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[FM16] Ajax Amsterdam - Building a dynasty of youth

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05.05.2019 - Ajax - FC Twente Enschede 4:1 (ED)- 6. Arkadiusz Milik, 60. and 87. Dejan Meleg, 76. Lasse Schöne - 85. pen. Dave Bulthuis - season is about to end and I’m trying to rotate and keep all players fit. Dragisa Gudelj and Noa Lang started in this match for that particular reason.

The game started with excellent goal by Arkadiusz Milik. FC Twente defender Wellington Verloo gave a poor backpass, Milik intercepted and fired it in from 1-1 situation. I’m so delighted about him - after playing 769 minutes of football without a goal, he finally got it!

First 20 minutes went under our pressure - we dominated possession, attacked well and FC Twente got their first shot only around 35’. In 2nd half I replaced Justin Kluivert with Amin Younes and Younes instantly started to make impact - he was the player to give assists to all three goals in 2nd half and Dejan Meleg scored twice from his good crosses.

Our only disappointment was Carel Eiting’s foul inside our box and a penalty that was converted by Dave Bulthuis. In this regard it was a carbon copy of our previous match against FC Twente, where we also conceded a penalty by Bulthuis.

Despite that penalty, it was a great performance and a good way to bounce back from Feyenoord defeat.

+ very good midfield performance, creativity and shooting

+ finally a goal by Arkadiusz Milik after 769 minutes of goal draught

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg

+ 3 assists by substitute Amin Younes

- needless penalty conceded by young Carel Eiting

12.05.2019 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 2:1 (ED) - 7. and 60. Arkadiusz Milik - 23. Fatih Celik (og) - squad selection for the last league game was a curious one, but selection was made to avoid another yellow card for certain players (Lucas Andersen, Darren Sidoel, Carel Eiting). I also gave first team start to young central defender Fatih Celik and Jeffrey de Lange started in goal.

Arkadiusz Milik continued his newfound goalscoring form, heading in a good cross by Younes when seven minutes were played. We allowed equalizer from youngster Celik’s error - he missed his interception in the box, ball took a deflection from him and, despite getting a hand to it, de Lange couldn’t save it. But we were the better team throughout the match and Milik’s second goal after good through ball by Noa Lang gave us 2:1 win to end this season on high.

+ man of the match performance by Arkadiusz Milik

- shooting should have been better (23/8)

- Fatih Celik’s costly error proved that debuts are not always succcess stories

- Thulani Serero pulled his hamstring and will be out for 3 weeks

Eredivisie

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That's the final standings of the season. Go Ahead Eagles and Willem II went through relegation play-offs struggle, but retained their places in Eredivisie for the next season.

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 16, Justin Kluivert 13, Ugur Sezgin 9

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Justin Kluivert 10, Lasse Schöne 9

Few important announcements were made in May. John Heitinga set his retirement date to the end of this season and I signed him for our U19 coach. Head Physio Pim van Dord also retired and we start looking for the new one. B team manager Ulderink made a step in his career and took managerial position elsewhere, so I need to find a new manager for Jong Ajax in Summer.

From the news around football world. One shock came from England - Everton was relegated from Premiership. That's was unexpected, to say the least.

Champions League final was a dramatic one - FC Barcelona and SLB played 1:1 during 90 minutes, Barca started extra time by taking a lead and SLB received red card, but managed to win 4:2 in extra time, despite being a man down. What a drama! And of course, SLB are very unlikely winners, but hey, that's football.

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Another good season in Eredivisie, but we were unable to defend our cup win and European season was mostly disappointment, again. We managed to finish 3rd in our Champions League group, which is better than 4th, but knockout stages are still a dream for us. The season was marred by long injuries to Arkadiusz Milik and Ricardo van Rhijn, and letting Abdelhak Nouri go in the end of January definitely hurt us.

Fans Player of the Season:

1. Ricardo van Rhijn - very good performances despite his long injury break

2. Nicolai Boilesen

3. Dejan Meleg - most goals and most assists - what's not to like?

Young Player of the Season:

Dejan Meleg - well, that's a bit of a stretch, as Meleg is already 24

Eredivisie Awards

Golden Boot

1. Dejan Meleg - Ajax

2. Simon Thern - sc Heerenveen

3. Pele van Anholt - FC Utrecht

Top Goalscorer

1. Charlison Benschop - FC Groningen - 17

2. Danny Hoesen - NAC Breda - 16

3. Dejan Meleg - Ajax - 16

Young Player of the Season

1. Steven Bergwijn - NAC Breda (on loan from PSV)

2. Tom Drost - FC Groningen (on loan from Ajax)

3. Justin Kluivert - Ajax

Manager's Manager of the Year

1. Me

2. Robert Maaskant - sc Heerenveen

3. Phillip Cocu - PSV Eindhoven

Goalkeeper of the Year

1. Andre Onana - Ajax

2. Hidde Jurjus - ADO Den Haag

3. Sergio Padt - FC Utrecht

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Month started with the news of Ajax first signing in the past five years. Thokozani Mpengezi was brought in from Ajax CT for £230k. I've talked about my transfer policy that allows to sign players from feeder clubs, if any good prospects would surface. And Mpengezi is the brightest talent from South Africa during those years. Very ambitious 18 years old player, not quite CF or F9 (but not far off). Very good in the air, which makes him suitable as a target man. Good work rate and decent technique. Let's see how he'll do in Ajax.

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A lot more players were moving out from the club. I already mentioned John Heitinga retirement. Our best goalkeeper Andre Onana had a £4,1m minimum release fee clause in his contract and French club Chamois Niortais FC (newly promoted to Ligue 1) lured him away from us and were willing to pay the fee. I let him go with not too much regret. Firstly, I've got decent young goalkeepers coming up - namely Jeffrey de Lange proved himself well in this season. And Onana's Cameroon nationality is a burden when CAN is held in January-February.

Players Out

Andre Onana to Chamois Noirtais FC for £4,1m

Queensy Menig to En Avant de Guingamp for £1,2m - last year of his contract and sadly he'll not be first team material

Peter Leeuwenburgh to Watford for £600k + clauses - already 25 years old, unlikely to improve and Championship side Watford is a good place for fresh start for him

Dani de Wit to Vitesse for £425k + clauses - last year of his contract; he had a good season on loan at FC Groningen, but I have better prospects in midfield in his role. He'll certainly be very good Eredivisie footballer.

Melvin Mol to NEC Nijmegen for £275k + clauses - again, final year of his contract and not as talented as other competitors for our midfield places

Also leaving - Ezra Walian (sadly, his horrible knee injury few years back hampered his progress), Kai Sierhuijs and bunch of players from U-19 who weren't offered professional contracts.

Perhaps a bit quiet for us, to cash in some of the fringe players and not to sell key players away, but that's what we need to become better in Champions League - a little bit more experience under our belt and retain those key elements of last season and perhaps to add just a youngster or two.

From other news - Mike van der Hoorn was finally invited to Holland national team, but unfortunately remained on the bench during friendlies in June. I extended Arkadiusz Milik's contract until 2022 and gritted my teeth doing that - I didn't want to offer over £30k salary, but had to throw in enormous bonuses to make his agent accept it. Not sure I can extend it again, better to find a suitor for him during those years.

Job interviews declined: Celta, Atletico Madrid, Schalke 04. I was also heavily linked to London Arsenal job, but I refused to comment those speculations and Arsenal board probably took it as a lack of interest and didn't contact me on the matter.

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July passed fairly quietly. Bunch of young prospects were loaned out.

Rene Timmer and Daan van Thiel were part of Holland U-19 team that took part of Euro U-19 Championship. We did very well and reached to final, but were trashed 0-4 by Belgium in the most important game.

27.07.2019 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 1:3 (Dutch Super Cup) - 70. Moises Navarro - 23. Lucas Andersen, 39. Dejan Meleg, 82. Justin Kluivert - sc Heerenveen hasn't lost any key players during Summer and they're formidable team by Eredivisie standards. Match itself was fairly even, but we had two bright moments in the first half that gave us 2-0 half-time lead.

New names in our first eleven - Nathan Leyder started in DMC and Navajo Bakboord took a place in central defense, because Zeefuik looked a bit tired after our last friendly.

Lucas Andersen scored an opener from corner, after defenders were unable to clear it. Dejan Meleg added a goal after great deep cross by Nicolai Boilesen.

Heerenveen started to press harder in 2nd half, but that allowed us to build dangerous counters, as space started to be more open behind defenders. Dejan Meleg had a good shot from the edge of the area, but it bouncedback from the bar.

We conceded a goal in 70' - Ryab Babel sent a cross in from our right and Ricardo van Rhijn couldn't prevent substitute Navarro to swoop in behind him to score an easy tap-in.

But our third goal killed the game - a great counter-attack combination by Younes, Antonucci, Milik and Kluivert ended in a good shot from 1-1 situation.

It's always great to start our season with a win, and Super Cup is back in Amsterdam again, after being held by PSV for two years.

New guys impressed - Bakboord had a good game and Nathan Leyder put in a very good performance in our deep midfield.

+ we practiced set pieces before match and it brought us a goal

+ Jeffrey de Lange hada great game - whatever he had to do, he did well and a couple of good saves convinced us that Onana's departure shouldn't be a problam

+ shooting could have been better, but we used all our 3 clear cut chances excellently

+ man of the match performance by Arkadiusz Milik

- game itself was fairly even despite final score, and I believe we should have took better care of the ball and attempted to control midfield, we also gave away too many corners, despite defending well in our third of the pitch

Job interviews declined: Manchester City, AC Milan

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14.08.2019 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 15. Lucas Andersen, 71. Dejan Meleg - first game of the league season is somewhat late this August, but we’ve well prepared for that. Not without some casualties though - Navajo Bakboord is suspended because of yellow cards from last season. Ugur Sezgin and Frenkie de Jong are still injured.

ADO are strong team in my save and have finished in top-5 in all previous seasons, so not an easy fixture to start with. They had my loanees Sergio Alleyne and Rene Timmer in their squad. I sent out my usual squad, with Nathan Leyder starting in DMC and Amin Younes taking place in AML.

We took the lead in 15’ - Lucas Andersen hit a fierce shot from the edge of the area and ADO goalkeeper Hidde Jurjus couldn’t save it. Two minutes later Boilesen found Milik with a cross, but our Polish striker headed against bar.

ADO couldn’t pose a threat in first half, but we needed to guard against complacency, and rightfully so - in the start of second half, a lapse of concentration allowed Rafhael Lucas to head from point blank range, but his header rattled against upright. We secured all three points in 2nd half, after substitute Justin Kluivert sent a cross in from the left and unmarked Dejan Meleg scored from far post. Those two played another similar combination in 84’, but this time goalkeeper got his hand to it.

All in all, very good away win to start our season with.

+ clean sheet

+ enough chances to score

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

- too many individual mistakes (23)

17.08.2019 - NAC Breda - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 85. Danny Hoesen - 6. Euclides Tavares Lopes (og) - another match where we’ve up against our own players loaned out to NAC Breda - this time Azor Matusiwa and Daan van Thiel were in NAC first eleven.

We made some changes - Nathan Leyder looked tired and Carel Eiting started in DMC. Dragisa Gudelj went to DL, Amin Younes’ poor game against ADO didn’t go unnoticed and he was replaced with Justin Kluivert and Lasse Schöne replaced tired Dejan Meleg on right wing.

We got a quick goal from corner - awkward deflection from Tavares Lopes found its way to goal and we were 1-0 ahead. Two minutes later Milik’s shot was hacked off the line by defenders.

We dominated first half completely and NAC got their first shot when over 30 minutes were played. Second half wasn’t much different - substitute Francesco Antonucci hit the post and two shots by Kluivert were well saved by NAC goalkeeper Filip Kurto.

But punishment comes when you’re not decisive enough, and it did - Danny Hoesen equalized from the corner. He was so unmarked at the far post it was even difficult to tell who was supposed to be there with him.

Very disappointing draw, after playing so good match during all 90 minutes. Undeserved point for NAC, but they’re surely happy about it, after being carried by their goalkeeper most of the match.

+ good pressure, ball possession and midfield domination for all 90 minutes

+ man of the match performance by Dragisa Gudelj

- late goal conceded from corner

- we allowed too many dribbles by NAC players

21.08.2019 - Ajax - Willem II Tilburg 7:0 (ED) - 2., 4. and 41. pen. Justin Kluivert, 22. and 83. pen. Dejan Meleg, 33. and 44. Arkadiusz Milik - spectacular result and it’s difficult to put on paper everything that happened in front of Willem II goal in this game. Let’s just say that we ripped their defense apart from the first minutes and our first half is probably the best 45 minutes I’ve seen from this team. 6-0 half-time lead and convincing win puts us comfortably in 1st place because of huge goal difference.

Justin Kluivert scored a hat-trick, Dejan Meleg scored two goals and added 3 assist. We created 8 clear cut chances (including 2 penalties, both earned by Meleg) and converted 6 of them. Great, great result.

+ excellent attack and goalscoring form

+ hat-trick by Justin Kluivert

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg

- three yellow cards in such a game is a bit too much

- Nicolai Boilesen picked up a small knock and will be sidelined for around a week with a damaged heel

24.08.2019 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 3:1 (ED) - 1. and. 61. Arkadiusz Milik, 10. Guus Hupperts (og) - 42. Kevin Luckassen - only three days between two matches, and we continued exactly from we left off against Willem II. Milik scored his first goal in the first minute, heading it in off the bar after good cross by Dragisa Gudelj (who replaced injured Boilesen in left of defense). Ten minutes later Lucas Andersen’s shot took a very lucky deflection from defender and Nick Olij couldn’t stop it going into the net.

We dominated first half completely, but allowed a very cheap goal just before half-time whistle - Thulani Serero lost a header against Kevin Luckassen and AZ scored a goal from indirect free kick.

AZ definitely looked encourage by that goal in the 2nd half, but Milik showed his class again by scoring an excellent finish from the edge of area that ended up in top corner. Gudelj again created the chance with good long ball forward. That put the game beyond doubt, although AZ got one more chance in the last five minutes - Luckassen hoofed it over bar while being completely open.

+ good shooting accuracy

+ excellent first half (again) in terms of possession and overall control of the match

+ man of the match performance by Dragisa Gudelj

- we lost possession and initiative after half-time

- we conceded a set piece goal just before half time whistle - that’s not a good sign and shows poor concentration

30.08.2019 - FC Twente - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 88. Joel Donald - 22. Dejan Meleg - FC Twente looked a lot more difficult opponent than our previous encounters provided. It’s early in a new season and teams look generally fit and suspensions are not a threat yet, so team-building, depth and upcoming youngsters have less impact than in long term. So Twente’s first eleven looked like they’re ready for a battle.

We needed over 20 minutes to score, but then Andersen found Meleg in the box with a great through ball and Meleg scored his 5th goal of the season. FC Twente played well and kept midfield possession in balance, but most of the chances happened in front of their goal. Meleg missed a good opportunity on 31’, Thulani Serero shot was met by a great save by Twente goalkeeper in 2nd half and then Meleg missed another great opportunity after substitute Ugur Sezgin found him on the run with a through ball.

But once again we lost points when game looked completely under our control. FC Twente got a promising counter attack after our corner and although Jeffrey de Lange managed to save a close shot by Kamohelo Mokotjo, the rebound fell to Joel Donald and so we conceded an equalizer just before the end of the match. Very frustrating to drop two points like that, but our mood was a bit lightened by the fact that PSV suffered a humiliating 1-3 defeat by newly-promoted PEC Zwolle, in front of their own fans.

+ our overall performance deserved three points, we controlled possession and created more chances

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

- poor shooting (6/20), that cost us in the end

- 2nd game in August where we dropped points because of late equalizer; we have to get better holding our lead in the end

Despite those tumbles it’s a strong start to our season. We’re still undefeated and, those late equalizers aside, I’m very pleased with our performances - we look confident in possession and clinical in front of goal.

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 5, Arkadiusz Milik 4, Justin Kluivert 4

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 3, Dragisa Gudelj 3

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It's been very, very quiet Summer in Eredivisie transfer market. No major moves since June, nothing over £10m in whole Summer and the league as a whole have probably weakened during this Summer. Even PSV, who are usually very active and trying to attract new players, signed only two during this Summer, and, while allowing two of their first team players leave, it's just maintaining their current level. These are the biggest transfer moves in Eredivisie in Summer 2019:

Santiago Arias from PSV Eindhoven to Liverpool for £6,5m (+ clauses), possibly up to £7,75m - PSV finally allowed their star right-back to go for Premier League. It's a big loss for them and opportunity for other clubs. Arias was their key player, like Ricardo van Rhijn is for us - leader on the pitch, good in defense and attack, and provided constantly over 10 assists in a season from his crosses.

Andre Onana from Ajax to Chamois Noirtais FC for £4,1m

Joel Campbell from Napoli to PSV Eindhoven for £3,4m - Costa Rican attacking midfielder, 27 years old. I wonder why PSV needed another one when they have Adam Maher, Yohan Boli and young Steven Bergwijn suitable for that role. Very good, versatile player for Eredivise standards, but nothing special

Clyde Drenthe from Feyenoord to Liverpool for £3,1m (+ clauses), possibly up to £4,9m. One of the most talented attacking midfielders in Holland U-19 team, only 17 years of age. This prospect was lured away from Feyenoord, but loaned back to Vitesse Arnhem instantly.

