10, Tom Drost 8
  7. April 2024 06.04.2024 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 0:0 (ED) After long time our team was fully fit and I was able to choose between all players. We went against Vitesse with fluid shape, but rest of the tactics were the same. We tried to attack and had initiative most of the first half, but without much success. In second half we had two good chances, but Andre Pröpper and Justin Kluivert wasted their opportunities and after those two mistakes Vitesse defense recovered well. Not the worst performance, but finishing let us down and we should have been more clinical in front of goal. 13.04.2024 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 2:0 (ED) - 31. Justin Kluivert, 74. Tarik Gennissen I allowed more creativity in this home game and made a few changes in line-up - Bob Leeflang got his chance to impress in goal (he trained well this week), Noa Lang was back in midfield and Dirk van Grinsven was rested in this match - Dejan Meleg took his place on our right wing. We were very shaky in the first fifteen minutes and Curly Alberto had two great chances to score. Luckily for us, both of his shots hit post. I reacted by tuning down creativity and in 31’ Justin Kluivert opened scoring after good cross from our right wing. I felt like we’ve escaped defeat in this first half, but the match was far from over. FC Eindhoven composed themselves and got a great chance to equalize in 70’, but Bob Leeflang made a brilliant save. Then Tarik Gennissen scored from corner to make situation more relaxed for us, but Eindhoven didn’t give up - they god another 1-1 opportunity in injury time, but Leeflang again showed his skills to parry it expertly. Emil Brown headed just wide in injury time from wide open position. In the end it was 2-0 for us, but both teams had plenty of chances to score more. I’m not so happy about defense - to give away 3 clear cut chances is unacceptable we allowed 29 dribbles for FC Eindhoven and it was the start of most of our troubles defensively our shooting was only 14/2 and those two shots on target ended in a goal selection of Bob Leeflang justified itself completely - he made three brilliant saves, ended with 8.3 rating and man of the match award 20.04.2024 - NAC Breda - Ajax 1:5 (ED) - 24. Dellatorre - 7. Mike van der Hoorn, 64. Dirk van Grinsven, 71. Emil Brown, 83. pen. and 87. Francesco Antonucci NAC Breda are underachieving, considering how much money they’ve spent on players. Of course, all those transfers do not make sense to me and melting some 15 new players into one team takes time, so NAC is pretty much work in progress at the moment. I chose flexible shape (away from home) and made changes in line-up. Mike van der Hoorn replaced Sergio Alleyne in defense. Dirk van Grinsven was back on our right wing and Meleg moved to left flank. Justin Kluivert was benched after poor training performance. We started well and Mike van der Hoorn headed it in from corner. NAC Breda equalized after wonderful long ball that surprised our defensive line, Dellatorre timed his run perfectly and van der Hoorn couldn’t catch him on time. Well stunned. We were a little shaken after equalizer and didn’t look so good mentally, but composed ourselves at half-time. Justin Kluivert replaced Dejan Meleg and in 2nd half we were more in control of things. We found the goal in 64’and substitute Emil Brown extended our lead to 3-1. NAC Breda collapsed in the last ten minutes - Kluivert earned a penalty and Antonucci scored from the spot. Italian added another goal from corner to make it 5-1 in the end. I’m happy with 18/10 shooting Francesco Antonucci and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding in this game 28.04.2024 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 0:1 (Dutch Cup Final) - 7. Renato Ibarra I made two changes in line-up for the cup final. Team captain Ricardo van Rhijn started and Justin Kluivert returned to left wing (Dejan Meleg didn’t impress in Breda win). Vitesse can defend well - they proved it in goalless draw against us a few weeks back. But this time they were helped by early goal - Renato Ibarra got a half chance and his shot went in off the bar. We had two half-chances in the first half, both to Justin Kluivert, but his first shot went just wide and second was brilliantly saved by Vitesse goalkeeper. We tried our best in second half to equalize, but Vitesse really defended well and we had not enough good chances and we had to accept our defeat. Very disappointing, because we’ve been good in this month so far, but couldn’t deliver our best in the final. our shooting was 25/4 - we had a lot of possession near Vitesse box, but our shots were blocked our just misplaced We’ve had a good month in Eredivisie, but again we’ve lost the single most important game of the month. In March it was title challenge against sc Heerenveen, in April it was the cup final. Still room for improvement. Second half against NAC Breda was probably our best football in display for a while. Player of the month: Tarik Gennissen - young defender had four solid games in April and he added a goal against FC Eindhoven to that. Eredivisie We’ve put some distance between us and sc Heerenveen - it looks like they’ve collapsed under pressure a little bit. They lost 1-3 against Sparta Rotterdam and 0-1 against Vitesse and so we’ve 5 points clear in the table. Unless we screw up ourselves, the title should be ours. Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 19, Dirk van Grinsven 17, Aschraf Flemming 12 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 23, Justin Kluivert 9, Tom Drost 8
  8. Youth Intake 2024 This year’s youth intake can be rated as average. We got two talented strikers and two good defensive midfielders. Both strikers are more of poacher or advanced forward type of players, not CF or F9 as we’re used to play with. Nothing exciting in defense and no wingers, which is a worry. One player (Ousmane Diop) came through our affiliated club in France. Youth candidates 2024 Tarik de Wit Best striker of the bunch. Physically good, with good movement and aerial ability. Anticipation also works for his favor, but he’s very one-footed and lacks work ethics and vision. Mario de Groot Young defensive midfielder. He doesn’t look like much at first, but when you look closely you see that he doesn’t have any significant weaknesses either. Good vision and decision making help with playmaking duties Jeroen Capobianco Has some very good qualities (finishing, heading, flair), but he’s average physically, small in stature, has no vision what so ever and hardly helps in defense. Talent is definitely there, but needs to work hard on those weaknesses to do well in single striker formation Marco Oomen He doesn’t have so much potential in talent, but he’s professional by nature and I hope it helps him to get most out of it. Good teamwork, work ethics and first touch. Engin Ari Another defensive midfielder. His bravery, work rate and tackling make him a good ball winning midfielder. By position, our situation looks like that: GK: both first team keepers are very young, so nothing to worry about for the next years. 18 years old Joel Drommel in Jong Ajax is decent option and can be backup for first team. DR: Ricardo van Rhijn is experienced, but we have plenty of options, most noteworthy is Peter Mulder - 18 years old very talented player, part of Holland U-19 team. DC: so-so. Mike van der Hoorn is in veteran status and although Tarik Gennissen is very young, we don’t have a 18-20 years old options from Jong Ajax. Edward Schans is the 17 years old next one coming up from U-19. Danny Rutte is doing OK for FC Groningen, but not good enough to earn new contract in Ajax and he’ll be most probably released this Summer. DL: Dragisa Gudelj is there for several more years, but Nicolai Boilesen needs to be replaced in two season’s time. We have a decent player in Michel de Boer, but only decent. No bright talents. DMC: 20 years old Frank van den Hoek is eager to push Nathan Leyder away to get more first team football. MC: plenty of young players in the team, with very talented Pieter van der Wal coming up from Jong Ajax. Not to forget Simon Janssen and Cengizhan Caliskan on loan. AMR: Nketsi Matal is a solid backup for Dirk van Grinsven, but younger players in Jong Ajax haven’t lived up to their hype. AML: Justin Kluivert has a great season so far, Dejan Meleg is still good for a couple of seasons. We have Ludovic Roy in Jong Ajax, but I’m afraid he’s only good enough for backup status. ST: Plenty of options in all levels - Andre Pröpper is just 18 years old. We have several players out on loan and 2-4 very good options coming from U-19. Not bad.
