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  1. Season Summary 2030-2031 Eredivisie Champions, as expected, although our points total was a bit short of 80, which is usually a good indicator of consistency and form. Despite that we were well ahead of other clubs in Spring and it’s mostly because our competitors were even more inconsistent and dropped points in unexpected games. Champions League We achieved our minimum aim and progressed from group stage, but couldn’t do much against Arsenal and it proved that we lack quality in squad at the moment to compete with European giants. Not sure how much it will change in 1-2 seasons, but to make improvement we probably should introduce some youngsters into first team to make changes over time. Real Madrid were crowned as the Champions League winners after the did beat PSG in the final. Dutch Cup We retained Dutch Cup - unexpected, because we haven’t been too successful in this front in the past, let alone two seasons in a row. To be fair, the draw was favourable to us and the toughest opponents on paper were MVV in 4th round, and they finished 8th in the league, so well… Toughest game in reality was the final, which went to penalty shoot-out. Youngsters Jong Ajax finished 18th in Jupiler League. Not very impressive. They had a couple of good games and results, but only a couple, and most of those came because Peter van der Wal played a lot for them in 2nd half of the season. Stef Veldman scored 15 goals in Jupiler League, but that alone wasn’t enough when the defense is leaky and you lose your advantage in the end of the games. U-19 offered more positive emotions - our youngsters finished 2nd in the league and won U-19 cup, so their manager Rob Hoskins did his job well enough Stats and observations To start with our defense - we looked a lot more vulnerable in this season defensively. Over the entire Eredivisie season we conceded 35 clear cut chances (good would be under 30) and goalkeepers had to make a lot of crucial saves to keep goals from flooding in. Attacking part of the game looks more interesting. We scored a lot of goals - 72 (more than 2.1 per game), but at the same time we created only 73 clear cut chances (in previous seasons this number has been closer to 90). What strikes out is that in this year we were particularly poor from attacking set pieces. Corners and free kicks led to only 4 goals compared to 15 from previous year. Our best creators were Dirk van Grinsven and Tarik de Wit, with 15 and 13 clear cut chances created respectively. Tarik de Wit has shown in this season that he can fulfill complete forward role, linking up plays up front and giving through balls behind defensive line for other players to run for, so that’s a real advantage that we could use in the future. His 10 assists are the proof of that. While de Wit scored 27 goals, he also was the unlucky one, hitting framework for 9 times in all competitions. Fans Player of the Season Tom Drost Pieter Stekelenburg Francesco Antonucci Goal of the Season: Engin Ari vs. FC Groningen 05/10/2030 Young Player of the Season: Leslie Lichaba Eredivisie Awards Golden Boot: Ron Bosman (FC Utrecht) Dennis Graafland (ADO Den Haag) Laurens Antoine (PSV Eindhoven) Top Goalscorer: Laurens Antoine (PSV Eindhoven) - 26 Dennis Graafland (ADO Den Haag) - 24 Raul Ibanez (MVV Maastricht) - 21 Goalkeeper of the Year: Boyd Derksen (FC Utrecht) Marvin Koops (AFC Ajax) Joost Nijhuis (Sparta Rotterdam) Young Player of the Year: Manuel Santamaria (Feyenoord Rotterdam) Francesco Martino (ADO Den Haag) Johan van Dalen (AFC Ajax) Manager’s Manager of the Year: Me Erik ten Hag (FC Utrecht) Sander Duits (PSV Eindhoven)
  2. May 2031 Nothing serious to play for, so it’s time to share playing time. For me the marker has always been 40 games - it’s good rotation, game time distribution and sign of squad depth if no player has to start more than 40 games. In this season we’ve done really well and everybody are well under 40, even Marvin Koops, as Ismet Gluhalic has had his chances between sticks. Pieter Stekelenburg, Edward Schans and Tarik de Wit have been carrying the load, but most others are between 20-30 games, which is just good to keep match fitness, but also train hard. These last two games in May are surely for rotation players. 04.05.2031 - Sparta Rotterdam - AFC Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 65. Ratko Nijs - 61. Rene Verhoeven Sparta are doing well in this season and find themselves 8th in the table. We’re still training attacking movement and because of my squad selection I expect it to be rather tough battle. Edward Schans serves his suspension in this game. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Markiet, Gudelj, de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci (67. Janssen), Matal, Kluivert (60. van Dalen), Capobianco Perhaps because of our weakened line-up, but we didn’t play well in this game. In first half we looked poor with ball - most of opportunities to create something ended with bad pass or we just lost possession. While our defense was good enough against Sparta attacks, they did get a lot of set pieces and looked really dangerous from corners. We lost too many headers in our box (often we weren’t really trying) and to go to half time break was more of a relief. I changed tactics for 2nd half - Jeroen Capobianco started to play as false nine - but it didn’t change much. We scored opener in 61’ and it was rather lucky goal than consistent pressure to Sparta goal that led to it. Rene Verhoeven took a shot from 20 meters and it went in off the post. It was his first ever league goal for Ajax and showed what sort of danger he could possess from outside of box. But soon enough it was 1:1 - Moreno Markiet left Ratko Nijs too much space in our box and it was easy goal after cross came in from our left. In the end, draw was fair result, but I was disappointed with our performance - we were not good enough. our shooting was just 6/1 we allowed Sparta to make 21 key passes and 24 dribbles Rene Verhoeven scored his first ever league goal for Ajax 11.05.2031 - AFC Ajax - Helmond Sport 5:0 (ED) - 13. and 41. Nketsi Matal, 21. Justin Kluivert, 61. and 79. Omar van der Aar Despite the result of Sparta game, I wanted us to end our season in a high and home game against Helmond Sport was a must win because of that. We continued to practice attacking movement and, because of home advantage, overlapped more. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Markiet, Gudelj, de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci, Matal, Kluivert (52. van der Aar), Senyane It’s fair to say that against Helmond Sport we looked a lot better. After Justin Kluivert missed his initial chance in 5’, we took control of the game and never looked back. Nketsi Matal was a threat with his space and crossing down our right flank, Helmond defensive line couldn’t cope with our movement and goals did come. Helmond Sport was left to ten men just before half time whistle, after Fred Koeman (our own player on loan) made a reckless two footed challenge on Tom Drost. Why on earth did he do that, I can’t understand. That move doesn’t bring him a lot of friends in dressing room when he’ll return in July. Young winger Omar van der Aar came on in 2nd half and instantly made impact with two goals and final result 5:0 was excellent finish to our season. our average rating was 8.45 our shooting was 23/15 we created 5 clear cut chances Nketsi Matal and Rene Verhoeven were outstanding for us Omar van der Aar scored his first league goals for Ajax End of the season was like it should be. Youngsters and rotation players got their share of playing time, nobody got injured and we had no problems with yellow cards. Last matchday forced some clubs to make decisions about their staff, and Danny Schreurs was sacked by FC Groningen, to be replaced by Robin van Persie. To be fair - FC Groningen should have done better than they did in this season and to look elsewhere was normal action by FC Groningen board. Eredivisie Last two games made a difference in top three. PSV Eindhoven moved up to 2nd place and FC Utrecht climbed 3rd, while Feyenoord dropped to 4th. At the bottom of the table SC Cambuur were relegated, while Go Ahead Eagles and AZ Alkmaar survived relegation battle. In Jupiler League FC Volendam were crowned as champions and they will be promoted to Eredivisie in next season. Ajax goals: Tarik de Wit 27, Nketsi Matal 15, Johan van Dalen 11, Dirk van Grinsven 10 Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 14, Nketsi Matal 12, Justin Kluivert 11, Tarik de Wit 10
  3. April 2031 01.04.2031 - FC Groningen - AFC Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 38. and 41. Tarik de Wit I didn’t prepare specifically for the cup final. I expected our best team to do the job against FC Groningen (who have been very inconsistent in this season) and we practiced attacking movement before the game. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba (71. Gudelj), Ari, (66. de Groot), Stekelenburg, Janssen, van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (66. Capobianco) We have been slow to start in a little bit too many games in the past couple of months. So it was again in this time. We weren’t ready in the beginning of the match and FC Groningen got a great chance already in 2’ - Pim de Reuver were played free with a nice through ball and Marvin Koops had to make unorthodox save with his feet to deny his clear cut chance. Just three minutes later Simon Janssen had a great look, but his shot was held by FC Groningen goalkeeper. In 15’ we got a free kick that Engin Ari delivered well into the box and Tarik de Wit went for it. His first shot from point blank range went against crossbar and even though he got the rebound, that one was saved well by opposition goalkeeper. I cringed at the sidelines watching those missed chances, but in the end of the first half we found our goals. Tarik de Wit was the man of the hour - he turned around his defender and fired it hard into the net and doubled his tally three minutes later with a strong header - it was his 25th goal of the season and essentially secured our place in the final. Second half was much more under our control. Tarik de Wit almost completed his hattrick in 61’, but this shot was denied by brilliant save from FC Groningen goalkeeper Thijmen Nijhuis. Johan van Dalen had a great chance in 68’, but he only managed to hit the post and in 70’ Dirk van Grinsven didn’t use his opportunity to score. Final whistle marked our 2:0 win, but it was confident performance from us and we were unlucky not to score more goals. our shooting was 30/9 we had 5 clear cut chances Tarik de Wit had a great game Tarik de Wit scored his 25th goal of the season we’ll go against VVV Venlo in the final that’s scheduled for the end of the month 04.04.2031 - FC Utrecht - AFC Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 16. Sebastian Sosa It was a rival game in away ground and FC Utrecht are tough opponents for anyone in Eredivisie. They play their trademark 5-3-2WB tactics and their right wingback Ron Bosman has given 23 assists in this season, collecting 13 man of the match awards, so wingbacks moving forward and crossing for two strikers is a danger that we need to be prepared for. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari (58. de Groot), Stekelenburg (58.Verhoeven), Janssen, van Grinsven, van Dalen (68. Kluivert), de Wit First half was even game and both teams only had a couple of half-chances. While van Dalen and de Wit saw their shots being saved, Sebastian Sosa managed to score in 16’. The cross came in from our left and central defenders left him perhaps a bit too much time to take the ball down and turn for a goal. At half time I felt we were a bit unlucky to be behind, but we had whole second half to improve our game. I started to make tactical changes in 58’ - Mario de Groot came on and was switched to regista, but unfortunately it didn’t have a positive effect. We made two bad defensive errors in second half - Tom Drost was caught in possession in 64’, Clyde Drenthe snatched the ball from him and went 1-1 against Marvin Koops, but our goalkeeper won that duel. In injury time Mario de Groot’s missed interception gave Giorgio Dahmen a great chance, but that shot too was saved by Koops. Meanwhile we couldn’t create anything dangerous in attack and if anything, FC Utrecht seemed to control midfield even more than in first half. Our defenders looked error prone and despite the fact that motivation was there, we couldn’t produce our usual level of football. Disappointing defeat in a rival game and I can’t say we were unlucky. FC Utrecht was just better that day. we allowed 24 key passes and 28 dribbles, making things difficult for ourselves in defense 24 individual mistakes underlined our struggles Pieter Stekelenburg made his 300th appearance for Ajax in this game In April Helmond Sport appointed Stijn Schaars as their new manager. End of the season is approaching and first transfer rumours with it. Napoli manager was on the stands for this game - they’re reportedly interested in Dirk van Grinsven. Dragisa Gudelj asked to talk to me and said that he feels he needs a new challenge - understandable, as his age is starting to show and he’s fallen behind Leslie Lichaba in first team selection. It’s probably for the best if I could find a new club for him in this Summer. 12.04.2031 - AFC Ajax - FC Twente Enschede 2:0 (ED) - 72. and 86. Johan van Dalen Some players form has declined in recent weeks and I chose to use mainly rotation players against FC Twente. We were favourites in Amsterdam Arena. We practiced attacking movement in training and I ordered fullbacks to overlap more. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Markiet, Gudelj (65. Lichaba), Ari, de Groot, Antonucci, Matal, Kluivert (60. van Dalen), Capobianco (70. de Wit) It was a drab and uneventful game for the most part. In fact, it was probably the most boring game of the season. We couldn’t create any chances in the first half and second half was much of the same, until substitute Johan van Dalen came on and made the difference. First he converted an excellent cross from Tom Drost and then secured the win with his header in 86’ that went in off the bar. Only two chances for the whole ninety minutes and two goals - can’t complain about the finishing, but it was evident that we had some bench players on the pitch in this one. As uneventful as this win was, it secured us our 16th consecutive Eredivisie title, because Vitesse lost their game against FC Groningen and now we’re 10 points clear with three games to go. 18.04.2031 - AFC Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 2:1 (ED) - 21. Pieter Stekelenburg, 49. Tarik de Wit - 68. Melvin Jongeling Despite securing our league title, it was a principal game against PSV Eindhoven in front of our home fans, so we treated it very seriously. PSV have played really good football after winter break and scored a lot of goals, so they should be treated as our equals at this point. We continued with attacking movement training before the game. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (72. Verhoeven), Janssen, van Grinsven (72. Matal), van Dalen (63. Kluivert), de Wit The game started slowly and it took more than 15 minutes before Dirk van Grinsven got the first shot on target. We managed to open scoring in 21’ - Pieter Stekelenburg acted like a good box-to-box midfielder, moved into PSV area and received a good pass from Tarik de Wit and finished calmly. We looked to control things after first goal, had a couple of half-chances, but half-time ended 1:0 and it was a deserved lead for us. Nothing too dangerous from PSV so far. Dirk van Grinsven was our main creator from right wing, moving well in attack and always dangerous with ball. We doubled our lead early in 2nd half. Tarik de Wit moved into box with ball, dribbled past Dirk van Diest and fired it hard and low - unstoppable for PSV goalkeeper. Two goal lead made us feel much more confident. However, the game wasn’t over and Melvin Jongeling got one goal back for PSV. They had a long throw, Marvin Koops went for that, but missed his run and Jongeling headed in. Just five minutes later Jongeling headed against crossbar and PSV looked like they could come back and equalize. Leslie Lichaba struggled on our left defense - he already was booked and he couldn’t handle Yassin Yilmaz, who created chances with his crosses into box. However, we managed to stop this bleeding - I changed Lichaba to FBs orders in 74’ and we held our lead until the end. Valuable win and generally a good game from us. we made 50 key passes, 18 of those came from Simon Janssen Simon Janssen and Tarik de Wit were outstanding for us Ajax U-19 team made us proud in this week, after winning U-19 cup final. 27.04.2031 - AFC Ajax - VVV Venlo p1:1 (Dutch Cup Final) - 34. Tarik de Wit - 45.+1 Mark Richards We didn’t prepare specifically for this final. I knew VVV well enough and knew how they play. We continued our attacking movement preparation and we had all players fit and ready, while VVV missed their best winger Cali Daniel with injury. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (70. Verhoeven), Janssen, van Grinsven (70. Matal), van Dalen (65. Kluivert), de Wit We completely controlled the first half. We had perhaps our best chance in 29’ - VVV defenders made a poor clearance that deflected from Tarik de Wit, straight into the run for Johan van Dalen, but our left winger managed to hit the post from point blank range. de Wit was unlucky in 33’ to hit frameworks from tight angle, but the goal came - Tom Drost found de wit in near post with his cross and it was 1:0. We looked really good and it was a deserved lead, but VVV managed to equalize just before half time whistle. Mark Richards won his header against Pieter Stekelenburg and it went in off the post. It was a goal out of nowhere and hurt us a bit mentally. Perhaps because of that goal, but second half looked completely different. It wasn’t good football from neither of teams, substitutions failed to make positive impact and players started to get nervous when the end of normal time approached. No goals in second half and extra time was pretty much the same - no real chances to score. VVV defended in numbers and they did well enough to limit our chances. The game went to penalty shoot-out. We scored all five penalties (de Wit, Kluivert, Janssen, Verhoeven and Matal) and Marvin Koops made one save in 4th round that proved to be enough to give us consecutive Dutch Cup win. Not the best performance from the team, but I’m really happy with the win and our success. Main challenge in April was Dutch Cup and I’m happy that we managed to win it. We also secured our Eredivisie title, so no complaints about results and performances. Two remaining games in May will be relaxed. Eredivisie Feyenoord, Vitesse and PSV are fighting for top three places. SC Cambuur are relegated
  4. Youth Intake 2031 I didn’t have a long wish list for this year’s intake. We have plenty of talented players in midfield, but we really could use a right back (or two). Complete forward would also be nice, but I see no imminent need for replacements in most of positions. In March we received the following bunch of players: Engin Ceylan By far the most talented youngster in this year’s group. Great pace, anticipation and off the ball movement. He also is a very consistent player, according to our coaching staff. I can already predict great future for him. Rick Hendriks Decent center-back, with some good attributes and some flaws. Collin Brinkman Good, two-footed left-back. Edward van der Zwan Very good young goalkeeper. Very determined Some other players, despite having enough talent, unfortunately also possess some significant flaws. Joost de Boer have consistency issue and Raymond Burg needs extra work to become familiar in AMR position. Let’s see how they fare in U-19 before I can offer them professional contract.