Majeed Waris from FC Lorient to Feyenoord for £3,1m - Feyenoord let their first choice striker Vincent Janssen move to ADO Den Haag this Summer. 11 goals from 30 games wasn't exactly what was expected from Janssen by Feyenoord management and Majeed Waris looks like a formidable replacement, signed in the end of August. Ghanian striker, quick, agile and good finisher and very good off the ball. It's a challenge to play against him in this season.

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After John Heitinga retired and Andre Onana left, with bunch of players coming back on loan, I've selected 22 players four our first team this season.

Goalkeepers

Jeffrey de Lange

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Our only goalkeeper in the squad. Sven Keller from Jong Ajax is ready to replace him if necessary, but I'll use my 7 bench places for outfield players this season. Was a substitute player last year, but first choice keeper this season - that's a big step, but he's done OK so far.

Defenders

Ricardo van Rhijn

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Team captain's last season was disrupted by injury, but he's back to fitness and ready to command our defensive line.

Darren Sidoel

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Very talented right-back.

Mike van der Hoorn

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The most experienced of our central defenders. Now on the verge of Holland national team - he got his first invitation, but was unable to earn his first cap just yet.

Deyovaisio Zeefuik

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Navajo Bakboord

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Solid 3rd choice after van der Hoorn and Zeefuik. Spent last season in Sparta Rotterdam, being a key defender there.

Nicolai Boilesen

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Dragisa Gudelj

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Very good competition with Boilesen for left-back position. Very good anticipation and decisions and it show on the pitch. A bit less attacking than the Dane, though.

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Midfielders

Carel Eiting

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Young defensive midfielder enjoyed first team status last season, but this year he has to fight harder for game time.

Nathan Leyder

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Spent last season in French club AJ Auxerre. Very versatile controlling midfielder - good work rate, quickness and teamwork.

Thulani Serero

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Noa Lang

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I've become to trust this box-to-box midfielder in last season and he'll get more playing time next to Serero.

Lucas Andersen

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Lucas Andersen had to step up after Abdelhak Nouri left in January, and he's done well enough. Very creative attacking playmaker. Great first touch and technique

Francesco Antonucci

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Returned from a season long loan in Getafe. Only 20 years old, but probably the most skillful player in the team - great first touch, dribbling and agility.

Frenkie de Jong

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Spent last year on loan at Belenenses, but the beginning of this season was marred by injury and he's found himself behind Andersen and Antonucci.

Lasse Schöne

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Experienced Dane has been a great servant in previous seasons, but age is starting to get to him and his playing time diminishes. The oldest player of the squad. Still a great tutor though, and very useful with set pieces.

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Wingers

Dejan Meleg

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Our best goalscorer from previous season signed a new contract in this September that keeps him in Ajax until 2023. Gets a lot of goals and assists. Usually takes our free kicks and corners too.

Dirk van Grinsven

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The youngest member of this 22-men squad. Bursting speed and acceleration and good crossing make this 18 years old right winger a great prospect

Justin Kluivert

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Still a little bit inconsistent, but gets plenty of goals nevertheless. Although it feels like he's been around for a while now, he's only just 20 years old.

Amin Younes

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Playing time on the left wing is divided between Kluivert and Younes. Younes is contributing less in defense, but is a very good dribbler and has ability to beat his opponents with unexpected moves.

Strikers

Arkadiusz Milik

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Injury messed up his last season and it took a while for him to get his confidence back, but Milik's goalscoring form has returned for now and he's probably the best striker in Eredivisie

Ugur Sezgin

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Probably wants a little bit more playing time, but this young man has plenty of time do develop. Great talent and professional mindset.

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14.09.2019 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 3:0 (ED) - 23. Noa Lang, 25. Justin Kluivert, 48. Dejan Meleg - SC Cambuur looked like a solid top-half team 3-4 seasons ago, but they’ve declined in recent years and were no match against us in Amsterdam Arena. I rested some key players before upcoming Champions League game and we missed Nicolai Boilesen who hurt his heel again in international game and hat to sit out this game.

Things started to happen between 20-30 minutes in first half. We went from defense to attack very well and first good counter ended with a shot against post, taken by Dejan Meleg. Three minutes later another counter found Noa Lang in the box - his first shot was parried by goalkeeper, but Lang himself was first to rebound and scored his first league goal for Ajax!. Two minutes later Justin Kluivert added another goal and Cambuur looked like they gave up after that. Meleg scored his goal in the 2nd half and 3:0 marked a convincing win.

+ good midfield performance and 59% of possession

+ 5 clear cut-chances created

+ man of the match performance by Justin Kluivert

18.09.2019 - Ajax - AS Monaco 0:1 (Champions League Group Stage) - 28. Luan - we were drawn against Juventus, AS Monaco and Basel in group stage. That home game against Monaco was a must-win match if we wanted to progress from this group. We knew that and we were well prepared for this game. Key men were rested and fit, so I had no excuses about that loss.

We had initiative for most of the first half. Our best chances came from corners, but we couldn’t find a first goal. Instead, AS Monaco found a goal from pretty much their first attack - Luan got a head to cross from our left flank - it wasn’t even a good chance, but his header was too good for de Lange.

We continued to fight in the 2nd half, but Monaco defended well and we we couldn’t convert our possession into clear cut chances and goals. In 53’ Lucas Andersen headed over from 6 yard box, and that was our best opportunity.

AS Monaco defender Niklas Süle was sent off with straight red card in 88’, after he brought down Ugur Sezgin and stopped our promising attack, but it didn’t leave us enough time to use our advantage in numbers.

Disappointing defeat and that hits our ambitions of progression hard, early in the group stage.

+ we played disciplined game in defense and didn’t allow any real chances

- key players failed to deliver - Mike van der Hoorn, Dejan Meleg and Arkadiusz Milik all failed to deliver

- too many individual mistakes (23)

21.09.2019 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 12. Mitchell te Vrede - 42. Amin Younes, 61. Arkadiusz Milik - Champions League matches are tough on legs, so I rotated some players to allow some rest and have opportunity to players who are fresh. Navajo Bakboord started in defense, Francesco Antonucci in midfield and Amin Younes replaced Meleg on the right wing. It looks like key players were out, but I had complete trust for all 22 players and had no doubt that they could win against Sparta.

But we conceded a first goal and it was one of the new guys to make a mistake - Bakboord missed his interception of cross and Mitchell te Vrede had an easy goal from close range.

We were determined to turn things around and chances started to come - in 23’ Arkadiusz Milik’s shot hit the bar, ball bounced in front of the goal few times and was then hacked away by defenders. Milik got another clear cut chance in 38’, but this time he sent it wide. New starter Amin Younes was finally the one to equalize, after great cross from left by Justin Kluivert. 1:1 was a lot better scoreline at half-time than 0:1 and I prepared the squad for the 2nd half.

Milik’s shot in 61’ found his way into the net and 2:1 was good enough to secure three points. Sparta started to take more risks in final 30 minutes and that left gaps behind their defensive line. We got good counters and one of those ended with a cross into box, where Ugur Sezgin took a shot. Unfortunately the ball bounced from one post against the other and then away from goal. I couldn’t believe it didn’t went in! We have hit A LOT of shots against framework in those first games of the season and this match wasn’t any different. Still, a good three points after conceding first goal and I’m happy with a come-back.

+ good possession (57%) and overall midfield performance

+ man of the match performance by Amin Younes

+ good amount of chances created

- poor shooting accuracy (21/6)

- Navajo Bakboord’s mistake that allowed Sparta goal

24.09.2019 - vv Haaglandia - Ajax 0:10 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 6. Yassine Belghar (og), 12., 33. and 60. pen. Amin Younes, 13. Dirk van Grinsven, 28., 54. and 67. Ugur Sezgin, 69. and 89. Justin Kluivert - early stages of Dutch Cup are usually a goalfest and this time we really slammed poor Haaglandia down, despite fielding a team full of substitutes and youngsters. Amin Younes were great against Sparta and continued his goalscoring form with hat-trick in this match, Ugur Sezgin added another three goals and substitute Justin Kluivert managed to score two in the 2nd half. But man of the match was young winger Dirk van Grinsven, who scored only one goal, but laid 7 (seven!) assists. That’s a new Dutch Cup record!

+ confident performance throughout the match, good defending and confident shooting

+ man of the match performance by Dirk van Grinsven

30.09.2019 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 4:1 (ED) - 30. pen. Justin Kluivert, 38. Ugur Sezgin, 41. Dirk van Grinsven, 74. Lasse Schöne - 26. Guyon Fernandez - with another Champions League game coming up, I took a deep look at MVV and found out they were poor team destined to relegation. They won Jupiler League two seasons ago and finished 13th last year, but haven’t made smart transfers and are struggling to find consistency and their defense leaks goals from left and right.

So I decided to go on with my youngsters and give star players another day off. Another good news were that Frenkie de Jong has finally recovered from injury and he started on the bench.

Seconds after kick-off I realized I’ve sent out very inexperienced team - only Nicolai Boilesen was older than 21 years and this inexperience almost cost us.

We got good chances early on, but Sezgin and Kluivert slammed their shots against MVV goalkeeper. Then the punishment came - long ball over defense. Navajo Bakboord missed his header completely, Guyon Fernandez went 1-1 against de Lange and chipped it in from 22 meters - nice goal, but I was furious about this kind of rookie mistake by Bakboord.

Luckily for the team, they picked themselves up fairly quickly. Dirk van Grinsven was tripped in the box and Kluivert equalized from the spot. Second goal was a curious one - Noa Lang’s deep cross went dangerously towards goal, MVV keeper got his hand on from just under the bar, but Ugur Sezgin picked it up and fired it into the empty net for a goal. And after van Grinsven had volleyed in Kluivert’s cross, we could relax a bit.

In second half we continued to attack, but also continued to struggle with finishing. Plenty of creativity and good chances, but poor shooting. Actually, shooting accuracy was OK, but we just couldn’t get the ball past goalkeeper. Substitute Lasse Schöne headed in our fourth goal and so the game ended with 4:1 scoreline.

+ good shooting accuracy (21/15)

+ 9 clear cut chances

+ man of the match performance by Nicolai Boilesen

- poor finishing - despite getting shots on target, we should have scored more from those chances we got

- conceded goal marked the 2nd costly error by Navajo Bakboord this month; it’s getting difficult to trust him in defense

Overall I’m happy with the month - we look extremely strong defensively and goals are coming from every corner of the pitch. Only this loss against AS Monaco reminds us our inability to show similar performances in Champions League

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 8, Dejan Meleg 6, Arkadiusz Milik 5

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 8, Justin Kluivert 5

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01.10.2019 - Basel - Ajax 0:1 (Champions League Group Stage) - 26. Deyovaisio Zeefuik - we got Basel in our Champions League group for the second season in a row. We won both games last year, but this time Basel proved to be a lot tougher opponent, at least in away game.

We struggled to retain possession and Basel looked like they start to get control of the match in the first half. Our best opportunity came in 19’, when Amin Younes reached first to lose ball in front of goal, but his shot was saved. But then, in 26’ a corner took an awkward bounce from defender inside the area and Deyovaisio Zeefuik put it into the empty net.

In the second half both teams defended well, goalscoring chances were very limited and attackers from both sides found themselves constantly in offside position. No more goals and Zeefuik’s first goal of the season gave us valuable three points into the table.

+ good defense and clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Dragisa Gudelj

06.10.2019 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 27. Deyovaisio Zeefuik, 33. Lucas Andersen - our match against Basel took place on Tuesday. PSV played their Europa League game on Thursday. For this Topper Derby on Sunday their team looked really tired, while we were in full fitness (that’s what good rotation does!). In addition they missed Valeri Qazaishvili due to injury and Adam Maher was also some way away from full fitness. So I really liked our chances despite it being away match.

PSV got the first good chance from counter in the first half, but Jeffrey de Lange came out from goal very well and blocked the shot with his body. Few minutes later Deyovaisio Zeefuik scored a header from indirect free kick (his 2nd goal in consecutive matches) and then Lucas Andersen scored from good counter to extend our lead. PSV looked a bit stunned and we almost scored our 3rd goal - Justin Kluivert got a great pass behind defenders, his chip from long range did beat Mickey van der Hart in PSV goal, but hit the post (another shot against framework!).

In 2nd half we tried to concentrate on defending and avoid complacency. PSV tried really hard to find a way to a goal, but our defensive display at times looked really impressive and so they never really got any clear cut chances. A bit dull 45 minutes from our side, because we didn’t attempt to take too many risks and couldn’t create any good counters too, but I’m still very happy with 2:0 away win over PSV.

+ great defensive performance and clean sheet against very tough opponent

+ man of the match performance by Deyovaisio Zeefuik

- our crossing didn’t work and our wingers were essentially shut down by PSV full-backs

International window in October brought Thokozani Mpengesi his first cap for South African national team. Francesco Antonucci returned from Italy U-21 with an injury - pulled hamstring keeps him out of the game for around 3 weeks.

19.10.2019 - Ajax - NEC Nijmegen 3:1 (ED) - 9. Justin Kluivert, 19. Thulani Serero, 28. Ugur Sezgin - 18. Giovanni Korte - with tough Juventus match coming, I rested Ricardo van Rhijn and Arkadiusz Milik. Darren Sidoel and Ugur Sezgin started instead of them.

NEC came against us perhaps with too attacking and careless tactics. At least we were able to make quick transitions from defense to attack and find gaps between their defensive line. Thulani Serero waste our first good counter, but Justin Kluivert finished another one with a goal.

We conceded a most stupid goal I’ve seen in this season - Mike van der Hoorn intercepted and dribbled back towards our goal, allowing ball a little bit too far from his feet and, with Korte coming to apply pressure on him, Jeffrey de Lange came out from his line and made some sort of desperate tackle on van der Hoorn, which resulted (of course) ball landing exactly on Korte’s feet and it was an easy goal into empty net from there.

Fortunately we picked ourselves up quickly - Thulani Serero raided into box and fired it in just a minute later and Ugur Sezgin made 3:1 to secure us all three points.

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg

- stupid goal to concede

- central defenders van der Hoorn and Zeefuik didn’t look the most convincing; they often lost Giovanni Korte, giving him too much space and didn’t mark properly

22.10.2019 - Juventus - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group Stage) - 68. Samir Nasri, 89. Daniele Rugani - I tried more structured, wide and counter-attacking tactics against Juventus. At least in away game we had nothing to lose and concentrating on defense looked like a wise decision.

The most remarkable moment of the first half was Thulani Serero’s foul in our box that referee missed completely and so we escaped an early penalty. That helped us contain Juventus for the first 45 minutes and, although our attacks were easily fended off by Juventus defense, we didn’t allow any clear cut chances either and went to half-time break with 0-0 scoreline.

We held on exactly until 68’ - Samir Nasri got an opportunity inside our box and he made it 1-0. Just before the end of the match Daniele Rugani added another goal from corner. Justin Kluivert had an opportunity to score in the end, too, but his half-chance was saved by Juventus goalkeeper.

Tough loss to take. We didn’t play poorly and players gave their best on the pitch, but we gave two chances and conceded two goals. That’s how it is in Champions League against the best clubs in Europe. You can’t give up any chances and you have to take all opportunities you have yourself. Now we have two weeks to figure out, what to change before rematch in Amsterdam Arena.

+ good defense until first goal

- too many fouls (21)

- Navajo Bakboord wasn’t convincing in the defense

- Amin Younes was hacked down in the end of the first half and he’ll be out with broken ankle for the next 2-3 months

26.10.2019 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 43. Sheran Yeini - 18. Arkadiusz Milik - a few one-by-one conversations had to be made before this match. I explained to Arkadiusz Milik and Mike van der Hoorn what was expected of them and that they’ve been dropping below par lately. They haven’t been poor, but in my young team, as players of their age and stature they need to set example to youngsters, hence the bigger expectations.

But for the match - I sent out our usual eleven and ´we took the lead in 18th minute. Justin Kluivert gave a great cross and Milik’s shot from the area found the net. Ten minutes later Kluivert himself got a great chance to extend our lead, but his shot from point blank range somehow hit the goalkeeper.

We were punished in the end of first half by Vitesse free kick. Lucas Andersen missed his interception and allowed Ibarra a great chance. Jeffrey de Lange was able to parry, but Sheran Yeini was first to rebound and put it in. Very disappointing to concede from set piece (again) and in the end of the first half.

We searched for the winner most of the 2nd half, but couldn’t create any good chances, despite having most of the possession and putting real pressure on Vitesse for the last 10 minutes of the game. I’m disappointed with this draw, because we were the better team and there were a lot of “what if”-s in this game - Kluivert’s missed chance in one end and cheap set piece goal in the other. But that’s football.

Our consolation is that PSV were defeated at home by Feyenoord.

+ we had most of possession and we were more attacking side

- too many offsides

- another game in which we dropped points because poor defense in set piece situations

29.10.2019 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 2:0 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 26. Frenkie de Jong, 57. Deyovaisio Zeefuik - I sent out weakened team against FC Eindhoven and experimenting a little bit, putting Frenkie de Jong in the role of CMa, instead of APa in midfield. It resulted in the first goal, because of his presence in the box he was able to get first to loose ball and so he scored his first ever goal for Ajax.