  9. March 2024 05.03.2024 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 41. Dirk van Grinsven, 53. Justin Kluivert Again we have to regain our composure after defeat from PAOK. FC Utrecht look like a tough opponents in away game, but they were tired from their last match and that perhaps was our advantage. I chose flexible shape, higher defensive line and normal creativity for this game. Francesco Antonucci started in midfield (his first start after long injury break) and Dejan Meleg was selected as ST. Both teams defended well and looked well organised, but we got two good chances in thisgame and finishing was clinical - Dirk van Grinsven and Justin Kluivert found the net. FC Utrecht looked disenchanted after our second goal and we confidently controlled proceedings until the end. I’m happy what we saw on the pitch - good defensive organisation and discipline. FC Utrecht didn’t get any good chances. Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding in this game, dishing his 20th assist of the season - a new club record! 08.03.2024 - Ajax - ADO Den Haag 2:0 (ED) - 28. Andre Pröpper, 57. Mike van der Hoorn For this home game I change our tactics back to fluid shape, normal DL and allowed more creativity. For selection there were difficult choices to make. Dejan Meleg looked tired after FC Utrecht game and Andre Pröpper had regained just enough fitness to start the match. Ricardo van Rhijn also started and I chose Sergio Alleyne over Tarik Gennissen to counter aerial threat from tall ADO strikers. Neither of the teams showed good football in the first half, but we took the lead after Pröpper’s shot behind defenders took a small deflection and surprised goalkeeper a bit. Mike van der Hoorn added our second goal from corner and that was enough to secure all three points. 82% passing accuracy is what I like to see on the stats sheet another very well controlled game, excellent defense and clean sheet it was Mike van der Hoorn’s 250th game for Ajax and he celebrated that with a goal 13.03.2024 - FC Twente Enschede - Ajax 1:4 (ED) - 77. Gavin Vlijter - 6., 8. and 30. Dirk van Grinsven, 90.+1 Dejan Meleg It’s this time of the season when some teams that have nothing to play for take it easy and FC Twente is one of those teams. Perhaps that’s why we took so easy win in away game. I started with flexible shape and normal creativity, kept Tarik Gennissen and Sergio Alleyne in central defense and prepared to see how’s our own Simon Janssen is doing for FC Twente. We took advantage quickly, Dirk van Grinsven scored two goals in quick succession and after Justin Kluivert blew his clear cut chance, van Grinsven finished his thirty minutes with hat-trick. We showed good football in second half too, but goals didn’t came. Dirk van Grinsven saw his shot being saved. Sergio Alleyne had a chance from IFK, but his shot was also dealt by FC Twente goalkeeper. Perhaps some harsh words at half time motivated FC Twente players, but they finally showed some football - Niklas Füllkrug headed against post in 58’ and Marvin Koops made a brilliant save in 68’ to keep his clean sheet. But FC Twente got their goal and they got it from corner - missed interception by Justin Kluivert gifted Vlijter a chance and our complacency was punished with a goal. Foul against Dirk van Grinsven gave us a penalty in injury time and Dejan Meleg converted it to our fourth goal. I hope he gets confidence from that. our shooting was 22/7 - good number of shots and plenty of chances, but accuracy wasn’t so great Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding and his hat-trick was well deserved 16.03.2024 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 3:2 (ED) - 19. Jesper Drost, 56. Mimoun Mahi, 71. Bryan Linssen - 2. Dirk van Grinsven, 64. Tarik Gennissen This was a true title six-pointer in March. sc Heerenveen are just two points behind us and a win would give us some breathing space. What we’re aware of is sc Heerenveen’s great defensive record - they’ve conceded just 19 goals in 27 games and they’ve scraped so many narrow wins through this season. I didn’t change our tactics, but sent Ricardo van Rhijn and Mike van der Hoorn to defense. van Rhijn to give us more creative options against this defense and van der Hoorn to add experience. We quickly took the lead - Dirk van Grinsven on score sheet again - but Jesper Drost equalized for sc Heerenveen in 19’. After that we got just a couple of half-chances, so fairly even half ended 1-1. Jesper Drost goal showed that we had some troubles with movement and communication in defensive line and sc Heerenveen substitute Mimoun Mahi took advantage of that in 2nd half - again two players went to one opponent and left too much space for unmarked player. Tarik Gennissen equalized with a good header from IFK, but sc Heerenveen had the last say in this - Linssen’s goal from counter punished us and gave sc Heerenveen a crucial win and place in top of the table. That was one game we couldn’t afford to lose and we lost it. Now we have to rely on other teams to help us out. our tactics weren’t great in this one - we were cut open in defense, choice of Ricardo van Rhijn didn’t justify itself and Robert Maaskant surprised me with good counter attacks sc Heerenveen got perhaps 2-3 good chances and scored 3 goals - Marvin Koops didn’t make an impact in goal our own shooting was only 14/3 - to get two goals out of those 3 shots on target is good enough, but accuracy was poor 22.03.2024 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 69. Jordan Gaspar - 17. and 22. Andre Pröpper, 54. Justin Kluivert We can’t make any mistakes now, but the next game after sc Heerenveen defeat is against Sparta - the team that beat us 0-2 in autumn and is currently 6th in the table. It’s certainly a revenge match, but not an easy game. Emil Brown has recovered from injury and is on the bench for us in this game. I sent Tom Drost in as right-back and chose Sergio Alleyne over Mike van der Hoorn in central defense. Pieter Stekelenburg replaced Noa Lang in midfield because of promises of more first team football. We started well and although we had some luck on our side (huge deflection helped Pröpper’s first goal past goalkeeper) we were in control of the match in 22 minutes. Andre Pröpper who hasn’t exactly been a goalscorer this season found the net twice and had a chance for his first hat-trick in 37’, but his penalty was well saved. We looked very well in first half and scored two good goals. Goalkeeper Menno Heus was the hero for Sparta - his good saves, including saved penalty, kept score respectable for them. Sparta was left with 10 men in 51’, after Daniel Breedijk received straight red card for his two-footed tackle on Andre Pröpper and we instantly reacted. Dirk van Grinsven’s shot was just saved, but a minute later Kluivert made it 3-0. We couldn’t keep our clean sheet until the end - Gennissen’s missed interception gave Jordan Gaspar a chance to score, so his consolation goal made it 1-3. I’m happy with away win, it was a proper revenge and gave us confidence back after sc Heerenveen game. 61% of possession and 18/10 shooting are good numbers Tom Drost, Francesco Antonucci and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding for us It’s difficult to rate our month in March. We’ve played some really good football, got good results and reached to the final of Dutch Cup, but we lost the most important game of the month against sc Heerenveen and so find ourselves one point behind in the league table. Nothing’s lost yet, five more games to go and we’ve determined to fight for the title. Player of the month: Dirk van Grinsven - our right winger continued to carry the load in attack. Five goals and three assists in those five games with average rating 8.30. March ended with international break and Tarik Gennissen earned his first cap for Holland in a friendly against USA. Eredivisie Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 18, Dirk van Grinsven 16, Aschraf Flemming 12 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 22, Tom Drost 8, Dragisa Gudelj 7, Justin Kluivert 7