  5. March 2031 08.03.2031 - AFC Ajax - SC Cambuur 3:2 (ED) - 29. Nketsi Matal, 68. Justin Kluivert, 83. Leslie Lichaba - 59. Curly Alberto, 85. Fadel Harianto SC Cambuur are dead last in the table and so it should be the easiest game in March and I gave opportunities to rotation players. Attacking movement training + overlapping instructions were also an easy choice. From SC Cambuur side it was a managerial debut of Danny Hoesen. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba, de Groot, Stekelenburg (44. Drost), Antonucci (65. Janssen), Matal, Kluivert, Capobianco (65. de Wit) Despite our work in training our attacking movement, in fact, wasn’t so smooth in the first half. Chances didn’t come easy and we got our best opportunity in 29’ - Justin Kluivert found Nketsi Matal with a cross and it was 1:0. But Sergio Alleyne received his second yellow card in 44’ and that put us into trouble. I had to make necessary tactical changes and hope that we’ll maintain our narrow lead over second half. It was a tough 45 minutes after the break. Game was much more open and SC Cambuur got their chances. Curly Alberto equalized from a counter attack. We needed something extra at that point and it came - Justin Kluivert scored a great goal from volley (another highlight to rewatch at the end of the season). Ismet Gluhalic made a crucial save in 81’ to deny Chelton Mühl and four minutes later Leslie Lichaba scored his first goal of the season to give us two goal lead. The game was not over - Fadel Harianto headed in from corner, but in the end SC Cambuur couldn’t find an equalizer and fell a bit short. For neutrals, second half was a great entertainment. I was not happy with our performance, but had to admit that we did well to get this win with only 10 men. Leslie Lichaba scored his first ever goal for Ajax 12.03.2031 - Arsenal - AFC Ajax 3:1 (Champions League 1st knockout round 2nd leg) - 3. Lincoln, 34. and 79. Michael Jans - 16. Johan van Dalen After losing 0:1 at home, away game against Arsenal looked like a struggle. We had our best players on the pitch and I hoped for the best. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch (71. Alleyne), Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (64. Antonucci), van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (71. Capobianco) Arsenal didn’t waste any time. Pretty much their first attack ended with their first goal. Lincoln was completely alone in our six yard box and it was an easy tap-in. I made tactical changes after first goal, understanding it was away game against big club, so I ordered our fullbacks to support duties instead of attack. We did well to equalize in 16’ - Tarik de Wit gave a good pass to Johan van Dalen and good finish brought this game level, but to be fair Arsenal controlled midfield and had us under pressure for certain periods. Michael Jans and Lincoln were the duo that we struggled to contain and they two combined all Arsenal goals. We didn’t have any good chances after break and substituting Tarik de Wit was a sign of surrender from my part. Arsenal was clearly better team in this pair and deserved to go forward. Bigger problem than the loss was that I messed up my team talk after our game. It was difficult performance to judge and I wanted to tell players that they could play better without being too critical. In summary I left whole dressing room rather confused, demotivated and morale dropped. 15.03.2031 - Vitesse Arnhem - AFC Ajax 5:1 (ED) - 20. and 80. Maarten Jacobs, 22. Donald Jourdan, 50. Ronni Nissen, 82. Screve N’Goma - 41. Dirk van Grinsven It was a tough game just three days after returning from London. Vitesse are currently 2nd in the table and they have no absentees and they’re definitely trying to use their home advantage. I continued to prepare for this game with attacking movement training. In pre-match press conference helpful journalists reminded me that we lost our home game against Vitesse 1:2 in October, so perhaps it was time for a revenge. We missed Sergio Alleyne due to his suspension, but the rest of our first team was ready to play. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (50. Antonucci), van Grinsven (54. Matal), van Dalen (46. Kluivert), de Wit We were clearly better team in the first 15 minutes of this game. Vitesse came against us with their standard 4-4-2 with Ronni Nissen being their danger man in attack, but at first we had some good chances to score. Tom Drost made a well-timed run in the box and had his clear cut chance in 9’, but his shot was well saved by Vitesse goalkeeper and in 20’ disaster began. Vitesse started to get attacks and their crosses did the damage - we left them too much space on our wings and defenders didn’t make a good job at marking in the box. Two quick goals in succession left us 0:2 behind and we were fortunate not to concede another goal in 31’ when Ronni Nissen had a great opportunity, but his poor shot was easily held by Marvin Koops. We then started to look better, but we needed to execute our chances. Johan van Dalen wasted his opportunity in 36’, but fortunately we got our goal before half time and that was what we desperately needed after woeful 20 minutes of football - finally a good move and a goal. First half ended 1:2 and our poor defensive display was, in fact, bigger problem than the actual scoreline. Second half, unfortunately, wasn’t much better. Ronni Nissen got his goal in 50’ and it started to look like this game is lost for us. We actually did get chances to score but when we got them, our finishing let us down. Justin Kluivert missed his clear cut chance in 60’ and it was perhaps our last chance to turn things around. Vitesse looked confident while hesitation creeped into our minds and our attempts looked more and more desperate. We conceded two more goals in the last ten minutes and, to be honest, in the end it got really embarrassing. I couldn’t wait for the final whistle to come to end this misery and in dressing room I let the team know exactly what I thought about that performance. It was definitely the worst performance of the season from us. Surely the worst defense that I’ve seen in Eredivisie in a couple of seasons. Poor display in general was capped with costly individual errors and that all summed up in humiliating defeat. I’m not sure how much of that comes down to my poor words after Arsenal defeat, but it’s my job as a manager to bring the team back from this. we allowed 24 key passes for Vitesse and 5 clear cut chances we made 21 individual mistakes - another number unlike our usual game Pieter Stekelenburg had a great game, but one man can’t do it all by himself 22.03.2031 - AFC Ajax - Fortuna Sittard 4:2 (ED) - 36. pen. Francesco Antonucci, 71. Dirk van Grinsven, 73. and 90.+1 Tarik de Wit - 32. Henk Vermeulen, 37. Germain Siereveld I arranged team meeting after Vitesse defeat and while those often fail in FM, this one was necessary and words of encouragement were well received by the team. Home game against Fortuna Sittard was our last league game in March and I felt it was a must win game after what happened in Arnhem. In addition it was nice to see our loan players Sjoerd de Jong and Germain Siereveld in action. We continued with attacking movement training and I asked fullbacks to overlap more. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba (53. Gudelj), de Groot, Stekelenburg, Antonucci, Matal (46. van Grinsven), van Dalen (64. Kluivert), de Wit First half was careful from both sides. We had possession, but couldn’t create anything too dangerous and then Fortuna scored a goal - Henk Vermeulen headed in from corner. Typical set piece goal from smaller side that comes a little bit against the run of play, but with our fragile confidence it was another cause to lose confidence. I made tactical changes - de Groot started to play as regista and we improved our attacking game. Johan van Dalen had a great chance in 35’ that he sent wide, but he was fouled in the box just a minute later and Francesco Antonucci converted the penalty to equalize. However, as quickly as that happened, we also gave that all away. Fortuna got a free kick and our own talented defender Germain Siereveld scored from IFK just a minute after our penalty. Very quick reply from Fortuna and another example of extremely poor set piece defending from our side. First half finished 1:2 and while we were more attacking side in the first period, we didn’t get enough shots in and our poor defending left us in poor position. Second half continued to be a struggle until around 71’ and then our pressure started to finally create good chances. Dirk van Grinsven dribbled through past defenders in Fortuna box and fired his shot in - his 10th goal of the season. Two minutes later we created a good goal from our defense - Sergio Alleyne gave a long diagonal ball to right wing, van Grinsven drilled a cross into box and Tarik de Wit scored a simple tap-in. Dirk van Grinsven, who came on at half time, changed the game for us in just three minutes. Fortuna looked nervous and we controlled the game from this point. de Wit extended our lead in injury time (another assis from van Grinsven) and second half come-back marked our win. That was a huge boost to our confidence and, of course, three points in the table. we had 5 clear cut chances in this game and we deserved to score those goals Dirk van Grinsven scored his 10th goal of the season Almost every other week now brings some news about managerial movements. Virgil van Dijk was named as Go Ahead Eagles manager in the end of March and he left his current position at Helmond Sport. March has been a really difficult month for us. We’ve conceded a lot of goals and were knocked out of Champions League (although success against Arsenal would have been a huge surprise. Not really encouraging. Fortunately other teams have dropped points too and we still have a comfortable lead in Eredivisie. Eredivisie Vitesse, Feyenoord and PSV fight for 2nd place in the table. Vitesse have had a strong second half of the season while Feyenoord looks the most consistent. SC Cambuur are almost relegated.
