Draakon

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About Draakon

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  1. Youth Intake 2023 No surprises there. I got two talented strikers, one very good midfielder/playmaker, decent centre-back and half-decent left-back. As DL is the most problematic position in terms of good youth prospect, I'll take that 2,5* boy and try to tutor him into rotation player, at least. Mounir El Amrani Very good target man already - strong in the air and good finisher. Excellent work ethics. Balanced personality is neither good or bad, but I have no mature strikers in my team to offer some sort of tutoring options so I'll have to live with that. Could be quicker and will be working on it individually, at least for now. Second nationality - Moroccon. Has shoots from distance as PPM, but with long shot attribute 7 it puzzles me and perhaps we'll have to work it off (or, train his long shots) to counter that. Peter van der Wal At the first glance there's nothing there - good work rate and decent intelligence, but nothing special - but my coaching staff ensures he's a bright talent. In my system he looks versatile enough to play on both midfield roles. Will be tutored by Lucas Andersen to add determination, professionalism and perhaps some useful PPM-s. Stanislas Gonzalez Stanislas came to us through our feeder club network in France. He's decent finisher with good physical abilities, but lacks vision and awareness to play single-striker role. His low determination is a problem (again, check my remark about first team strikers). Dejan Meleg will try to help him improve.
  2. March 2023 04.03.2023 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 1:0 (ED) - 64. Francesco Antonucci I chose fluid tactics against sc Heerenveen and sent in Ricardo van Rhijn, Noa Lang and Justin Kluivert to rotate my squad a bit. We had two good chances early on, but both Dirk van Grinsven and Francesco Antonucci put their shots just wide. Sergio Alleyne had a great chance from corner in 30’, but his shot was blocked. We looked well in control first half, but chances were rare and we couldn’t finish properly. We continued to dominate in 2nd half - Nathan Leyder’s long shot hit the upright and then Francesco Antonucci found the net near penalty spot. Dejan Meleg had another clear-cut chance in 73’, but couldn’t make it count. It was a narrow win, but we always looked confident and in control of what happened on the pitch, so it was actually a fairly easy game. 81% of passing accuracy shows we got the most of possession and were comfortable with the ball 12.03.2023 - VVV Venlo - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 66. Rene Rauws (og) Francesco Antonucci was suspended for this game and Lucas Andersen took his place in line-up. Nicolai Boilesen was back in training, but started on the bench. I sent in Tarik Gennissen in defense and chose more creative tactics with higher defensive line. We had good chances in the first half, but couldn’t score. Tom Drost made a good dribble into the box in 24’, but his shot was saved by goalkeeper. In 36’ we had a great counter and Dirk van Grinsven found Aschraf Flemming in front of goal, but another brilliant save by Rene Rauws stopped his shot. So, it was a little bit disappointing not to have a lead after the first half. We were helped out by VVV Venlo players - a poor touch in 5 yard box put Rene Rauws into trouble and he stumbled over goal line with ball in his hands. We had a chance to extend our lead late in the game - youngster Simon Janssen was tripped in the box by Djavan Anderson, but Dejan Meleg’s penalty was saved. Another narrow win and we looked good defensively, but wasted three clear cut chances in the other end and that’s not good enough. 17.03.2023 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 40. and 77. Aschraf Flemming A win in this game would clinch the title for us. Francesco Antonucci returned after serving his suspension, Noa Lang was dropped for Thulani Serero. I chose flexible formation and tuned down creativity compared to VVV game. The first half offered fairly even football. We had some half chances and Dirk van Grinsven’s fierce shot in 23’ forced the best save out of ADO goalkeeper. Aschraf Flemming was in the right place at the right time and scored to take us to half time with 1-0 lead, but I feel we should have done better in the first half. Thulani Serero’s good shot was saved in 60’ and then Flemming extended our lead to secure us all thee points. ADO got their best chance from counter attack in 80’, but Odion Ighalo blasted it over in 1-1 situation. Solid work from the team and we secured Eredivisie title after matchday 29. Now it’s time to focus to Dutch Cup. 29.03.2023 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 1:2 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 43. Ali Messaouid - 10. Dragisa Gudelj, 114. Tom Drost International break left us without Nathan Leyder. Belgium defensive midfielder just didn’t return on time to help us in this game, so young Frank van den Hoek took his place in midfield. FC Utrecht are strong team who play very uncomfortable 5-3-2 and they’ve proved their good form in this season. I chose higher defensive line with flexible formation to counter that. We took the lead when Dragisa Gudelj scored from inside the box in just 10’ (his first goal of the season) and had a couple of half-chances after that, but FC Utrecht regained their composure and had initiative after 30 minutes mark, that was topped with equalizer just before half-time - Ali Messaoudi had a clear cut chance that he finished calmly. In second half it felt like we were the nervous ones and FC Utrecht have figured out our tactics. We were lucky that Bob Leeflang’s missed interception in IFK situation went unpunished. In 83’ there was another mess in the box and Messaoudi smashed it against crossbar and Clyde Drenthe wasted his chance in 88’. We, at the same time couldn’t create anything and struggled to keep possession. We lost most of the headers in midfield and all those duels went to FC Utrecht’s way. I switched mentality from control to standard before extra time and we looked a bit more lively after that. Flemming and Andersen saw their half-chances saved and then Tom Drost dribbled into the box and fired it hard and low to give us the winner. It was his first ever goal for Ajax - what a way and moment to score it! It was a great win in extra time, but I have to admit that we were lucky - FC Utrecht should have decided it in 2nd half, but they wasted four clear cut chances and were punished by Tom Drost’s goal. our second half was probably the worst football after Christmas that we’ve had Tom Drost was outstanding, giving a cross to first goal and scoring the winner 32 individual mistakes is a huge number, even considering extra minutes our opponents in cup final are Sparta Rotterdam A very good month, early title celebrations and decisive win in Cup semi final, a very pleasing indeed. Our defense have held most of the time and we’ve had the most clean sheets in Eredivisie. The five last games give me a chance to rotate more and share playing time for youngsters. Eredivisie With title decided, Vitesse, FC Utrecht and Feyenoord battle for 2nd place. Relegation battle is also fierce, although FC Twente have managed to climb few places above this danger zone. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 24, Dejan Meleg 11, Dirk van Grinsven 11 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Tom Drost 8, Dirk van Grinsven 6
  3. February 2023 01.02.2023 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 1:2 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 90.+2 Valeri Qazaishvili - 18. Francesco Antonucci, 43. Aschraf Flemming PSV is struggling mid-table and, most importantly financially. There’s a number of clubs (including PSV) who have taken a loan and expanded their stadiums and now lack funds for any new transfers. So PSV didn’t sign anybody in January and they were surprisingly lacklustre in this game against us. Tom Drost skipped this game due to small knock and Ricardo van Rhijn took his place in right defense, but Nicolai Boliesen and Lucas Andersen were back in training and started this game on the bench. Dejan Meleg got the first chance of the game, but his shot in 10’ was brilliantly saved by PSV goalkeeper. Two minutes later Valeri Qazaishvili hit the post, but Francesco Antonucci opened scoring from corner and just before half-time Aschraf Flemming extended our lead, so we looked well in control of things at half-time. We concentrated in possession in 2nd half and didn’t take too many risks, but Qazaishvili caused us some problems, forcing Bob Leeflang to make a brilliant save in 59’ and then scoring a consolation goal for PSV in injury time. We didn’t look as good in second half - Dirk van Grinsven wasted our only clear cut chance and the goal we conceded should have been avoided. I’m happy with 60% of possession and 16/11 shooting Aschraf Flemming scored his 20th goal of the season 06.02.2023 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 