  10. February 2024 03.02.2024 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 21. pen. Mink Peeters - 3. Emil Brown, 40. Brian Wagener We had to bounce back from Feyenoord defeat and a win over MVV would be a nice start to February. MVV was missing their best striker Daan Thomassen due to injury. We made two changes in line-up - Nicolai Boilesen and Sergio Alleyne started (Boilesen and Gennisen looked tired before the match). We started very well and a header by Emil Brown gave us an early goal. Just a minute later there was a clear cut chance for Dirk van Grinsven, but his shot was saved - so his poor finishing from ccc-s continues. Boilesen was unfortunate to concede a penalty for high foot in our box and that allowed MVV to equalize. That was a very harsh decision and a glaring error by referee. MVV looked encouraged by equalizer, but we cooled them down with a counter-attack goal - great combination between Noa Lang and Brian Wagener. We held our advantage in the second half and kept the game under our control until the end. Noa Lang was outstanding in midfield Brian Wagener scored his first ever league goal for Ajax 06.02.2024 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 5:0 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 4. and 69. Dirk van Grinsven, 18. Emil Brown, 27. Justin Kluivert, 38. Brian Wagener With a thought of PSV game coming up, rotation players got their chance in this match. I sent the team out with more creative mindset and fluid shape. It’s fair to say that Helmond Sport didn’t even show up in the game. Perhaps they were concentrated on the league and avoiding relegation so that quarter final against Ajax looked like a lost cause to them, but we battered them from the start the end and finished with comfortable 5:0 score. One of the easiest games in this season. our shooting was 27/13 we had 5 clear cut chances and 14 half-chances, two of the shots hit framework Ricardo van Rhijn, Brian Wagener, Dirk van Grinsven and Justin Kluivert were outstanding 09.02.2024 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 2:2 (ED) - 21. and 80. Joel Campbell - 44. Emil brown, 59. Justin Kluivert Good new from training ground report that Dejan Meleg and Nketsi Matal are back in training after injuries. I chose flexible shape, higher defensive line and normal creativity for this away game. Joel Campbell gave PSV lead with a header that went in off the bar. Our central defenders looked too passive in this situation. We tried to find equalizer, but PSV defended well and Aschraf Flemming’s influence was missed in attacking phase. But we found the goal and we found it just before half time - wonderful through ball by Brian Wagener found Emil Brown on the run and South African converted his half-chance. That late goal lifted spirits in dressing room at half-time and we looked more optimistic in second half. Another great ball by Wagener gave chance to Justin Kluivert in 59’ and we took the lead. Unfortunately we couldn’t hold it until the end. Good counter by PSV finished with goal and we had to settle with just one point. that equalizer was manager’s responsibility, at least I feel that way - perhaps substitutions upset our rhythm or we should have changed tactics earlier to protect our lead; either way it wasn’t good enough our shooting was 17/7, but 10 of those shots were from distance Brian Wagener was outstanding in this game with his two assists and creativity from midfield 16.02.2024 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 0:4 (ED) - 15. Dirk van Grinsven, 41. Justin Kluivert, 56. Tony Nwannukwu (og), 68. Andre Pröpper After one week’s space between games, we go to Alkmaar for our next league game. It was important to get a win from this away game to get back our rhythm and regain points in the table that we dropped in PSV game. Good news continued as Francesco Antonucci has returned to light training - some way off from playing, but more creativity and attacking options is what we need at the moment. I put Nicolai Boilesen and Pieter Stekelenburg in for this game because I promised them more first team football, but the rest of the team was our usual line-up. The game started with a bad injury to Brian Wagener in 8’, but we controlled the first half and scored two good goals to take 2-0 half-time lead. Pieter Stekelenburg took the role of playmaker and his passes created opportunities for us. Tony Nwannukwu’s unfortunate own goal added misery to AZ’s poor evening and Andre Pröpper scored his first league goal for Ajax to finish the game off in high notes. I’m extremely happy with our defense - we didn’t give AZ any chances to score 15/10 shooting is very good considering how poor our accuracy has been at times Pieter Stekelenburg was outstanding in midfield and created two goals Brian Wagener was injured badly and he’ll be out for 6-7 weeks with strained knee ligaments Emil Brown also picked up a knock and will be sidelined for 4-5 weeks with sprained ankle 22.02.2024 - Ajax - PAOK 1:0 (Europa League 1st knockout round 1st leg) - 43. Justin Kluivert Some players are back to fitness, but Wagener and Brown are missing with injuries. Well, Emil Brown was ineligible for continental games anyway, so Andre Pröpper was set to start for this game even if Brown were fit. PAOK is the club that we can hope to win and move forward to the next round, so I chose fluid shape and normal defensive line for the home game. It was also a homecoming for Navajo Bakboord, who left Ajax for PAOK couple of years ago. Bob Leeflang started in goal (he trained well in this week and deserved it), Noa Lang and Pieter Stekelenburg were our midfield (Antonucci was on the bench, back in full fitness, but not match fit). We had few half chances in the first half, but just before half-time whistle van Grinsven found Justin Kluivert with his cross and it was an easy finish to take the lead back into dressing room. Andre Pröpper then had a great opportunity in injury time, but his shot from close range was saved by goalkeeper. We couldn’t break PAOK defense in 2nd half, but clean sheet and one goal is good enough for home game. we had 69% of possession, so we controlled midfield very well we had 16 corners, but couldn’t use them to our advantage 10 offsides was a bit too much - Dejan Meleg and Andre Pröpper being responsible for 4 each Andre Pröpper damaged his foot in 2nd half and he’ll be out for two weeks Injuries in striker department is now a serious issue. Dejan Meleg filled ST position for 30 minutes in 2nd half, but he’s not a natural striker and he’s also just regaining his form after long injury, so we might be in trouble for next couple of weeks. 