  6. February 2031 We have a lot of games in February, some tricky domestic fixtures and also Champions League knockout round against Arsenal, so I predict some rotation and almost everybody in the first team will get their chance to impress. 02.02.2031 - AFC Ajax - sc Heerenveen 4:1 (ED) - 3. and 38. Johan van Dalen, 6. Simon Janssen, 89. Dirk van Grinsven - 63. Vincent Scheepers We went against sc Heerenveen in Amsterdam Arena with attacking formation and fullbacks were overlapping. We practiced attacking set pieces before the game, because our staff expected to take advantage of those situations. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans (18. Alleyne), Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen, van Grinsven, van Dalen (67. Kluivert), de Wit (67. Capobianco) We had a great start to the game. Johan van Dalen scored a flyer and Simon Janssen extended our lead when only 6 minutes were played. sc Heerenveen defense looked to struggle against our technical players and passing. sc Heerenveen waited patiently for their chances and first of those came in 23’ - Daniele Guglielmi was unmarked in corner situation. Fortunately his shot went wide. Johan van Dalen doubled his tally in 38’ and we went to half time with 3:0 lead. We looked really good in the first half and our only problem was injury to Edward Schans that forced me to make early substitution. sc Heerenveen got their goal in 2nd half - Rene van den Bosch misjudged his positioning and Vincent Scheepers scored. But we continued to attack well and create chances - Simon Janssen wasted his opportunity in 78’, however, Dirk van Grinsven finished scoring with a good header in 89’. Great first half secured us confident win, even though I was less impressed with our performance after half time break. Dirk van Grinsven and Pieter Stekelenburg had a great game Dirk van Grinsven made his 300th appearance for Ajax Edward Schans will be sidelined for 2 weeks with thigh strain 05.02.2031 - AFC Ajax - MVV Maastricht 3:0 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 29. Pieter Stekelenburg, 33. and 48. Tarik de Wit Dutch Cup quarter final was our second game against MVV in just a few weeks and they didn’t surprise us in this one. We continued to go with attacking preparation and overlapping instructions, but rotated some players. Moreno Markiet started in central defense for injured Schans. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (57. Verhoeven), Janssen, van Grinsven, van Dalen (63. Kluivert), de Wit (57. Capobianco) The game started slowly and, perhaps surprisingly, MVV got the first good chance to score. Mirko Roland had a great opportunity in 22’, but his shot went wide. And then we found our scoring touches - Pieter Stekelenburg scored his goal with a shot that went in off the post. Tarik de Wit quickly doubled our lead and we went to half time with 2:0 scoreline. Our crossing and overlapping movement worked like a treat and MVV couldn’t cope with our attacking movement at times. Tarik de Wit scored his second goal right at the start of second half and then we eased off and concentrated on possession. Dirk van Grinsven sent his header against crossbar in 56’, but we didn’t have to score more goals and we didn’t push too hard. In summary it was a very confident win against good opponents. Tarik de Wit, Simon Janssen and Leslie Lichaba were outstanding we made 24 fouls in this game, Engin Ari responsible for 8 of those, but somehow we avoided bookings we’re up against FC Groningen in semi finals Team boards are starting to lose patience with some of the managers. Filip Daems was sacked by AZ Alkmaar after this cup round and SC Cambuur fired Michiel Hemmen - Cambuur have to make some changes if they still hope to survive and retain their Eredivisie place in this season. 09.02.2031 - AZ Alkmaar - AFC Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 13. Justin Kluivert, 17. Martin Clement (og) AZ look like a mess before this game - they’re without manager and both their best midfielder and striker are injured. We continued to practice attacking movement, but because of tight schedule I decided to take this game easy and send out weakened team. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (63. Alleyne), van den Bosch, Markiet, Gudelj, de Groot, Verhoeven, Antonucci, van Grinsven (72. Matal), de Wit (55. Capobianco) We took control in this game early - Justin Kluivert converted his chance after our good counter and then AZ scored the most curious own goal I’ve ever seen. Their goalkeeper Bob Leeflang tried to open game with a long kick, but hit Martin Clement instead and ball bounced back into the net. It was a gift for us and summed up exactly how things are for AZ at this point. AZ got their best chance in 19’, but Ismet Gluhalic made a brilliant save to deny Vladimir Bizjak. Another brilliant save was needed in 28’ to stop Jamel Amrani’s shot. Despite our two goal lead at half time I wasn’t too pleased and confident with our game - we lost too many second balls in midfield and some poor decisions have helped AZ to create dangerous attacks. So I made tactical changes at half time, asking players not to overlap that often and to retain possession. Both teams had one great chance in second half. Justin Kluivert’s shot was saved in 49’ and Jamel Amrani got another opportunity right in the last minute of the game. Ismet Gluhalic impressed in this game and another great save from him secured us clean sheet. It was a good win for us. It’s nice to try out other players in those games - of course we weren’t as convincing as expected, especially defensively, but it was a good win with those players and Ismet Gluhalic impressed in our goal. 12.02.2031 - AFC Ajax - ADO Den Haag 2:0 (ED) - 37. Tarik de Wit, 68. Nketsi Matal Schedule was tough, indeed, and we had only three days to prepare for this game. Our first team players looked fresh enough, but ADO had problems - most of their attacking leaders were either injured or tired and I expected that to help us. We rotated carefully and I made squad decisions based on form, training performance and fitness. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (54. Alleyne), van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (67. Antonucci), Matal, van Dalen, de Wit (54. Senyane) The first half was full of missed chances from both sides. It took only 5 minutes and Tarik de Wit sent his header against crossbar. ADO surprised us in 6’ - Yury Fattori got a chance and his shot was well saved by Gluhalic. Brian Sabajo had a rebound and another great opportunity, but only hit woodworks. ADO may rue their missed chances, but their position went much worse in 17’ - Brian Sabajo made awful two-footed tackle on Pieter Stekelenburg and was sent off. After that it was just a matter of time until we took control of the game. Tarik de Wit missed his first clear cut chance in 21’, but his shot from 17 meters did beat ADO goalkeeper and we went to half time with 1:0 lead after that wonderful goal. We needed to secure our lead in second half, but it took some time to score our second goal. Nketsi Matal missed his chance in 50’, but found the target in 68’. Rene van den Bosch headed against crossbar in injury time, but it remained 2:0 in the end. I’m pleased with three points and performance. our shooting was 21/9 we committed 20 fouls Francesco Antonucci made his 300th league appearance for Ajax 18 years old striker Lungisani Senyane made his debut for Ajax in 2nd half 15.02.2031 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - AFC Ajax 3:1 (ED) - 2. and 24. Manuel Santamaria, 65. Rashaan Fernandes - 70. Justin Kluivert - it was win or die game for Feyenoord. They’re 12 points behind us and defeat at De Kuip will surely bury their title hopes. Their players looked tired, but that hasn’t stopped them before. I had difficult choices to make with squad selection, because we had important Arsenal game coming in just 3 days. Edward Schans was fit again, but not ready to start in this game. I made some risky choices in squad selection and we practiced attacking movement before this game. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Gudelj, Lichaba (55. Alleyne), de Groot, Verhoeven (58. Stekelenburg), Antonucci (58. Janssen), van Grinsven, Kluivert, de Wit We didn’t start well. Defensive line were half asleep and we allowed Manuel Santamaria score a quick goal, and while nothing noteworthy happened in the next 20 minutes, Santamaria doubled his tally with excellent header in 24’ we looked in trouble there and needed to make changes. I tried changing Mario de Groot to regista, but it made little effect. Our most dangerous shot in the first half came in 41’ - Verhoeven tried his luck from distance and that shot was brilliantly saved by Feyenoord goalkeeper. First half ended 0:2 and we did not look good - two goals conceded and not a single good chance from our side. We started our second half better - Tarik de Wit had a clear cut chance following his interception, but his shot was saved. In 50’ Justin Kluivert had a great opportunity, but his shot hit the post and went wide. We could have equalized there, but finishing let us down. Then Feyenoord started to get chances again - Santamaria’s hattrick was denied by Marvin Koops. In 65’ Leeroy Owusu had time and space in the box, Koops made another save, but Rashaan Fernandes finished from rebound. Third goal decided the game and things started to get embarrassing for us, even when Kluivert scored one goal five minutes later. I was really unhappy with that result and performance. Our defense looked like a mess most of the time and in retrospect it was probably not the best decision to use Dragisa Gudelj in central defense. Stat sheet looked fairly even, but difference was finishing - Feyenoord took their chances while we wasted ours. That win keeps Feyenoord hopes alive and I had to apologise for our fans for that poor display. 18.02.2031 - AFC Ajax - Arsenal 0:1 (Champions League 1st knockout round 1st leg) - 68. Alessandro Fois Arsenal were favourites for this pair and we knew that. Defensive positioning training before the game and rather careful tactical setup from us. I didn’t want to add pressure to lads and sent them out with positive message, to give their best effort. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (69. Antonucci), van Grinsven (76. Matal), van Dalen (69. Kluivert), de Wit First half was fairly even and careful from both sides. We had one good chance to score in 19’ when Johan van Dalen had a shot after our counter, but it was brilliantly saved by Arsenal goalkeeper. Second half offered some half chances until Alessandro Fois scored in 68’ - couple of missed tackles in midfield helped Arsenal to get their attack going and our midfield players didn’t track Fois into our box, so Arsenal midfielder took his shot well and scored a valuable away goal for Arsenal. The game ended 0:1 and it was difficult not to feel disappointment. It was fairly even football for full 90 minutes and it could have gone either way - draw would have been fair result, but we fell just a little bit short against bigger opponents. Doubtful if we could turn this around in London. 22.02.2031 - AFC Ajax - VVV Venlo 2:2 (ED) - 36. Tarik de Wit, 67. Johan van Dalen - 54. and 72. Daniel Nilsson Two tough games and poor results means that we need a good result from our next league game to get something positive and regain our confidence. VVV Venlo should be easy enough opponents for us and we practiced attacking movement before the game, but our squad selection wasn’t easy - Sergio Alleyne, Tom Drost and Francesco Antonucci were all suspended for this game. Missing both right-backs was especially difficult, because that left us with a tough choice and I finally decided to use Nketsi Matal in this position. Squad: Koops, Matal, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba (61. Gudel), de Groot, Verhoeven, Janssen, van Grinsven, van Dalen (70. Kluivert), de Wit (59. Capobianco) Tarik de Wit was the key player in our attacks in the first half. His shot hit the post on 24’ and in 36’ he found the target with a good shot - his 20th goal of the season. de Wit didn’t have too much space in the box, but took his shot well and it went past goalkeeper. Other than those two shots it was a drab football in the first half, but I could be satisfied at half time - we kept things well under our control. In second half our defense started to crumble. VVV combined well in 54’, their first shot was saved by Marvin Koops and Rene van den Bosch tried to clear loose ball, but his clearance wasn’t the best one and Daniel Nilsson got a second chance and managed to squeeze it past our goalkeeper. And even though Johan van Dalen put us in front again with a good header, the second goal from Nilsson equalized score. Frustrating to give away our lead twice in one game, but we were lucky to get away with a draw - VVV had IFK in injury time and their header hit the post in the final seconds of the match. Very disappointing result and I was very unhappy with our second half performance. True - our line-up wasn’t the best, but we should have been a lot better at home. our shooting was 22/7 we gave 51 key passes, but couldn’t create too many good chances Tarik de Wit scored his 20th goal of the season News from other clubs told about managerial decisions. Go Ahead Eagles sacked Robin van Persie. AZ Alkmaar revealed Pepijn Lijnders as their new manager. 28.02.2031 - FC Groningen - AFC Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 30. Johan van Dalen, 35. Tarik de Wit With three poor results in a row, we desperately need a win here to finish our February with a good result. FC Groningen actually have a really good team and although results have not come their way in this season, we should expect a tough game, especially in away game. Weather was not on our side - it was damp and rainy in the match day and that hampered our technical game. We practiced defending set pieces before the game. Rene Verhoeven sprained his ankle in training and he’ll be out for 5-6 weeks, but the rest of the team were fit and ready. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen, van Grinsven (68. Matal), van Dalen (68. Kluivert), de Wit (63. Capobianco) We played a very good first half and had some chances to score, too. Edward Schans had the first great opportunity from corner in 20’, but his shot was saved. Our attacking pressure brought goals after 30’ mark - Johan van Dalen opened scoring and after Tarik de Wit headed against crossbar in 33’, he found the net with a very good shot from the edge of area. Tom Drost had a great opportunity in 42’, but his shot was denied by FC Groningen goalkeeper. Plenty of chances in this first half and two-goal lead was good enough for us at half time. We continued to attack in second half, but looked a bit complacent and that prevented us scoring when chances came. Johan van Dalen and Leslie Lichaba wasted their opportunities and even while FC Groningen looked a bit more attacking in the final 15 minutes, we kept our clean sheet and I was happy to finally get a win. we created 5 clear cut chances Tom Drost and Simon Janssen had a great game Leslie Lichaba committed 8 fouls - a bit lucky he wasn’t sent off Engin Ari made his 100th career appearance for Ajax In the final day of February, Danny Hoesen was revealed as the new SC Cambuur manager. A job I really can’t be jealous of - SC Cambuur are in a real slump and only a miracle could save them from relegation. We didn’t get too many great results in February, but nothing’s wrong either. We lost two key games against Feyenoord and Arsenal, but we generally domestic results have come our way and we still have a good lead in Eredivisie table. And success in Champions League was never really on the cards, so it doesn’t count as a major flop. Eredivisie Feyenoord and Vitesse are fighting for 2nd place in the table. SC Cambuur can start to prepare for their destiny in Jupiler League.