1:0 (ED) - 48. Mike te Wierik (og) Few changes in line-up for this game. Tom Drost returned to starting line-up and Justin Kluivert replaced Dejan Meleg on the left wing. I chose fluid, more creative tactics with normal defensive line. We had okay first half, but aside two half-chances weren’t dangerous enough. We had 11 corners in the first half, but that too didn’t give us a goal. So when Mike te Wierik helped us out a little in 2nd half by scoring an own goal after Justin Kluivert’s shot was saved, it was a bit of relief. Second half wasn’t much better in terms of creativity - a few shots that went narrowly wide was all that we got. On the other hand, we limited SC Cambuur attacks to almost zero and secured us all three points. possession stats are good lately, 63% in this game 12.02.2023 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 1:4 (ED) - 74. Paul Gladon - 6. Sebastiaan de Wilde (og), 8. Dirk van Grinsven, 20. and 53. Justin Kluivert It was a same line-up and same tactics than in SC Cambuur game, but this time we were a lot more effective. We scored two quick goals from corners (well, the first one came after strong deflection from Nathan Leyder’s shot) and when Justin Kluivert scored our 3rd goal the game was as good as over. We looked very confident in the first half and FC Eindhoven looked just happy to survive. Justin Kluivert scored his 2nd goal in 53’ (although he needed three attempts to finally put it into the net), but then complacency started to creep in and we allowed FC Eindhoven some chances. Paul Gladon took one in 74’ and my mood at the sidelines darkened a little. There’s no excuse for being careless on the pitch. Justin Kluivert and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding in this game After being left out of South Africa national team for Cup of African Nations in January, Thulani Serero decided to retire from international football - 86 caps and 5 goals for South Africa is a great achievement. 17.02.2023 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 4:1 (ED) - 1. and 66. Aschraf Flemming, 21. pen. Dejan Meleg, 58. Dirk van Grinsven - 82. Romain Simon This game was important for three reasons. First - it’s a Klassikier derby, so every Ajax fan needed us to win it. Secondly - Feyenoord gave us our only defeat in this season, so we were after revenge. And thirdly, Feyenoord are 2nd in the table, despite 13 points gap between us - win against us would give them hope, and defeat would bury all hopes of Eredivisie title. I made two changes to line-up. Ricardo van Rhijn started in defense and Dejan Meleg on our left wing. We started well and Aschraf Flemming’s flyer gave us an early lead, but Feyenoord had their best chance in 5’ - Bob Leeflang had to make a brilliant save after their player got to open position in front of goal after corner. Feyenoord players looked a bit frustrated and Leandro Bacuna pushed Meleg in the box and gave us penalty. That put us 2-0 ahead and we never looked back. Noa Lang suffered concussion in 2nd half and had to come off, but substitute Thulani Serero made impact to the game. His cross found Dirk van Grinsven in the box for the 3rd goal and clever pass played Flemming into 1-1 position and young striker scored his second goal. Romain Simon scored a consolation goal with a good header that looked like a fairly easy ball, but somehow surprised Leeflang. Despite that our fans left the stadium with great spirits and I can’t really see that someone could contest our title any more. very good possession (58%) and attacking football - we created five clear cut chances and our shooting accuracy was 20/12 Noa Lang suffered concussion and is out for the week, but should be OK for the next game 25.02.2023 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 42. pen. Dejan Meleg News from training ground say that Nicolai Boilesen injured himself in training and will be sidelined for three weeks with pulled hamstring. Fortunately, Noa Lang recovered from his concussion. Tom Drost is back in line-up and Thulani Serero’s good game from substitution against Feyenoord gave him first team place in this fixture. First half was fairly even, with a lot of midfield duels and both teams tried to create something. Mike van der Hoorn saw his header going just wide in 10’ and Dirk van Grinsven’s shot demanded good save from opposition goalkeeper in 15’. But Bob Leeflang had to step up as well, parrying dangerous shot in 11’. Key moments came towards the end of the half. Tom Drost was brought down by Derrick Luckassen in the box and Dejan Meleg scored from penalty. However, replays showed that it was a very light touch and more like a dive by Drost, so MVV players have every right to be unhappy about that decision. We had a couple of good shots in second half - Aschraf Flemming took a number of chances from long range and some of them went on target, causing difficulties to goalkeeper. But our own defense started to crumble after MVV sent in Marcin Figiel. He first found an open chance in 63’, but luckily sent it wide, and another of his 1-1 situation was calmly handled by Leeflang in 75’. MVV started to attack more and we got chances for counters - one of those ended with a brilliant chance for Justin Kluivert who had all the time in the world to put his feet right and score our second goal, but instead he just smashed it against goalkeeper. So - a narrow win from a very doubtful penalty and two missed chances for opponents. I feel we were a little lucky here. our shooting was 25/8 which proves that we had a good number of attempts, but accuracy should have been better Tom Drost had a great game February was a good month. A very good month. We’ve put a lot of distance behind us in the table, have won against PSV and Feyenoord in progress and confidence is high again. Player of the month: Tom Drost - has been excellent in right defense against all opponents Eredivisie While title seems almost secured, the bottom of the table is getting more interesting. There’s still three teams struggling to avoid direct relegation and the fiercest games probably come from there. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 22, Dejan Meleg 11, Dirk van Grinsven 11 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Tom Drost 7, Dirk van Grinsven 6
  4. January 2023 January started with some contract problems. We couldn’t reach terms with Jorri van der Geest and he’ll leave for KV Mechelen in July. Thulani Serero also didn’t sign his new contract - squad status was the key point with him. He expected first team role, but I was only willing to offer him backup status. Youngsters Sieme Plat, Jeroen Pattinama and Lamin Abdelhadi all signed new contracts. Trainings haven’t passed without problems either - young striker Darren Kallah broke his leg in training and his season is as good as over. Nicolai Boilesen and Lucas Andersen suffered sprained ankles and are both out for 4-5 weeks. Transfer window has been fairly quiet. There was some interest in Nathan Leyder from Napoli and Stuttgart, but both clubs failed to reach my expected transfer fee. Young striker Andre Pröpper was the subject of interest by the biggest clubs in England and Germany. ManU, Manchester City, Arsenal, Bayern and Chelsea all made their bids, but I rejected all of them. Pröpper will be my backup striker in 2nd half of this season, because of Darren Kallah’s injury. I sent Brian Wagener on loan to Watford - he requested this temporary move to get first team football and perhaps six months in Premier League will do good for his confidence and development. We’ve got adequate cover for attacking midfielder position with van der Geest back in the team and young Simon Janssen trying to get some minutes in the end of games. I rejected Manchester City job interview and started to look for new young coaches I could sign in Summer. Luckily Gery Vink finally agreed to sign a new contract (money was an issue with him, but he finally agreed to £4,1k p/w salary). 21.01.2023 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 3:0 (ED) - 24. and 56. Aschraf Flemming, 28. Dejan Meleg The first fixture of new year was an easy win over Helmond Sport. We missed Boilesen, Andersen and Kallah due to injuries and Tom Drost was suspended (5 yellow cards), but won comfortably even without them. Aschraf Flemming got his first chance in 14’, but his shot was horrible and went well wide. But ten minutes later he equalized from corner and that was followed quickly by Dejan Meleg’s goal (finally, time for him to score already). The best goal of this game was Flemming’s wonderful shot from the edge of area - incredible goal and once again this youngster shows what kind of player he really is. And let’s not forget he’s just 18 years old! Aschraf Flemming and Ricardo van Rhijn were outstanding in this game 25.01.2023 - Go Ahead Eagles - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 90.