Deyovaisio Zeefuik added another goal from corner in the 2nd half and so, despite failing to score more, we took easy win against Jupiler League side.

+ good control of the match and 64% of possession

+ clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Darren Sidoel

- not enough decisiveness in attacking phase - we had 33 shots, but too many of them were too ambitious and only 10 went on target; we didn’t create any clear cut chances, despite attacking most of the game

A little bit mixed month, that October. We took a very good win over PSV in away game and got our first points on board in Champions League, but failed to convert our plucky performance into points against Juventus and failed to win against Vitesse. So, I can be satisfied - we’ve done OK, although not reaching our full potential.

What I’m happy about is my rotation system and fitness of the team. Francesco Antonucci returned from injury in the end of the month and, aside of Amin Younes, players are fit and everybody have got enough playing time to progress in training, gain match fitness and be motivated and confident when in starting eleven.

Eredivisie

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Go Ahead Eagles have had a fantastic start of the season. Relegation candidates have almost secured their stay in Eredivisie for the next season and have stunned many of the big teams in progress. In the bottom of the table NAC Breda haven’t won a single game with one third of the season played.

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 9, Dejan Meleg 6, Arkadiusz Milik 6

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 8, Justin Kluivert 6, Dejan Meleg 6

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03.11.2019 - Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 3:0 (ED) - 5. Ugur Sezgin, 11. Dejan Meleg, 37. Justin Kluivert - Go Ahead Eagles are having a wonderful season, they’re almost Leicester City of this Eredivisie season. Promoted two seasons ago and retaining their place in top division only through relegation play-offs in Spring, they’ve now 2nd in the table and could find themselves in top position, if only they could beat us in Amsterdam Arena.

But they couldn’t. And fairytale took a big hit in the hands of our weakened team (I’m preparing for upcoming Juventus match and again used rotation players). Their loss was contributed by the fact that their squad looked tired after long cup match that went to extra time, but that’s the true test of any contender - squad depth and physical ability to play more than one match in a week.

Long story short - we controlled first half completely and game was won before half-time. We didn’t create too many chances, but finishing was excellent and Go Ahead looked vulnerable to through balls behind defensive line, that we exploited very well. We eased our pressure in 2nd half, but our opponents never posed a real threat to our goal and so this 3:0 win felt like a walk in a park.

+ good and clinical finishing

+ clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Ugur Sezgin

- Justin Kluivert picked up a knock (broken toe) and will be out until January; that’s unfortunate because I have to change my gameplan against Juventus because of that

06.11.2019 - Ajax - Juventus 0:3 (Champions League Group Stage) - 16. Paulo Dybala, 41. Memphis Depay, 75. Claudio Marchisio - we tried… and we lost. Because of Kluivert injury we started with Lasse Schöne in AMR position and perhaps that was our first mistake, because we gave away attack on the right wing (van Rhijn couldn’t rise as often as he’s used to in Eredivisie) and Dejan Meleg was effectively shut down on the left. We actually defended well and didn’t allow Juventus to have too many good chances, but we conceded the first and the third goal from corners and that was the real problem - set pieces should have been our strength, not theirs, and to concede two from corners is almost criminal. Should have know this, though, because they scored one in previous game as well. Memphis scored his goal after missed interception by Mike van der Hoorn, so there it was again - individual errors and set piece goals were the difference between two teams.

We played our best football in the beginning of the second half. I took off Lucas Andersen, switched Schöne to midfield and put youngster van Grinsven on the right flank and we instantly started to attack more, play good transitions from defense to attack and pose a threat to Juventus. Unfortunately, we always missed the last pass or clinical finishing and couldn’t score in the end.

Our best chance came from corner in the 81’, but both van Grinsven and van der Hoorn saw their shots blocked in the last minute and so we were defeated in front of home fans.

+ period in the beginning of the second half when we actually played a very good football

- two conceded goals from corners is something we should’ve avoided

- defensive work as a whole didn’t impress (too passive!)

- poor shooting (11/2), mostly because Juventus defended so well and always managed to block our shots in the last possible moment

09.11.2019 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 84. pen. Urby Emanuelson - few tired legs after Juventus game and difficult choices of selecting our first eleven for this match. 5-3-2 that FC Utrecht plays has been difficult to us in the past, but in the last match against them we controlled the game comfortably, so I went with our regular 4-1-2-3.

Nathan Leyder hit the bar with his shot from outside of the area, but I didn’t know it then that it would be the closest we got to a goal in this game. The first half was honestly the worst 45 minutes of Eredivisie football I’ve seen from my team in a long time. We couldn’t mark their wing-backs well enough and were ripped open several times by good counter-attacks.

16’ brought a questionable defense from the referee. Good counter by FC Utrecht ended when Mike van der Hoorn brought down Reda Bouitam in the box. It looked like a clear penalty and a red card, because van der Hoorn was the last man, but whistle was silent and we dodged that bullet. Ten minutes later Jeffrey de Lange made a good save to parry another clear cut chance and in 35’ Stef van Nijland hit the post. We gave away 5 clear cut chances in those first 45 minutes and were really really lucky to go to half-time with 0-0 scoreline.

Second half didn’t change too much. Jeffrey de Lange made a wonderful save to block Pele van Anholt’s shots from two meters. I was starting to feel happy just to held a goalless draw, but another questionable decision of the referee decided the match. Penalty was given against Darren Sidoel for the high foot inside our box - a very harsh decision, so that spot-kick gave us the first defeat of the season in the league.

I didn’t held myself back and slammed the referee openly in my after match comments. FA remained silent, because video evidence was clear and they had no arguments.

+ we were able to get most of possession (yes, I had difficulties finding positives against this match)

- extremely leaky defense and six clear cut chances that we gave to FC Utrecht

- late conceded goal

- probably the worst first half performance by the team that I’ve ever witnessed

23.11.2019 - Ajax - PEC Zwolle 1:0 (ED) - 14. Laurent Depoitre (og) - after the loss our mood in dressing room was a bit grim and I selected our team carefully. PEC Zwolle is a newly-promoted team, but they sit in the middle of Eredivisie table quite comfortably and play perhaps a little bit above their actual abilities. On the other hand, we should be able to win them comfortably and I needed my key players rested against AS Monaco three days later - if we want to get anything out of our Champions League season, this will be a must win game for us.

We started well and first clear cut chance came in the first minute, but Dejan Meleg hit the post. Laurent Depoitre tackled ball after Zwolle goalkeeper dropped it and unluckily for him put it into his own goal. We attacked well and created chances (5 clear cut chances in the first half), but just couldn’t score. Dejan Meleg, Ugur Sezgin and Dirk van Grinsven all were wasteful.

On the other side of the pitch, we looked error-prone too - Zwolle got their first opportunity in the end of the first half, but this shot went well wide. In the end of the match they’ve got another chance that was easily saved by Jeffrey de Lange.

We applied good pressure on Zwolle defense, but our inability to break through got me increasingly furious. 1-0 lead is always a little bit shaky and we should have performed better in front of our home fans. Despite our poor finishing we kept a clean sheet and Laurent Depoitre’s own goal gave us 1-0 win.

First win of the season when I’m not at all happy with performance. We couldn’t score despite having six clear-cut chances and hitting frames of the goal three times. Ugur Sezgin and Dejan Meleg missed their chances and Dirk van Grinsven looked invisible on the right flank. Giving away two clear cut chances against a team like Zwolle is not a good defense either.

+ I guess I can be pleased with three points

+ we applied good attacking pressure and had 25 shots

+ man of the match performance by Darren Sidoel - he contributed well to attack and his crosses were accurate

- poor finishing from open positions

- errors in defense that allowed Zwolle clear cut chances

26.11.2019 - AS Monaco - Ajax 3:1 (Champions League Group Stage) - 7., 10. and 55. Stephan El Shaarawy - 71. Dirk van Grinsven - we needed to win this game to keep our dream of 2nd place alive, but failed miserably and were undone by El Shaarawy’s hat-trick. He quickly scored his first goal and added another from good counter. Our defense looked unable to defend in 1-1 situations against very skilled Monaco players and it was evident in 3rd goal situation - our defensive line were completely ripped apart by good one-touch passes and that proved we’re just not good enough yet.

Our best moments of the match came around 70’ mark. First Dejan Meleg hit the bar from clear cut chance. A minute later our good counter attack ended with a goal by young Dirk van Grinsven. But that was a poor consolation, as we were defeated convincingly.

+ we weren’t poor in any statistical department - passed okay, tackled okay, kept mistakes at decent level and created two clear cut chances

- our defenders were unable to stop skilled opponents in 1-1 situations, were a bit hesitant and made some wrong decisions that ultimately cost us those three conceded goals

30.11.2019 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 1:0 (ED) - 69. Arkadiusz Milik - Feyenoord’s weak spot ahead of this match was their fullbacks. Leandro Bacuna was suspended and they didn’t have adequate cover, so I hoped to exploit that.

We took game under our control in the middle of the first half and put Feyenoord under pressure from 30’, but couldn’t find a goal and half-time ended 0-0. I replaced Dragisa Gudelj with Nicolai Boilesen after first half because Gudelj looked poor, missed tackles and picked up an early yellow card.

2nd half went on pretty much the same - we had possession, moved ball around Feyenoord box and looking for clinical pass or chance to find goal. Finally it came - Andersen’s cross found Arkadiusz Milik in front of the goal and Polish striker made it 1-0. Feyenoord then had to take more risks and Milik got another good opportunities to extend our lead, but was unable to beat Kenneth Vermeer in Feyenoord goal. Noa Lang had a good shot from corner around 84’, but that too fell to Vermeer.

So 1-0 it was - the scoreline doesn’t exactly reflect how comfortable we looked on the pitch, but three points nevertheless.

+ good possession football (59%)

+ good defense and a clean sheet - we didn’t give Feyenoord any real chances

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

November was a rather poor month for us. One good result (a win over Feyenoord) is not good enough to make up league game loss against FC Utrecht, poor performance against PEC Zwolle and lack of quality in continental games. The latter is the most disappointing, because it’s clear that we still are where we have been for the last few years - better than 4th seed teams, but way off from knockout stages.

Eredivisie

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The league table is quite satisfying. We lost against FC Utrecht, but it didn’t affect our position much and I’m always happy to see PSV Eindhoven struggling. We did beat overachieving Go Ahead this month, but all other contenders for top three places have dropped points here or there during previous weeks, so we slowly are pulling away from the rest of the pack

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 10, Arkadiusz Milik 7, Dejan Meleg 7

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 8, Dejan Meleg 7, Justin Kluivert 6

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04.12.2019 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 42. and 66. Francesco Antonucci, 87. Dejan Meleg - let’s face it - most of Eredivisie teams are not fit enough to compete in multiple levels. sc Heerenveen is one of them - they looked completely tired and no wonder that we won comfortably.

I experimented with attack, sending Lucas Andersen in as AMR and putting Francesco Antonucci to his place in midfield, and it paid dividends, as the young Italian scored twice. Dejan Meleg added another goal in the end of the match and so we had a convincing 3:0 win.

+ good shooting (20/10)

+ good possession (58%) - shows how well we controlled it

+ man of the match performance by Francesco Antonucci

07.12.2019 - Ajax - ADO Den Haag 3:0 (ED) - 11. and 72. Dirk van Grinsven, 37. Arkadiusz Milik - ADO suffered the same kind of exhaustion after their Europa League match as sc Heerenveen did in our previous game. I’ve starting to hear some complains about playing time, so I’ve promised Darren Sidoel more starts and he was in line-up for this game. Noa Lang and Dirk van Grinsven also started.

The first goal was a curious one - Arkadiusz Milik blocked a clearance by ADO defender and ball fell to Dirk van Grinsven’s feet. Young winger didn’t hesitate and scored a good goal to start this match. Dejan Meleg hit the bar from corner around 34’ and few minutes later, Arkadiusz Milik scored his goal - good pressure, interception of the pass and dribble into the box followed by very good finish.

ADO had their best chances in the second half, around 60’, when Jeffrey de Lange had to make two good saves, but Dirk van Grinsven’s second goal of the game put things to bed for that time.

+ clean sheet - this time I’d put it to good goalkeeping rather than defense; we didn’t allow any clear cut chances, but ADO had some very good shots from unlikely positions and de Lange made a good job to save those

+ good amount of chances created and good shooting (16/9)

+ man of the match performance by Dirk van Grinsven

11.12.2019 - Ajax - Basel 1:0 (Champions League Group Stage) - 60. Deyovaisio Zeefuik - we needed to secure our third place in the group and win or a draw in this game was enough to do that. I used our best eleven to face Basel and only Amin Younes and Justin Kluivert were absent because of injuries.

The first half was really drab and didn’t offer much to the fans. Both teams defended well, but couldn’t create almost anything in attack.

After half-time break it changed a little. First we gifted Basel a clear cut chance, but Elias Kuchunga sent the ball wide. We looked the most dangerous from set pieces and Deyovaisio Zeefuik scored a header from corner. We then had a chance to increase our lead, when Dejan Meleg and Lasse Schöne created a good free kick combination to play Arkadiusz Milik completely open, but our best striker somehow managed to miss his shot. We got game well under control from there and didn’t allow Basel any opportunities. Substitute Noa Lang got a great chance in the final minute of the match, but his close range shot was blocked by Basel goalkeeper Marvit Hitz. So we settled with 1:0 win. I’m satisfied with result, but not performance. Good defense and poor attack were enough to scrape it and give us 3rd place in the group.

+ good defense and clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Deyovaisio Zeefuik

+ we looked dangerous from set pieces and scored a goal from corner

- we weren’t creative in attack and our attacking players failed to impress; finishing wasn’t much better either - both our clear cut chances were missed

14.12.2019 - Ajax - FC Groningen 1:1 (ED) - 54. Dirk van Grinsven - 52. Juninho Bacuna - we have two home games in a row against FC Groningen and, considering our strong league position, the cup game is probably more important, so I rotated more for this match. Darren Sidoel, Dragisa Gudelj, Navajo Bakboord and Dirk van Grinsven started while first team players were rested after midweek Champions League game.

The first half was poor football - neither side got anything going and our best chance came in 8’ from a counter, but van Grinsven’s shot was saved.

We took the lead in 54’, when Dejan Meleg’s cross was headed in by Dirk van Grinsven. Rare header from our winger who can’t neither jump or head the ball correctly.

Despite defending well from open play, we conceded an equalizer from corner - Thulani Serero lost his header against Bacuna and so we had to split points with FC Groningen, although we dominated the play in the last 30 minutes.

+ good shooting accuracy - our shots were saved, but at least they were on target

+ man of the match performance by Darren Sidoel

- no clear cut chances and lack of good goalscoring opportunities

- conceded goal from corner - again we’re hurt by set pieces

17.12.2019 - Ajax - FC Groningen 1:1 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 15. Thulani Serero - 33. Sheraldo Becker - a little bit better performance from our team didn’t show on score sheet. 120 minutes of football ended with a penalty shoot-out that we won confidently.

We dominated the first 15 minutes and topped it with a goal. Arkadiusz Milik gave a good pass behind defense and Thulani Serero sent it into the net. FC Groningen picked themselves up after the goal and game evened out. Sheraldo Becker equalized with a shot from the edge of the area that surprised everyone. We had a great chance to end first half with a goal - Dejan Meleg got into open position after great counter-attack, but FC Groningen goalkeeper made a brilliant save.

After break the game evened out. We perhaps wanted it more and both goalkeepers had to make some good saves, but no clear cut chances. The same continued in extra time - despite attacking more, we weren’t able to score and FC Groningen defended really well as unit.

Penalty shoot-out went relatively easy. First Charlison Benschop hit the bar, but Arkadiusz Milik’s poor penalty was easily saved. Then Jeffrey de Lange made two good saves in a row and we confidently won the shoot-out 3-1. Nice to progress, but performance was not too convincing.

+ we were more attacking side; we made more shots and half of them were on target; great goalkeeping saved FC Groningen in certain moments

- we lost possession battle in midfield

- too many fouls (27)

Dutch Cup Quarter Final takes us against Helmond Sport. It’s a favourable draw - although many strong Eredivisie teams have been knocked out, other members of the big three (Feyenoord and PSV) are still in the mix.

Good start to the month were a bit overshadowed by games against FC Groningen. Those two matches showed that our attack can be shut down and Groningen deserve credit for that.

Nevertheless - we secured 3rd place in our Champions League group (our opponents in Europa League knockout stages are CSKA Moscow) and our league position looks very secure to say the least.

The month ended with positive news from physios - both Justin Kluivert and Amin Younes are back in training and probably fit for the next matches in January. I need them back, because I’ve been forced to play Dejan Meleg in AML and his performances have dropped considerably. I firmly believe he’s more efficient as AMR, so I can make this work now after mid-season break.

I don’t expect much from January transfer window. There is minor interest about some of my players (Milik, Andersen, Meleg), but I can’t really see that any of those clubs would be willing to bid what I want for them (£15m+) and I’m not accepting less. All bids in a range below £5m for my youngsters (Sidoel, Gudelj, Leyder, Eiting, Antonucci) I’ve dismissed without thinking.

Decisions were made about few of the youngsters. Azor Matusiwa (DMC) and Rayan Yilmaz (AML) earned themselves contract extensions. Matusiwa especially has had a good season with NAC Breda.