25.02.2024 - Ajax - VVV Venlo 2:0 (ED) - 2. Justin Kluivert, 68. Dirk van Grinsven We needed to rotate between two physically demanding continental games and VVV looked like an opponents we can win easily. Because of problems with injuries Stanislas Gonzalez was promoted from U-19 to first team and 17 years old made his debut for Ajax in starting line-up. Frank van den Hoek and Sergio Alleyne also started. Tactics were more creative and we quickly took the lead - Justin Kluivert scored from corner. VVV had their best chance of the game in 33’, but Anderson Lopes’ shot was saved by Marvin Koops. It wasn’t the most exciting first half and I expected some improvements after the break. But our attacking movement wasn’t good enough and we needed set pieces to score - Dirk van Grinsven extended our lead from IFK and in 72’ we were awarded a penalty after van Grinsven was fouled in the box. Unfortunately Dejan Meleg wasn’t up to the task and his penalty was saved. It wasn’t the most impressive win, but we did well in set piece situations and took advantage of that. A good penalty and 3-0 would have been nicer, though. VVV Venlo made 23 fouls and one really rough two-footed challenge on Justin Kluivert deserved a red card in my opinion, but only yellow was given, glad that we didn’t add to our injury list in this game 29.02.2024 - PAOK - Ajax 2:0 (Europa League 1st knockout round 2nd leg) - 42. Yanos Cardot, 102. Malek Kessassi After easier VVV game Nathan Leyder and Tom Drost returned to our line-up for 2nd leg match against PAOK. Dejan Meleg was our only option in striker position. Our task looked easy enough - score one goal and put PAOK under pressure, but we failed to do that, despite having plenty of chances. Good counter attack gave our first opportunity in 4’, but Dirk van Grinsven’s shot from 1-1 situation was saved very well by PAOK goalkeeper. First half was pretty tight after that goal, both teams tried to defend well and attack from counters, but PAOK had more success in that - Yanis Cardot managed to score just before half time break. It was bad time to concede a goal and we had to regroup at half-time. We looked like a different team after the break, dominating possession and creating chances. Justin Kluivert had a great chance, but his shot hit the post, Noa Lang then wasted his opportunity 60’ and his weak shot was easily held by goalkeeper. Justin Kluivert blasted his shot well wide from open position and after all that domination Tarik Gennissen almost blew it. His poor backwards header was intercepted, but PAOK strikers couldn’t keep composure and the shot was blasted wide. So, despite having numerous chances to finish this game in the second half, we went on to extra time and there already PAOK had the upper hand. Very good shot by Malek Kessassi in 102’ was unstoppable for Bob Leeflang and so we lost the game that we should have won easily. I can’t really believe we blew it like that. Europa League wasn’t our main goal in this season, but PAOK was the team I expected us to beat and more UEFA coefficient points would have been nice. Tarik Gennissen’s youth was evident in this game - he was very error-prone (unlikely for him, to be honest) and gave PAOK several good chances during the match. PAOK defeat ends this month with disappointment, but in domestic competitions we were really impressive in February and draw against PSV were perhaps the only game we should have been a little bit better. European season is over now and with our injury record at the moment I’m even a bit relieved that we can concentrate to Eredivisie now. Player of the month: Dirk van Grinsven - always there to create goals and score some himself. He’s been wonderful provider with his assists and he’s been creating even more clear cut chances that other players haven’t been able to convert. Really the key player with this kind of form Eredivisie Title race is now between us and sc Heerenveen. FC Groningen are some way behind, PSV is struggling to find consistency and the rest of the pack are out of competition. Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 16, Aschraf Flemming 12, Dirk van Grinsven 11 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 19, Tom Drost 6, Aschraf Flemming 6
  11. January 2024 The month started with Flemming’s transfer row. I declined laughable offer of £6,5m by FC Barcelona and that did upset him a lot. It’s getting evident that I can’t hold him in the club and happy for long. And so I had to accept SLB’s £16,5m + clauses (up to £26,5m) bid and we lost our wonderboy. Shame, but it’s difficult to keep such a talented youngsters with our reputation. I brought Emil Brown back from Standard Liege to replace him and let’s hope he with Andre Pröpper are able to carry us for the rest of the season. Brian Wagener finally accepted our contract offer (£15,750 p/week) and on-loan right-back Rick Koning also signed a new contract. Nketsi Matal had a loan offer from VVV Venlo. I was indifferent and let him to make this decision himself and he declined. VVV offered him a key right winger position that would have meant a lot of Eredivisie playing time, so I’m not sure if it was a right decision in the end. Vitesse appointed John Stegeman from VVV as their new manager and VVV signed John Heitinga to replace Stegeman. 19.01.2024 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 2:2 (ED) - 74. Sean Klaiber, 89. pen. Stefano Denswil - 32. and 46. Dirk van Grinsven Aschraf Flemming is gone and Nketsi Matal injured himself in mid-season friendly (broken ribs). He’ll be out for 3-4 weeks and we’re getting short on attacking options. At the same time Noa Lang returned to fitness and was back for this game. FC Utrecht is not the easiest team to face after long mid-season break and we needed to get back into rhythm after Flemming’s departure. First half was very careful from both teams and we just edged it by one goal. We had one good combination in 32’ and van Grinsven finished it from tight angle. I replaced goalkeeper at half-time - it’s not my usual move, but Marvin Koops looked too nervous between sticks (although he didn’t have much to do) and Bob Leeflang was sent in. We were focused after half-time break and quickly scored our second goal. Things looked like we had three points in the bag already, but it wasn’t to be. Sean Klaiber scored from corner, FC Utrecht continued to exploit all possible counter attacks and we prepared to defend until the end, and then Tom Drost made a careless foul in our box and conceded a penalty. So frustrating, so late in the game and we dropped precious points in the league. In retrospective, I probably should have changed tactics after 2nd goal, but didn’t and that cost us. we had 60% of possession, but FC Utrecht always looked very dangerous on counters Emil Brown made his debut for Ajax in this game 28.01.2024 - Ajax - PEC Zwolle 2:0 (ED) - 39. Nathan Leyder, 61. Emil Brown Ten more days to train before next game and find our form for the second half of the season. I made a few changes in line-up: Tom Drost was suspended for this game, Nicolai Boilesen was recovering from small injury and Pieter Stekelenburg started instead of Noa Lang - I had promised him more first team football and I also hoped he’d bring more creativity to midfield. I allowed more creative freedom for whole team and we started with good attacks. Andre Pröpper wasted two clear cut chances in the first half - he blasted one shot over and saw the other being saved by Zwolle goalkeeper. Dirk van Grinsven hit the post in 38’, but fortunately we found the net a minute later - Nathan Leyder needed three attempts from corner situation, but the ball finally found its way past goalkeeper. We continued to create good chances (and waste them in style). Pieter Stekelenburg missed his opportunity in 47’ to frustrate me at the sideline, but Emil Brown saved the day - his first touch after coming on resulted in our second goal. Brown had another chance two minutes later, but he sent this one wide and Justin Kluivert’s header rattled crossbar in 78’. It was a good win, but we should have scored a lot more goals - we had 5 clear cut chances and hit the framework twice, two goals is not good enough from this kind of game. Emil Brown scored his first ever goal for Ajax young right winger Dave Sinester made