+3 Peter van Ooijen - 28. Noa Lang Go Ahead Eagles looked like an easy prey. They’re small club anyway, but in addition both their goalkeepers were injured and best defender suspended for this game, so it looked like it might turn into goal glut. Tom Drost returned to defensive line, but otherwise we had the same line-up. We dominated first half, but chances didn’t come easy. But Noa Lang put us ahead with wonderful screamer from well outside of area. Another contender for goal of the season award and it looks like 2023 is a year of beautiful goals. Dirk van Grinsven saw his header rattle crossbar in 30’, but despite having most of possession we didn’t create as much chances as I expected in the first half. Second half looked better in attack, but we lacked a little bit of luck. Aschraf Flemming’s shot was brilliantly saved by young opposition goalkeeper in 55’. Noa Lang’s direct free kick hit the bar in 70’ and three minutes later he found the bar again with his shot from corner. Framework wasn’t our friend that night - Aschraf Flemming found the post with his shot in 86’ and, as feared, then we threw it all away by allowing Eagles to equalize from good counter in injury time. That was a real blow and I was stunned for a while. So unlucky not to win this one and fully undeserved for Go Ahead. hitting four times against frame of goal is some sort of record, I believe - incredibly unlucky 28.01.2023 - FC Groningen - Ajax 2:4 (ED) - 45.+1 and 64. Melvin Jongeling - 45.+2 Nathan Leyder, 46. Dirk van Grinsven, 54. and 83. Dejan Meleg FC Groningen looked tired before this game - they don’t rotate as much as they should. It was interesting to see how our own Danny Rutte does against us. He’s become first team central defender for FC Groningen in his loan period. I didn’t change our line-up, but tweaked formation from fluid to flexible for this away game. First half was fairly even. We had a couple of half-chances, but couldn’t find the net and just before half-time whistle FC Groningen opened scoring. Dragisa Gudelj couldn’t stop Sheraldo Becker going past him and Becker found ex-Ajax man Melvin Jongeling in the box. There was still time to make amends though, and in the next attack Nathan Leyder found the goal after Antonucci’s shot was saved from point blank range. Tremendous couple of minutes in injury time. We regrouped, talked some things over in half-time and Dirk van Grinsven scored a quick goal after second half kick-off. A minute later Bob Leeflang had to make a good save to block Sheraldo Becker’s clear cut chance. It looked like both teams had thrown caution out of the window. Meleg’s goal gave us two goal cushion, but then Jongeling scored again and 2-3 was nervous scoreline. Our defense is hailed as the best in Eredivisie, but it was nowhere to be seen as Melvin Jongeling got another clear-cut chance in 80’ - saved by Bob Leeflang again. It has to be said that FC Groningen regrouped from 1-3 very well and for a period of time they had all initiative in midfield and attack. But our win was secured when Dejan Meleg scored his second goal and put this game into bed. I’m satisfied with away win and four goals, but our defense was terrible and there were some puzzled faces in our dressing room, not really understanding what just happened. both teams had four clear-cut chances, but we were able to finish better Dejan Meleg and Francesco Antonucci impressed with individual performances Tom Drost suffered bruised thigh and will probably miss the next game against PSV Overall, I’m fairly pleased with January. We got the results we needed. Late equalizer from Go Ahead Eagles will hurt a bit, but it was unfortunate and we deserved to win from this game, so fundamentally nothing’s wrong about that. More importantly, fixtures elsewhere have been favourable to us. FC Utrecht, PSV and Feyenoord all have struggled and we’ve managed to put safe distance behind us in the table. Player of the month: Noa Lang. He’s been consistently good in those three games, getting ratings between 7.7-8.6 and played Thulani Serero to bench with his performances. Worked hard in midfield and topped it with a wonderful goal. Eredivisie Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 19, Dejan Meleg 9, Dirk van Grinsven 9 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Tom Drost 6, Dirk van Grinsven 5
  5. December 2022 03.12.2022 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 0:0 (ED) Away game against Sparta ends our first round in Eredivisie. Sparta are predicted to become 13th in the league and I didn’t expect much of them, but we couldn’t break their defense and overall had a very poor night - we offered no creativity in attack and no real chances. Complete disappointment to our fans after so many good games in November. The closest we got to goal was Aschraf Flemming’s long shot in 63’ that hit crossbar. our shooting was awful (13/2) we lost too many headers inside our box and I can’t be happy with that Dirk van Grinsven suffered concussion in the end of first half - he had to come off and will miss our next game too Half of the season has now been played and we’ve gathered 38 points from 17 games. Not too bad (although my usual aim is 40 points in this stage). We haven’t scored too many goals, but our defense has been outstanding and we’ve conceded only 6 goals in Eredivisie so far. Few of our attacking players have been sub-par. Aschraf Flemming has been carrying most of the goalscoring load and Dirk van Grinsven has supported him well enough, but Dejan Meleg is far from his best form and has wasted most of his clear cut chances. Justin Kluivert has been in poor form as well, and midfield players haven’t supported attack enough. 06.12.2022 - Ajax - Liverpool 0:3 (Champions League Group B) - 7. Philippe Coutinho, 57. Gabriel Barbosa, 64. Son Heung-Min It looked like we didn’t have much to play for in this game. We couldn’t qualify and if Bayern did beat Kyiv in the other game, we’d secured 3rd place in the group But I expected to see good performance against Liverpool nonetheless, and it didn’t come. We got the first good chance of the game, but Justin Kluivert wasted his opportunity in 4’. Three minutes later Philippe Coutinho opened scoring for Liverpool, but we looked solid enough for the rest of the first half and went to half time 0-1 behind. Gabriel Barbosa scored Liverpool’s second goal - he simply played past Mike van der Hoorn and sent a strong shot past Bob Leeflang and, sad to say, we sort of collapsed after that. Some poor defending allowed Liverpool’s third goal and we didn’t show much desire to come back after that. I’m not so much disappointed about the result, but the manner of defeat. Of course, in the other match Kyiv managed to beat Bayern 2-0, so we dropped 4th in the group and our European season is over now. 10.12.2022 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 0:0 (ED) We were sloppy in the beginning of the game, allowing AZ a clear cut chance in 8’, but Bob Leeflang made a good save. Six minutes later Dejan Meleg had a great chance after intercepting AZ’s long throw-in, but he sent his shot wide. Justin Kluivert’s shot in 24’ did beat the keeper, but bounced back from far post. Sadly, that’s where good football ended - we couldn’t create good chances and although AZ couldn’t find a good shot either, we gave them too many corners and things looked fairly nervous at the back. Our attack wasn’t much better either - our movement was poor and we found ourselves offside pretty much every other attack. Very frustrating. To top it off, our shooting was poor as usual (14/3) and so goalless draw was the best we could get from this game. 14.12.2022 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 8. Dejan Meleg, 45. Aschraf Flemming In cup game against Eredivisie’s weakest team, I decided it’s time for younger players to prove their worth. Frank van den Hoek, Tarik Gennissen, Brian Wagener got their chance to impress and, to my slight surprise, we did much better than in previous game. We didn’t look too impressive for the big part of the first half, but two great crosses from our right flank created two opportunities and led to two goals. We were more in control of possession after half-time break, but lacked so good chances. Nevertheless, I was happy about good win and clean sheet. Ricardo van Rhijn was outstanding on our right defense 17.12.2022 - Ajax - FC Twente Enschede 2:1 (ED) - 3. Dejan Meleg, 49. Bart Vriends (og) - 28. Niklas Füllkrug We went against FC Twente with more creative mindset. Noa Lang and Francesco Antonucci were in midfield, with Dejan Meleg on our left flank. We scored a quick goal - Tom Drost found Meleg with his cross. The Serb sent his first header against crossbar, but scored from rebound and gave us an early lead. But FC Twente equalized from good counter and first half ended 1-1. We didn’t have too many chances, so I was very disappointed about conceded goal. Second half was a bit better and we regained our lead quickly - Bart Vriends got in front of Dirk van Grinsven’s shot, but so unfortunately that he sent the ball into own goal. FC Twente were down to ten men in 70’, after Luciano Slagveer injured himself, and we held onto our lead until final whistle. Francesco Antonucci had a chance in 79’, but his weak shot was held easily by FC Twente goalkeeper. Our win wasn’t too impressive, but I’m satisfied with three points. Shooting was still poor - only 15/5 - and our attacking movement could be a lot better. I wasn’t happy with our games in December. Two poor goalless draws in Eredivisie and very disappointing display against Liverpool in Amsterdam Arena, that’s not good enough. A win over FC Twente doesn’t repair that. Our attacking players were in poor form and defense was error-prone too. Sergio Alleyne hasn’t impressed much in central defense. Eredivisie FC Utrecht have a lot of games in hand, but a lot of other contenders have dropped points and are well behind us. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 17, Dirk van Grinsven 8, Dejan Meleg 6 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 8, Dirk van Grinsven 5, Tom Drost 5