  7. January 2031 January started with good news. Ex-Ajax striker Aschraf Flemming won Ballon d’Or and ex-Ajax fullback Derian Tepperik was named as European Golden Boy. That’s a huge recognition to our youth system and good work done by coaching staff. Transfer window passed quietly, I made only few loan moves in the end of the month - Mithat Arabaci, Job ter Borgh and Mohammed van Leeuwen joined PEC Zwolle until the end of the season and Germain Siereveld moved to Fortuna Sittard right before transfer window closed. Loan moves aside, there wasn’t much interest around our players and Eredivisie clubs in general weren’t too active in the market. 25.01.2031 - AFC Ajax - MVV Maastricht 2:0 (ED) - 58. Johan van Dalen, 67. Dirk van Grinsven Two league games in January and first one is underperforming MVV Maastricht. If poor form isn’t enough already, MVV have a problem in goalkeeper area - their first team keeper is injured and they have to use 18 years old inexperienced youngster against us. We missed players too - Leslie Lichaba and Engin Ari were suspended and Tom Drost recovering from small injury, but at least Justin Kluivert and Johan van Dalen were fit and ready to start, so our left wing problems should be over with winter break. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van der Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, de Groot, Stekelenburg (68. Verhoeven), Janssen (57. Antonucci), van Grinsven, Kluivert (57. van Dalen), de Wit We played fairly good first half and controlled midfield, but couldn’t score in the first 45 minutes. Tarik de Wit had the best chance in 9’, but his shot was saved and so the first half ended with 0:0 scoreline. I made tactical changes in second half - Mario de Groot started to play as regista and first substitutions in 57’ instantly made the difference. Johan van Dalen headed in a good cross by Sergio Alleyne. Dirk van Grinsven doubled our lead in 67’ - he received excellent through ball from de Wit and passed it calmly in the net. MVV got their best chance in injury time - poor mistake by Rene van den Bosch allowed Raul Ibanez to get a good look, but his shot hit the post and final whistle marked our good game and fine win. It also means we’re now unbeaten in 13 games in a row. we had 60% possession our shooting was 20/9 we were called offside 10 times - a bit too much it was Pieter Stekelenburg’s 200th league game for Ajax 29.01.2031 - PEC Zwolle - AFC Ajax 1:4 (ED) - 89. Michael van der Vlag - 1., 11. and 24. Tarik de Wit, 20. Johan van Dalen The game against PEC Zwolle should be easy and rotation players get their chance in this away game. It’s also interesting to see how Mithat Arabaci will do against us on the pitch, but I was a bit surprised before the match when I found out that PEC Zwolle uses him as AMC in their 4-2-3-1 formation. He’s clearly a defensive midfielder, perhaps DLP, but not AMC. Either way, I expected a win against smaller team and it came in the end, but the game itself was much more entertaining. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, van den Bosch (66. Siereveld), Markiet, Lichaba, Ari, Verhoeven, Antonucci, Matal, van Dalen (66. Kluivert), de Wit (46. Capobianco) We started with a flyer - Tarik de Wit scored a simple tap-in in the first attack (good cross from van Dalen) and it looked like things are going to get difficult for Zwolle. But our opponents got their first great chance in 7’ - Ismet Gluhalic had problems saving DFK, ball was loose in our six yards box and Michael van der Vlag was there first, but Gluhalic made a great save from close range to deny him. Then our attacking flow took over and goals came flooding - de Wit completed his hattrick (his second goal was a great strike from edge of area) and Johan van Dalen added one goal (excellent pass from de Wit to open a lot of space for him), but at the same time we were really poor defensively. Bad error from Tom Drost gave a great opportunity for Arabaci and Gluhalic had to make another great save to keep a clean sheet. After Johan van Dalen wasted his clear cut chance in 45’ it was half time and we had 4:0 lead. Great attacking football from us, but we need to cut down those defensive errors. I made tactical changes for second half - de Wit came off and Jeroen Capobianco got his chance to prove his skills. He tried really hard and his header in 56’ landed against post, but we couldn’t add more goals. While we eased off in attack, defensive errors remained. Michael van der Vlag got another great chance in 74’ (another great save from Gluhalic) and finally just before the end PEC Zwolle scored their consolation goal. Moreno Markiet made a mistake and lost challenge inside our own box and van der Vlag finally hit the target. When final whistle called, it was mixed feelings for me - yes, we fielded weakened team and 4:1 is a very good result, but I wasn’t happy with our defense and especially with second half. We have done well to balance playing time in this season, so all of those players should have enough practice already, nobody were nervous and we should have been able to keep our good performance until the end. our shooting was 22/6 - not good enough Tarik de Wit and Johan van Dalen had a great game Tom Drost made his 300th appearance for Ajax in this game young defender Germain Siereveld made his debut for Ajax (he went on loan to Zwolle after that game) Eredivisie Sparta, sc Heerenveen and ADO Den Haag lost some ground in the table and Vitesse Arnhem have gained the most places in those past weeks
  8. December 2030 December have a very tight schedule. We don’t have a holiday game in the end of the year, but we still have six fixtures in the space of 18 days, so it means a lot of rotation and some tired legs. Fortunately, our schedule balances difficult challenges with easier fixtures. Eredivisie game against PSV and decisive Champions League battle in Basel are the most important games. 01.12.2030 - PSV Eindhoven - AFC Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 45.+1 pen. Mark van Duijvenbode - 73. Edward Schans Choosing tactics for this game was particularly tricky. PSV are tough opponents, especially at home, and they looked a bit tired from their Europa League game. So I wasn’t sure how bold we can be with our formation and orders. PSV play direct 4-4-2 formation and I countered it with Engin Ari as DMC and our fullbacks on support duty. We practiced attacking set pieces before that game, hoping it would benefit us in corners or IFK situations. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (59. Verhoeven), van Grinsven, van Dalen (31. Kluivert, 42. Matal), de Wit First half was difficult for us. PSV got more initiative in the game and something with our tactics was not working properly, but it was difficult to point out what exactly and we struggled with that in full first half. I changed Engin Ari orders from DMC to regista during first half and then injuries had a big impact on our game. First Johan van Dalen and then his replacement Justin Kluivert were injured in the first half - Kluivert got only 10 minutes to play - and I had to send in Nketsi Matal and move Dirk van Grinsven to our left wing where he is able to play, but is still relatively ineffective. Still, we had a couple of attempts on target in the end of the half, but then poor refereeing came into play and made things worse. Edward Schans was called a foul for a high foot in our box - really harsh decision, based on replays - and Mark van Duijvenbode converted injury time penalty. Things just stacked against us in this first half, but we were motivated to turn things around and second halve looked much better. Simon Janssen had a great chance from close range in 65’, but his shot was saved. He should have finished this one better. Finally, our set piece training brought dividends when Schans headed in after corner and equalized. Nketsi Matal shot in 77’ was brilliantly parried by PSV goalkeeper, so we weren’t too far away from winning, but had to settle with 1:1 draw in the end. Both sides were probably satisfied with that draw. I’m not pleased with performance of all players, but given the circumstances, injuries, forced substitutions and poor refereeing I have to say that well done to come back from this with a goal and away draw against PSV is not too bad in long term. we were offsides 11 times - good defensive positioning and teamwork from PSV Johan van Dalen will be out for 5-6 weeks with sprained ankle Justin Kluivert is sidelined for 3-4 weeks with strained ankle ligaments 04.12.2030 - Helmond Sport - AFC Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 34. Kees Baggerman - 17. Tarik de Wit Helmond Sport should be a lot easier opponent for us than PSV. They’re predicted to finish 15th and are busy with their relegation battle. They have one quality though - they have the best collective work rate of Eredivisie and try to take advantage of that. We had to get by without both of our left wingers, so Dirk van Grinsven again started in our left wing and 17 years old Omar van der Aar was brought to first team. We chose attacking formation with overlapping instructions. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, de Groot, Stekelenburg (57. Verhoeven), Antonucci, Matal (60. van der Aar), van Grinsven, de Wit (64. Capobianco) We looked good in the first half. Tarik de Wit opened scoring with a fierce shot from inside of area and then we had to great chances to both van Grinsven and Matal. Tarik de Wit have been more familiar with his CFs role and he laid two through balls to our wingers, perfect on the run, but both chances were missed and we were punished for that later. One good attack by Helmond resulted in a half chance and Kees Baggerman used his opportunity well and equalized. Our defense was way too passive in this situation, but mostly we were still punished with our poor finishing in previous attacks. I tried to make some differences in second half, but things didn’t turn out, substitutes looked rather nervous than motivated to change things and Helmond defended bravely. We couldn’t create a single good chance in the second half and I was really unhappy with both result and some of the performances. our shooting was only 15/5 Dragisa Gudelj made 5 individual errors 17 years old Omar van der Aar made his debut for Ajax 07.12.2030 - AFC Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 4:0 (ED) - 3. pen. and 23. pen. Tarik de Wit, 8. Simon Janssen, 87. pen. Jeroen Capobianco We needed to bounce back after Helmond result with a win against Sparta. Our opponents have improved in recent seasons. Sparta was predicted to finish 8th before the season started, but they’re 4th at the moment and are doing really well in the league. Still, I expected us to play better in front of home fans and we practiced attacking movement. Overlapping instructions remained in our tactical sheet. With squad selection I had little choice, because schedule and upcoming FC Basel game meant that some key players needed a day off and I had to put my faith in rotation players. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, Schans, Markiet, Lichaba, Ari, Stekelenburg (37. Verhoeven), Janssen, Matal, van Grinsven (69. van der Aar), de Wit (46. Capobianco) Game started really well for us. Pim de Roon fouled Dirk van Grinsven in the box and Tarik de Wit converted penalty. Five minutes later Simon Janssen doubled our lead and from this point it looked like Sparta never really recovered from their poor start. Dirk van Grinsven wasted his clear cut chance in 19’, but Sparta defense looked to struggle against our more technical players and it was most evident on our right wing, where Nketsi Matal ran his defenders on the ground. He proved to be too quick and agile and was fouled twice in the penalty area, once in the first half and then in the end of the game. Three penalties looks a bit much in one game, but all were right decisions from referee and we converted them calmly. So, 4:0 win in the end and the sort of game where everything works out from the start and falls to right places. Good first half allowed us to make substitutions and rest some first team players and that too could benefit us in next games. our average rating was 8.03 we made 33 dribbles in this game Nketsi Matal, Sergio Alleyne and Leslie Lichaba had a great game Pieter Stekelenburg injured himself in first half and he’ll be out for 5-6 weeks with sprained ankle 11.12.2030 - FC Basel - AFC Ajax 1:1 (Champions League Group G) - 85. Fabian Maffio - 81. Nketsi Matal Trip to Basel was our most important game in December, the one that defines our European campaign in this season. We needed a draw in this match and couldn’t allow to lose. Despite our confident win in Amsterdam Arena, FC Basel have looked strong in their home turf and I was fully aware of that. We practiced attacking set pieces in training, but squad selection was problematic because of injuries and we really missed Pieter Stekelenburg in midfield. Rene Verhoeven had to step up and show what he can do in this role. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba (72. Gudelj), Ari, Verhoeven (56. de Groot), Janssen (56. Antonucci), Matal, van Grinsven, de Wit FC Basel started really well and we looked vulnerable defensively in the first half. James Prince had a great chance from IFK in 13’, luckily he sent his shot well wide of goal. Then Adrian Imbach had a good look on goal just three minutes later while our defenders were still waving for offside call and Marvin Koops made a good save to deny him. Our tactics didn’t seem to work and I tried to make changes, asked Rene Verhoeven to play as CMs and it looked that we started to get into game better. Dirk van Grinsven had a free header in 33’ that was held and Tarik de Wit’s attempt from distance caused difficulties to FC Basel goalkeeper. First half ended without goals and while Basel had a better start, we looked better in second part of this half, so draw, for that moment, looked like a fair result. Both teams looked a bit nervous, but I felt that we needed a bit more good opportunities to find a goal. Second half was a bit more careful from both teams who wanted to avoid conceding more than wanted to score. Things started to happen again around 60’ mark. Dirk van Grinsven had another free header on goal in 60’, but it smashed crossbar. Three minutes later Johannes Martensson got a great chance for Basel, but his poor shot was easily held by Koops. We finally took the lead in 81’ with a little help of luck. Dirk van Grinsven sent a cross in from our left, it took a small deflection from defender and bounced right onto foot of Nketsi Matal who finished his clear cut chance at the far post. And it was a vital goal, because we couldn’t keep our clean sheet and allowed FC Basel to score later in the game. Fabian Maffio headed against crossbar in 85’, but collected rebound and tucked it in to equalize. Fortunately, draw was good enough for us and we managed to hold onto it. I wasn’t pleased with our performance in this game - it was too nervous, with too many errors in defense, but in the end we managed to get away with draw and that secured our 2nd place in the group. We gave away 5 clear cut chances in this game - way too many, and FC Basel can rue their missed opportunities, but the result ultimately matters. Champions League Group G Borussia Dortmund 11 AFC Ajax 9 FC Basel 7 FC Barcelona 5 No small teams in knockout phase and in the first round we were drawn against Arsenal. Difficult test, surely. 14.12.2030 - Go Ahead Eagles - AFC Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 80. Mithat Arabaci (og) - 33. and 40. Nketsi Matal Schedule is good for us, balancing tough with easy and after exhausting Champions League fixture we visit Go Ahead Eagles who are 15th in the moment, battling against relegation and without win for over 2 months now. It’s easy to criticise other managers, but I believe that while Alex Pastoor worked miracles with Eagles, leading them to two cup wins, then his departure left that club into lurch and Robin van Persie has not been able to repeat that success. I chose attacking tactics + overlapping instructions and sent rested, rotation players in. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost, van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba (52. Gudelj), Ari (52. Arabaci), de Groot, Antonucci, Matal, van Grinsven (57. van der Aar), Capobianco Jeroen Capobianco had an early chance, but his shot in 3’ was saved by goalkeeper - proving once again that even if he does get a chance in first team, he’s too wasteful with his opportunities. It took some time for us, but two good crosses by Dirk van Grinsven and well executed finishes from Nketsi Matal put us 2:0 ahead at half time. Second half was much less exciting and I made bold substitutions. Omar van der Aar got playing time again and young midfielder Mithat Arabaci came on for his debut. Eagles were only dangerous in set pieces and it gave us their goal in 80’ - some poor defending led to shot that took unfortunate deflection off Arabaci and landed in our goal. Just three minutes later another corner and Mitchell Tissingh was completely unmarked by our defenders. His header landed against crossbar and was cleared on the line by defenders - a heart-stopping moment for us and final whistle brought some relief to coaching staff. Our win was expected and it was a good test for younger players, but I’m not happy with our defending in the last 15 minutes. Rene van den Bosch made 6 individual errors - way too many against small team like Eagles Nketsi Matal scored his 10th goal of the season young midfielder Mithat Arabaci made his debut for Ajax 18.12.2030 - AFC Ajax - SC Cambuur 3:1 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 30. Dirk van Grinsven, 37. Nketsi Matal, 76. Jeroen Capobianco - 60. Yann Kasai Our last game of the month is cup fixture against SC Cambuur. Cambuur are probably more concerned with their last place in Eredivisie and fight for survival than progressing in cup, so we approached to this game as we did for Eagles match - rotation players got their chance and attacking instructions were given before the game. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (62. Alleyne), Schans, Markiet, Lichaba (69. Gudelj), Ari, de Groot, Antonucci, Matal, van Grinsven (71. van der Aar), Capobianco Concentration perhaps wasn’t there in the beginning of the match, but SC Cambuur’s Francesco Hoffmann got an early chance in 9’. Fortunately for us, his shot went well wide. We took control of the game in 30’ when Dirk van Grinsven header found the net and Nketsi Matal doubled our lead in 37’ - follow-up after corner. First half ended with our 2:0 lead and offered some good attacking football. I made tactical changes for second half, asking players to retain possession and protect our lead. But in 60’ SC Cambuur managed to score their goal and showed this win is not so sure as it felt in the first half. Our defense failed to clear ball properly and then cross from our left wing and good header from Yann Kasai was enough to beat Ismet Gluhalic in our goal. We instantly increased tempo and chances started to come our way. Engin Ari forced a difficult save from SC Cambuur goalkeeper with his DFK and then Jeroen Capobianco finally found a goal with his shot in 76’. Third goal settled this ame and it was solid win despite that conceded goal. our shooting was 23/10 we made 50 key passes, 15 of those were distributed by Francesco Antonucci Nketsi Matal and Francesco Antonucci were outstanding for us Most of the big teams are out of cup after 4th round, some rather surprising results in this year series. We were drawn against MVV Maastricht for quarter final. First half of the season has been pretty good for us. We’re leading Eredivisie, we’ve qualified from our tough Champions League group and we’re still in the cup. Results have not been so flashy and goals have not come in plenty - we fell short of our mid-season target of 40 points, but it’s still good and we’re confident and positive about that season. Eredivisie Our lead is pretty solid now. Feyenoord have gained positions in the table and look most likely candidates for 2nd place. ADO Den Haag and Sparta were great just some weeks ago, but ADO struggle with injuries and Sparta have slipped in some games and dropped some points.