his debut from substitution 31.01.2024 - Ajax - Feyenoord 0:1 (ED) - 71. Papito Bicintini Good display against Zwolle gave us confidence before Klassikier Derby. I made some changes in team - Tom Drost, Mike van der Hoorn and Noa Lang returned to first team and Emil Brown started for the first time as CF(s) in attack. Both teams were very careful in the first half and there weren’t too many chances to speak about. Noa Lang had one good shot in 27’, that was saved, but otherwise we didn’t offer much. Feyenoord had 6 corners in the first half and that was a bit worrying. The same continued after half-time break, until Papito Bicintini found the net from DFK and that was a vital goal for Feyenoord. We had a great chance to equalize late in the game, but Justin Kluivert couldn’t finish his chance in 88’. That was a very disappointing defeat, because we defended well and did deserve at least a point from this game. Instead, we had to accept our defeat from fierce rivals. Feyenoord game was our big test in January and we failed that. Despite good game against PEC Zwolle it feels like we’re not yet ready. True, we’ve got players missing - Antonucci and Meleg are still injured with Nketsi Matal also sidelined. We lack wide options and creative substitutions to change the game by substitutions. Emil Brown is still settling in and Andre Pröpper showed his inexperience, especially against Zwolle. Player of the month: Dirk van Grinsven - two goals against FC Utrecht, good display in a win over Zwolle and it was his cross that found Justin Kluivert in Feyenoord game that should have resulted in a goal. Has been consistently good during these games. Aschraf Flemming transfer was the only big move of this January transfer window. It was a very quiet month in the market. NAC Breda were the most active team using their funds to attract new players, but fees didn’t exceed £2m. Eredivisie FC Groningen have dropped some points, but sc Heerenveen are still battling for the title. They’ve been really impressive in this season. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 12, Justin Kluivert 11, Francesco Antonucci 7, Dirk van Grinsven 7 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 15, Aschraf Flemming 6, Dragisa Gudelj 5, Tom Drost 5
  12. Mid-season summary We’ve got a good position in Eredivisie after bumpy start and our Champions League campaign we were almost there, but not quite. We achieved our minimum goal, so it’s not too bad either. Goalscoring has been provided by Aschraf Flemming and Justin Kluivert, mostly. Dirk van Grinsven have provided the most assists in the team, but himself he’s missed enormous amount of clear cut chances - 1 out of 8 has been converted to goal. That’s the room of improvement. Perhaps unexpectedly Marvin Koops have outperformed Bob Leeflang and so far he hasn’t screwed up in the goal. Tarik Gennissen have developed well and now it’s competition between veteran van der Hoorn and Sergio Alleyne for the other place in central defense. Pieter Stekelenburg have shown some skills in midfield. January means some difficult decisions need to be made. Aschraf Flemming wants to leave to bigger clubs. Brian Wagener hasn't still accepted a new contract offer yet, so his future in the club also hangs into balance. Thulani Serero returns from Rosenborg as his loan period ends, but he has no place in the club at the moment.
  13. December 2023 02.12.2023 - Ajax - NAC Breda 2:0 (ED) - 31. Pieter Stekelenburg, 69. Tarik Gennissen Despite how it went against Bayern, we try to concentrate on Eredivisie and pick up our form against newly-promoted NAC Breda. Our opponents are predicted to finish 14th in the table, they’re rich and invested some £7m into new players, so they’re not the usual relegation candidates from Jupiler League. I chose fluid, more expressive tactics with normal defensive line and put Ricardo van Rhijn and Nicolai Boilesen into line-up to provide crosses from our wings. Tarik Gennissen was also back in the team and Pieter Stekelenburg started in midfield in box-to-box midfielder role. We got our first chance early on, but Aschraf Flemming missed his opportunity in 15’ and we had to keep trying. Pieter Stekelenburg opened scoring in 31’ after some good work on our right wing and we had another half-chances towards the end of the first half. I was happy with display and we continued in the same manner after half-time. Tarik Gennissen scored a header from corner to secure three points and the rest of the game was easy for us. We didn’t put NAC Breda under too much pressure, but concentrated on possession and playing it safe. Solid win at home. Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding in this game Pieter Stekelenburg scored his first ever goal for Ajax 06.12.2023 - FC Groningen - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 82. pen. Justin Kluivert It was incredibly important fixture - away game against FC Groningen who are challenging for the title and in good form. Considering our injury list it was not an easy challenge. It was also nice to see Danny Rutte doing well while on loan at FC Groningen. I switched back to flexible formation, tuned down creativity and pushed defensive line higher up to limit space in midfield. We practiced defensive set pieces for a couple of days prior the game. Tom Drost and Dragisa Gudelj were back in line-up, but Mike van der Hoorn sat this match out due to suspension. We had a fairly good first half - we limited FC Groningen opportunities and gave ourselves several half-chances. Aschraf Flemming had his shot saved in 20’ and Antonucci put his header just wide in 42’, but FC Groningen defended well to keep their clean sheet. In the end of the half Sheraldo Becker had a great opportunity to score from IFK, but Marvin Koops made a great save to keep it 0-0 before half-time. We continued to play good football in 2nd half, but chances were rare and we failed to take them. Aschraf Flemming wasted his clear cut chance in 70’. Finally, referee came to our help, by awarding a very harsh penalty for high foot in the box. Justin Kluivert calmly converted it and so we got a narrow and dubious win in a very important game. Noa Lang suffered twisted knee late in the game and will be sidelined for 2 weeks Vitesse board finally lost their patience and sacked Gabri after poor start to the season. First managerial casualty in Eredivisie even before Christmas. 10.12.2023 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 2:0 (ED) - 9. Dirk van Grinsven, 87. Justin Kluivert Tight schedule and our lines are becoming thinner with every injury. SC Cambuur are predicted to finish 11th and they’re good mid-table team for the past couple of seasons. It is a game I should perhaps take more easily before very important Champions League match against SLB, to give some players rest. I went again with fluid and more creative tactics and normal defensive line and sent in Tom Drost and Nicolai Boilesen. Nathan Leyder was also rested and Frank van den Hoek got his chance to impress as DMC. Pieter Stekelenburg replaced injured Noa Lang. We took the lead after great counter and van Grinsven’s finish was excellent. Justin Kluivert’s header smashed crossbar in 24’ and overall we were better team in the first half. We concentrated on possession after half-time break and Justin Kluivert’s header gave us two goal lead before the end of the game. It was a good win and I’m happy with clean sheet, but it was a drab match from both sides. Ricardo van Rhijn and Dirk van Grinsven put in a great performances Francesco Antonucci suffered an injury in the first half and is out for 2-3 months with broken ankle - that’s a serious blow 13.12.2023 - Ajax - SLB 2:3 (Champions League Group H) - 29. and 60. Jose Augusto, 68. Tarik Gennissen (og) - 77. Sergio Alleyne, 78. Pieter Stekelenburg There it was, a decisive game of our Champions League campaign. We needed at least a draw against SLB to keep our 2nd place in the group, but we were missing three first team players and that was not a good sign for us. I switched to flexible shape and sent Pieter Stekelenburg and Brian Wagener to midfield - a very young and inexperienced combination against a team like SLB. We started this game very well, but couldn’t convert our good attacks to goals. Justin Kluivert wasted our first clear cut chance in 7’ and Brian Wagener did the same five minutes later. SLB got into the game from set pieces - Marvin Koops saved a very dangerous shot by Jose Augusto after IFK, but the same man scored right after that from corner - careless marking at the far post. It was a goal against the run of play and very disappointing one, but I was still encouraged by good football that we showed and we continued with the same tactics after half-time. Nevertheless, SLB were much more clinical than we in front of the goal and those chances they got, they also finished. Jose Augusto added another goal to his name in 60’ and unfortunate own goal left us almost hopeless. But we didn’t give up - Justin Kluivert’s shot did clip the post in 72’ and then we had two good goals in short time - Sergio Alleyne scored from corner and Stekelenburg quickly doubled that and we had our hopes up again. SLB players looked nervous on the pitch and momentum switched, but we weren’t able to build on that and couldn’t create good chances in the last ten minutes. This defeat was a very bitter pill to swallow. Firstly because we didn’t deserve to concede three goals and secondly because we wasted some good chances early in the game and that did cost us. With that loss we were back on 3rd place, even though it was the closest we’ve got to qualification from group stage in years. So close… In addition to our woes, Aschraf Flemming picked up a knock and groin strain keeps him out for 2-3 weeks. That’s the 4th first team player out at the same time and although he’s been in poor form recently, he might be the most difficult one to replace. 16.12.2023 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 2:0 (ED) - 14. and 25. pen. Justin Kluivert Helmond Sport are one of the main relegation candidates and currently sitting at the bottom of the table. I chose again fluid formation with more creativity allowed and made changes to line-up too - Ricardo van Rhijn, Mike van der Hoorn (Tarik Gennissen was tired) and Nicolai Boilesen started. Frank van den Hoek got a start in midfield and young Andre Pröpper made his first start in Eredivisie to replace injured Flemming. We had only 6 substitutes on the bench. Dirk van Grinsven had a great chance, but his shot hit the post in 14’, but Kluivert scored from the next attack and that put us in front. Our left winger doubled his tally from penalty and our situation looked secure enough. He had a chance for a hat-trick in 30’, but this time his shot was saved and then we got careless. Ex-Ajax man Chelton Mühl was the most dangerous man for Helmond Sport and Boilesen missed his runs a couple of times. Mühl got his first opportunity in 42’, but put it well wide and in 63’ he got another clear-cut-chance that was wasted awfully. I then decided to retain possession and see the game out without additional risks. It looked like easy win despite those two defensive mistakes, but it was a warning sign that we have to keep our concentration against smaller teams as well. 20.12.2023 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 2:0 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 10. and 51. Andre Pröpper To end our first half of the season before Christmas break, we had a cup game against FC Eindhoven - on paper a lot easier fixture than 3rd round game against PSV, but there was no room for complacency. Five players out, although Noa Lang is back in training, but not yet fit to start. It’s been a great time for youngsters and rotation players to prove themselves - plenty of chances for them in the first team. Again we started well - good counter in 2’ gave us our first good chance, but Dirk van Grinsven couldn’t finish it. Ander Pröpper finally found the net in 10’ and that was a good start of the game for him. But FC Eindhoven wasn’t beaten - Pim de Reuver hit the post in 25’ and Bob Leeflang had to make another good save just a minute later. de Reuver got a chance to equalize in 44’, but Leeflang was again showing his skills with a brilliant save. So I might say that despite our lead we weren’t very convincing after our goal and we had to keep concentration in 2nd half. And that worked out well enough. Pröpper scored his 2nd goal in 51’ (another excellent counter) and then we concentrated to possession and didn’t allow FC Eindhoven any opportunities. Pröpper missed his chance for hat-trick in 87’, but I was pleased with 2-0 win just as well. From stat sheet Nicolai Boilesen’s 18 tackles were noteworthy. December was a very good month in domestic competition. We’ve finally got our defense in order (well, we’re still giving away chances, but we’ve held clean sheets in several games). SLB defeat shows where we’re lacking skills and attitude yet. Finishing has been a problem most of the time. Player of the month: Justin Kluivert - has scored important goals, converted penalties and overall kept his head down and nerves calm. End of the year brought news that Aschraf Flemming has been named as European Golden Boy! Eredivisie Not a bad situation for us. PSV and Feyenoord are climbing upwards while sc Heerenveen have stumbled and lost some points here and there. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 12, Justin Kluivert 11, Francesco Antonucci 7 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 15, Aschraf Flemming 6, Tom Drost 5
  14. November 2023 04.11.2023 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 1:5 (ED) - 36. Kenan Karaman - 14. and 22. Justin Kluivert, 56. Noa Lang, 65. Dejan Meleg, 68. Francesco Antonucci Vitesse are clearly underachieving, despite being predicted to 7th place by media. They looked a bit tired before this game and we tried to take full advantage of it. Dirk van Grinsven was injured, so Dejan Meleg started on our right wing and Justin Kluivert on the left. Tom Drost, Tarik Gennissen and Dragisa Gudelj were back in defensive line. We attacked from the start and after Francesco Antonucci missed his clear cut chance, Justin Kluivert scored two goals in a row. But then Vitesse got one goal back - Tarik Gennissen’s unfortunate tackle played the ball right on the foot to Kenan Karaman and it was easy finish. I was still pleased with our first half. After half-time break it was evident that Vitesse lacked stamina to compete. We had our purple patch around 55-70 minutes - Noa Lang and Dejan Meleg scored, Meleg missed another open chance and Francesco Antonucci sent the fifth ball to Vitesse goal from IFK. Vitesse had no answers to that. Final score was definitely great moral boost for us. It was my 400th game in football management and a great result to celebrate that landmark there were several key performances - Justin Kluivert, Dejan Meleg, Francesco Antonucci, Tom Drost and Dragisa Gudelj were excellent 08.11.2023 - Ajax - Basel 0:0 (Champions League Group H) I made a tactical change for this game and chose flexible shape. Only one change in line-up - Nicolai Boilesen started in left defense because I had promised him more first team football. We knew we couldn’t attack carelessly on this level, but we had the first chances - Flemming and Meleg sent their headers just over, but Basel got the first clear cut chance of the game - shot went to side-netting, fortunately. Considering that, I admit that we were lucky to be at 0-0 in half-time, but we continued to have more initiative in the second half. Boilesen’s header was cleared off the line by Basel defenders and we had more possession and shots overall, but Basel wasn’t sleeping. Their good counter ended with another 1-1 opportunity and forced a brilliant save from Bob Leeflang. That’s how it ended - a goalless draw. I’m not happy with result, but considering how that game played out I have to be satisfied with a point. Basel is a team that we should be able to beat at home, though. 