  6. November 2022 01.11.2022 - Ajax - Dynamo Kyiv 3:0 (Champions League Group B) - 3., 5. and 66. Aschraf Flemming We went after revenge and did beat Dynamo Kyiv convincingly in Amsterdam Arena. We were 2-0 ahead in the first five minutes and never looked back. Our defense was organized and we didn’t allow our opponents any chances while Dejan Meleg and Lucas Andersen missed their 1-1 chances to score. Aschraf Flemming finished this match with hat-trick and I’m sure he’ll soon attract attention from big teams if he continues to perform so good in Champions League level. 80% passing accuracy and 50 key passes shows how well we controlled midfield Tom Drost, Nicolai Boilesen and Aschraf Flemming were outstanding 05.11.2022 - Ajax - PEC Zwolle 1:0 (ED) - 31. Dejan Meleg PEC Zwolle is predicted to be 15th, but are overachieving this season and find themselves in the middle of the table at the moment. I went to more attacking line-up, brought back Ricardo van Rhijn as right-back and sent Brian Wagener in to offer more creativity in midfield. We weren’t ready for the game and Zwolle got their first chance already in 1’, but Bob Leeflang made a great save. I recently complained about lack of goals by Dejan Meleg, and Serbian winger took notice. His shot gave us the lead in the first half and in 40’ Justin Kluivert should have added another, but his shot from close range was well saved by Zolle goalkeeper. We should have led 2-0 at half-time, so I wasn’t entirely happy about performance. And rightly so, as Zolle got their best chance to score in 49’ - after IFK and missed header by Mike van der Hoorn. But Bob Leeflang held that shot brilliantly. The rest of the second half was better under our control and we tried to retain possession and protect our lead rather than go for more goals. Substitutes Noa Lang and Dirk van Grinsven both saw their shots bounce back from woodwork, but in the end it was a narrow win, although not the most convincing performance. 19.11.2022 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 38. Dirk van Grinsven, 66. Aschraf Flemming Vitesse are predicted 10th, but are overachieving and at the moment challenging for top three places, so I anticipated a very tough away fixture. Vitesse’s success perhaps comes from successful transfer activities - they brought in 13 new players in Summer, but somehow managed to gel them all together quickly. I chose a little more conservative tactics - flexible formation and tuned down creativity a bit Both teams started carefully and first half chance came to Vitesse at 31’, but Bob Leeflang made brilliant save and then Dirk van Grinsven scored with a nice and unexpected shot from the right side of Vitesse box. We had more possession in the first half, but chances weren’t good enough. After the break we had more opportunities, as Vitesse were searching for the equalizer. Francesco Antonucci sent his shot wide in 48’ and Mike van der Hoorn had an opportunity after corner situation, but centra defender couldn’t finish it. Aschraf Flemming scored then one of the best goals of this season - he received long ball forward, skipped past two central defenders in a row and calmly passed it into the net. Wonderful skill and excellent goal. With that, the game was done and we secured three points from difficult tie. I’m happy with possession (59%) and clean sheet our shooting accuracy was not good enough (23/5) Tom Drost was excellent in right defense, supporting attacks and defending well 23.11.2022 - FC Bayern - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group B) - 53. Robert Lewandowski, 56. Thomas Müller I didn’t expect to win against Bayern and tried to experiment with 4-4-1-1 tactics instead (that my staff have recommended to me for a while now). We couldn’t handle FC Bayern and made too many fouls against their forwards to my liking, but at least the first half ended 0-0 and we weren’t hammered down in the first forty-five minutes. But despite that Bayern had some sort of purple patch between 50-60’ and they scored two goals in a short period of time. While defense was quite OK with 4-4-1-1, we couldn’t create anything dangerous in attack and had no chance to come back after conceding those goals. At least we weren’t humiliated and scoreline was quite respectable in the end. 27.11.2022 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 62. Dirk van Grinsven FC Utrecht are the only team without defeat and virtually hold 2nd position at the moment, so it was a very difficult, but very important game at the same time. They came with their regular 5-3-2 WB tactics, although it was evident that tight schedule and continental football have left its mark on their fitness. Both teams started carefully in the first half. FC Utrecht had the first great chance in 24’ - Clyde Drenthe managed to beat Mike van der Hoorn, but his shot bounced back from the post. In 40’ Dejan Meleg saw his shot being saved, but otherwise it was uneventful half and ended 0-0. It looked like one goal could decide this match and we took initiative in 62’ - Tom Drost created space on the right with his dribble and found Dirk van Grinsven in 6 yard box with a cross. Easy finish. One more half-chance from counter came in 69’, but Brian Wagener’s shot was saved and we decided to hold our lead until the end after that. very good possession (61%) and another clean sheet Tom Drost was outstanding again, both defensively and his cross to our goal was vital in attack 30.11.2022 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 2:2 (ED) - 7. and 57. Aschraf Flemming - 16. Yohan Boli, 73. Wesley Hoedt Before this Topper Derby I realized that PSV is not what it used to be any more. They finished 7th in Eredivisie last season and, despite being predicted 2nd by national media, they’re occupying 7th place again. Much of it comes down to poor financial decisions - stadium expansion plus some questionable contract decisions (£53,000 per week to Kyle Ebecilio, seriously?) have led their finances to insecure state. That, plus no continental football in this season, restricted their transfer ability and they didn’t bring in any new signings in Summer. Therefore they’ve lost some quality on the pitch and on bench, especially in goalkeeping department. We went against them with fluid formation - I sent in Nicolai Boilesen and Noa Lang. Sergio Alleyne has been poor recently, and due to his inability to handle pressure in big games he was replaced by young Tarik Gennissen. We took the lead quickly - Aschraf Flemming scored with a nice shot from 13 meters, but then conceded a quick goal back - defensive line was surprised by clever through ball and Mike van der Hoorn was too slow to react. In 37’ Davy Pröpper tripped Dirk van Grinsven in PSV box, but Dejan Meleg’s penalty was saved. That miss was costly and we went to half-time with 1-1 scoreline. Second half showed another proof of Flemming’s brilliance - he took the ball, cut inside and scored from 30 yards out with a wonderful shot. Magical stuff indeed and probably the best goal of the season. Dejan Meleg saw his two shots saved shortly after that - he had a poor evening in front of the goal. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold our lead - Wesley Hoedt headed in an equalizer from corner and to my disappointment, we had to settle with a draw. Very attractive football from both teams and surely neutrals enjoyed it, but we should have done better. our new central defense partnership didn’t work - both Gennissen and van der Hoorn picked up early yellow cards in the first half and were under pressure after that we practiced defending set pieces in training before this match, but still conceded from corner November, in conclusion, was quite OK month. We had a good win against Kyiv and played well in Eredivisie. We had a lot of away games and schedule was quite difficult, but we got the results and several clean sheets. Win over FC Utrecht was the key match in this month. Player of the month: Tom Drost - his performances in right defense were key factor of our success Eredivisie Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 16, Dirk van Grinsven 8, Justin Kluivert 5 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 8, Tom Drost 5, Aschraf Flemming 4