  9. November 2030 03.11.2030 - Fortuna Sittard - AFC Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 90.+1 Marco Dijk - 24. and 41. Tarik de Wit, 43. Nketsi Matal November starts with a trip to Fortuna Sittard stadium. Fortuna survived relegation battle in the last season, but they are struggling financially and are predicted to finish 17th, so another tough season for them. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, Schans, Markiet, Lichaba (59. Gudelj), de Groot, Stekelenburg, Antonucci (46. van der Wal), Matal, Kluivert, de Wit (63. Capobianco) After slow start we took control of the game. Justin Kluivert wasted our first clear cut chance in 16’, but Tarik de Wit opened scoring in 24’ after very good transition play. In recent games I’ve seen too many times how we lose concentration in defense right after scoring and this time it was almost the same. Ismet Gluhalic had to make a good save to tip Roberto Munter’s header over crossbar in 26’ and Marco Dijk got a shot on target after corner. Our set piece defending looked abysmal and I shouted some harsh instructions towards the players. But we did well in the end of the first half. Tarik de Wit doubled his tally and Nketsi Matal followed with our third goal, so first half ended with 3:0 scoreline. Strong five minutes in the end of the first half made the difference and allowed me to make bold substitutions in 2nd half. I asked players to retain possession and it killed the game efficiently. Pieter Stekelenburg had a great chance in 75’, but his shot was poor and was held comfortably by Fortuna goalkeeper. We then took our foot off the gas and allowed Fortuna back into game. Roberto Munter had a great chance in 85’ that was saved by Gluhalic and in injury time Fortuna finally got their goal. Good counter attack left their right back Marco Dijk completely alone in our box and it was easy finish from there. Final whistle marked our win from away game, but I was not happy with our final 15 minutes - we were not good defensively and substitutions didn’t put their full effort in. We should have kept up our concentration and I made it clear for the players. Fortuna plays possession football and we lost possession 45/55 - a bit unexpected and we should try to avoid it in home game Justin Kluivert was superb for us in this game 06.11.2030 - AFC Ajax - Dortmund Borussia 1:1 (Champions League Group G) - 55. Engin Ari - 8. Ingo Petrovic Only three days between two games (also the reason why I used so many rotation players against Fortuna). Dortmund looked really strong in Signal Iduna Park and I hoped we could do better against them at home. We practiced defensive positioning before this match and I tried to avoid being too exposed in counter attacks. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj (46. Lichaba), Ari (63. de Groot) Stekelenburg, Janssen, van Grinsven, van Dalen (61. Kluivert), de Wit Unfortunately, we failed our main goal very early. Dortmund carved our defense open with excellent counter attack and Ingo Petrovic scored with a good shot. We had a great opportunity to equalize from IFK, but Tarik de Wit was denied by reflex save of Dortmund goalkeeper and then Johan van Dalen sent his header just over in 28’. When first half ended, I felt that we actually played a solid 45 minutes, taking care of possession and got some shots on target, but Dortmund succeeded once and then defended fairly well. But Dortmund defenders had picked up three yellow cards in the first half and that had to have some effect to their defensive game in the second half. Second half started with some really good chances for Dortmund and Marvin Koops had a chance to show his skills. First he saved brilliantly Taubate’s shot. Then Rene van den Bosc allowed Ingo Petrovic to turn around him too easily and go 1-1 against goalkeeper and again Koops made a great save from close range. Perhaps some of the fans had started to doubt whether he should be picked above Ismet Gluhalic, but this game proved that he really is a very good goalkeeper. And when Dortmund rued their missed chances, we equalized from DFK. Engin Ari curled it beautifully around the wall from 18 meters and scores were level. Dirk van Grinsven saw his shot being saved in 62’ and Igor Stamenkovic had a late injury time chance for Dortmund (another great save from Koops!), but that was it. A draw against Dortmund was neither good or bad result, but I can’t complain too much. FC Barcelona defeated FC Basel easily at Camp Nou and got their first win of the group. Marvin Koops had a great game for us, rare to see him play so well in Champions League level Engin Ari suffered damaged foot and he’ll be out for 2-3 weeks Johan van Dalen will be sidelined or a week with stubbed toe 09.11.2030 - FC Twente Enschede - AFC Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 11. Mario de Groot Another short rest between two games and we’re in Enschede, going against FC Twente in another away fixture. FC Twente was promoted back to Eredivisie in this season and they were predicted to struggle and finish 16th before this season ,but they’ve done really well so far, mainly because they have one of the best defenses in the league and they’re really difficult to break down. We practiced attacking movement before this game and I was optimistic before the match, but we had some players missing - van Dalen, Verhoeven and Engin Ari were injured. Squad: Koops, Drost, Schans, Markiet (72. Alleyne), Gudelj, de Groot, Stekelenburg, Janssen (64. Antonucci), van Grinsven, Kluivert, de Wit (56. Capobianco) We took the lead in 11’ - Mario de Groot managed to hit the ball really well and his shot from the edge of area found the net. Tarik de Wit header from corner scraped crossbar in 18’, but otherwise it was really drab match and for the most of the game FC Twente showed that their defense can keep up with our attack. It was difficult to find chances and substitutions didn’t add much creativity to midfield. Narrow win with rather boring performance. our shooting was just 12/2 - difficult to find good chances International break in November allowed us to get some players back to full fitness. Ismet Gluhalic started his first game for Bosnia & Herzegovina - a great moment for him and game time on international level can certainly help his development. 22.11.2030 - AFC Ajax - FC Utrecht 3:0 (ED) - 24. Tarik de Wit, 29. Johan van Dalen, 88. Mario de Groot International break was over and it allowed us to recover from some injuries. Rene Verhoeven and Engin Ari are back in training, but unable to start and Moreno Markiet will miss this week with a gashed leg. FC Utrecht are a serious opponent, predicted to finish 3rd and very uncomfortable opponents for us with their 5-4-1 WB diamond tactic, and they proved their good form with win over PSV in their previous game. Squad: Koops, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Lichaba, de Groot, Stekelenburg, Janssen (65. Antonucci), van Grinsven (63. Matal), van Dalen, de Wit (69. Capobianco) We started very well and I enjoyed this game from the start. We put FC Utrecht under pressure with ball, player very well without ball ourselves and neutralized their wingbacks on both sides. And when Tarik de Wit opened scoring with a solid header from close range, it gave us the feeling that this game is for us to win. Five minutes later we doubled our lead - Dirk van Grinsven did well to block FC Utrecht clearance, ball bounced back to their box and Johan van Dalen was first to react and run for it. Easy finish from clear cut chance for him. Van Grinsven had two more good chances in this first half, but despite his misses I was happy with our display in the first half. I tried different tactics in 2nd half, testing Jeroen Capobianco as CFs and he had some of the most curious moments I’ve seen in this game. He received a good pass from midfield, run into box and fired it into the net with a fierce shot. The ball clearly went in, but commentary someow insisted it went wide and it counted as missed chance. Unbelievable. However, we finished this game with a goal and what a goal that was - young midfielder Mario de Groot scored a screamer from 23 meters out and that was another beautiful goal in a season that has offered so many already. Great strike! 3:0 scoreline marked excellent performance and good win for us. In October we defeated SC Cambuur in a similarly confident manner, but to beat FC Utrecht so confidently means we’re in really good form. we had 60% possession our shooting was 16/12 - perhaps the best in this season Mario de Groot and Leslie Lichaba were outstanding in this game 26.11.2030 - AFC Ajax - FC Barcelona 2:0 (Champions League Group G) - 45. Tarik de Wit, 46. Dirk van Grinsven With group really mixed up at the moment, it means that every team have a chance to progress and every game counts. We needed a good result against Barca to keep ourselves in contention and I prepared carefully for this home fixture. We played very well at Camp Nou and I tried to learn from tactics we used there. We practiced defending positioning before the game and I ordered fullbacks with ‘support’ orders. Engin Ari was suspended for this game and I wondered if it’s better to use Mario de Groot as DMCs or Regista against Barca’s 4-4-2 formation. Squad: Koops, Drost (71. Alleyne), van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, de Groot, Stekelenburg, Janssen (66. Antonucci), van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (60. Capobianco) Tarik de Wit got his first good chane already in 7’, but it was saved well by Barcelona goalkeeper. We had small initiative in the first half, but not too many fireworks up front - careful tactics meant we controlled midfield and looked good defensively, but less players were up there supporting our attacks. But we took the lead just before half-time, when de Wit converted Lichaba’s cross from our left. He was a bit lucky, as the ball took strong deflection from defender, but it was a goal nevertheless. FC Barcelona didn’t offer much in attack in the first half and they obviously attempted to change that after half-time break, but before they managed to do that we scored our second goal. Tarik de Wit had a good look on goal, his shot was saved, but van Grinsven got to the rebound first and finished calmly. Only then Barcelona started to show more attacking game, but it was a bit too late. Giammarco Ferri tested Marvin Koops in 48’ and Kuki had a good shot on target a minute later, but it was not good enough and we took a very important win in front of home fans. Great result and it’s a great feeling when tactics work like they did that day. we had 63% possession (against Barca!) we made 55 key passes our shooting was 25/13, even though all shots were not that dangerous Leslie Lichaba was superb and had second great game in a row we now need a draw in our last game against FC Basel to progress from this group We certainly can be pleased with how November turned out. Champions League was our big test in this month and we proved we can play well against big teams and we’ve slowly increased our lead in Eredivisie too. Eredivisie ADO Den Haag and Sparta Rotterdam are surprisingly high in the table, but there’s bigger gap already with PSV and Feyenoord.