11.11.2023 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 0:2 (ED) - 12. Ramon Loswijk, 90.+2 John Smit We’ve been doing fairly well recently and seems like we’ve found our rhythm, so home game against Sparta (predicted 12th) looked easy enough between more serious teams, but we failed miserably in front of home fans. I chose fluid shape and allowed the lad more creative freedom, but choices in line-up probably cost us. Ricardo van Rhijn started in right-back, Tarik Gennissen was rested and Sergio Alleyne partnered Mike van der Hoorn in central defense, and Frank van den Hoek got his chance after training hard during all week. We were set back by Sparta’s early goal - Ramon Loswijk sent his direct free kick to upper corner from 18 meters. After that it was easy for Sparta to concentrate on defense and we couldn’t create anything against them. We tried to attack desperately in second half, but the closest we got was in 55’ when Dejan Meleg hit the post. In injury time Sparta even extended their lead - John Smit easily headed in and Mike van der Hoorn was just watching with his feet on the ground. Very embarrassing and one of the worst performances we’ve shown in this season. our shooting was completely crap again, only 14/3 - I can’t believe our attacking play can be so poor at times 25.11.2023 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 17. Dejan Meleg It was a difficult international break for us, brooding over Sparta result. So, motivation was high at least, but opponents weren’t easy - FC Eindhoven were predicted as relegation candidates, but find themselves 5th in Eredivisie table and in great form. We had Dirk van Grinsven back from injury, but Sergio Alleyne was suspended. I started Marvin Koops as our goalkeeper and Nicolai Boilesen again in left-back. Boilesen has tried to prove himself in those recent games and he almost scored, but his shot went just wide from IFK. Dejan Meleg opened scoring in 17’ after letting his first chance to be saved, but FC Eindhoven defenders were unable to clear the ball and Meleg was first to tap in from the line. We continued to play well for the rest of the game, but couldn’t find another goal and that made us a bit nervous. We had chances in second half - Justin Kluivert wasted his 1-1 opportunity and Aschraf Flemming saw his long shot hit the post in 54’. Marvin Koops had his moment in 79’ - his great save kept our clean sheet and helped us secure all three point, although it was close in the end. we could and should have scored more - accuracy was 19/11, but we had 3 clear cut chances and 5 half-chances and only one goal from that is not enough we lost too many headers inside our 6 yard box we allowed too many dribbles (22) defensively and Nicolai Boilesen was too error prone with his 5 mistakes Dejan Meleg suffered injury in the first half when he was hacked down by FC Eindhoven defense - broken ankle keeps him out for 2-3 months 28.11.2023 - FC Bayern - Ajax 3:1 (Champions League Group H) - 12. and 20. Karim Roy, 68. Julian Draxler - 68. Aschraf Flemming I didn’t have much hope against Bayern in Allianz Arena. I chose counter-attacking tactics at first , but keeping the score respectable was our main goal and it looked like our situation was helped by Bayern manager who put young Frenchman Karim Roy to single striker role instead of Robert Lewandowski. But that hope was short-lived, as youngster quickly punished us with two goals and things turned sour early in the first half. Sergio Alleyne couldn’t handle him in both goal situations. We switched back to our usual control tactics and the rest of the half looked better, but at the same time we couldn’t create much in attack. Aschraf Flemming gave us a glimmer of hope in 68’ with his wonderful long shot goal from 22 meters out - probably the most beautiful goal of the season so far - but in the very next attack our careless defense allowed Julian Draxler to score and so Bayern took control back to their hands. I’m a bit disappointed, because we had a small chance after Flemming’s goal, but 1:3 was a fair result. we made 26 individual mistakes and Dragisa Gudelj was responsible for 8 of those we allowed Bayern to make 35 dribbles, proving the difference in class between teams November was average month for us - there were ups and downs and we couldn’t always deliver. Sparta defeat was our worst performance in a long time and I feel we should have done better against Basel, too. But we’re still in position to fight for Champions League qualification and Eredivisie title challenge gives every league game an extra importance before Christmas. Player of the month: Dejan Meleg - it was a difficult choice as there was no standout performers this month, but Dejan Meleg gets that award for his great performance in Vitesse win and winning goal against FC Eindhoven. Eredivisie Battle for the title is in full throttle with sc Heerenveen and FC Groningen playing great football in first half of the season. PSV is trying to climb up too, while FC Eindhoven form dipped down after defeat from us. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 12, Francesco Antonucci 7, Justin Kluivert 7 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 11, Aschraf Flemming 5, Tom Drost 5
  15. October 2023 03.10.2023 - SLB - Ajax 1:1 (Champions League Group H) - 53. Matheus Pereira - 85. pen. Dejan Meleg After good display, but defeat against Bayern, it was time to visit Portugal and Sporting Lisbon for our next fixture in Champions League. First half was fairly uneventful - SLB had most of possession, but they had only one good chance during the first half and Bob Leeflang did well to parry that shot in 16’. We were in more trouble in 2nd half - SLB got the goal and increased pressure. Bob Leeflang had to make two brilliant saves in 62’ to keep us in the game. But as the saying goes - every team has at least one good chance in any football match, and ours came in 85’. We had a good counter, Dejan Meleg continued into SLB box and was pushed from behind - penalty! He calmly converted it himself and we held onto that draw in the final minutes. Not the most beautiful game from us, but we got the point and from away game it’s a very good result. Nicolai Boilesen has requested more first team starts from me, but experienced Dane showed that he’s fairly error prone with his 5 mistakes in this game. Not the best form I’ve seen from him. 07.10.2023 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 2:0 (ED) - 42. and 57. Aschraf Flemming Back to Eredivisie and Amsterdam Arena. AZ are predicted to be 9th in this season and they’ve had a true rollercoaster seasons recently Dragisa Gudelj, Tarik Gennissen and Dejan Meleg returned to our line-up. First half was careful from both teams, although we had more possession and control of the game. Early half-chances from Meleg and Noa Lang didn’t bring a breakthrough and on our half Bob Leeflang had to make a good save to parry AZ half-chance in 25’. Dirk van Grinsven wasted his great opportunity in 38’, but few minutes later Flemming broke the deadlock - he was the first to react to loose ball in AZ box and it was easy finish for him. Our wonderkid striker added another goal with good header after half-time break and. AZ didn’t have a good scoring opportunity in second half and we settled with our lead. Dejan Meleg shot in 79’ hit crossbar, but it lacked just a little bit of accuracy. A very good win - perhaps not polished enough, but we kept our clean sheet and got the job done very efficiently. Tom Drost stood out with his performance. International break went without fuss, but we lost a couple of players. Brian Wagener is out with twisted ankle that he suffered in Holland U-21 game. Frank van den Hoek will miss a couple of games with bruised head. I extended Boilesen’s contract for another couple of seasons (he agreed to small pay-cut in the process). 