  7. October 2022 02.10.2022 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 44. Rashaan Fernandes October started for us with a defeat in Klassikier Derby. Feyenoord have not added much players in Summer transfer window and Niels van Delft departure probably weakened their defensive line, so they’re rated 5th by pundits before this season. Feyenoord haven’t been comfortable opponent for us in De Kuip, but they looked really tired after long stretch of games and we were fully fit, so I hoped this time we could succeed. Unfortunately, that was not the case - we conceded a goal in the end of even first half (Sergio Alleyne’s missed interception turned out to be a costly one), and although we looked better in 2nd half, we couldn’t find an equalizer. We put Feyenoord under real pressure for the last ten minutes and our substitute Darren Kallah got himself a clear cut chance, but wasn’t able to shoot it past Feyenoord goalkeeper. Learning curve that is. Disappointing result, because I feel we deserved a draw from this game. And obviously fans are not very happy about it either. it was our first defeat in last 17 league games; quite an achievement 15.10.2022 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 88. Justin Kluivert International break went fairly well, but Dirk van Grinsven picked up a knock and will be sidelined for a couple of weeks, so Meleg and Kluivert are on the wings against sc Heerenveen. sc Heerenveen is a tough side, predicted 3rd by media, but a little bit underachieving at the moment They’re a difficult team to play against, especially at home, and we saw that in this game. Both teams were careful in the first half and the first good chance came just in 44’, but Dejan Meleg hit the post and Lucas Andersen’s rebound shot was blocked. Things grew nervous in 2nd half, but it has to be said that both teams tried to win until the end and attacked with reasonably big numbers. But we managed to turn this game to our win in the end. A good attack from our left wing, combination between Flemming and Kluivert and left winger’s good shot ended the game with high notes. Crucial goal, crucial win and a great way to bounce back from Feyenoord defeat. we lost way too many headers inside our own box and that was the risk through all of the game 19.10.2022 - Dynamo Kyiv - Ajax 1:0 (Champions League Group B) - 60. Denlis Gonzalez Visits to Ukraine and Russia are always difficult - long flight different time zone. But we needed good results against this side if we want to achieve something in this group. I changed fullbacks - Tom Drost and Dragisa Gudelj got their chance. Dirk van Grinsven was still not fit and we had to play without him. We played actually good football in the first half. Justin Kluivert got a great chance in 23’, but shot was too weak and held easily by goalkeeper. We were better team in the first half, especially between minutes 30-45, and I was optimistic that we could turn this into goals in second half. We continued to attack well and create chances - Noa Lang wasted his shot in 52’. But Dynamo got a rare opportunity in 60’ and instantly scored a goal, completely against the run of play. Lucas Andersen had a chance to equalize in 76’, but that shot went wide. Very frustrating defeat, because we really played well and deserved to win. I can honestly put this down to players, because tactics were right and chances came, but in this moment when you’re 1-1 against goalkeeper, you just have to put it into net and in those moments we buckled under pressure. three clear-cut chances wasted - that cost us the game 22.10.2022 - Ajax - VVV Venlo 2:0 (ED) - 18. Justin Kluivert, 50. Aschraf Flemming We’re back at home and game against VVV was a must win for us. They’re predicted to reach 16th in Eredivisie, so difference in class should reflect on the pitch. Boilesen and van Rhijn returned to line-up to offer more attacking options from full-back positions. We didn’t play extremely well, but defense was in order and those couple of chances that we managed to create gave us one goal before and one after half-time. Although not the best football, it was a comfortable win for us and gave much needed confidence to players. 25.10.2022 - Achilles’29 - Ajax 1:2 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 37. Antonio Duarte - 17. Brian Wagener, 111. Francesco Antonucci Dirk van Grinsven was finally ready to play, but otherwise it was a chance for rotation players to show their skills. We took the lead in 17’ - Brian Wagener sent a beautiful chip into net over Achilles goalkeeper. Dirk van Grinsven wasted a clear cut chance in 34’, but after that our defense collapsed for a few minutes and this didn’t go unpunished. We gifted two clear cut chances to their attackers and Antonio Duarte used the first, but luckily Bob Leeflang managed to save the other one. Second half was 45 minutes of our pressure on Achilles’ goal, but we couldn’t break through. I didn’t want it to go to penalty shoot-out, and fortunately it didn’t, as substitute Antonucci managed to score in extra time to give us 2-1 win. Despite that, it wasn’t good enough against Jupiler League side. our shooting was 31/14, but we lacked good scoring opportunities Tom Drost and Brian Wagener put in superb individual performances Brian Wagener scored his first ever goal for Ajax 29.10.2022 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 57. Walter Medina - 46. Aschraf Flemming Eredivisie schedule in October is a difficult one - a lot of tough games against difficult teams and most of them in away stadiums. ADO Den Haag is not an easy opponent - they’ve finished 3rd and 4th in previous seasons, occupy 2nd place at the moment and media prediction of 7th place does not give them enough justice, I feel. We started a little bit better, but first half went without fireworks until 32’ - referee awarded a penalty for ADO for a foul by Ricardo van Rhijn, although replays showed it was never a contact between players and penalty was a really poor decision. But Bob Leeflang stepped up and saved Kenji Gorre’s spot-kick, so first half ended 0-0. Our tactics clearly wasn’t working and I made changes at half-time. It immediately showed on the pitch and we scored early goal after 2nd half kick-off. We had possession, but ADO counter-attacks looked fairly dangerous and well-orchestrated, so we had to be wary of that. Unfortunately we made it all too easy for our opponents - Sergio Alleyne gave a very poor backpass to goalkeeper that was intercepted by Walter Medina and goal was then an obvious outcome. Alleyne looked very error-prone in this game and our biggest liability in defense. In the end, a draw was a fair result and I’m not too disappointed about that in away game. our shooting was poor, just 12/3 Sergio Alleyne’s form has been declining recently and that was a topic between me and the player after this game In conclusion, October has been mediocre for us. Feyenoord defeat, of course, hurts the most, but in most games we managed to secure result and played good football in doing that. sc Heerenveen late winner was the moment of the month. Having said that, I feel we should be able to play better football. We’re not creating enough chances and are not clinical enough in our finishing. Fortunately, all players are fit and so we have different options from bench. We miss Dejan Meleg’s goals (compared to last season) - our set pieces haven’t provided much (Antonucci’s winner against Achilles’29 in extra time came from corner), and despite playing most of the month as AMR, he hasn’t found too many chances. Player of the month: Aschraf Flemming - a difficult choice, but he’s been consistently good during those games. Gave assist to Kluivert’s late winner, scored against VVV and ADO and contributed well in attacking phase. Eredivisie Surprisingly the only team without defeats is FC Utrecht, who are 2nd in the table, but with their three games in hand they might be find themselves 1st with a comfortable lead. Big teams have stumbled here and there. We lost to Feyenoord, Feyenoord lost to sc Heerenveen and PSV had some poor results against smaller teams. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 10, Dirk van Grinsven 6, Justin Kluivert 5 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 7, Aschraf Flemming 4, Dirk van Grinsven 3