  10. October 2030 01.10.2030 - AFC Ajax - FC Basel 3:0 (Champions League Group G) - 23. Tarik de Wit, 32. Justin Kluivert, 34. Simon Janssen October started with Champions League fixture against Basel. Basel showed they are no pushovers with their win against Dortmund in the first round, so even though it was home game for us, we needed to be wary. Basel uses adventurous 4-2-3-1 formation - narrow attacking version of it - and we have virtually no experience against that in domestic league. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Schans, Lichaba, Ari (61. de Groot), Stekelenburg, Janssen (65. Antonucci), Matal, Kluivert, de Wit (70. Capobianco) We started the game very well and right from the start we tested Basel goalkeeper with a couple of shots. We completely controlled midfield and possession and whatever idea was behind Basel tactics, they couldn’t link up their play in midfield. It took some time before we scored our first goal, but it came in 23’. Nketsi Matal showed his acceleration, burst past his defender in the box, crossed it for Kluivert who somehow couldn’t finish it off and goalkeeper saved it off the line, but de Wit was there to collect and finish. Basel needed to attack now and open up their defense even more and our counters were dangerous. Kluivert doubled our tally after good run and cross from Lichaba and just another two minutes later Janssen scored from counter. We took one foot off gas and almost got punished - our defense gve Fabian Maffio a great chance in 36’, but Koops made a good save to deny him. Despite that attack and allowed clear cut chance, I was happy with our first half - game was under our control and Basel was unable to cope with our attacking movement. Second half was pure entertainment, without pressure. FC Basel’s Philip Briza headed against crossbar from IFK and our substitute Mario de Groot hit the post from clear cut chance. Game ended 3:0 and we secured our first win in this group. Good result and good performance in front of home fans. our shooting was 22/10 Justin Kluivert and Leslie Lichaba were outstanding in this game 05.10.2030 - AFC Ajax - FC Groningen 3:2 (ED) - 4. and 53. Tarik de Wit, 87. Engin Ari - 59. Pim de Reuver, 85. Jorge Mere Eredivisie weekend came after midweek Champions League game. FC Groningen is a fairly strong team, predicted to finish 7th in the league, but because it was home game we practiced attacking movement and I asked fullbacks to overlap more than usual. We went to this game with confidence, because we had scored goals and taken wins recently and our defense had been great. Rene van den Bosch looked tired before the game and was rested, some rotation was also needed to distribute load. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, Schans, Markiet, Gudelj, de Groot (70. Ari), Stekelenburg (60. van der Wal), Antonucci, Matal, Kluivert, de Wit (65. Capobianco) Our most common corner routine is to search towering Tarik de Wit around far post and it sometimes works. At least it worked this time - his header from corner gave us the lead in 4’. The rest of the half was even battle. Nketsi Matal got some half chances, but sent his shots mostly wide. FC Groningen’s danger man was Ralf Stam, who managed to test Marvin Koops a couple of times. First half ended with our narrow lead, but I felt that things were under control. We took charge in second half - de Wit doubled his tally and I felt this game was almost won. But FC Groningen fought back. Pim de Reuver skipped past Dragisa Gudelj and scored their first goal and after our rather unsuccessful substitutions it looked like their equalizer is just a matter of time. Daan van Thiel hit the post in 72’ and wasted his clear cut chance in 76’. We looked like in survival mode, but hung on until 85’ when FC Groningen got their goal after corner. Rick Koning sent his shot against crossbar, Koops couldn’t react and collect it properly and central defender Jorge Mere scored from rebound. Initiative was all FC Groningen’s and I was seriously upset at the sidelines to give this win away, but the game wasn’t over. In a moment like this, it was our defensive midfielder Engin Ari who took the ball, turned towards goal and scored with an outstanding shot from 30 yards out. What a goal!!! In such a moment!! FC Groningen players looked gutted - they had worked so hard for the most part of second half and when final whistle sounded, they obviously felt robbed while I was delighted. I was not happy with our performance after second goal and there was some critical feedback in dressing room after game, but that goal from Engin Ari… what a move. When in May you look back at the season, there are some moments that define it and it could be one of those moments. You’re 2:0 ahead, allow your opponent back into game, start to doubt in yourself, and then one player can take over and carry the team and bring home the win - that’s something that brings confidence to everyone in dressing room. our shooting was just 23/7 - we didn’t get shots on target even when we had decent looks 19.10.2030 - SC Cambuur - AFC Ajax 0:4 (ED) - 19. Justin Kluivert, 27. Mario de Groot, 43. and 60. Nketsi Matal SC Cambuur is predicted to finish 14th in this season and so shouldn’t be too difficult opponent for us, even in away game. We continued to practice attacking movement and used our overlapping tactics against them. Pre-match news from physio room were encouraging - a lot of players, including Dirk van Grinsven, Johan van Dalen and Rene Verhoeven were back in full fitness and Tom Drost returned to training from his injury. SC Cambuur, on the other hand, had troubles - their both goalkeepers were injured and they had to use inexperienced youngster in goal against us. We rotated boldly and a lot of players got their chance to impress. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, Schans, Markiet, Lichaba, de Groot, van der Wal, Antonucci, Matal (60. van Grinsven), Kluivert (60. van Dalen), de Wit (56. Capobianco) SC Cambuur looked nervous from the start and we took control of the game in the first half. Our transition football was too quick and too skilled for SC Cambuur defenders and we scored all three goals in the first half from counter-attacks. With three goals scored by our team, Tarik de Wit didn’t have much luck in front of goal. At first he wasted his clear cut chance in 25’ just firing it against goalkeeper with closed eyes. Then his header from corner hit crossbar. Despite that, we were in full control and when Matal doubled his tally in second half I could make substitutions and allow 30 minutes of football to players who were returning from injury. Mario de Groot had another opportunity to score in 82’, but his shot hit the post and went wide. In the end it was a great result for away game and I was happy for players that came in and showed how much depth we have as a team. our average rating was 8.23 Sergio Alleyne, Francesco Antonucci and Nketsi Matal were outstanding for us Mario de Groot scored his first ever goal for Ajax Nketsi Matal’s goal in the first half was his 50th for Ajax 22.10.2030 - Dortmund Borussia - AFC Ajax 4:1 (Champions League Group G) - 2. and 84. Ingo Petrovic, 16. pen. Gianluca Gaudino, 28. Igor Stamenkovic - 68. Pieter Stekelenburg Dortmund were clear favourites in this Champion League game, but they had shown already that they too can be beaten when Basel defeated them 2:1. They play pretty regular 4-4-2 tactics. I gambled a bit and left our fullback on attacking orders. Tom Drost was not yet ready to start in this game, so our usual squad from September took the field. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj (67. Lichaba), Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen, Matal (46. van Grinsven), Kluivert (46. van Dalen), de Wit Dortmund was off to a flyer - Rene van den Bosch missed the run of his man and Ingo Petrovic scored an easy tap-in from close range. Our troubles got even worse when Simon Janssen conceded a penalty. Two bad defensive mistakes so early left us in a lurch and when Stamenkovic score the third goal from counter it summed up all our defensive woes in this game. The first half was probably our worst in this season by some margin. Dortmund’s 4-4-2 worked as a treat against our high defensive line and, of course, we helped along with some pretty horrible mistakes. Second half was more of a damage control from us. Pieter Stekelenburg managed to score a consolation goal from follow-up after corner and indeed our attacking game looked a bit better after break, but Dortmund were still generally well organized and final result was never in doubt. Goalscorer Stekelenburg made a late error when he lost the ball in midfield and following counter resulted in Dortmund’s fourth goal. It was very disappointing defeat for us, even though Dortmund were favourites at home. Our defensive mistakes were frustrating to watch and we were taught a lesson in Ruhr. we gave away 5 clear cut chances - too many even in this level against any opponent the group is now all over the place, we dropped 3rd after that defeat and as Basel managed to stun Barcelona, the Spanish giants are 4th with only 1 point. Everything is still possible in this group and every game is crucial in second round 26.10.2030 - AFC Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 1:2 (ED) - 86. Pieter Stekelenburg - 33. Ulrik Morgensen, 59. Ronni Nissen Morale was a bit low after such a loss in Dortmund, but we set ourselves ready for league game against Vitesse. Vitas are underachieving in the league - predicted to finish 6th, but currently only 14th in the table. I continued with attacking movement training, because we were playing at home. Rene van den Bosch was rested in this game, but Tom Drost was finally ready to start and he was welcomed on the pitch by home fans. Squad: Koops, Drost, Schans, Markiet, Lichaba, Ari (53. de Groot), Stekelenburg, Janssen (46. Antonucci), van Grinsven, Kluivert (57. van Dalen), de Wit We had the best chance in the first half in 26’ - good transition move and excellent diagonal ball from Dirk van Grinsven found Justin Kluivert on the run, but our left winger blasted his shot wide. It was Vitesse who took the lead in 33’, when Ulrik Morgensen sent a half-shot, half-cross towards goal that surprised Marvin Koops and landed at the far post. It was a fluke goal, but also perhaps a sign that Koops is not as good of a goalkeeper that he usually shows. First half ended with 0:1 scoreline and it was frustrating. We had possession and initiative, but we were not able to use it and Vitesse had the lead from a fluke goal. I tried to change things and started to make substitutions early in the first half, but it was Vitesse who scored their second goal. Tom Drost was completely overplayed by Screve N’Goma on our right wing (perhaps a sign that he’s not at his best yet after injury break) and following cross found Ronni Nissen in front of our goal who scored easy tap-in. The rest of the game was just our frustrating attempts to break Vitesse defense, but we couldn’t even create anything seriously dangerous. We got a glimmer of hope in 84’ when Giovanni Somai earned his second yellow card and was sent off. Two minutes later Pieter Stekelenburg scored a wonderful long shot from 25 yards - a brilliant goal to inspire the team, but it was too late and time ran out for us. I was really unhappy with that result. It could be that Vitesse did strike lucky, but we should have played a lot better, especially with our possession and some players earned more criticism than others. our shooting was 13/3 - enough shots, but most of them went wide or were blocked we committed 20 fouls - too many and that allowed Vitesse to dictate tempo 31.10.2030 - AFC Ajax - Telstar 3:0 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 16. and 73. Nketsi Matal, 23. Johan van Dalen October ends with a cup game against Jupiler League side Telstar. That’s another game to give to rotation players and see who performs well and could deserve more playing time in the league. I hope that we could score some goals and get our confidence back after two defeats. All players who had played more than 10 games at this point, were rested, if possible. Squad: Gluhalic, Drost (61. Alleyne), van den Bosch, Markiet, Lichaba (67. Gudelj), de Groot, van der Wal, Verhoeven (54. Stekelenburg), Matal, van Dalen, Capobianco We took a confident win with most dangerous chances coming from counter attacks. Telstar tried to play well, but couldn’t cope with pinpoint crosses and speed of van Dalen and Matal. Matal scored two goals in this game and van Dalen was constant danger man on our left flank. I really enjoyed to see one brilliant move in 40’, when he drifted into the box, draw his fullback with him and then laid ball to the left where Leslie Lichaba was running into empty penalty box with acres of space. Unfortunately, Lichaba’s shot was defenders attempt and went well wide. Second half offered less fireworks. I was forced to take Rene Verhoeven off with injury and only one goal, coming after corner follow-up. In the end it was a solid win - some really good performances, some less convincing (Lichaba and Capobianco). our shooting was 21/8 we got 20 corners, but couldn’t use them very well (missing Tarik de Wit in those situations) Nketsi Matal had a great game Rene Verhoeven will be sidelined for 2-3 weeks with twisted knee October started well for us, but we fell short in a couple of games. Vitesse defeat was especially disappointing, because although I’ve accepted that some of the teams, even from bottom half of the table, can surprise us in away games, I believe we should be favourites for every home game in Eredivisie and this time we just didn’t deliver. Champions League campaign is most exciting, actually. I didn’t have much faith in our chances in August when groups were drawn, but at this point the group is all over the place and everybody still got a chance. Barcelona were lauded as favourites, but have failed miserably, although even they have a chance if they win three remaining games. Basel have surprised everyone with two wins over big teams. We did well against Barca and Basel, but Dortmund proved to be a class better in Signal Iduna park. Next game in November is in Amsterdam against Dortmund. Eredivisie We have a small lead. Poor result against Vitesse didn’t cost us much in the table, as other clubs have dropped points too. ADO Den Haag and sc Heerenveen are still doing well with PSV and Feyenoord still within striking distance.