20.10.2023 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 4. Serge Diomande Have I said already that I hate international breaks? Another defeat after long break that we’ve suffered this season and that was when it looked like we got our good form back. ADO Den Haag is a solid top half team in Eredivisie and they’re difficult to play in away stadium, but we were clear favorites and failed to deliver. Nicolai Boilesen started in this game (Dragisa Gudelj looked tired after international games), Tarik Gennissen was also rested. We got the early chance in 2’, but Dejan Meleg’s shot was blocked and ADO quickly answered - Serge Diomande sent a great header towards goal from IFK and Leeflang was powerless against it. A goal out of nowhere - we were again stunned by set pieces. After that goal ADO concentrated on defending. We had possession, but couldn’t create chances and frustration grew in the team I took Francesco Antonucci off at half-time and sent Pieter Stekelenburg in, and chances started to come. Dirk van Grinsven’s shot went wide in 47’, two minutes later Dejan Meleg wasted his opportunity to equalize, and then we were back to frustrating part - good possession, but nothing more. ADO defended well and didn’t give us much space in their box. It was a very disappointing defeat for several reasons. First of all - there was nothing wrong with our tactics. We had possession and created chances, but our finishing let us down completely. We defended well, but were undone by one good header. 20/5 shooting shows how poor we were in front of goal we had 12 corners, but didn’t get anything out of them despite our set piece practices before this match 24.10.2023 - Basel - Ajax 0:2 (Champions League Group H) - 41. Mike van der Hoorn, 57. Aschraf Flemming After ADO defeat brought as back to our struggle for results, I wasn’t sure if I should change something in line-up and tactics or not. It wasn’t too much wrong with our game and we just need a better finishing to score goals. Changes in line-up were made though. Tarik Gennissen started in defense (Sergio Alleyne poor training wasn’t unnoticed), Justin Kluivert replaced Dejan Meleg on our left wing (Meleg’s poor finishing cost us the game against ADO). Frank van den Hoek recovered from his injury and returned to bench for this game. We started the game well and created better chances than Basel, even if both teams looked fairly careful with tactical approach. We finally scored in the end of first half - Mike van der Hoorn found the net after corner. Basel had their best chance in 54’ - Bob Leeflang did well to parry a close range header, but then Flemming’ goal made it 2-0 and he had another chance just a minute later, this one saved. Good win in the end, similar game and result to AZ match in the beginning of the month. It was exactly that we needed from Champions League away game. Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding with his two assists for us 22 fouls were perhaps a bit too much, more conservative approach would be preferred in the future After first round of games have been played we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We have 4 points and a good away result against SLB to show and we’re currently 2nd in the table. But we’ve been in good position after three games before, so it’s up to us to make sure we continue well in November. 28.10.2023 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 4:1 (ED) - 12., 15. and 41. Dirk van Grinsven, 35. Francesco Antonucci - 68. Branco van den Boomen This was a big game, because sc Heerenveen have done excellently so far and are competing for the title. They’re predicted to be 5th, but occupy 2nd place in the table with games to play and we really needed a win in Amsterdam Arena to show we’re the best team in Eredivisie. sc Heerenveen squad looked solid enough, they have picked a couple of good loan players from bigger leagues, but their goalkeeper is just a 17 years old lad (who, by some miracle, have had 7 clean sheets in this season). I chose fluid shape and normal defensive line tactically, and replaced Justin Kluivert with Dejan Meleg. It didn’t take long - we ripped sc Heerenveen completely apart and Dirk van Grinsven played a key role in it. Our right winger had missed all his 5 clear cut chances in this season, but in this game he scored a quick hat-trick in the first half, topped it off with a wonderful chip over sc Heerenveen goalkeeper. Francesco Antonucci added another goal and we went to half-time with 4-0 lead. sc Heereveen managed to score one goal in 2nd half - Noa Lang lost a header after corner and van den Boomen got a clear cut chance - but that was it. 4:1 was a very convincing result and gave all the fans a huge boost of confidence. we had only 10/6 shots, but scored 4 goals - much more clinical finishing than against ADO Dirk van Grinsven (hat-trick), Aschraf Flemming (3 assists) and Francesco Antonucci were outstanding sc Heerenveen 17 years old goalkeeper had 5 clean sheets in a row before this game, but conceded 4 in this one we had 41 dribbles in the game, 14 dribbles by Dirk van Grinsven stood out individually 31.10.2023 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 3:0 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 6. Francesco Antonucci, 15. Dejan Meleg, 31. Aschraf Flemming We had a difficult draw to get PSV already in 3rd round, but just as in Eredivisie game in September, we did beat them easily in this cup fixture. Francesco Antonucci scored an early goal and PSV Eindhoven almost equalized, but his shot hit the post in 7’. but after that incident game was well under our control. Dejan Meleg used his chance well to put us 2-0 ahead and Flemming added another goal from header to put the game in bed before half-time. Second half had less fireworks and no goals. Substitute Andre Pröpper got a great chance to score, but his shot went too high. We took a good win over rivals, but lost Dirk van Grinsven due to thigh strain - he’ll be out for a couple of weeks. October has been a good month. In fact, a lot better month than September, despite this loss against ADO Den Haag. We’ve done well in Champions League and took big wins in the end of the month to bring ourselves back to the top of Eredivisie. PSV is out of the cup, that’s a cause for the smile alone. Eredivisie FC Groningen and sc Heerenveen are still pretty much in contention. PSV have recovered from their poor start in the league and are slightly climbing upwards. FC Utrecht and Feyenoord are still struggling and it’s probably difficult for them to fight for top three places. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 11, Franceco Antonucci 6, Justin Kluivert 5 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 11, Aschraf Flemming 5, Tom Drost 4