  8. September 2022 09.09.2022 - Ajax - FC Groningen 1:0 (ED) - 80. pen. Justin Kluivert After international break we returned to Amsterdam Arena to host FC Groningen. They’re rated 8th by media and as I said above, bolstered their ranks with our loanee Danny Rutte in defense and ManU’s Melvin Jongeling in attack. We concentrated in attacking set pieces before the match and missed Francesco Antonucci for this game due to strained wrist. As usual in this season, we had a slow start and couldn’t get our attack going. The best opportunity came from counter in 7’, but van Grinsven’s shot was saved. We were better team, but couldn’t capitalize and missed this clinical edge in attack. Most of the 2nd half passed the same, but things started to happen in the last 15 minutes. FC Groningen got their first opportunity when through ball found Charlison Benschop completely alone in the box, but Bob Leeflang made superb save to keep his goal intact. Our captain Ricardo van Rhijn received his 2nd yellow card in 78’ and suddenly survival mode was on for us. But Danny Rutte came for help and (unintentionally, of course) fouled Aschraf Flemming in the box and gifted us a penalty, that Justin Kluivert converted to bring us valuable 1:0 win. It was way too difficult, but turning this game to our favour with 10 men shows determination and I’m happy with that. to have such scoring troubles with 21/10 shooting is beyond my understanding we allowed 32 dribbles and made 21 fouls and I’m not happy with these stats 13.09.2022 - Ajax - FC Bayern 1:1 (Champions League Group B) - 45. pen. Dejan Meleg - 18. Julian Draxler We went to this game without Tom Drost - right-back was serving suspension from last season. I wasn’t too hopeful, because Bayern were clear favourites and couldn’t see us winning this match. Not to be slaughtered was our first aim. But we started well enough and had our best opportunity to score in 9’. van Rhijn’s cross from right wing surprised Manuel Neuer - he dropped the ball, but Dirk van Grinsven couldn’t finish the rebound. Julian Draxler scored for Bayern then, and our left flank was in all sorts of problem - Dragisa Gudelj just couldn’t handle Thomas Müller and his crosses and creativity initiated most of Bayern attacks. But then, in the final minute of first half, we had a good attack, Aschraf Flemming received a through ball and was almost clear of defenders when he was tripped by Timur Iskhakov and penalty was awarded. Meleg converted the spot-kick and we equalized just before half-time. Second half was better - we managed not to give Bayern easy chances and could have won this game in the last minute, but good counter ended with a shot by van Grinsven that bounced wide from goal post. Despite that I’m fairly pleased with a draw and we showed good football against one of the top clubs in Europe. stats department proved that we had better chances in this game, although Bayern had more possession 7 mistakes by Dragisa Gudelj illustrate all his defensive troubles in our left-back position 17.09.2022 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 1:0 (ED) - 80. Dirk van Grinsven That should have been an easy match - FC Eindhoven was predicted to become 18th and currently lie at the bottom of the table. We missed Ricardo van Rhijn in this game - our captain served his suspension after dismissal in FC Groningen game. We dominated midfield in the first half, but couldn’t score. Dirk van Grinsven came close twice and his shot hit crossbar in 5’, but the best chance of the half went to FC Eindhoven - their combination in 38’ ended in 1-1 situation, but Bob Leeflang made a superb save to keep our clear sheet. Second half looked fairly similar - Dejan Meleg hit crossbar in 51’ and then followed thirty minutes of poor attacks and atrocious shooting, until Dirk van Grinsven finally broke deadlock in 80’ to score a winner. Game opened up in the last ten minutes - Justin Kluivert smashed his shot over bar from clear cut chance and Aschraf Flemming couldn’t score from point blank range after clever through ball by Brian Wagener. In conclusion - another narrow win, unsatisfying performance and poor attacking display our shooting was extremely poor (28/6) we got 20 corners, but couldn’t create anything dangerous out of these set-piece situations 20.09.2022 - Excelsior - Ajax 0:1 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 51. Aschraf Flemming Rotation time - Noa Lang, Tom Drost, Justin Kluivert started in the first eleven. It can’t get worse than it already is, and cup games are meant for rotation players. But the game was very similar to our last one - we dominated midfield, but couldn’t create good chances and first half was really boring for the fans. But our young striker Aschraf Flemming showed his talent with great shot from 22 meters out that landed in the corner of the net. Nothing that opponent goalkeeper could do about that. Sometimes this kind of individual brilliance decides the game and that happened here, but again - no reason to be happy about overall display. 25.09.2022 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 5:0 (ED) - 14., 26. and 45. Aschraf Flemming, 17. Dirk van Grinsven, 18. Francesco Antonucci We did beat MVV 9:1 in Super Cup game in July and no doubt they were after revenge. They are not a bad team, predicted to be 4th in Eredivisie and have invested another £13m to new players over Summer. I had to change how we play, because so far we hadn’t been good enough in recent games. I switched to fluid formation, increased defensive line and allowed more roaming for wide players. Can’t really say if that was the case there, or just MVV tactics suit us, but we steamrolled them in the first half - just as we did in Super Cup match. Aschraf Flemming opened scoring from another long shot from 19 meters. Dirk van Grinsven and Francesco Antonucci followed with quick goals and in the end of first half Aschraf Flemming completed his hat-trick. We eased off our pressure a little in 2nd half, and MVV got some chances in the last ten minutes. Daan Thomassen’s header hit the post in 87’, but we managed to keep a clean sheet and take a convincing win. Excellent result, great attacking performance and big improvement from our previous league fixtures. Aschref Flemming, Francesco Antonucci, Nicolai Boilesen and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding young striker Darren Kallah made his league debut for Ajax in 2nd half 28.09.2022 - FC Liverpool - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group B) - 10. pen. Son Heung-Min, 51. Roberto Firmino I didn’t change line-up for this game, but did change tactics - deeper defensive line, retain possession, no overlapping and Dragisa Gudelj with Tom Drost were set as limited full-backs. Despite all that, we were soundly beaten by much more talented Liverpool side in front of Anfield crowd. Our troubles started with Antonucci foul inside our penalty box and penalty for Liverpool. But not only - they got at least four clear cut chances in the first half and their wasteful finishing was the main reason we were only 0-1 behind at half-time. Firmino scored after half-time break and that put result beyond doubt. We had some half-chances around 60’ mark, but that couldn’t change anything. As expected, we returned from England with defeat. Scoreline wasn’t the worst, but in truth we were hammered most of the match and just focusing on damage limitation. we couldn’t handle Liverpool front line at all, allowing 30 dribbles and making 26 individual defensive mistakes Despite my frustration about lack of chances and poor attacking display, results have come our way in September. All wins domestically (although most of them with narrow 1-0 scoreline) and good fight against Bayern, which counts as a small surprise. Liverpool defeat was expected, I can’t imagine us beating them or Bayern in away games. We’re on top of the Eredivisie table and that’s a good platform to build on. Player of the month: Aschraf Flemming - 18 years old striker showed his talent this month. He earned two crucial penalties for us, scored highlight goals against Excelsior and MVV and had a role in 6 goals out of 9 that we scored in September. Eredivisie We’re ahead and undefeated, but gaps are narrow still. FC Eindhoven look like they’re struggling from early on and relegation prediction might as well be on spot for them. Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 8, Dirk van Grinsven 6, Justin Kluivert 3, Dejan Meleg 3 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 6, Aschraf Flemming 3, Dirk van Grinsven 3
  9. Squad Update 2022 Wingers Dirk van Grinsven Young right winger really opened up last season and I hope he can progress even further this year. Dejan Meleg Experienced Serb is our best assist distributor for several seasons and main set piece taker. Justin Kluivert Dirk van Grinsven pushed him 3rd in wingers pecking order last year. Good attributes overall, but nothing exceptional. But with only three solid winger option he'll have plenty enough starts. Strikers Aschraf Flemming Has done fairly well to replace Dodi Hamzah. Plays as false nine. Very agile, good movement and technical ability, but could improve in reading the game and spotting right passes Darren Kallah Not really good enough to start in Eredivisie games, but talented youngster and can provide some minutes from bench
  10. Squad Update 2022 Midfielders Nathan Leyder Not many players can call themselves World Cup winners. Nathan Leyder can. Frank van den Hoek Talented young defensive midfielder. Good with the ball, very good set piece taker and has excellent leadership abilities - possible future captain? Thulani Serero Very experienced midfielder, but age is starting to get to him. Over 85 caps for South Africa Noa Lang I once had bigger hopes for this young man, but now he seems more like a decent rotation/backup option in midfield. Lucas Andersen Francesco Antonucci Brian Wagener Young, 19 years old playmaker. Looks like a great prospect.