On the other side Anderson Lopez (ST currently at FC Twente) and Nicky Gaddum (AMC in Jong Ajax) got permission to search for new club for the next season.

I also wanted to offer Justin Kluivert a new contract, but his agent was a ***** and after just two talks dismissed our offer. I have to keep in mind asking him to drop this greedy agent.

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 10, Arkadiusz Milik 8, Dejan Meleg 8

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 9, Dirk van Grinsven 8, Justin Kluivert 6, Lucas Andersen 6

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The end of the year brought the first managerial casualties. NEC’s Wim Koevermans got sacked (no wonder, as they’re bottom of the table). I believe I forgot to mention that PSV’s Philip Cocu accepted job offer from AS Roma. PSV finally brought in Ruud Brood as interim manager, but are still looking for Cocu’s successor and that mess with managers is probably contributing a lot to PSV’s poor season.

 

MVV Maastricht takeover by some Taiwanese tycoon means that they’re the club to watch for the coming seasons. Rumors say that this gentleman from Asia is willing to invest as much as £97m into his new football club, so it might see MVV raise to very strong club in Eredivisie.

 

January transfer window started with loan moves. Jelmer Koning (DR) went to Go Ahead Eagles (who are still continuing their amazing season). Sven Keller (GK) went to Jupiler League side RKC until the end of the season and Donny Geerts (DC) moved to FC Emmen for the next months. Hein Yilmaz (DC) went on loan to Jupiler League leaders Excelsior.

It was more difficult with Frenkie de Jong. Midfield playmaker asked for more playing time and we agreed that loan move would be good option for him, but finding a decent team that would offer good playing time was a challenge. He joined Swedish club Malmö FF until Summer.

 

I feel I’ve been rotating A LOT throughout the first half of the season, but still some of the players are looking for more playing time. Darren Sidoel, Nathan Leyder, Francesco Antonucci and Ugur Sezgin have all been more or less complaining and I’ve reluctantly agreed to start them more, but I sense trouble as I’ve got several player pairings who are equally good on their roles and, with Kluivert and Younes back in match fitness, sharing playing time won’t be easy task. Even 18 years old Dirk van Grinsven, who’s been very involved in first team considering his age and lack of experience, thoughts he needs to get more playing time. I guess I have to loan some of them out for the next 6 months in order to keep morale high.

 

Some movement in backroom staff too - our U-19 coach John Heitinga accepted job offer from Helmond Sport to become their new manager and I didn’t stand in his way. He’s a decent coach, but not irreplaceable and he could become good manager. We’ll lock horns already this season in Dutch Cup Quarter Final. His position in U-19 bench will remain vacant for a while. We don’t need a new coach right away and it’s always nice to have a position to offer to some of our own veterans (Lasse Schöne in two years time, perhaps).


 

25.01.2020 - Willem II Tilburg - Ajax 1:4 (ED) - 15. Deyovaisio Zeefuik (og) - 14. Mike van der Hoorn, 26. Francesco Antonucci, 38. Arkadiusz Milik, 89. Noa Lang - Willem II suffered heavy 7:0 defeat when we last met in August and they couldn’t put up resistance this time either.

We missed Thulani Serero for this match, because he was still recovering from his damaged heel, but he’ll be good for the next match.

We put our top gear in from the kick-off and first ten minutes were real fireworks, unfortunately, without goal. First young Francesco Antonucci got a clear cut chance after five minutes of football, but hit side netting. Then Arkadiusz Milik hit crossbar from good position and Justin Kluivert wasted his chance to score, sending weak shot right to goalkeeper’s hands.

We finally scored from free kick, and from all of the players it was Mike van der Hoorn who scored his first goal of the season. But we conceded a quick goal right after scoring. Poor defensive cooperation led to clear cut chance. Jeffrey de Lange did brilliantly to get a hand to Giovanni Sio’s close range shot, but ball bounced awkwardly against Deyovaisio Zeefuik and went into our goal.

No worries, as we quickly resumed our lead - Francesco Antonucci finally scored from his third chance in this match, and after Milik’s goal our lead was safe.

Noa Lang completed scoring in the end of the match. There was a hint of luck in his goal, as the ball took deflection from defenders before beating goalkeeper, but what makes it remarkable is the fact that it was only our first long shot goal in this league season. That shows how patient we usually are with our attack and, to be honest we don’t really have too many players with decent long shot attribute.

 

+ good creativity in attack and five clear cut chances

+ passing and crossing stats were great (over 80% and 30% respectively)

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg - yes, he does a lot better in AMR role

- finishing could have been better, we wasted three clear cut chances

- clumsy own goal

- Nicolai Boilesen will be suspended for the next match after collecting his fifth yellow card


 

29.01.2015 - Ajax - NAC Breda 3:0 (ED) - 21. and 38. Ugur Sezgin, 61. Dejan Meleg - Thulani Serero was back with the squad. Ugur Sezgin and Carel Eiting replaced Milik and Leyder respectively. I’m planning to watch more carefully the performances of those players who demand more playing time (Sezgin in this case), and, of course, we’ve got three players on loan at NAC (Azor Matusiwa, Daan van Thiel and Rayan El Azrak) and it’s interesting to see how they do against us.

It was the game when crosses did the damage against NAC and all of our goals came from crosses. Ugur Sezgin scored two goals in the first half, one assist by Kluivert and other by Meleg. And while his chances weren’t the best, his finishing in those situations was excellent.

NAC Breda got their best chance from free kick - Mike van der Hoorn missed his header and ball reached to Tavares Lopes, who managed to send it into side netting from open position. After Dejan Meleg’s goal in the second half (another good cross by Kluivert) it was over. Very confident win and good way to start our second half of the season with two good matches in January.

 

+ good attacking creativity and shooting (23/12)

+ good crossing that made the difference (again over 30% crosses made their target)

+ man of the match performance by Ugur Sezgin

- Mike van der Hoorn was injured in this match and he’ll be sidelined with fractured ribs for 4-5 weeks

- Dragisa Gudelj picked up his 5th yellow card, so while Boilesen sat out that game, Gudelj will miss the next one


 

Dirk van Grinsven went on loan to Celta until the end of the season and I almost agreed to send Navajo Bakboord to FC Nantes, but van der Hoorn injury means that he’ll have whole February to prove himself with our starting line-up, so he’ll stay put.


 

Eredivisie

 

http://i.imgur.com/nzrbS5Q.png[/img]



 

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 10, Arkadiusz Milik 9, Dejan Meleg 9, Ugur Sezgin 8

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 12, Dirk van Grinsven 9, Justin Kluivert 8

Edited by Draakon

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02.02.2020 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 26. Guus Hupperts - 13. Nathan Leyder - players to watch for me in this game were Francesco Antonucci and, of course, Navajo Bakboord. His first chance of many to impress as centre-back.

We took the lead from free kick - Meleg’s cross found Nathan Leyder at the far post and defensive midfielder scored his first ever goal for Ajax. We were unable to add goal, despite good chances to Kluivert and Milik. Instead, we allowed AZ to equalize after some passive defending by Boilesen. It was the first and only chance our opponents got from the game and we were a little bit disappointed to finish first half 1-1, as we looked like a better team. Thulani Serero got the best chance, but his header from point blank range hit the bar and Leyder’s shot from the edge of the area bounced back from crossbar too.

Unfortunately, in the second half our performance dropped. We didn’t allow any chances, but couldn’t create anything either. AZ defended well and played for a draw and our substitutions Sezgin and Schöne couldn’t change this in attack. We never managed to put AZ under real pressure in the second half and so had to settle with a draw.

From players to watch, Antonucci had a good solid game in midfield, while Navajo Bakboord finished his game with poor 6.4 rating. No defensive errors from him, but he was a little bit passive defensively.

 

+ we actually created enough chances in the first half to win this game

- finishing should have been better

- drab game and lack of creativity in the second half

 

05.02.2020 - Helmond Sport - Ajax 1:3 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 73. Jafar Arias - 50. Noa Lang, 90. Deyovaisio Zeefuik, 90.+3 Amin Younes - we were poor against John Heitinga’s Helmond Sport, but managed to scrape it in the end. First half was extremely disappointing. Dejan Meleg’s free kick in the beginning of the match hit crossbar and that was the closest that we got to a goal. The rest of the half was just poor passing and lack of creativity. Helmond looked in contest all the time and put up a good fight for a Jupiler League side. After Noa Lang scored, I hoped we could scrape it 1-0 despite playing poorly, but that wasn’t going to happen. Helmond got their best chance in 73’ - too passive defense by Nicolai Boilesen allowed Arias an open shot. He hit the post, but made amends with rebound. In the end experience saved us. Substitute Lasse Schöne took two great set pieces and laid goals for Zeefuik (from corner) and in injury time to Amin Younes (from free kick). Although that made final score respectable enough, I’m not too pleased with what I saw on the pitch.

  • + a win, I guess
  • + Lasse Schöne showed that experience matters in this kind of situations
  • + man of the match performance by Noa Lang
  • - poor performance in midfield, lack of creativity and good chances
  • - Ugur Sezgin was completely invisible despite playing full 90 minutes

 

09.02.2020 - Ajax - FC Twente 2:2 (ED) - 7. Thulani Serero, 27. Arkadiusz Milik - 24. Thokozani Mpengesi, 90. Niclas Füllkrüg - we dropped points against FC Twente in the first match between our teams, after conceding a late goal. And we did it again in Amsterdam Arena.

We scored a quick goal, but allowed FC Twente to equalize from corner - our own loaned player Thokozani Mpengesi came with a powerful header to surprise Navajo Bakboord. But Arkadiusz Milik quickly scored from great cross by Justin Kluivert and it looked like we’re in control of the match.

But then we just didn’t have enough luck - first Milik’s header clipped the bar on its way over. Then Thulani Serero’s long shot rattled crossbar and Amin Younes made a good dribble, but his shot hit the post. All this was topped, of course, with FC Twente goal in the last minute. Navajo Bakboord (him again!) was too slow to stop Füllkrug turning around in the box and his shot was too good for Jeffrey de Lange.

Disappointing result, but I feel that we performed well on the pitch and tactics were right, just a little bit unfortunate this time around.

 

+ good attacking football on display

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

- late equalizer

- poor shooting accuracy (20/6)

- finishing should be more clinical

- Navajo Bakboord was the weakest link of our defense, again

 

12.02.2020 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 84. Lars Veldwijk - 44. and 49. Dejan Meleg, 90.+1 Navajo Bakboord - the first half consisted a lot of midfield battles and our players suffered from it - first Thulani Serero and then Noa Lang suffered twisted ankles in this match.

It was a pretty standard match against smaller team in away stadium. We had more possession, but not too many chances. Dejan Meleg got the best of them and in the end of the first half his shot found it’s way to the net. Justin Kluivert’s cross for the assist, again. We got the penalty in the end of the half too, after Thulani Serero was pushed by Mitch Apau in SC Cambuur box, but Meleg hit it against the post.

He made amends with a fierce shot in 49’ to extend our lead, and despite conceding a late goal from experienced Lars Veldwijk, we finished the game with another goal - this time from corner. It was Navajo Bakboord’s first ever goal for Ajax - a great moment for him, surely.

 

+ good possession (62%) and attacking football

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg

- Noa Lang and Thulani Serero are both sidelined for 3 weeks with twisted ankles

- too many lost headers inside our own box, that finally cost us this conceded goal

 

15.02.2020 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 3:0 (ED) - 3. Lucas Andersen, 9. and 47. Arkadiusz Milik - an easy and confident win over smaller Sparta Rotterdam side. Europa League games are approaching and with no pressure in the league, I chose to rest Deyovaisio Zeefuik, Ricardo van Rhijn and Dejan Meleg. With both Thulani Serero and Noa Lang injured Lasse Schöne moved to midfield. Nathan Leyder took a place in central defense.

We scored two goals inside the first ten minutes and Sparta never recovered from that. But we had a lot more chances than that. Justin Kluivert wasted two great scoring opportunities and Nathan Leyder hit the post from open position. But the second goal from Milik (after a great cross from left by Justin Kluivert) ended the game and we eased up on the pressure after that.

Navajo Bakboord got sent off in 89’ after receiving his second yellow card in this match and I’m not happy about that. He had a very good game until that point - he won headers and made a lot of great interceptions. But this stupid red card leaves him out of the next match against PSV Eindhoven.

 

+ good attacking game and plenty of chances

+ clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Arkadiusz Milik

- shooting accuracy could be improved (21/8) and we didn’t use our chances as well as we should have

- needless red card to Navajo Bakboord

 

20.02.2020 - Ajax - CSKA Moscow 3:0 (Europa League 1st knockout round 1st leg) - 20. Igor Akinfeev (og), 53. and 65. Justin Kluivert - it looked like evenly contested match on paper, so I sent out our most experienced players against CSKA. Our main target was to keep the clean sheet, but to score a goal or two would be most helpful.

We were helped by a little bit of luck with our first goal - Nicolai Boilesen’s cross from left took a deflection from defenders and went towards goal. Akinfeev managed to save it, but not without moving over goal line with ball in his hands. 1-0. Couple of minutes after that goal Jeffrey de Lange was forced to make a great save to parry a good long shot, but that was the closest CSKA got to a goal.

We had a lot of chances around 30 minute mark, but a string of great saves by Akinfeev kept CSKA in the game, but in the 2nd half we finally turned our superiority into goals. Justin Kluivert scored first after a great ball by Lucas Andersen and then added another goal after fooling a defender inside CSKA box, turning quickly around him and coolly sending it into the net. 3-0 is a great score to take from first leg and it makes us a lot more optimistic about progressing into the next round.

 

+ we created a good amount of chances

+ very important clean sheet in home game because of away goals rule

+ man of the match performance by Justin Kluivert

- Arkadiusz Milik picked up a knock and will be out for 2 weeks with twisted knee

 

23.02.2020 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 0:0 (ED) - we had to settled with a goalless draw against PSV Eindhoven, but that’s okay. I have to acknowledge the fact that with Serero, Lang and Milik injured and Navajo Bakboord suspended, we were a little bit weaker. I brought young fullback Raymond Bouwhuis from Jong Ajax and midfielder Pieter Stekelenburg from U-19 team to bolster our ranks and fill the bench.

PSV were weakened too. Their first team defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin was suspended and they sold both Mickey van der Hart and Adam Maher in January for a rather small fee, so I anticipated a win, but we fell a bit short.

We were better team in both first and second half, but didn’t manage to set up any clear cut chances and eventually couldn’t score, despite having a number of shots and creating more opportunities.

The game was very physical - PSV’s Joel Campbell was forced off with concussion, but Nathan Leyder, Dragisa Gudelj and Amin Younes all picked up a knock from our side.

 

+ we did OK in midfield and had more shots on goal

+ very good defense and clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Dragisa Gudelj (although none of the players did remarkably well)

- casualties were high in this match - Nathan Leyder will be out for 3-4 weeks with back strain, Amin Younes is sidelined for 2 weeks with damaged foot and Dragisa Gudelj damaged his heel and will return in around a week, but all of them will miss our 2nd leg game against CSKA Moscow


27.02.2020 - CSKA Moscow - Ajax 1:2 (Europa League 1st knockout round 2nd leg) - 8. pen. Vasily Berezutskiy - 77. Justin Kluivert, 86. Dejan Meleg - with all the injuries suffered in PSV game, we were for the first time this season truly out of depth. I brought up 17 years old striker Melvin Jongeling from U-19 team to fill the bench, but we still went to this game with only 6 substitutes.

Conditions were what you’d expect from Russia in February: -9 degrees temperature with snowy pitch.

We had our first chance already around 3’ mark, but Igor Akinfeev showed once again that he’s a superb keeper, blocking Meleg’s shot with his feet from close range. CSKA took the lead after a very questionable penalty. Carel Eiting supposedly had his foot high in our box, but that was nowhere near opponent face and so the decision was harsh.

Despite conceding early penalty we continued to create better goalscoring chances from open play. But despite having 3 clear-cut chances inside the first half, we went to the break with one goal deficit.

It got better in the second half - our better creativity finally brought goals, first by Kluivert and then by Meleg. Both men still needed two chances to finally score - their first shots were blocked by superb Akinfeev - but that gave us a good comeback in this match and 5:1 aggregate win over CSKA.

Youngster Jongeling was subbed in and got his chance in 85’, but nerves got better of him and he sent his shot wide of goal. That’s the learning experience, I suppose.

 

+ very good come-back after being behind for most of the match

+ amount of chances created - we got altogether 6 ccc-s

+ man of the match performance by Nicolai Boilesen

- we really should have finish better and the score could have been a lot more comfortable

- Carel Eiting, despite not being really guilty in this penalty situation, didn’t really recover from this and made too many errors



 

February has been a difficult month with a lot of games, but we can be pleased with how it’s been going for us. Our league title is almost secure, we’re in Dutch Cup semi finals and we’ve beaten CSKA convincingly to progress further from our initial target in Europa League. Next opponent is Napoli and it would be a little bit more difficult, I suppose.

I’ve settled Francesco Antonucci and Darren Sidoel, who are now content with amount of first team football. I’ve successfully convinced Justin Kluivert to sack his pain in the ass agent and extended his contract until 2023 after that. And with all that I managed to give young Pieter Stekelenburg and Melvin Jongeling their first taste of first team football.