  11. September 2030 September started with international break and some bad news from training ground. Tom Drost suffered double hernia in training and he’ll be out for 7-9 weeks. We just had him for August and now we’ll miss him for the start of our European campaign. I also made a decision to loan out Clyde Sastrodimedjo, so our surplus of midfield players will be a less of a problem. Rene Verhoeven will get his minutes as our substitute box-to-box midfielder. Transfer window shut down and Moreno Markiet came to me, troubled with his lack of first team chances, so I probably need to start rotating some players to keep everyone happy. 15.09.2030 - AFC Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 0:0 (ED) Two weeks between two games, including the end of transfer window and international break. Unfortunately it hasn’t helped us at all. Training ground injury leaves Tom Drost sidelined with double hernia and he’ll be out for 7-9 weeks, also missing the start of our Champions League campaign. And if that’s not bad enough, Dirk van Grinsven also picked up a knock and he’ll be sidelined for 4-5 weeks with shin splints. Two key players out and it’s a question of squad depth and quality if we could go through that period without losing too much ground. AZ Alkmaar should be a mid-table side, but they have had the worst start of the season and they’re at the bottom of the table. Losing Yassin Yilmaz in Summer has hurt them a lot and they can’t get their game going at all. Knowing this and as it’s home game, I chose attacking formation, practiced attacking movement and ordered fullbacks to overlap. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, Ari (51. Markiet), Stekelenburg, Janssen, Matal, van Dalen (64. Kluivert), de Wit (69. Capobianco) We controlled most of the first half, but it took some time before things started to happen. Tarik de Wit tested AZ goalkeeper with a couple of headers. I ordered players to increase tempo and it was effective around 30’ mark. Nketsi Matal got a good look on goal from counter. His shot was saved, but Simon Janssen had a clear cut chance from following corner that demanded another good save. AZ on the other side tried to exploit counters, too, and Rico van Leeuwen found a half chance in 36’. When first half ended with 0:0, I was disappointed, because I felt we didn’t create enough chances even though we controlled midfield. Our position got a lot worse in 49’ when Edward Schans received straight red card for two-footed tackle. It didn’t initially look that bad, but referee thought it was dangerous and our central defender was sent off. I had to make changes - Moreno Markiet replaced Engin Ari and took Schans’ place in defense. Against all odds the game took a different turn and we started to get more scoring chances. AZ didn’t change their narrow formation, they crowded midfield and had numbers, but left all the width to us and we could stretch game and search our attacking players with crosses. In addition to that, they continued their slow tempo, time wasting tactics that they used in first half. Simon Janssen and Pieter Stekelenburg had half chances and in injury time Nketsi Matal wasted a great chance - he could (and should!) have win it for us. Instead, we had to settle with goalless draw and I had mixed feelings about that result. I can’t complain too much after being left to 10 men for almost full 45 minutes, but I’ve rarely seen a team playing so poorly as AZ when having advantage. We had better chances in the game and with better finishing could have won it. our shooting was 27/13 we had 18 corners, but couldn’t take advantage of them Rumours around Eredivisie suggest that mystery tycoon is considering taking over FC Groningen. Exciting news, as this sort of things can shake the league a bit. MVV are still to be reckoned as considerable force in Holland after they had huge intake of funds several years ago and FC Groningen already have a decent organisation and squad to start with. 18.09.2030 - FC Barcelona - AFC Ajax 0:0 (Champions League Group G) Away game against FC Barcelona is probably the toughest fixture to start our Champions League campaign with and I don’t believe we’re ready for it. Our attacking game has been inconsistent and we’re missing two key players, so I can’t really see us progressing from this group in this season. Our strikers need to improve a lot if we want to beat European giants. We trained defensive positioning before this game. I thought long about tactical orders and put both fullbacks to support order - we could use some deep crosses, but I don’t want to leave too much space on our wings. Barca came against us with pretty standard 4-4-2 formation. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, Ari, Stekelenburg (70. Verhoeven), Janssen, Matal, van Dalen (63. Kluivert), de Wit (59. Capobianco) We didn’t start bad at all. Barcelona pushed their defensive line high and that left some space behind it. Simon Janssen found Matal with a long ball around 9’ and his shot went just wide and another similar pass found de Wit on the run in the end of the first half. FC Barcelona left Janssen way too much time and space with the ball in midfield and as a result it looked like we controlled things, but they were dangerous from counters and set pieces. Modibo Diallo got a great chance from counter in 26’ - Marvin Koops held it well, Giammarco Ferri shot was also saved and in the last minute of the first half Diallo hit the post from open position. Surprisingly, we had 58% of possession (against FC Barcelona at Camp Nou - wow!), but had to be wary, because at times our opponents individual skills broke us apart and we had given up a couple of good chances already. We kept our defense in order after half time break and continued to control midfield, but didn’t give Barca any opportunities to score, although our own attacks were also limited. In the end it was second goalless draw in a row, but a very different game compared to AZ fixture and I was not at all disappointed. That’s a good start to this campaign. our shooting was 18/2 - we tried, but were often blocked and attempts from distance went off target Simon Janssen had a great game FC Basel pulled off an upset in the other game, beating Dortmund 2:1 22.09.2030 - AFC Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 2:0 (ED) - 31. pen. Jeroen Capobianco, 55. Pieter Stekelenburg The second Klassieker derby of the season was perhaps the most important domestic fixture in September and we had something to prove after Super Cup loss. My staff warned me about Feyenoord set pieces and we practiced defending against them. Unfortunately, injury bug had bitten us and after Barca game both Johan van Dalen and Rene Verhoeven went down with training ground injuries. van Dalen will be out for 4-5 weeks with a twisted ankle and Verhoeven suffered calf strain. With Edward Schans suspended, I had limited selection options and only six substitutions for this game. I felt that Jeroen Capobianco deserves his chance and he started in attack. Young Moreno Markiet took Schans’ place in central defense. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Markiet, Gudelj (73. Lichaba), Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (62. Antonucci), Matal, Kluivert, Capobianco (59. de Wit) Right from the start we looked vulnerable to set pieces - Feyenoord won several headers from free kicks and corners in our box and that made me wonder, what the hell were the players doing in training?! Fortunately Marvin Koops was ready and well positioned to collect headers that came on target. We got our first chance of the game in 30’ - Nketsi Matal moved into Feyenoord box with the ball and was brought down by their young central defender, and Capobianco converted the penalty. I made tactical changes after game, ordering fullbacks to support (the same formation that served us well against Barcelona). First half ended 1:0 and despite that lead I felt that our attack hasn’t really working. We were even more motivated after half-time break and good attacking move in 55’ resulted in our second goal. Sergio Alleyne and Capobianco had attempts on goal and Pieter Stekelenburg was the man who finished it off, with a drilling shot from 15 meters. Second goal lifted some weight off our shoulders and put us in control and we kept things in order until the end of the game. It was a great derby win for us, very good job defensively - yes, set pieces were a threat, but Feyenoord had hardly any chances from open play Nketsi Matal was outstanding for us - constant danger on our right wing 24.09.2030 - AFC Ajax - RBC Roosendaal 7:0 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 2. and 34. Jeroen Capobianco, 6. Nketsi Matal, 17. Peter van der Wal, 38. justin Kluivert, 48. Francesco Antonucci, 89. Tarik de Wit Just two days after league game we had to play cup second round fixture against small RBC team. That’s right, TWO days later. Seriously, FA?! Most of the team looked tired and although early cup rounds have always been a chance for rotation players to show themselves, I didn’t have too much to choose from our bench. Whoever looked fit enough, got to play. Dragisa Gudelj took position in central defense while Leslie Lichaba started on left. Squad: Gluhalic, Alleyne, Schans, Gudelj, Lichaba, de Groot, van der Wal, Antonucci, Matal, Kluivert, Capobianco (75. de Wit) However tired we were, this squad fully delivered and we ripped RBC defense apart already in the first half. Peter van der Wal scored his first ever goal for Ajax with a great header, Capobianco added a brace and wingers worked as a treat. Second half continued in a same fashion, with goals from Antonucci and de Wit (yes, great to see him scoring again!) completed our impressive win. The result was exactly what I expected and great individual performances all around raised spirit in dressing room. we had 62% possession our shooting was 23/11 we had 8.92 average rating 28.09.2030 - VVV Venlo - AFC Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 56. Tarik de Wit, 85. Nketsi Matal We had four days to recover before wrapping September up in away game against VVV Venlo. It’s been just four years since VVV were promoted to Eredivisie and they surprised everyone with 5th place in the last season. This year they’re playing in Europa League and have spent some good money on their squad, so pundits have given them 9th place in pre-season tables and they’re definitely tricky opponents in away game. Again we practiced defending set pieces - Feyenoord game proved it is a serious problem for us. We had still problems with all the injuries, so I didn’t have too much options with selection. I made one change, though, and gave Jeroen Capobianco his first start in the league in this season. Squad: Koops, Alleyne, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, Ari, Stekelenburg (70. van der Wal), Janssen (55. Antonucci), Matal, Kluivert, Capobianco (46. de Wit) First half was really uneventful and we couldn’t create anything remotely dangerous. Capobianco looked a bit out of place and our attack wasn’t working. It was drab match from both sides and while we looked more motivated of two teams, it was 0:0 at half time. I made changes in second half - de Wit came on and in 55’ Antonucci replaced Janssen. I changed de Wit orders and he started to play as CFs and it instantly changed the game. Kluivert found him with a cross in front of goal and the big striker made it 1:0. Things started to happen then - Edward Schans sent a good header towards goal from corner that was saved with difficulties by VVV goalkeeper and de Wit sent his header inches wide. The VVV got their best chance of the whole game - they picked our defensive line apart really well, midfielder Robin Claeys ran into box, Antonucci forgot to track him back and he had a great chance, but Marvin Koops made equally good save. VVV were searching for equalizer, but we had chances too to put this game beyond doubt. Peter van der Wal saw his shot being saved in 72’, Matal had open header from rebound and it was saved off the line. VVV goalkeeper Wouter Pastoor was doing really well to deny those shots, but Matal’s clear cut chance in 85’ secured our three points. VVV didn’t give up and Karim Benmessaoud’s header hit crossbar just a couple of minutes before final whistle. In the end it was a valuable win for us, but I can’t be too pleased, as we just edged that game and it could have been a different result on another day. We were very poor defensively and stat sheet highlighted all our problems - VVV could make 23 key passes, we allowed 26 dribbles and made 22 individual mistakes. We were not in good control of the game and need to improve in the future. But I mark this win down as another game that was won with tactical changes and substitutions, so one more good grade to manager from this one. After somewhat disappointing draw with AZ Alkmaar, September has turned out to be quite successful month for us. I’m happy with FC Barcelona draw and, of course, Klassieker derby win in Amsterdam Arena was the highlight for the fans. Eredivisie The win over VVV gave us an edge in the table and we now have two points advantage over the rest of the pack. sc Heerenveen and ADO Den Haag are still right up there, with Feyenoord and PSV also strong contenders for the title race. MVV have been really consistent and I assume it’s not going to be their year.
  12. Squad Update 2030-2031 Goalkeepers Not too much has changed in our goalkeeper department, with Marvin Koops being our first choice and a lot of younger keepers shuffling between different loan periods to get more playing time and develop. Ismet Gluhalic is back in the squad and it’s his role to provide backup and get some playing time in cup games and perhaps against smaller teams in Eredivisie. Right-backs Tom Drost is our captain - experienced and established player who can provide a lot of support in attack. But next to him we have no real other options and we haven’t pulled anyone noteworthy out of our youth system in recent years. As we have a lot of talented centre-backs, this role now falls to Sergio Alleyne, and he’s a completely different player - okay in defense, but lot less dangerous with ball. He’s fairly quick, but can’t cross properly and when Drost is injured or suspended, our attacking play suffers significantly. And unfortunately this has been the case recently - Drost was out for the most part of Spring and now suffered another injury that sidelines him for two months. Centre-backs Here I feel we are looking quite strong. Edward Schans is 24 now and leading our central defense, Rene van den Bosch is a real talent that has attracted attention of Manchester City boss Antonio Conte and Moreno Markiet returned back from loan - another solid option in defense, and the best left-footed centre-back that we have. One feature that we need in our central defense is pace, because we push our line so high up on the pitch, and all of those players are fairly quick. Sergio Alleyne can provide cover in this position, if necessary. Left-backs Dragisa Gudelj is the most experienced player in our defensive line, more than 50 caps for Serbia under his belt. Unfortunately his age is starting to show and his pace is not quite as it used to be a couple of seasons ago. Leslie Lichaba is a younger version of Gudelj - also not too quick to start with and so far he has not convinced me that he should be our first choice in this position. Defensive midfielders Engin Ari is our first choice in this position and also our set piece taker (it’s a shame we don’t have a better option in this role). After Nathan Leyder left the team in this Summer, Mario de Groot took his position and he offers something different next to Engin Ari. de Groot is more of a regista, not so good tackler and perhaps his vision and passing skills might work better against smaller team in Eredvisie in games when we control possession and attack most of the game. Midfielders Two different roles in midfield. Pieter Stekelenburg plays as box-to-box midfielder and Simon Janssen with Francesco Antonucci have advanced playmaker role. We also have Peter van der Wal and Rene Verhoeven back in the team who are suitable for both of these roles and provide depth in selection. Verhoeven is actually a very bright prospect, only 19 years old and have some interesting qualities like dangerous long shot. I hope he can use this season well to develop his game and earn more playing time. Wingers Wingers selection is the same as in last season and while we have some youth players coming up in Jong Ajax and all better prospects are right wingers, we should seriously start to think about long term replacement for Justin Kluivert. Strikers Two very different options there - Tarik de Wit is a big target man, towering figure and very strong in the air (also helps a lot in defensive set piece situations to have someone like him in the box). But he has not scored too many goals - I certainly would like our main striker to get around 20 goals in a season. de Wit also has one major flaw and it’s his nervousness in big games. Jeroen Capobianco is a very different player - smaller statue with better technical ability. Neither of them are very hard-working and it doesn’t help when we want to put opponent’s defensive line under pressure. In conclusion - I feel we need a lot better options than those two in long term, but so far there’s nobody like that in our youth team.