  11. Squad Update 2022 With many departures and lot of youth players coming up, this is the squad for 2022-2023 season. Goalkeepers Bob Leeflang Decent young keeper. His weakness is one-on-one situations (although not really evident so far in matches). Good reflexes, decent handling. Only 21 years old, so plenty of time to develop. Marvin Koops Hot prospect. 19 years old and breaking into Holland U-21 squad. His achilles heel is rushing out, but he's very good ball handler and overall good prospect Defenders Ricardo van Rhijn Team captain Tom Drost His development have stalled a little. He's very quick, but could do with more intelligence on pitch. Also, he can't cross like van Rhijn and his contribution in attacking phase is less effective. Mike van der Hoorn Enjoying his best years so far, bringing aerial power and experience into back line. Sergio Alleyne Younger partner in central defense for van der Hoorn. Very good marker, excellent decision making and great team-work attributes. Good in the air and strong enough, but also very quick and agile for this position - that allows me to push defensive line up. Tarik Gennissen 18 years old hot prospect. Driven nature and very good at tackling, but not so good aerially. Probably a very good option in the future against small and technical forwards. Nicolai Boilesen Very good attacking full-back. 60 games in Denmark national team, very experienced player. Vice-captain of the team. Dragisa Gudelj A bit more mature than couple of years back, has received invitations to Serbian national team. Very good choice for Eredivisie game,s but struggled so far in Champions League against bigger teams.
  12. Transfer Update Summer 2022 Few of the transfers stood out this Summer. Dodi Hamzah move, obviously, the most outstanding. MVV was again busy and initiating a lot of moves within Eredivisie, but not many new signings brought in. A lot of loans though, and several teams added quality by loaning Premier League or Serie A youngsters. We sold a lot of players this Summer. Jeffrey de Lange, Deyovaisio Zeefuik and Navajo Bakboord were sold, and I allowed 6 players with professional contracts to leave for free . That's 11 players in total and means a lot of shuffling in our first team. Notable transfers in Eredivisie this Summer Dodi Hamzah from Ajax to Swansea for £20m Wesley van Stijn from FC Twente to Sheffield United for £5m Melvin Jongeling from Ajax to Manchester United for £5m Niels van Delft from Feyenoord to Bayer Leverkusen for £3,2m Marcin Figiel from Lech to MVV Maastricht for £3,1m - MVV showing their financial muscle again by signing this Polish striker from Ekstraklasa
  13. August 2022 05.08.2022 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 2:1 (ED) - 32. Thulani Serero, 85. Aschraf Flemming - 42. Pantelis Hatzidiakos The first game of the new season against AZ Alkmaar. AZ are predicted 9th by media and pundits, so they’re decent mid-table team. We missed Noa Lang (back in training, but not fit yet) and Nicolai Boilesen (not yet match fit, started from bench) for this game. Dragisa Gudelj was our left-back, but otherwise I relied on my first choice players. We had initiative in the first half but couldn’t create good chances. Thulani Serero broke deadlock after good IFK combination through right flank and headed it in. But we dropped our lead in the end of the half, after poor defense in corner situation, giving Hatzidiakos two chances to shoot. Passive defense, too much ball watching and unacceptable in the end of the half. My half time team talk motivated the lads and we played better in 2nd half, but chances were still rare, although we dominated possession and game was mostly played in AZ half. Patience paid off in final ten minutes - Dirk van Grinsven found Flemming in the box with his deep cross and youngster scored a winner from point blank range. It’s nice to start with a win, but it wasn’t the most convincing performance and we need to improve against better teams. I’m pleased with possession and overall stats - we were the better team and deserved to win 10.08.2022 - FC Twente - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 45.+1 Rogier de Kogel - 46. Dejan Meleg Next stop is Enschede and FC Twente, with our own loanee Pieter Stekelenburg within their ranks. FC Twente are rated 12th by the media (underestimated by my opinion). Noa Lang and Nicolai Boilesen were back at 100% and it gave me a task of choosing both first team and bench players. Our start was a little shaky and that gave Pieter Stekelenburg the first good chance of the game in 9’, but Bob Leeflang managed to parry his shot. We then slowly started to dominate possession and increased pressure on FC Twente defense from 30’ onward. But the end of the half was a disappointment - again we conceded from corner and this time very late in the first half. Unacceptable. We bounced back right after second half kick-off: good combination between Francesco Antonucci, Aschraf Flemming and Meleg gave us equalizer, but despite dominating most of the 2nd half, we couldn’t find another goal. A draw is definitely what was expected of the team and I’m not happy about our set piece defending. our shooting accuracy was just 12/1 - mostly because we didn’t have good enough opportunities striker Melvin Jongeling made his first team debut in 2nd half 14.08.2022 - Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 2:0 (ED) - 56. Justin Kluivert, 73. Mike van der Hoorn Back in Amsterdam Arena and a must-win game against Eagles. We were 100% fit and I made some changes in line-up: Francesco Antonucci started in midfield (Lucas Andersen was poor in FC Twente game, so it was well deserved) and Nicolai Boilesen returned as left back (I need his crossing ability against Go Ahead). We played a poor first thirty minutes and then started to create chances, but wasted them carelessly. Thulani Serero blew his chance after a good counter and just before half time whistle Aschraf Flemming saw his shot saved. So it was goalless after 45 minutes and I was frustrated, because we should have been ahead. Flemming missed another chance in 51’, but then set-pieces made the difference. We scored two goals from corners and took 2-0 win, but that should have been much more convincing than it was. terrible finishing, especially by Aschraf Flemming - he was always at the right place on time, whether giving or receiving key passes, but just needs to be more composed and put those chances in 11/8 shooting accuracy shows we actually got good chances and hit our shots on target 20.08.2022 - Helmond Sport - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 51. Aschraf Flemming Newly-promoted Helmond should be an easy win for us, but with our away form I wasn’t too sure. I brought Dragisa Gudelj in as DL and dropped Dirk van Grinsven for Justin Kluivert. Our first half was again very poor and we created nothing during those 45 minutes, but in the beginning of 2nd half Flemming got our only clear cut chance and finished it well. Things opened up more and in 54’ Francesco Antonucci saw his shot saved by Helmond goalkeeper and in 61’ Helmond Sport got their only good chance in this game, but ex-Ajax player Ezra Walian blasted it well wide. We held on to a victory here, but it was a poor match and I wasn’t happy about it defense has been good and Bob Leeflang didn’t have much to do in this game either After Hemond game Manchester United swooped in and suddenly offered £5m for our hot prospect striker Melvin Jongeling. That’s his minimum release fee and off to Old Trafford he went. Not for long though - he joined FC Groningen on loan for this season, so he may as well come back and haunt us. It was a completely unexpected move and I didn’t want to lose another talented youngster, but honestly, I didn’t expect that any club would pay £5m for him and that was a generous offer. 