 

Eredivisie

http://i.imgur.com/RM492Pm.png[/img]

 

PSV are still down in the table, but difference in points is decreasing and I’m confident that they’ll be up there in 2nd place for the end of the season. NEC’s troubles are increasing and they’re main candidates for relegation.

SC Cambuur management got a little bit too nervous about their position in the table and so their manager Henk de Jong was sacked towards the end of the month.

 

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 13, Dejan Meleg 12, Arkadiusz Milik 12

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 14, Justin Kluivert 10, Lucas Andersen 8

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03.03.2020 - Go Ahead Eagles - Ajax 2:1 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 53. Jeroen Lumu, 73. Denni Graafland - 40. Navajo Bakboord - it was the rare failure in this football season from our team. Go Ahead had a fantastic season so far, truly Leicester-like. Predicted to be relegated by media, they’re sitting in 3rd position in Eredivise and now stunned us to reach Dutch Cup final. Can’t get too much better than that for this small team.

But to the game. Mike van der Hoorn and Dragisa Gudelj were back in training, but I didn’t use them in starting line-up. Yes, we missed our midfield players in Serero and Lang and Arkadiusz Milik was also not yet fit. But that’s no excuse. We should have win this game comfortably, but instead struggled to keep midfield under control and we lacked creativity. Go Ahead were well prepared for the match, they played 4-4-2 with very well chosen striker partnership and we were carved open a couple of times in defense.

We went to half-time with unconvincing 1-0 lead, after Navajo Bakboord headed in Lasse Schöne’s free kick. It was a great time to score and good set piece goal when chances from open play were scarce, but Go Ahead managed to turn things around in second half. They did have some luck with them too - Jeroen Lumu’s cross turned towards goal and surprised Jeffrey de Lange, so their first goal was a total fluke. Then cross from our right took a deflection and fell onto feet of Dennis Graafland who anticipated it very well and scored from open position.

We struggled to create chances and the closest we got was Lasse Schöne’s long shot that bounced back from post. Motivation and determination was there, but that was not good enough and, despite letting my anger show after game in our dressing room, I have to admit that it probably was more of a manager’s loss than players’. I lacked solid options from the bench to make a difference. Lucas Andersen went in for Francesco Antonucci, but couldn’t make a difference and all other midfield or attacking players were either not fit or too young and inexperience.

  • our defense was awful and central defenders were 2-3 times completely outplayed by Go Ahead strikers
  • lack of chances, we couldn’t get the last pass through and Dejan Meleg was completely invisible on our right flank


 

07.03.2020 - Ajax - NEC Nijmegen 3:0 (ED) - 26. Ugur Sezgin, 45. Thulani Serero, 86. Francesco Antonucci - morale was low after cup final loss, and we took this win over struggling NEC without much enjoyment, although work was done efficiently in the end. Good news from physioroom say that Thulani Serero, Noa Lang and Arkadiusz Milik were fit again and I gave them all a little bit of playing time here, but tried to keep them fresh for more important Napoli fixtures. We lacked creativity, but compensated with efficiency and took 2-0 lead before half-time. Thulani Serero returned from injury with a goal, but unfortunately suffered another trauma after a rough challenge and I had to take him out in the 2nd half. Bruised shin leaves him out of the first Napoli match. NEC got their best chances in around 83’. Mike van der Hoorn made an error that allowed Kristjan Emilsson 1-1 against Jeffrey de Lange, but our goalkeeper made a great save. Following corner gave NEC another chance, but Dragisa Gudelj’ block and the second good save by de Lange kept our clean sheet. Three minutes later Francesco Antonucci made it 3-0 after a technical lob over NEC goalkeeper and that was the game. Lack of creativity was the main struggle during this game - we only gave 18 key passes. We were a lot shorter and lighter than NEC players and that cost us in aerial challenges. But we compensated with quite good finishing and used very well those opportunities that we got.


12.03.2020 - Napoli - Ajax 0:0 (Europa League 2nd knockout round 1st leg) - we returned from Napoli with a goalless draw. Couldn’t score away goal, but did well to avoid conceding and that keeps our hopes up for the home game.

Both teams had good chances in the first 15 minutes and, with Mike van der Hoorn missing, we struggled winning headers against Mario Mandzukic who is a real handful in the air. Napoli were more attacking in the first half, but we defended well and they couldn’t find too good chances. After the break Arkadiusz Milik hit the bar - unlucky not to get a goal - and after Mandzukic was taken off, Napoli lost the edge in their attack. We got a great opportunity in the end of the match, when referee awarded a very questionably penalty. Ugur Sezgin took the most of the situation and Alex Telles couldn’t believe that was called a foul. But Lasse Schöne took extremely poor penalty, blasted it right in the middle and Pepe Reina had no problems making a save. Real shame because that was a golden opportunity to take 1-0 away win from this first leg. Still, nothing’s lost yet, but some things to note down - we played well as a team, but lost a lot of challenges both in the air and on the ground, making too many individual mistakes (21). And if we want to succeed against such teams, we have to use our chances better in the second leg. The main problem is that Jeffrey de Lange suffered strained neck in this match and while he could finish this game, he will have to skip league game against Vitesse and rematch against Napoli.

 

15.03.2020 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 0:3 (ED) - 4. Luciano Slagveer, 24. Clyde Drenthe, 58. David Moberg-Karlsson - with Jeffrey de Lange injured, I had to recall Joe van der Sar from loan. He had a solid season so far in PEC Zwolle, but now made his debut for Ajax.

Between two Napoli games I rotated most of the squad and second choice player got their chance. Unfortunately, this combined with unconvincing goalkeeping by debutant van der Sar resulted in a disastrous 0:3 defeat in our own home.

We didn’t play extremely poor, but made some costly errors in defense and, while I’m used to that de Lange could make a brilliant save or two in any game, van der Sar couldn’t make any significant contributions, so virtually any solid opportunity for Vitesse resulted in a goal. On the other end, we lacked creativity and despite hitting framework twice (Gudelj and Kluivert) we couldn’t break Vitesse defensive line open and didn’t get any clear cut chances during whole ninety minutes. Overall, an extremely frustrating match and I let the lads exactly know where the shortcomings were. Deyovaisio Zeefuik and Justin Kluivert were rightfully pointed out as the most underperforming players.

 

19.03.2020 - Ajax - Napoli 1:1 (Europa League 2nd knockout round 2nd leg) - 73. Dejan Meleg - 46. Andrea Belotti - Nathan Leyder and Noa Lang were back from injury before this match, but Jeffrey de Lange was still out, so van der Sar had to put on the gloves again. This time more successfully.

We controlled the game in the first half, having 69% of possession, but Napoli played good counter-attacking football and so we had to be careful in defense. First half gave neither side any clear cut chances, but after 2nd half kick-off Napoli scored very quickly. It was a simple goal and almost set-piece like - goal kick by Pepe Reina was headed forward in midfield, ball went between defenders and we were too slow to react - Belotti used his chance excellently and van der Sar can’t be blamed for that one.

We continued to control midfield, but after Dejan Meleg equalized, we still needed another goal. Justin Kluivert got our best chance in 79’, but sent his shot well wide and that was a decisive miss. 1:1 final score gave Napoli advantage because of away goal rule.

  • we had 60% of possession and I’m pleased with overall performance, but finishing let us down
  • we have to be more clinical in continental games like this - we missed penalty in the first match and now Kluivert’s missed ccc did cost us dearly, that was the difference between two teams in the end
  • Nicolai Boilesen was the man of the match - defending well and contributing a lot to attack on our left flank
  • Thulani Serero twisted his ankle in this game, again - his previous similar injury was just in February - and will be out for another 3 weeks; veteran Lasse Schöne have had a lot of games in previous weeks in central midfield, he and Noa Lang will have more starts in the next matches as well


 

22.03.2020 - Go Ahead Eagles - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 4. and 19. Ugur Sezgin - Jeffrey de Lange was back in goal, Noa Lang starts in midfield and Amin Younes went to right flank. We scored two very similar goals in the first half - Darren Sidoel’s cross found Ugur Sezgin at the near post, where single striker should be, and two of his good shots gave us a healthy lead that we maintained until the end. Our second half football was less impressive - substitute Lasse Schöne didn’t impress and we couldn’t add to scoreline.

  • Noa Lang twisted HIS ankle in the end of the first half and will be out for the next 3 weeks; it’s like a bad dream with him and Thulani Serero about ankles
  • our shooting was accurate (11/7) and that gave us advantage over our opponents
  • Lasse Schöne was a disappointment in the 2nd half - too many individual mistakes and not enough good passes


 

March in review was a poor month. We won some games, but failed where it mattered - against Napoli in Europe and in a cup semi-finals. That’s not good enough. To top it off with embarrassing 0:3 defeat against Vitesse, that shows where somewhat out of sync at the moment. We’ve had troubles scoring, namely Justin Kluivert hasn’t contributed a lot lately and it shows in our results.


 

Eredivisie

 

0Ig0sjO.png


 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 13, Justin Kluivert 13, Arkadiusz Milik 12, Ugur Sezgin 11

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 14, Justin Kluivert 11, Lucas Andersen 8

Eredivisie March 2020.png

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March youth intake was an average one. We've got one very good striker prospect - an area where we have plenty of young talent already. Remember - Ugur Sezgin is only 20 years old, we have Thokozani Mpengesi on loan at FC Twente and he's developed very well there, Dodi Hamzah is 17 years old and scored 7 goals for Sparta Rotterdam this season, and 17 years old Melvin Jongeling is coming up from our own U-19. With our single-striker formation, that's a plenty. And now there's another. Not that I'm complaining :)

In addition to that, another average striker, ball-winning midfielder (who is a curious one, because we don't have too many players suitable for that role) and right-back (another position which is very well covered with youth talent already). I would have liked a left-back or a winger, but that has to wait, anyway.

I signed only players with 2* or better potential so that I'm not crowding my U-19 team with useless deadwood, and started to turn more attention to coach reports about player personality and hidden attributes (such as consistency).

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Sieme Plat

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Best talent of this year draft. Decent in most areas, fairly determined by nature and very young - has a full year to develop before he can be offered professional contract. Good work rate and teamwork are always a big plus in my eyes, but few of the less frequent traits too - possesses decent free kicks and his off the ball movement is very good for such a young player. Let's see what comes of him in the next seasons.

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04.04.2020 - PEC Zwolle - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 15. and 54. Ugur Sezgin, 73. Amin Younes - Noa Lang and Thulani Serero were injured and Francesco Antonucci suspended after collecting five yellow cards. Navajo Bakboord got his chance in central defense. Lasse Schöne started in midfield and I continued to trust Ugur Sezgin up front - rightfully so.

After our first goal (which was, again, a cross from right to near post where Sezgin timed his run very well) both teams had the best chances from set pieces. Lasse Schöne’s error in our box went unpunished and Zwolle’s clear cut chance was blocked by Bakboord in the last moment. In the end of the first half Sezgin’s shot hit the post, but we had to settle with narrow 1-0 lead for half-time break.

Our young striker scored a long shot though in the second half to add to his tally and that was a truly wonderful shot - from 20 meters to top corner, unstoppable for any goalkeeper. That was easily the most beautiful goal in this season so far and broke Zwolle’s resistance. Substitute Amin Younes added our third goal and showed that maybe I should trust him on the left flank instead of Justin Kluivert.

  • that win clinched the title for us - 4 match days before the end of the season
  • despite winning comfortably, we made a huge number of individual mistakes (23), Nicolai Boilesen contributed 7 into this number, despite having otherwise good game


 

08.04.2020 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 63. Chelton Mühl - 14. Amin Younes, 79. Carel Eiting

Interesting to see what MVV has become, after being taken over and having some cash for new players in January. They’ve had a mixed set of results and sit safely in the middle of league table, perhaps a sign that things move slowly in the right direction.

Neither Serero or Lang were fit enough to start this match. Francesco Antonucci served his suspension and was back in the squad, though.

I feel it was a poor match from us, although stats looked solid in the end and we won. But we lacked creativity throughout all ninety minutes and couldn’t create enough chances. We took the lead in the first half, from the only clear cut chance of the match. Good dribble and cross by Kluivert and Amin Younes was at the right place on the right time.

MVV looked dangerous from set pieces and from their corner came equalizer. Our loaned out player Chelton Mühl scored his 10th goal of the season for MVV. We answered from a corner of our own - Carel Eiting scored his first goal of the season and that proved to be a winner.

Unconvincing game, no outstanding individual performances as well, but win is a win.


 

11.04.2020 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 3:2 (ED) - 11. Arkadiusz Milik, 24. and 75. Dejan Meleg - 48. Sean Klaiber, 72. Stef Nijland - maintaining concentration and motivation for the remaining games is the biggest challenge now. Thulani Serero returned to this mini-rivalry against FC Utrecht.

We started very well - Lucas Andersen gave a great pass between defenders and Arkadiusz Milik scored a good goal to start with. FC Utrecht started to attack more and they got a good number of corners, but we scored another goal and went to half-time with comfortable 2:0 lead.

I told my team to avoid complacency, but first part of the second half saw our defense crumbling. Sean Klaiber scored a quick goal - Dragisa Gudelj missed his tackle on the left flank and Nathan Leyder forgot to track back his man from midfield. Deyovaisio Zeefuik then completely missed his header in the box and gifted Stef Nijland another goal. And so FC Utrecht equalized from two behind. Our central defensive partnership of Bakboord and Zeefuik looked in all sorts of trouble and I was afraid of the worst, but then Dejan Meleg showed what kind of footballer he is.

First he got a penalty, after Calvin Verdonk tripped him in the box in 73’, but his poor spot kick was saved by Sergio Padt. He made amends a minute later though, heading in a cross by Gudelj and scoring a winner.

  • good first half followed by poor second half, so I can’t be happy with the performance despite our win
  • Lucas Andersen was the man of the match, pulling all strings from midfield
  • our defense has been so poor only perhaps against Vitesse this season, and I had serious talks with both Bakboord and Zeefuik about their performance in this match


 

18.04. Ajax - sc Heerenveen 2:2 (ED) - 6. Amin Younes, 34. Arkadiusz Milik - 5. and 81. Jürgen Locadia - Noa Lang returned from injury and we’re finally back in full fitness for this game. sc Heerenveen have plenty to play for - they’re holding 2nd place in the table and win against us would give them great advantage over following contenders. And they came out attacking well. Their first chance was well saved by Jeffrey de Lange, but then Locadia scored just a minute later. Boilesen made unfortunate tackle while defending free kick situation and ball went to Jürgen Locadia who had an easy goal.

We reacted well - just another minute later Amin Younes scored from narrow angle and equalized.

Jeffrey de Lange had to save us from trouble again in 26’ - Ricardo van Rhijn lost Bobby Adekanye on his wing, but our goalkeeper showed his class.

Arkadiusz Milik had a great chance two minutes later, but his header clipped the bar and went over. He nevertheless put us in front after sc Heerenveen defense was completely cut open by Francesco Antonucci’s clever pass that left our Polish striker with a simple finish into empty goal. So half time came with 2:1 lead. I wasn’t happy about our performance - we had 60% of possession in the first half, but conceded three clear cut chances and our defense looked very error-prone. In fact, we were lucky to be ahead after defending so poorly.

While first half was all fireworks from both sides, sc Heerenveen reorganised their defense and 2nd half was a bit less attractive football and both teams defended better. But we couldn’t avoid conceding another goal - Jürgen Locadia scored from corner in 81’ to split points between two teams. Francesco Antonucci lost a header against him, but to be honest, the Italian playmaker has never been very impressive in the air.

  • we played good attacking football, with Francesco Antonucci and Amin Younes being the creative force
  • very poor defending in the first half and two goals conceded from set-pieces - that’s where our problems lied in this game and I can’t be happy with that


 

April has been OK month as a whole and I’m happy to secure Eredivisie title so early. Results have gone to our way, mostly, but our defense has crumbled. Not sure why - perhaps too much rotation, perhaps we’re too relaxed after clinching the title. Either way we’re not convincing defensively and have conceded 5 goals in 4 games.


 

Eredivisie

ANSvVOO.png


 

sc Heerenveen look like they can switch their 3rd place from previous season for 2nd place this time. PSV are looking better, but 2nd place looks too far away for them. In the bottom of the table NEC couldn’t improve their form and are relegated. Willem II Tilburg look set for relegation play-offs.

 

April ended with a shock in Dutch Cup final - Go Ahead Eagles trashed Feyenoord 4:1 and topped their great season with Dutch Cup win. A wonderful achievement for such a small club. It was not at all due to favorable draw - after beating us in semi-finals and winning against Feyenoord in such a convincing manner there’s no doubt that this victory is very well deserved.


 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 15, Arkadiusz Milik 14, Justin Kluivert 13, Ugur Sezgin 13

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 16, Justin Kluivert 13, Lucas Andersen 9

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May 2020

03.05.2020 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 42. pen. Jens Toornstra - 71. Justin Kluivert - teams looked well organised and motivated in this derby match and chances were rare. We were very unfortunate in the end of the first half. Referee awarded a very harsh penalty for a foul that Darren Sidoel didn’t actually make and Jens Toornstra scored from penalty.