  13. Transfers in Summer 2030 Transfer window has been fairly quiet in this year. We didn’t have any big money moves and the most noteworthy transfer was Samir Afkir’s move from PSV to Queen’s Park Rangers for £4,7m. PSV lost their best central defender with this move. However, they picked up talented winger Yassine Yilmaz from AZ Alkmaar for free - very good signing for them and big loss for AZ. We loaned out a lot of players, but I chose only Eredivisie clubs or other top division teams in Europe. Most Jupiler League sides were rejected, because I could as well keep those youngsters in Jong Ajax and play them in Jupiler League. Loans out: Thabang Mthethwa to sc Heerenveen Louis van Duijvenbode to NEC Nijmegen Marco Oomen to Pescara (Serie A) Jaap Hoogdorp to Dijon FCO (Ligue 1) Eugene Talea to MVV Maastricht Sjoerd de Jong to Fortuna Sittard Steven Otten to Helmond Sport Fred Koeman to Helmond Sport Clyde Sastrodimedjo to Pescara (Serie A) Fathur Irawan to Almere City
  14. August 2030 We had one more friendly before Eredivisie season started and 2:0 away win over Malaga was a really good result that raised our confidence a lot after Super Cup defeat. Another fact that could help us is our fixture list - we start with two relatively easy home game and I hope to get good results from those game to start our good run. 09.08.2030 - AFC Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 1:0 (ED) - 36. Tarik de Wit Go Ahead Eagles are predicted to finish 11th in this season, making them possible mid-table side, but I believe that bookies have got this one wrong. Old fox Alex Pastoor have worked miracles with Eagles in recent season and although I have a lot of respect for Robin van Persie, I believe that Pastoor was more capable of getting the best out of his small team. The second thing is that they relied a lot on the goals of Gerry Schuur in the last season, but Schuur was on loan from FC Groningen and returned to his club in Summer and Eagles have not been able to replace him with anyone remotely as dangerous in attack. That’s why I expected a comfortable win. We practiced defending set pieces before this game and there was a good reason for that - on average we’re 5cm shorter than our opponents and they’re clearly trying to take advantage of that. But I asked our fullbacks to overlap and expected our crosses to cut through their defense. Eagles came against us with standard 4-4-2 setup. Our goalkeeper troubles are they same, both Koops and Gluhalic are still injured and Sergio Alleyne suspended after his red card, but Rene van den Bosch is fit again and will start on the bench. Squad: van Leeuwen, Drost, Schans, Markiet, Gudelj, Ari, Stekelenburg, Janssen (70. Antonucci), van Grinsven, van Dalen (64. Kluivert), de Wit (73. Capobianco) The first moment of the game came in 12’ - Pieter Stekelenburg tried from distance and his shot smashed against crossbar. We had initiative and I hoped that we can keep the game in opponent’s half and took away some pressure from van Leeuwen, but young goalkeeper got his first test in 24’ - long ball behind our defensive line found Ludovicius Depuydt on the run, van Leeuwen could have got to it first, but hesitated and so Depuydt got a clear cut chance. However, van Leeuwen did well to save his shot and so covered for his hesitation. It was the only good chance for Eagles in this game. We got our breakthrough in 36’ - good cross from our right found Tarik de Wit in the box and towering striker headed in from close range. Well executed attack and this goal gave us 1:0 lead at half time. de Wit tried to find another goal in second half, his shot clipped crossbar in 53’, but I then asked our players to take it easy and just retain possession. We had some half chances in second half, but nothing more, but we controlled this game until end and 1:0 final score meant that we fulfilled our most important task - to start our campaign with a win. our shooting was 20/7 we made 54 key passes - moved ball well in attack, but couldn’t create too many chances out of those passes 16.08.2030 - AFC Ajax - PEC Zwolle 4:0 (ED) - 4. and 22. Justin Kluivert, 56. Dirk van Grinsven, 70. Jeroen Capobianco A week has passed since our win over Eagles. PEC Zwolle should be even more easy opponent for us - they are most likely to be relegated in this season and pundits predict them to finish 18th. Attacking movement match training was in order and we continued to use overlapping against Zwolle. Good news from physio room - Marvin Koops is ready to start in this game and Rene van den Bosch takes his place in central defense, so it’s pretty much our best eleven on the pitch for this game. I made one tactical change for this game - Justin Kluivert replaced Johan van Dalen on our left wing. van Dalen didn’t impress in our previous game and healthy rotation is in order to keep everyone in the squad motivated. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj (62. Lichaba), Ari, Stekelenburg (58. Sastrodimedjo), Janssen, van Grinsven, Kluivert, de Wit (68. Capobianco) We started well and quickly showed what might come - in 2’ we played out a clever IFK combination and Engin Ari shot clipped crossbar. Two minutes later Dirk van Grinsven got his half chance, ball hit crossbar and then post, but Justin Kluivert was first to get to rebound and finished calmly. Zwolle defense was under real pressure and when Kluivert doubled his tally with simple tap-in, I felt our lead was secure. However, in every game the smaller side get at least one good opportunity and Zwolle got theirs in 25’ - Rogier Steemers was forgotten by Tom Drost and he got a clear cut chance, but his shot went wide. Just a minute later Kluivert hit post, so end to end stuff for the first 30 minutes of the game. First half ended with our 2:0 lead, but it was entertaining football, a lot of frameworks. Some defensive mistakes from us needed to be addressed at half time. Second half continued in same fashion. Dirk van Grinsven scored our third goal, but Kevin Stolk almost sent his header on target in 58’ from corner. However, another crossbar saved us. Substitute Jeroen Capobianco finished scoring for us in 70’ and so the final score was pretty convincing 4:0. I was pleased with result and our performance, but for Zwolle I’m afraid that with this kind of defense they’ll be really struggling in this season. our shooting was 25/10 we had 8.08 average rating we made 31 dribbles in the game, demonstrating individual skills against Zwolle defense Dirk van Grinsven, Justin Kluivert and Simon Janssen were outstanding in this game 21.08.2030 - MVV Maastricht - AFC Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 11. Engin Ari, 19. Simon janssen, 83. Dirk van Grinsven After two relatively easy games at home, we faced a different kind of battle in away. MVV is a very strong team, predicted to finish 5th and playing standard 4-4-2. MVV had a good Summer transfer window - they released some players who were hugely overpaid and freed a lot of salary funds in the process. Their weak link seems to be their right back. However, their experienced danger man Richairo Zivkovic suffered cruciate ligament injury in Spring and he’ll be out for at least half of this season as well. We practiced attacking movement training before the game and we had our players fit and ready for this fixture. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, Ari, Stekelenburg (61. Sastrodimedjo), Janssen (58. Antonucci), van Grinsven, Kluivert, de Wit (65. Capobianco) We created more dangerous chances in the first fifteen minutes. Tarik de Wit had a great opportunity to score in 10’ - he had space, he took his time, but sent his shot wide. However, good throw in combination just a minute later ended up with a header by Engin Ari that went over goalkeeper and landed in the net. 1:0. Simon Janssen extended our lead with a fierce strike just inside of the area and MVV looked a bit stunned. We looked control of the game, but we still gave MVV one good chance before half time whistle - Raul Ibanez had a good look and Marvin Koops had to make a good save to deny him. At half time we had good lead, but needed to play well to keep it. MVV looked more attacking after our second goal and they were opening up their defense, but they got some good chances in the process and their crosses looked dangerous enough. I made some tactical changes, ordered team to retain possession, take a breather here and there to disrupt the flow of the game and keep things under control. It all worked well in second half. Although we didn’t create too many chances, we killed the game pretty efficiently and in the end Dirk van Grinsven found his goal to put this game beyond doubt. He turned away from his defender and passed it calmly into the net next to post - good finish. I was happy with result and I feel that we played very well for away game. 24.08.2030 - sc Heerenveen - AFC Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 10. Ramon Loswijk sc Heerenveen game is more difficult than it looks. Although predicted only 13th by media, Heerenveen have started their season well and recorded three straight wins so far. Their defense looked vulnerable, but they’re dangerous in attack and surely can score goals against any opponent. I didn’t change the squad after MVV game. Sergio Alleyne suffered bruised head in training and he had to sit out this match, but the rest of the team was ready and fit. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, Ari, Stekelenburg (46. Verhoeven), Janssen, van Grinsven, Kluivert (52. van Dalen), de Wit (62. Capobianco) sc Heerenveen took control of the game in 10’ - their good counter opened up a chance for Vincent Scheepers. Marvin Koops made a great save to deny him, but Ramon Loswijk picked up a rebound and he scored an easy goal. Similar story continued into rest of the first half - sc Heerenveen tried to exploit any space for counters and we gave them too much of it. Our defense didn’t make things easier for us as well - Rene van den Bosch made a terrible mistake in 31’, losing ball in midfield and allowing Raymond Hoekstra to go 1-1 against goalkeeper, but luckily for us, his shot went wide. First half was generally poor for us - we couldn’t create any good chances, our tactics didn’t work. At the same time sc Heerenveen gameplan looked direct and effective. Unfortunately, second half wasn’t much better either. Substitutes failed to make any change in game and while we put sc Heerenveen under pressure for the last 10 minutes, we couldn’t create any good chances to find an equalizer. Both result and gameplay were disappointing after three good games and I looked out of ideas at the sidelines. Lot of things to iron out in next week training. Rene Verhoeven made his league debut for Ajax in second half Champions League groups were drawn in the end of August and while we were surprisingly seeded 1st in the draw, we were handed a very tough group G with FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and FC Basel. FC Barcelona is probably one of the toughest 2nd seeded teams to get from the draw and Dortmund are no pushovers either. There are tough games ahead and we’d do well to progress from this group. 30.08.2030 - ADO Den Haag - AFC Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 61. Francesco Antonucci, 64. Dirk van Grinsven In the end of August we had to face ADO Den Haag - another in-form team in away game, even though they’re just predicted 10th by media. They have a good young team and really dangerous striker in Dennis Graafland. I feel that we needed to bounce back from sc Heerenveen defeat and made one change in our line-up - Johan van Dalen starts on our left wing. Squad: Koops, Drost, van den Bosch, Schans, Gudelj, Ari, Stekelenburg (65. Sastrodimedjo), Janssen (53. Antonucci), van Grinsven, van Dalen, de Wit (63. Capobianco) We started this game well and put ADO defense under pressure. Our right wing looked more dangerous, but our crosses weren’t right there and didn’t find players in the box. Instead ADO got the first dangerous moment in 24’ when Dennis Graafland headed against our crossbar after IFK. First half ended with 0:0 and although our motivation was there, execution wasn’t and we had no real chances to show for our work in attack. We had 63% in the first half, but there wasn’t much difference between two teams. I asked players to move the ball quicker in 2nd half and this time my substitutions had desired effect. Francesco Antonucci opened scoring with a great shot and just three minutes later Dirk van Grinsven was first to react to loose ball in six yard box and doubled our lead. We concentrated on protecting our lead after that. ADO tried to surprise us with long balls behind defense and there were couple of times when Dennis Graafland got to those balls and had a good shot on target, but Marvin Koops was ready and made solid saves to keep our clean sheet. Final score 2:0 looked solid enough, but it wasn’t the most convincing win from us. Antonucci substitution changed the game and I’m pleased with three points after defeat. we made only 18 key passes - our attacking movement should have been a lot better It’s difficult to sum up August. We started very well, but defeat in Heerenveen means we’re leading the table just by goal difference and competition looks fierce at the moment. Results have been OK in general, but I’m less happy with our gameplay. I’m having a growing feeling that Tarik de Wit is not our natural false nine and he’s somehow falling out of our attacking rhythm. He scored the winner against Go Ahead Eagles, but has had four quiet games after that and it might affect his confidence. Our defense has been fairly good. Four clean sheets and only one goal conceded, but I know that we have given up one clear cut chance in almost every game and some luck and good goalkeeping have helped us in those situations. Our own ability to create chances has been OK at best - no signs of that free-flowing attacking firework that we should see, at least against smaller sides. Eredivisie
  15. July 2030 I don’t know why I pay my assistant manager so much if he can’t even arrange a few friendlies. One fixture was cancelled and we’re left with only two friendly cup games in Amsterdam before Dutch Super Cup game against Feyenoord in the end of July. The month started with OM job interview that I declined without hesitation. It is a year of World Cup tournament and against odds Holland managed to retain their title that they first won in 2026. Even more magnificent achievement and When Holland manager John van den Brom (who at some point of his career was my assistant manager in Ajax) resigned, Holland FA made me an offer to take this post. I declined politely and they appointed Unai Emery as the new manager. Few other managerial movements in Eredivisie - Robin van Persie left FC Twente after bringing them back up to Eredivisie and took over vacant Go Ahead Eagles post. FC Twente appointed Eljero Elia as their new manager. I spent part of July on renewing staff contracts and brought on young Dutchman Guus Jansen as our new U-19 coach. We had only two friendly cup games to prepare for new season before Dutch Super cup final and it was not enough - most of our players were not match fit and we were not ready for the new season. But there wasn’t much else to do than go for it. 27.07.2030 - AFC Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 1:3 (Dutch Super Cup) - 90. Dirk van Grinsven - 41. Faris Coolen, 42. Richard van der Plas, 86. Manuel Santamaria Feyenoord were slight favourites for this game, even though it took place in Amsterdam Arena. But there’s a good reason why bookies favoured them - we had serious goalkeeper problems - both Marvin Koops and Ismet Gluhalic were out with sprained ankle and our best healthy keeper was young Mohammed van Leeuwen. We practiced attacking set pieces (not sure why, but trusted my assistant Diego Rivas on this decision) and hoped for the best in this game. Squad: van Leeuwen, Drost, Alleyne, Schans, Gudelj, Ari (56. Markiet), Stekelenburg (56. de Groot), Janssen, van Grinsven, Kluivert (66. van Dalen), de Wit We looked good in the first half and had initiative and possession. Tarik de Wit took ambitious shot from distance in 12’ that hit the post - unlucky! - and Pieter Stekelenburg had a half chance in 31’. But Feyenoord took the lead in the end of the first 45 minutes when Faris Coolen scored from DFK. Great strike, curled over our wall. van Leeuwen perhaps should have saved it, but the shot was too strong and he couldn’t keep it out. Before we could compose ourselves, Richard van der Plas added another goal from counter (Sergio Alleyne was to blame for that goal) and we went to half time break with 0-2 scoreline. Very disappointing collapse in the last five minutes when I felt we had edged the first half. Perhaps bookies were right and Marvin Koops could save us, but I can’t blame only van Leeuwen for those goals. Second half turned into nightmare in 56’ when Sergio Alleyne received his second yellow card and was sent off. It was damage limitation from there and even van Leeuwen got to shine - he made a brilliant save to deny Gregory Otten, took away Rody Adelaar’s clear cut chance with a wonderful reflex save, but couldn’t help us with Santamaria goal in 86’. We scored a consolation goal in the last minute - Dirk van Grinsven had a moment of brilliance and he scored a great striker from the edge of area, but it didn’t change anything. It was a very disappointing defeat for us, especially against Feyenoord, and we need to improve a lot before Eredivisie season kicks off. A lot of things went against us in this game, but even so a defeat like that is not easy to forget. Sergio Alleyne had a really poor game - he was guilty of second goal and then was sent off Mohammed van Leeuwen and Moreno Markiet made their debuts for Ajax Dirk van Grinsven made his 400th appearance for Ajax