27.08.2022 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 0:0 (ED) SC Cambuur have been rated 11th before this season and I anticipated a tricky fixture. I’m still searching for right line-up. This time I sent Lucas Andersen to midfield and tried to break opponents by allowing attacking players more creativity. We got our first good chance in 7’, but Dejan Meleg managed to waste his opportunity. Aschraf Flemming saw his good shot saved in the end of the half, but that was again one of those drab matches where we couldn’t create as much chances I would have liked. But we had few, and Ricardo van Rhijn reached into the box after our counter-attack, but sent it well over when he should have scored. That’s why we had to settle with goalless draw, although I feel that we did enough to scrape it 1-0. our poor shooting (12/3) sums up our scoring troubles while attack has been poor, things are good in defense department - again Bob Leeflang didn’t face any shots on target So, August have been a mixed month. We’ve come through league games undefeated, but poor performances against smaller teams and dropped points against SC Cambuur are omen for a tough and difficult season. I promoted two-footed young striker Darren Kallah from Jong Ajax to fill the bench after Jongeling departure. Loans out: Jorri van der Geest to Malmö FF Frenkie de Jong to FC Utrecht Champions League groups were drawn. We were seeded 4th and will go against FC Bayern, Liverpool and Dynamo Kyiv. Very unlikely that we could progress from here, with such a young goalkeeper and strikers. We’ll play for the 3rd place and hope for the best. Eredivisie Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 4, Dirk van Grinsven 4 Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 6, Dirk van Grinsven 4
  14. July 2022 July brought transfer trouble from unexpected area. Our goalkeeper Jeffrey de Lange attracted a lot of interest and when Liverpool started to make bids, it was too difficult for him to remain patient. He’s not a great goalkeeper, but a solid one and consistent and I like that. But he’s undervalued by market and it was unacceptable for me to allow my first team keeper to leave for only £1-2m. But after he insisted that I’d allow him leave, I had no other choice than accept Liverpool’s next bid. Which was £1,3m + clauses (up to £1,7m). Goalkeeper is a key position and de Lange is not easy to replace. We have 20 years old Bob Leeflang who spent the last season on loan, and 18 years old Marvin Koops who played for Jong Ajax. Neither of them is fully Eredivisie-ready at the moment, not to mention Champions League. So let’s hope for the best and see what happens. But to lose both our best goalkeeper and best goalscorer is a very bad omen for the coming season. The other deal in July was selling Navajo Bakboord to PAOK for £900k + clauses (up to £1,1m). 23.07.2022 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 9:1 (Dutch Super Cup) - 16. and 21. Aschraf Flemming, 18., 23., 31. and 62. Dirk van Grinsven, 38. Dejan Meleg, 73. Justin Kluivert, 86. Lucas Andersen The first test to show how we do without those players was the Super Cup match against MVV and we past it with flying colours. We missed Nicolai Boilesen and Noa Lang due to injuries. Aschraf Flemming started in attack and Bob Leeflang between sticks. It took fifteen minutes, but when we started scoring then MVV couldn’t stop leaking goals and our attack did just flow and cut through their defense like a hot knife through butter. Dirk van Grinsven completed his hat-trick in the first 31 minutes, he finished with 4 goals. Dejan Meleg dished out 4 assists and Nathan Leyder hit the crossbar once. MVV scored one consolation goal in the 2nd half, but that didn’t change anything. our attack was the best I’ve seen against Eredivisie level opponents - 27/16 shooting and 9 clear cut chances most of the performances were outstanding, even substitutes contributed (Tom Drost with assist, Justin Kluivert with a goal) Bob Leeflang made his debut for Ajax - he did well with one good save in the end of the first half and can’t be blamed for the goal that result is a new Dutch Cup record, so is 4 goals scored by Dirk van Grinsven Loans: central defender Hein Yilmaz went to FC Eindhoven right-back Jelmer Koning to Vitesse Arnhem winger Rayan Yilmaz to Excelsior striker Lamin Abdelhadi to US Creteil-Lusitanos Manager’s movements in July brought news about old Ajax favourite Urby Emanuelson becoming new Holland U-19 manager. Let’s hope he’ll bring some success for Dutch youngsters, this year’s U-19 European Championships tournament was a failure and we couldn’t progress from group stage. I was offered job interview by West Ham United that I rejected easily.
  15. June 2022 While players were on holiday there was a lot of backroom affairs to sort out. I chose not to extend contracts for three of the coaching staff and had to find replacement. Firstly I signed 43 years old Frenchman Johan Liebus as U19 GK coach to replace Erik Heijblok. Then I brought in retiring Estonian captain Ragnar Klavan and offered him U-19 coach position. Chief scout Hans van der Zee announced his retirement. I found an easy solution and was happy to offer his position to our scout Angel Vales, who would be perfect fit for that role. Unfortunately Real Madrid offered him a scout position and snapped him up, leaving me with £300k compensation money and a key position to fill. Transfers Expected move of Dodi Hamzah was decided in June. He was unsettled for the past six months and with his final year of contract approaching, I had to let him leave. AS Monaco and Swansea were willing to offer his minimum release fee and so he left to Swansea for £20m. Deyovaisio Zeefuik joined Aston Villa for £2,4m + clauses (potentially £3m). He had turned 24 years old and was a role player in my team, so it was a time for him to move on and not to keep a place in our line-up from younger and more talented players. Hamzah is a really difficult player to replace. My hopes are on young Aschraf Flemming and we also got Melvin Jongeling back from loan at PEC Zwolle - 11 goals in Eredivisie last season looks promising enough start for this 19-years old. We’ve got more talent in central defense - Navajo Bakboord returned from loan and young Tarik Gennissen has improved a lot in his 6 months time at Roda JC. Loans: central midfielder Jeroen Pattinama went to Roda JC Kerkrade forward Sieme Plat went to Sparta Rotterdam central midfielder Pieter Stekelenburg went to FC Twente central defender Danny Rutte continued his loan at FC Groningen, where he featured in first team regularly last season forward Emil Brown moved back to South Africa for one season to play for Orlando Pirates Players out: Joe van der Sar (GK) - already 24 years old, no point to keep him around Sven Keller (GK) - spent last season in Heracles, but didn’t do enough to earn new contract Edwin Postma (DR) - very inconsistent season in VVV Venlo, surplus to our needs Fatih Celik (DC) - we have enough talented defender, Fatih Celik is a good prospect, but not good enough Mohammed Amrani (DC) - spent inconsistent season in Roda JC, not going to make it in Ajax Chelton Mühl (AMR) - injury-ridden season in Go Ahead Eagles, but not good enough, especially compared to Dirk van Grinsven