It was difficult for us to break Feyenoord defense in the second half, but after 70 minutes of football things changed. Glaring error by Feyenoord’s Leandro Bacuna allowed Ugur Sezgin to break through, but our striker made a poor shot. Fortunately Justin Kluivert was first to rebound and equalized. Ten minutes later we had a great counter and Sezgin created a very good chance for Dejan Meleg, but Kenneth Vermeer saved his shot.  Some poor defending by Dragisa Gudelj allowed Feyenoord a clear cut chance in 89’, but Jeffrey de Lange managed to make a save a shot from point blank range.

So, despite this unfair penalty teams were pretty equal and 1:1 looked like a fair result in the end.

  • good shooting (17/10), although our shots were rather weak in times
  • we defended well most of the time and won 83% of our tackles

 

10.05.2020 - FC Groningen - Ajax 2:3 (ED) - 21. Mathias Honsak, 45.+1 Juninho Bacuna - 7. Ugur Sezgin, 82. and 89. Justin Kluivert - we got two clear cut chances in the first ten minutes. Ugur Sezgin scored from the first, but sent the other well wide. And when Mathias Honsak equalized (wonderful dribble from our left, fooling both Gudelj and Bakboord on his way and beating de Lange with a fierce shot) the game switched to FC Groningen. Our opponents looked like they found their confidence again and we couldn’t create anything. And when in injury time Bacuna header found the net, we were in trouble.

In second half I switched to higher defensive line and more intensive pressing and it paid dividends in the end. Justin Kluivert scored two goals in the last ten minutes and that broke FC Groningen. I wasn’t happy with our performance, especially about two conceded goals, but I’m happy to finish our season with a win and come-back in such a manner.

  • good passing and ball possession was a positive from this match
  • we actually defended rather well and didn’t allow any clear cut chances, but lost too many headers inside our own box and that put us in trouble; we also allowed FC Groningen to dribble too freely inside our half


 

So, the league season is over. Two games in May were mixed affairs once again and I can’t remember when we last kept a clean sheet. Defensive troubles are evident at the moment and I’m really happy that it’s May, not August. I contributed in this mess by choosing line-ups so that number of starts and games would even out between players and no outfield player should start more than 40 games in this season.

Considering that, we did quite well in the end.

European club football season ended with Champions League final where Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea beat SLB convincingly 4:0.

 

I convinced board to invest additional £2,7m to upgrade youth facilities to keep them in best possible condition.



 

Eredivisie

GUH3SPJ.png


 

NEC Nijmegen was relegated, but SC Cambuur and Willem II Tilburg kept their place in Eredivisie after fairly convincing (I might say) relegation play-offs.

PSV had to settle with 3rd place and that is obviously a blow for them. They finally made a decision to appoint interim manager Ruud Brood as their new manager. Wrong decision if you ask my opinion.


 

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 16, Dejan Meleg 15, Arkadiusz Milik 14, Ugur Sezgin 14

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 16, Justin Kluivert 14, Lucas Andersen 9



 

Fans Player Of The Season:

  1. Nicolai Boilesen
  2. Darren Sidoel
  3. Francesco Antonucci

 

Goal Of The Season: Ugur Sezgin vs. PEC Zwolle (04.04.2020)


Young Player Of The Season: Darren Sidoel

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Season In Review 2019/2020

Some positives and some negatives from this season. I used 24 players in the league and I can say that this was perhaps the best squad of our recent years - well balanced, good in depth and I was able to rotate without any doubts about players’ quality. Mental preparation, determination and motivation were very good and we stayed fit and avoided any serious injuries.

Most of our players are 20-23 years old. Still couple of seasons away from their full potential, but already experienced and skillful enough.

We looked very strong in Eredivisie since the first half of the season and our league title weren’t under real threat after Christmas. But our loss against Go Ahead Eagles in cup semi-final was a small shock and we couldn’t surprise in Europe too. In Champions League level we just lack skill and quality of bigger teams from bigger leagues.



 

Golden Boot

  1. Nicolas Isimat-Mirin - PSV Eindhoven
  2. Urby Emanuelson - FC Utrecht
  3. Segun Owobowale - Feyenoord Rotterdam

 

Best Goalscorer

  1. Majeed Waris - Feyenoord Rotterdam - 21
  2. Niclas Füllkrug - FC Twente - 16
  3. Arkadiusz Milik - Ajax - 14


Goalkeeper of the Year

  1. John van der Sar - PEC Zwolle/Ajax (yes, he actually had a great season in PEC Zwolle, despite playing only two average games for Ajax)
  2. Jeffrey de Lange - Ajax
  3. Joel Drommel - sc Heerenveen

 

Young Player of the Year

  1. Justin Kluivert - Ajax
  2. Francesco Antonucci - Ajax
  3. Darren Sidoel - Ajax


 

Manager’s Manager of the Year

  1. Me :)
  2. Gert Heerkes - Go Ahead Eagles
  3. Robert Maaskant - sc Heerenveen

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July 2020

25.07.2020 - Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 2:0 (Dutch Super Cup) - 9. Lucas Andersen, 52. Dejan Meleg

Go Ahead Eagles had a real Cinderella story in the last season and their cup win brought them against us in Super Cup game. After gaining much recognition and finishing 7th in Eredivisie last season they’re predicted to come 13th this season by pundits, but good look at their players betrays that in truth they will probably fight for relegation and will do OK to stay in Eredivisie at the end of the season. Their striker department look interesting and have some promise - they had several guys scoring 10+ goals in last season and those lads were between 22-24 years of age - but rest of the team is below par and they haven’t made any significant transfers in Summer.

That’s why, although we were in the middle of pre-season and all players weren’t match fit yet I predicted an easy win in Super Cup match.

And so it was. We controlled the game from start to finish and it was very one-sided. Poor finishing prevented complete demolition of Go Ahead. Arkadiusz Milik was unusually poor and he wasted three opportunities himself, but after Dejan Meleg scored our second goal from corner our win was secure.

  • very good performance and creative attack - we had 32 shots (15 on target)
  • poor finishing - only one goal from 6 clear cut chances


 

I’ve turned down several offers from other clubs - AS Monaco, Real Sociedad and Tottenham. In July Holland FA offered me managerial position of national team, but I had to decline this too. Gert Heerkes accepted it after that and so Go Ahead Eagles lost the manager who had offered them such a wonderful season.

I also had to make a tough decision and accept Newcastle’s bid for Arkadiusz Milik. Although great striker he’s now 26 years old and it’s the last moment to make a step up to more difficult leagues. Lately my coaching staff have started to rate Ugur Sezgin better than Milik. I also offered Sezgin a new contract and he expects to be key player to remain in Ajax, so I already imagine unhappiness about first team chances between those two. Money is also an issue. I don’t want to pay over £30,000 p/w to any player and Milik earns that after very difficult negotiations. His contract will end in 2022 and I can’t extend it for less than £40,000 p/week, so this Summer is the last possible time to get any decent fee for his services. That all combined made me sell him. Transfer was agreed to £12,5m + clauses (possibly up to £14m).

His replacement in Ajax this season will be Thokozani Mpengesi. Interesting to see what this South African striker really is capable of.

 

I also allowed Rayan El Azrak and Azor Matusiwa to leave, as they were not able to make it into first team. El Azrak landed in Club Brügge for £925k+clauses and Azor Matusiwa to AZ Alkmaar for £675k+clauses. They’re both good players and any Eredivisie club would do well to get them, but they were surplus in my talented squad.

For once my dealings in transfer market are supported by fans.

 

Eredivisie transfer window as a whole has been very quiet this Summer and there haven’t been any major moves. Teams like Willem II and Sparta struggle to avoid their best young home-grown players from being poached by foreign clubs, but no big offers for players from PSV and Feyenoord.

We also currently lack players that could attract really big clubs. Besides Milik only Lucas Andersen and Dejan Meleg are valued over £5m and although there are clubs showing their interest from time to time there haven’t been any serious moves to lure them away from Ajax.

 

Players in last year of contract 

Thokozani Mpengesi - I really want to keep him in long term, but talks about his new contract broke down as his agent refused to back down from ridiculously low minimum release fee clause. I hope to get his signature in this fall, even if it means I have to get rid of this agent

Lasse Schöne - resolute Danish midfielder will be 35 years old in the end of this season and it might turn out to be his last. he has excellent mental stats (professionalism, pressure, big matches), good creativity and free kick ability. He still has one year of good tutoring left to get the best out from our midfield prospects, but after that I can’t offer him first team role in his contract, and without tutoring role it might be better to give his place for next generation. Schöne looks like a decent coach and I might offer him a place in U-19 staff

Amin Younes - in so many Summers I’ve thought about if I should hold onto this rotation winger or not. He’s had good games and he offers covers on both right and left wings, but as Justin Kluivert and Dirk van Grinsven get better, his role will diminish. Unless Dejan Meleg is sold, Younes will probably be out of the team next Summer

 

With 20 players in first team squad we’ve got a lot of talented youngsters loaned out.

 

GK - Joe van der Sar, Bob Leeflang, Sven Keller

DR - Tom Drost, Raymond Bouwhuis

DC: Navajo Bakboord, Sergio Alleyne

DC: Hein Yilmaz, Danny Rutte, Fatih Celik

DL: - (our weakest position in terms of prospects)

DMC: -

MC: Jorri van der Geest

MCa: Frenkie de Jong

AMR: Rene Timmer, Chelton Mühl

AML: Daan van Thiel, Rayan Yilmaz

ST: Dodi Hamzah, Melvin Jongeling

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August 2020

 

07.08.2020 - Ajax - PEC Zwolle 4:1 (ED) -  and 88. Dejan Meleg, 60. Nathan Leyder - 61. Laurent Depoitre

The beginning of Eredivisie season finds us in trouble. Ugur Sezgin picked up a knock in pre-season friendlies and is sidelined for a couple of weeks with groin strain. It is olympic year and both Thokozani Mpengesi and Francesco Antonucci are away in Tokyo with their national teams. That means we’ll be without our strikers until at least August 15th, perhaps even a week longer. So, nothing else to do than put veteran Lasse Schöne to striker position and hope for the best. The rest of the team is fit and ready for the start of the season.

PEC Zwolle are minnows in Eredivisie - pre-season predictions put them 17th and their manager has been in charge for only 6 days. But they’ve loaned Joe van der Sar, Jorri van der Geest and Hein Yilmaz from us for this season and it’s interesting to see how they’ll do.

First half was not the most convincing, but we scored from chances that we got and two goals by Dejan Meleg gave us 2-0 lead. Second half was much better. Nathan Leyder added another goal from corner and then we made our only mistake of the game - Nicolai Boilesen gave a clumsy pass back that was intercepted by Depoitre and that was a gift to Zwolle. In the end Dejan Meleg completed his hat-trick and so the final numbers were 4-1.

  • good shooting accuracy (16/10) was enough to gave us four goals, although Lasse Schöne couldn’t really fill the single striker role
  • we made 35 dribbles - evidence of our individual skills against Zwolle players
  • Joe van der Sar and Jorri van der Geest put in a solid performances for PEC Zwolle despite the result


 

12.08.2020 - Go Ahead Eagles - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 31. Finn Stokkers - 14. Justin Kluivert - I made three changes to squad, to rotate players and keep some key men fresh for sc Heerenveen match. Darren Sidoel, Noa Lang and Justin Kluivert started.

Pre-match week saw John Heitinga taking charge of Go Ahead Eagles - he left Helmond Sport to raise into the ranks of Eredivisie managers.

We scored first goal from corner, but early signs showed we’re vulnerable and at our best. Long cross almost surprised both Sidoel and de Lange, but ball was headed against crossbar by Eagles striker. Jeffrey de Lange had to show his skills in 29’ and parry two shots in a row from close range. Inevitable finally happened in 31’ when Deyovaisio Zeefuik missed his header and Finn Stokkers used his chance well to equalize.

I have to say we were lucky to be equal at half-time and second half wasn’t much better. We couldn’t create chances and our defense looked awful. Go Ahead almost scored a winner in 85’, but another shot hit the post and so we escaped with a draw.

I was furious at players after this game - Go Ahead Eagles are minnows compared to us and we should have done a lot better. Not only result, but performance as well was completely unacceptable. Not good at all to drop points so early in the season.

  • our shooting was poor (13/3) and we almost didn’t tackle at all
  • defending was atrocious at times and Deyovaisio Zeefuik was the one to blame for the goal


 

15.08.2020 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 2:0 (ED) - 5. Dejan Meleg, 31. Dirk van Grinsven - after poor result against Eagles it was clear that another game with Lasse Schöne as our striker will not do. I started Dejan Meleg in that role, because Ugur Sezgin was still not fit and Dirk van Grinsven moved to right flank.

sc Heerenveen finished 2nd last season and they’re solid candidates to top three finish this time as well, so not a team to underestimate.

Meleg instantly made an impact, intercepting a throw in and using his chance to score a flyer. Half an hour later Dirk van Grinsven’s header made it 2:0 and that was good enough for the win. sc Heerenveen got their best chance after half time break, but Dragisa Gudelj reached back on time to block Ryan Babel’s shot.

  • we had better part of possession, but didn’t took too many risks and so settled with 2:0 scoreline
  • we had 15 corners - evidently we have to start using those set-pieces better in the future
  • young midfielder Pieter Stekelenburg made his debut for Ajax in 2nd half


 

22.08.2020 - Ajax - Willem II Tilburg 2:0 (ED) - 11. Lucas Andersen, 18. Amin Younes - Ugur Sezgin is finally back in full training (although lacking match fitness) and ready to start against Willem II. Thokozani Mpengesi was also back from Olympics. I dropped Justin Kluivert after his rather quiet performance against Heerenveen and Amin Younes took his place.

Willem II looked very tired after their previous game just three days ago and couldn’t put up a real fight. We scored our first goal from excellent counter and soon it was 2:0 - goal by Amin Younes. Plenty of chances followed, but couple of good saves by their goalkeeper kept the score respectable for our opponents. Perhaps we should have finished with better efficiency, but actually the game was very well under our control and Willem II didn’t really have a chance to score.

  • we played better than scoreline shows, controlling the match easily - 81% passing accuracy and 31 dribbles are just a few numbers to show that
  • Dejan Meleg and Lucas Andersen were exceptional, creating chances and participating in almost every attack
  • we took 4 yellow cards - perhaps referee favoured Willem II a little, but in such a match it is by far too many
  • Thokozani Mpengesi made his debut for Ajax (although didn’t have much impact in 2nd half)

 

After that match, three of our players (Ricardo van Rhijn, Darren Sidoel, Ugur Sezgin) received invitation to Holland national team.

Champions League draw was also made and we were seeded 4th in this draw (dropping down from 3rd seed from last couple of seasons). But despite that the draw was rather favourable for us - we’ll go against PSG, SLB and Kobenhavn. Could have been much worse and 3rd place looks like our minimum target. If we perform well against bigger teams we might even have a chance.

 

29.08.2020 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 4. Ugur Sezgin, 83. pen. Dejan Meleg - Francesco Antonucci returned from Olympics and we’re back to full squad. ADO Den Haag is difficult opponent, especially in Kyocera stadium. Bookies put them in 5th position in pre-season predictions, they’ve spent around £3m on new players and additionally bolstered their squad with three our loanees (Sergio Alleyne, Tom Drost and Rene Timmer). So I expected a very tough match and that’s what we did get.

We scored an early goal - good strike by Sezgin - and it took ADO a little bit by surprise. But they recovered quickly and Jeffrey de Lange had to make his first save of the night in 7’. ADO looked very dangerous from corners and they got several of them. There was panic in our box two or three times and desperate clearances avoided the worst. In 33’ Odion Ighalo got a chance to equalize and Jeffrey de Lange had to save us again and I started to get more worried. We finished first half with 1-0 lead, but we didn’t look convincing at all. ADO had 10 shots in the first half, 5 of them on target and our numbers were only 2 and 1 respectively. Lucky to hold the lead in such display.

We tried to improve in 2nd half. Amin Younes had a chance in 57’, but his header went over. We didn’t create enough chances, but at least we got our defense more less in order. In 82’ substitute Thokozani Mpengesi initiated a move that resulted with penalty. Marvin Zeegelaar tripped Dejan Meleg from behind and, being the last man, saw straight red card for professional foul. After Meleg converted his penalty this game was decided. But despite winning 2:0 against difficult opponent in away match, I’m not satisfied with performance. We were lucky to get a win from this match and, similarly with Go Ahead game, we looked so much worse in away game than we had been at home.

  • we lost too many duels, both in tackling and heading department; lost midfield and allowed ADO to dictate tempo, dribble with ball, create chances and put our defense under pressure;
  • allowing 14 shots (6 on target) is far too many, we only had 5 shots and 2 of them on target (but two goals from them, so finishing was clinical)



Start of the season has been fairly good for us. Four wins from five games and 13 points is not bad. Away games have been a struggle so far and our performances against Go Ahead and ADO Den Haag have not been very encouraging. On the other hand, a win over sc Heerenveen is a very good result.

Dejan Meleg have scored 6 goals and he’s been the most creative player as well, setting up 6 clear-cut chances.


 

Eredivisie

Du1coHX.png

 

All big teams have started strong and top of the table doesn’t offer surprises.


 

I’m usually adding transfer update to my August review, but not this time. The reason being that after Arkadiusz Milik’s transfer there hasn’t been any major moves in Eredivisie. A lot of player movement between Eredivisie mid-table teams (FC Groningen, AZ Alkmaar, Vitesse, FC Twente etc.), but transfer fees have been around £1-2m.

In the last day of transfer window Arsenal swooped in and came for Ugur Sezgin with strong intent to lure this wonderkid to Emirates stadium. I bargained a lot, but finally settled with £19m fee + clauses (potentially up to £23,5m). That’s a big blow to our ambitions in Champions League, but I couldn’t have kept him more than a year or two longer anyway.

I recalled young Dodi Hamzah from Sparta Rotterdam to cover after Sezgin’s departure. Hopefully Mpengesi and Hamzah can prove their talent in this season.

Other than two big sales from us, it was a fairly unremarkable transfer window.

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September 2020

 

11.09.2020 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 2:1 (ED) - 1. Godfried Frimpong, 84. Indomar Grigorie   - 89. Dodi Hamzah - we had a few tired players after international break, so Nicolai Boilesen and Thulani Serero were rested, considering coming Champions League match too. Perhaps because of that, but probably because Sezgin departure, we had to take our first defeat in 15 league games from MVV.

MVV is a rich club, enjoying their huge funds from sugar daddy owner, but not spending those funds very smart. They’ve signed £7m worth of new players and some of them for ridiculous faces - two strikers (moderately good according to Eredivisie standards) for £45,000 p/w salaries each, for example. Mid-table finish is expected of them, but at least they managed to get all three points against us.

We were shocked by first goal before we even got a touch on ball. Frimpong god a clear cut chance after 24 seconds of football and I was fuming at the sidelines. We played decently well after that early goal and were more attacking side, but of course it was easy for MVV to stand compactly and wait for our mistakes. We had plenty of half-chances, but lacked this clinical final pass or individual brilliance and attacking players looked to adjust to Thokozani Mpengesi up front.

So, when we started to take more risks, MVV scored another goal and that was the game for us. Substitute Dodi Hamzah scored a goal in his debut game, but that was a small consolation. Disappointing defeat, because MVV is a team we should beat easily and that loss hurts our league position.

 

16.09.2020 - Ajax - SLB 3:3 (Champions League Group E) - 34. Dodi Hamzah, 38. pen. Dejan Meleg, 75. Deyovaisio Zeefuik - 14. and 25. Jose Augusto, 61. Nicolas Gaitan - Champions League season started with home game against SLB - champions from two years ago and finalists from last season. I sent out Dodi Hamzah in first eleven after his goal against MVV, but otherwise I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

But the best it wasn’t, at least at first. We were under pressure quickly and two goals came from glaring defensive errors by Zeefuik and Nicolai Boilesen respectively. We looked in trouble and I knew if we keep going like this it will be 0-4 or 0-5 in the end of the game.

So I made some tactical changes (structured shape, forget overlapping, no roaming) and it worked well. Dodi Hamzah scored a great goal to initiate our come-back. Then Lucas Andersen was fouled inside the box in free-kick situation and Dejan Meleg’s penalty equalized score before half-time.

We went to break in much higher spirit and second half looked better than the first. Error by Thulani Serero allowed SLB their third clear cut chance - Jeffrey de Lange parried the first shot, but Gaitan was first on rebound (Ricardo van Rhijn perhaps a little bit slow to react in this situation). Our equalizer came 15 minutes later - scapegoat Zeefuik scored from corner. In 85’ Thulani Serero denied a great goal when his shot from the edge of area hit crossbar, so in the end it was 3:3 and both teams probably had to agree it was a fair result.

Obviously a great game for fans to watch. I’m happy to get our tactics right to save this match, and 18 years old Dodi Hamzah is quickly making name for himself. But our defense looks really error-prone and we have to improve in this department. Zeefuik and Boilesen got a serious warning about their first team position if they don’t improve quickly


 

19.09.2020 - Ajax - NAC Breda 2:0 (ED) - 59. Thulani Serero, 65. Darren Sidoel - NAC Breda is struggling and will struggle even more during this season. They’re predicted to struggle against relegation and they’re ragged with injuries - no less than 6 players sidelined and injuries have halved their attacking lines the most. Also, they’ve not recovered from previous games and look tired even before our match.

I predicted a comfortable win and chose to make two changes - Deyovaisio Zeefuik was dropped and Darren Sidoel (who’s usually playing right-back) is tested in central defense. And Justin Kluivert got his chance to prove himself on the left flank.

But the game didn’t go as smoothly as I expected. We played a very drab first half. Breda parked the bus expertly and our best chance was Dodi Hamzah header in 33’ that hit crossbar.

Changes were needed and I sent in Francesco Antonucci and Dirk van Grinsven in the 2nd half, and perhaps it was my tactical decision, or perhaps fatigue got the best of NAC Breda players, but we broke through. Antonucci sent a good ball to van Rhijn in Breda box. Our captain hit the post, but Thulani Serero was first to rebound. Six minutes later Sidoel added another goal from corner and that secured us all three points. Francesco Antonucci had a great chance in the end of the match, but his shot was parried by goalkeeper.

I’m satisfied with result, but not exactly with performance. Dodi Hamzah didn’t continue his streak of good performances, Dejan Meleg looked poor on the right flank and our first half was below par against such opponent in home stadium.

  • good defense was the key word, we didn’t allow Breda to take any shots and finally managed to keep a clean sheet
  • our own shooting could have been a lot better - shots 19/5 is not good enough


22.09.2020 - FC Emmen - Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 30. Donovan Jap A Joe (og), 87. Dodi Hamzah - Dutch Cup opener for us was the 2nd round match against Jupiler League side FC Emmen. As usual, substitutes got their chance to impress…. and failed miserably.

We got the best chance of the match in 15’, but Thokozani Mpengesi shot was saved by goalkeeper. Mpengesi looks stressed about his lack of goals and I hoped he could break this deadlock against smaller sides, but despite being fairly active, he failed to score once again. Our first half as a whole looked drab and we didn’t create enough chances. Finally we were helped by FC Emmen players - clumsy defense in corner situation ended with poor clearance that rebounded into goal and was accounted to Donovan Jap A Joe (yes, that’s a real name, apparently). Jeffrey de Lange made his best save in 41’ to parry the most dangerous shots from opponents.

Poor display continued in second half - we continued to dominate possession, but attacking play lacked creativity and clear cut chances. Substitute Dodi Hamzah made an impact to game and his two good attacks in final five minutes resulted in one goal, showing again that he’s in-form striker (especially compared to Mpengesi).

Final score looks OK, but performance was unimpressive. Individual performances were also unremarkable and as it was a chance for several players to prove themselves, most of them failed to do so. Defense looked solid though, and I’m happy with clean sheet.

 

26.09.2020 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 3:3 (ED) - 19. Rashaan Fernandes, 34. Jesper Drost, 90. Darren Sidoel (og) - 28. Amin Younes, 46. Dejan Meleg, 59. Dodi Hamzah - Nathan Leyder is back in training after his knock and we’re in full fitness, but so are Feyenoord. They stunned PSV at De Kuip in August, so we’re ready for a tough fixture.

We conceded first, after some very passive defense and poor marking by Nicolai Boilesen that allowed Feyenoord the first chance. We equalized after van Rhijn gave a good cross to Amin Younes at the far post.

We looked like we got a grip on the game, but then allowed Jesper Drost to score - Jeffrey de Lange made a rare mistake by rushing out and not getting the ball. Meleg had a chance to equalize in 40’, but his shot was saved and half-time ended with 1-2.

We spent half-time talking it over and started second half excellently. Dodi Hamzah found Meleg in the box and right winger scored to equalize. And after de Lange had parried another Feyenoord shot, Dodi Hamzah gave us 3-2 lead. We looked really strong and in control and Feyenoord looked in trouble, but unfortunately we lost it all in the final minute of the match. Substitute Darren Sidoel made a poor interception and sent the ball into our goal to give Feyenoord unexpected and undeserved draw. Very disappointing ending to the match and heads were down in dressing room, although stats were fairly equal between teams and Feyenoord probably felt they deserved to get something from this performance.

  • I’m pleased with fighting spirit and with the fact that we came from behind twice
  • defense was awful at times, individual errors were behind our conceded goals, we made total 31 mistakes and that’s a huge number
  • Dodi Hamzah is proving to be a real talent, a goal and assist to him against Feyenoord is a great turnout for any 18 years old striker


 

29.09.2020 - FC Kobenhavn - Ajax 1:3 (Champions League Group E) - 11. Lacina Traore - 74. Dirk van Grinsven, 90.+1 and 90.+4 Francesco Antonucci - I had to rest Ricardo van Rhijn and Dodi Hamzah in this match, because they looked too tired after Feyenoord game.

FC Kobenhavn were unknown and we didn’t really know what to expect. But we found ourselves behind in 11 minutes after some poor defensive decisions which started from missed tackle by Darren Sidoel. We struggled to get good chances, although possession and shots were fairly equal in the match. And Lacina Traore is a tall and powerful striker and real handful in the air. Every set piece and long ball forward was a threat.

In 2nd half our substitutes made a change to the game and something happened with Kobenavn players - nervousness and complacency creeped into them while our determination to equalize grew. We found a goal in 74’ - van Grinsven scored from our first clear cut chance. Kobenhavn reacted to equalizer and tried to find a winner in the last fifteen minutes, but that backfired - substitute Francesco Antonucci finished our counter-attack in injury time calmly and three minutes later made it 3:1 to final score.

Great come-back after scoring the first goal and I’m happy that both substitutions made impact to the match.

  • despite contributing to attacks, Darren Sidoel was our weak link in defense again, making 7 individual mistakes
  • we played attacking football and got 11 out of 20 shots on target, but failed to find good chances before the final 15 minutes of the game
  • Francesco Antonucci suffered a bruised head and have to skip our next match


 

September has not been as good as I hoped for. Opponents in Eredivisie are getting more difficult and our defense is still very error-prone.

MVV match was the low point and I didn’t expect to lose it, but we were clearly overplayed there. And in the wins we had, our football still needed much improvement. Last minute goal against Feyenoord might be considered unlucky, but that affected morale and put us behind PSV by two points.

Things look a little bit better in Europe. We fought well against SLB and injury time goals gave us valuable win over Kobenhavn. Can’t complain.


 

Eredivisie

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Top of the table looks very contested - PSV is in pole position at the moment, FC Groningen and sc Heerenveen are still in the mix. At the bottom of the table Vitesse are still looking for their first win and AZ also look really underachieving.

 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 8, Dodi Hamzah 4

Ajax assists: Ricardo van Rhijn 4

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Thanks for sharing your amazing way of playing Draakon. Doesn't Ajax have a lot of money sleeping on their bank account now?

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Squad Update 2020

Not too many changes compared to last season, but a few new faces and it's always to see how youngsters have developed in the past 12 months.

 

Jeffrey de Lange

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Actually really undervalued player. One of the best keepers for sure in Eredivisie. Not exceptional in any area, but doesn't make mistakes often.

 

Ricardo van Rhijn

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Team captain is still on the verge of Holland national team and competition is fierce for our right-back position.

 

Darren Sidoel

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Somehow plays better than his ratings should allow. Natural centre-back, but due to poor jumping I use him in right defense.

 

Mike van der Hoorn

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Deyovaisio Zeefuik

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Good defender, but could be a little bit better physically.

 

Nicolai Boilesen

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His inconsistency and defensive errors have given a chance to younger Dragisa Gudelj and Boilesen needs to perform better to stay in our first team.

 

Dragisa Gudelj

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The Serb has developed nicely. Very good decisions on the pitch. Needs improvement technically, in order to support attacking moves.

 

Carel Eiting

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Another player who's been working well on the training ground. I've tested him as DPL too, but in my formation I need support to defensive line from DMC and so it's more safe option.

 

Nathan Leyder

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His start of the season was interrupted by injury. Versatile player, can replace central defenders as well.

 

Thulani Serero

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Experienced South African midfielder is slowly starting to look for a replacement.

 

Noa Lang

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Has not improves as much as I'd liked, but there's still time for him.

 

Lucas Andersen

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Stayed for another year. Despite interest from Newcastle in Summer.

 

Francesco Antonucci

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Ambitious lad and demanding more playing time from Andersen. Technically the best player in the squad.

 

Lasse Schöne

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Veteran midfielder and I have to say that finally his minutes are decreasing and it's probably his last season in Ajax. I'll get the most out of him as a tutor in those months.

 

 

 

 

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Squad Update 2020

...continuing

 

Dejan Meleg

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The most reliable goalscorer in the past year and our number one set piece taker.

 

Dirk van Grinsven

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The quickest player in my team. Good team player and his crossing has improved, so you can say that he's a classic winger. Movement on the pitch is his weaker side though.

 

Justin Kluivert

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21-years old left winger, although it seems he's been around forever. Good overall, but not exceptional in any area. Could be quicker and more technical. Seems to score enough goals in Eredivisie level despite that.

 

Amin Younes

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More skilled than Justin Kluivert, but less hard-working and more selfish too. Selecting between those two is not always easy.

 

Dodi Hamzah

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Sensation of the season so far. I use him as complete forward in my formation. Very strong in the air, but good with ball at his feet too. Can score and looks composed on the pitch. And all that with only 18 years of age and ambition to drive him further.

 

Thokozani Mpengesi

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He has the talent, but needs time to fully develop his skills. Good in the air and anticipation is very good, but skills with a ball and physical ability needs to be higher. Used as false nine in my formation.

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5 hours ago, Toffle said:

Thanks for sharing your amazing way of playing Draakon. Doesn't Ajax have a lot of money sleeping on their bank account now?

For a couple of seasons it's been between £200m-£250m bank balance and around £200m transfer funds.

In my experience (from previous FM versions as well) it's not going to increase much. If profits maintain positive cash flow the board just increase dividend payouts. If I could take part of shareholders AGM I imagine I'd be quite popular :)

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October 2020

03.10.2020 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 5:0 (ED) - 2. Thulani Serero, 17. and 22. Lucas Andersen, 73. Dirk van Grinsven, 76. Thkozani Mpengesi - I tried to change things a little and started Hamzah in complete forward role in this game. After rather poor September this game against Utrecht was a real morale boost.

Hamzah tried his luck from distance, shot was saved, but Thulani Serero scored from rebound and we were ahead after two minutes were played. And FC Utrecht never really recovered. Lucas Andersen added two more goals in quick succession. It was probably the best first half I’ve seen from us this season.

Substitutes van Grinsven and Mpengesi added to scoreline in 2nd half to make it 5:0. I’m really happy for Mpengesi as he was starting to get troubled by his lack of goals.

  • I’m happy with our good attacking play and amount of chances created
  • Lucas Andersen, Ricardo van Rhijn and Justin Kluivert were exceptional
  • Thokozani Mpengesi scored his first ever goal for Ajax

Following international break saw Darren Sidoel earn his first cap for Holland.


 

16.10.2020 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 0:0 (ED) - we failed to maintain this sort of form over international break. Some of the players returned a bit tired and I rested van Rhijn, Boilesen, Andersen, Serero and Meleg. That was a mistake, in retrospective, but there are many players wanting more playing time and that was their chance to prove themselves - a chance they didn’t use well to my disappointment.

AZ Alkmaar should have been an easy prey - underperforming team with no real left-back and goalkeeper (their best keeper is 17 years old lad from youth ranks).

We started poorly and three dangerous free kicks in the first 15 minutes looked like we could be in trouble soon. The third one demanded a great save from de Lange. It wasn’t better in attacking department - we couldn’t get a shot in before 43’ and didn’t really test this youngster between sticks.

Poor performance continued in 2nd half. Both teams got the chance for a winner in injury time. Thokozani Mpengesi sent a long shot against crossbar and then AZ got a clear cut chance in front of our goal, but poor shot from close range was easily held by de Lange.

Considering this, I have to say we’re lucky to get away from Alkmaar with a draw, but I’m fuming about poor display and some of the individual performances were really below par.

  • no real chances in attacking department, probably the worst display in domestic league
  • Dodi Hamzah disappeared on the pitch, Noa Lang stood out with his poor passing in midfield and Dirk van Grinsven couldn’t create anything on the right flank
  • we lost too many headers inside our own box and all AZ set pieces looked dangerous

 

October brought the first managerial casualty. Vitesse board got enough of poor results and sacked Peter Bosz.

 

20.10.2020 - Paris Saint-Germain - Ajax 3:0 (Champions League Group E) - 21. Marco Verratti, 71. Breem Embolo, 73. Lucas Romero - I tested my “CL tactics” against PSG, but it didn’t exactly work out. Away game against PSG is probably the most difficult one in this group, and considering this we had a reasonably well first half. We got a couple of shots in and only Marco Verratti’s strike from the edge of the area was good enough to surprise de Lange. At half-time we were 0-1 behind, but there was some positives to show.

We couldn’t keep it up in 2nd half and in short period of time PSG added two goals to their tally. Nicolai Boilesen wasn’t at his best, so I subbed him for Dragisa Gudelj, but that didn’t improve things. Gudelj got a quick yellow card and his missed interception allowed Breel Embolo to score from clear cut chance. Then Lucas Romero intercepted a backpass after some poor communication between van der Hoorn and de Lange and scored an easy finish. These two individual mistakes left their mark to otherwise decent performance.

  • we had 10 shots in this game, and 3 half-chances, not a bad display and that means we were in the game
  • left-back department didn’t look at their best in this match, Boilesen failed to impress and Gudelj made a costly mistake
  • 33 individual mistakes also prove that while tactics was quite good, we were outmatched by individual skills; very difficult to overcome that

 

Half of the group stage is over and we’re 3rd with 4 points from 3 games. Not bad, but we need a little bit extra to qualify. I suppose two wins from the last three games is necessary to do that.

 

25.10.2020 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 3:0 (ED) - 56. Dejan Meleg, 90. Amin Younes, 90.+1 Thokozani Mpengesi

SC Cambuur is currently managed by my previous assistant Johan Mjällby and Mjällby is doing a really good work, holding 9th place with this small team at the moment.

Boilesen failed me against PSG, so Dragisa Gudelj starts again in left-back position. Due to given promises I had to give Sidoel and Antonucci a place in starting line-up.

On the other side there were Danny Rutte and Daan van Thiel - our players on loan at SC Cambuur, so it was interesting to see them in action.

Unfortunately, it was another match that ended with good result, but rather poor performance. We weren’t leaking goals and our defense looked solid enough, but attacking game rarely created any chances.

Our best and perhaps only good attack in the first half came in 14’ when both Meleg and Hamzah missed their opportunities in quick succession. That was it and I was unhappy with players in dressing room.

Amin Younes came in for Kluivert and it changed the game. Younes’ cross found Dejan Meleg in the box and our best goalscorer sent a good shot into SC Cambuur goal. It was a narrow lead, but it was enough and when SC Cambuur finally started to attack in the final minutes to go for equalizer, they opened up their defense and were punished by another two goals. Francesco Antonucci and Amin Younes combined the first one and Mpengesi sent a strong header into goal in injury time. Good solid win in the end, but unconvincing game as a whole.

  • despite poor football on display, we’ve got our defense in order and that’s our third Eredivisie game in a row without conceding a goal
  • clean sheet aside, we should have been more aggressive and tackle harder - we gave SC Cambuur too much space in midfield and allowed too many dribbles
  • substituting Kluivert for Younes was my best choice in this game - Younes instantly made an impact and changed the game
  • Francesco Antonucci put in an impressive performance in midfield


 

28.10.2020 - NEC Nijmegen - Ajax 2:1 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 18. and 64. Yannick Boli - 3. Lucas Andersen - with some tired legs from previous game and Topper derby coming right up, I rested pretty much everybody that I could, but this time I probably cut a little bit too deep.

We took an early lead - Andersen scored from corner; but after Dirk van Grinsven wasted his clear cut chance in 15’ we conceded a goal (central defense left Boli too much time and space) and what followed was our regular drab football. We controlled 58% of possession and took 18 shots (9 on target), but weren’t able to create good chances and never really looked fluid in attack.

NEC Nijmegen, on the other hand, had a moment of brilliance in 64’. Yannick Boli took a long shot from 25 meters that landed in top corner. Outstanding shot out of nowhere and completely unstoppable for any goalkeeper. And despite putting NEC under pressure we never really came close to equalizing.

I was furious about performance afterwards, in dressing room. And rightfully so. I’m starting to think that Hamzah and Mpengesi are just too young to lead the line and score goals consistently and having completely unexperienced strikers is our only difference compared to previous season.

The only thing that did lift my mood a little bit is the fact that both PSV and Feyenoord stumbled in 3rd round as well and are out. Cup season proves to be as surprising as last time.

And of course I’d be lot more smiling when we could return with a win over PSV in Saturday.

  • Lucas Andersen was our creative force in midfield, but only his effort was not enough to save us; mediocre performances across the board from other players
  • 18 years old central defender Donny Geerts made his debut for Ajax in 2nd half


 

31.10.2020 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 8. Joel Campbell - unfortunately, we couldn’t made up for cup loss against PSV. We allowed PSV to take early lead and Joel Campbell found himself unmarked in front of the goal very quickly.

We tried to find equalizer for the rest of the match, but without success. Dejan Meleg had a great chance in the end of first half and substitute Justin Kluivert wasted his one-on-one opportunity in 74’, but finishing let us down. Disappointing defeat - we lack confidence and we concede too many easy goals, so no wonder we find ourselves struggling in the table.

  • the result was probably a bit unlucky, as the game itself was very evenly contested and we actually had more shots on target
  • we allowed PSV too many dribbles and made too many (21) individual defensive mistakes; Dragisa Gudelj being especially error-prone - there lie the reasons of our defeat


 

Our form has been declining rapidly in October. We got the results in the beginning of the month and at least for a while it looked like we got our defense in order, but we got our ass kicked by PSG and then finished October with defeat in cup and disappointing loss against PSV. The most difficult challenge is that we don’t have in-form players who could create chances and score goals, and whilst scoring is difficult, we concede poor goals in defense and our game is full of individual mistakes. I haven’t been in a situation like this for at least a couple of seasons, so turning this around is a real challenge.


 

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 9, Lucas Andersen 5, Dodi Hamzah 4

Ajax assists: Ricardo van Rhijn 5, Dirk van Grinsven 3, Dodi Hamzah 3

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November 2020

 

04.11.2020 - Ajax - Paris Saint-Germain 2:1 (Champions League Group E) - 44. and 59. Deyovaisio Zeefuik - 16. Bilal Ould-Chikh - after PSV match we needed a good result and had nothing to lose against PSG. We found ourselves behind after Ould-Chikh scored from indirect free kick, but we played very well against much bigger side and in the end of the first half Zeefuik scored from a corner and at half-time it was 1-1. It was a deserved goal for us and spirits were high in the dressing room. Set pieces proved to be the key when Zeefuik headed in another goal - this time from indirect free kick. Game looked much more under our control in second half, but the last ten minutes were action-packed. PSG hit crossbar from corner and then our own corner almost ended with a goal, but the ball was hacked off the line. Substitute Thokozani Mpengesi had a clear cut chance in 85’ but missed target. Despite that we held onto 2-1 win and it was a true upset in this group.

  • Dejan Meleg and Deyovaisio Zeefuik brought this win, building both goals between them
  • we looked very good defensively and gave PSG only one half-chance during ninety minutes


 

07.11.2020 - VVV Venlo - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 6. Dejan Meleg - newly-promoted VVV  have started their season well and find themselves in 11th position at the moment. I dropped Dodi Hamzah for Mpengesi in this match, because Hamzah haven’t been able to maintain his goalscoring form in recent matches.

We started well and Dejan Meleg scored a good goal after good cross by Amin Younes. In 30’ long pass by Thulani Serero found Mpengesi completely alone against VVV goalkeeper, but young striker couldn’t finish. We had a good first half, but had only one goal to show for it. But after half-time we couldn’t continue as well - we gave away initiative and couldn’t create anything dangerous. 1-0 lead is always a bit shaky, so I’m not happy with so narrow win and against a team like VVV we should have done better.

  • although our attack lacked creativity, our defense was fairly good and we didn’t give VVV any real chances to score
  • shooting accuracy should have been better (19/6)


21.11.2020 - Ajax - FC Twente 0:1 (ED) - 22. John Smit - after international break we had some tired legs in the squad, but no injuries and all players were fit enough.

We allowed FC Twente surprise us with a counter in 22’ - Mike van der Hoorn missed a run by Smit and young striker executed his 1-1 opportunity very well. Disappointing goal to concede and we never really got over it. We struggled in midfield and couldn’t create chances and FC Twente stood very well in defense and held things under our control. We had to accept very frustrating loss in front of home fans.

  • lack of creativity was our biggest problem and I think I have to change something tactically or this just won’t work
  • poor shooting continued (18/3); of course, it’s difficult to score when you have no real sight on goal, but 18/3 is pretty horrible accuracy


26.11.2020 - SLB - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group E) - 27. pen. Renato Sanchez, 49. Francisco Gallucci Otero - we didn’t hope to get much out of away game, so I told the lads to relax and take it easy, there were some tired legs after FC Twente game too, so I just picked my team based on fitness and sent them out.

We started well and after holding off initial pressure by SLB we got a great counter in 21’ that ended with a clear cut chance, but Francesco Antonucci hit the post from narrow angle. SLB continued to control the midfield, but we defended well and our transitions were good when we got the ball. The first goal was unfortunate one - Justin Kluivert made unnecessary foul on the edge of area and penalty was converted by Sanchez.

We had worked tirelessly in defense most of the half, but in the last minutes we were very close to equalizer - Noa Lang gave a long ball that found Antonucci in the box, but his shot went wide. A very clever corner combination in injury time gave a clear cut chance to Mike van der Hoorn, but his shot was saved by SLB goalkeeper. No wonder we went to dressing room in fairly high spirits despite being 0-1 down.

But second half cooled our enthusiasm quickly - Gallucci Otero scored another goal from corner and it put SLB firmly in control for the rest of the match. We continued to play fairly well until the end and what I saw on the pitch was really encouraging, but we couldn’t change the result.

Despite this loss I was happy about performance - tactics worked and the lads put in a great effort, so there’s a lot of positives to take from this game ahead of the last match in group stage.

  • it could have been a very different game if our finishing were a bit better in the first half
  • defensive work was impressive at time, we blocked 9 shots and got into right places in the last moments

 

In the other match of the group FC Kobenhavn went to half-time with 2-0 lead over PSG, but then fell apart completely in the second half and finished with 2-5 defeat. So close. We now have to beat FC Kobenhavn in Amsterdam and hope that SLB defeats PSG in the other game.


28.11.2020 - Ajax - FC Groningen 3:0 (ED) - 14. Dejan Meleg, 43. Mike van der Hoorn, 74. Dodi Hamzah - FC Groningen, perhaps surprisingly, occupies the first place in Eredivisie table at the moment. They’ve had a very busy transfer window, buying and selling for £8,4m on both sides of the balance sheet. No major signings, but they’ve replaced half of their first team this Summer and as it shows, it has brought success so far.

No wonder I approached to this game very carefully. Because of our poor start it was a true six-pointer for us and I know how dangerous FC Groningen attacking line in Charlison Benschop and Sheraldo Becker may be.

I set my team up as I did in last Champions League encounter, playing more structured in terms of formation, but more creative with decisions where to move the ball and find chances.

But the feared FC Groningen never really showed up. We controlled this game pretty much from kick-off until the final whistle, getting a lot of set pieces on the way and of these situations we were the most dangerous.

Dejan Meleg started with an excellent free kick from 17 meters out that went to top corner, so Warner Hahn couldn’t save it. A truly wonderful strike and one of the candidates for the goal of the season, definitely. It also was his 50th league goal for Ajax.

In the end of the half Mike van der Hoorn added another goal from indirect free kick and so we could go to half-time fairly relaxed spirits.

In 2nd half we continued to control the game and Dodi Hamzah completed scoring with a header that went in off the bar. I was really happy about this goal as it ended his long draught and hopefully gives him some confidence back.

In the end a very convincing victory and fans were rightfully delighted about both result and performance.

  • 27 shots shows how dominant we were
  • defensive line made superb job shutting FC Groningen down completely
  • Dejan Meleg was outstanding - a wonderful goal from free kick and assist to van der Hoorn’s goal from him
  • Nicolai Boilesen picked up his 5th yellow card and will be suspended in the next match against Vitesse


 

November has been another mixed month for us. We started with a shock win over PSG and rather drab 1:0 defeating of VVV Venlo, but after international break the loss against FC Twente was our low point in this month. Not only result, but poor display, lack of creativity and ideas on the pitch was extremely worrying.

But we came over this in plucky performance against SLB, despite that result, and 3:0 over FC Groningen shows we’re back on the right track.


 

Eredivisie

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I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Eredivisie table so tightly contested in December. PSV got a poor defeat against Go Ahead Eagles and couldn’t put space between themselves and the rest of the pack. Also, don’t forget sc Heerenveen down the table - they have several games in hand to take the lead.

At the bottom of the table Vitesse Arnhem are really struggling, despite replacing their manager early on. I wonder if they’ll be fighting against relegation in Spring.

 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 11, Dodi Hamzah 5, Lucas Andersen 5

Ajax assists: Ricardo van Rhijn 6, Dejan Meleg 5

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December 2020

 

02.12.2020 - Ajax - FC Kobenhavn 1:1 (Champions League Group E) - 85. Dirk van Grinsven - 22. Lacina Traore - we needed a win to progress from Champions League group and at the same time hoped that SLB could defeat PSG in the other game.

Dragisa Gudelj was suspended for this game and Francesco Antonucci with Justin Kluivert got a chance to impress.

We got our first good chance in 10’, but Justin Kluivert missed his opportunity. FC Kobenhavn scored after indirect free kick and it was a frustrating goal against the run of play. We had a good possession in the first half, but couldn’t convert it into chances and things didn’t improve much after half-time break.

With frustrating growing, we finally got a goal after substitute Dirk van Grinsven headed it in from corner. Francesco Antonucci got an excellent chance in 89’, but his shot hit the post. So we had to settle with frustrating draw. A small consolation is the fact that PSG did win their last game, so our result really didn’t matter and despite collecting 8 points we finished 3rd in the group.

  • we were more attacking side in this game, with 22 shots during this match
  • we should have used our opportunities better - we wasted two clear cut chances that we got and that’s the difference between a win and a draw


05.12.2020 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 2:3 (ED) - 27. pen. Sheran Yeini, 50. Daan Thomassen - 41. Mike van der Hoorn, 53. Amin Younes, 67. pen. Dejan Meleg - Vitesse Arnhem are the most underachieving club in Eredivisie, sitting at the bottom of the table, despite investing net £3m into new players during Summer.

We went to this game without Nicolai Boilesen (suspended). Dodi Hamzah looked tired before game and so Thokozani Mpengesi started in attack. On the other hand - Frenkie de Jong returned from loan spell at Malmö FF and we had one more option in midfield because of that.

Vitesse put up a good fight despite their recent poor form. We wasted our first chance in 17’- Andersen put a good pass into box, but Meleg sent it wide. Nathan Leyder fouled Vitesse player in our box and Vitesse took the lead from penalty. We equalized before half-time - good corner combination found Mike van der Hoorn completely unmarked in front of goal and he calmly put it into the net.

But 2nd half started poorly. Luciano Slagveer drew three defenders to him and found Daan Thomassen completely unmarked in our six yard box. Our response was quick and Amin Younes equalized again. I was unsure as a manager and often changed tactics and tweaked orders from sidelines and that probably didn’t help too.

In the end, all three points belonged to us. Dejan Meleg converted a penalty after Lucas Andersen was tripped inside the area and Vitesse had no answer to that.

Not happy how this game turned out, but win is a huge relief and I’m satisfied with three points.

  • we created four clear cut chances and I’m happy with attacking play
  • defense was surprisingly poor - we conceded three clear cut chances and that’s way too many
  • Dejan Meleg was outstanding in this particular game - a goal and assist to him

 

11.12.2020 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 7. Dejan Meleg, 41. Darren Sidoel - we continued our winning streak against Sparta Rotterdam. I had to keep my promise and start both Darren Sidoel and Francesco Antonucci. Not exactly ‘weakened team’ as our fans claimed, but we won nonetheless.

Sparta started well and forced a good save from Jeffrey de Lange in around 3’ mark. But we scored the first goal - Dodi Hamzah started attacking move with excellent through ball, Dejan Meleg hit the post, but followed up himself and put it into goal in second attempt. Good goal, but could have been more clinical, especially some half an hour  later when he wasted another chance from open position.

We slowly got the game under our control and Darren Sidoel scored our first goal - Francesco Antonucci gave assist to that one (another great through ball). We looked very good in the first half, although finishing could have been better.

Sparta tried to be more attacking after break, but couldn’t pose a real threat. On the other hand we couldn’t find any good counter attacks to break their pressure. In the end a decent 2:0 win from away game and I’m satisfied with that.

  • it’s great to see clean sheet again, we’ve not had too many of those games; but we’ve earned it as we allowed Sparta only one half-chance; Jeffrey de Lange still had to make some great saves though
  • good attacking creativity and through balls into area worked very well, but we missed some chances and finishing could definitely be better

 

With 17 games now played we’ve collected 36 points. Not exactly what we need (the aim should be 40 or higher), but this winning streak has kept us in contention and confidence is growing within squad.

I’ve made some decisions concerning player contracts - Dodi Hamzah and Thokozani Mpengesi were offered new contracts while Amin Younes was not. While he’s very good player for Eredivisie level, I believe it’s time for him to move on - he’s 27 now, expecting big salary, but he’s not consistent first team player and not a tutor material either, so it’s better to offer Justin Kluivert more playing time and make some space into squad.


 

19.12.2020 - PEC Zwolle - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 8. Thulani Serero, 56. Justin Kluivert, 90.+2 Dirk van Grinsven - Carel Eiting was suspended for this game (we’ve really picked our yellow cards fast in this season!), but Zwolle had more trouble with injuries and their best striker Laurent Depoitre is sidelined with broken foot until Spring. Despite that they’ve done very well so far and find themselves in the middle of table near Christmas.

Our first goal came from nowhere - Thulani Serero took a shot from 19 meters and that landed in top corner - outstanding strike and obviously disheartening for Zwolle. But we couldn’t keep hold of the ball and struggled to control midfield for most of the first half. Zwolle got their best chance around 26’ - Mike van der Hoorn covered offside and Sam Hendriks got the ball in our area, completely alone, but somehow sent his shot well wide. It was our turn to waste a chance in 41’ - Dodi Hamzah hesitated until defense arrived to block his shot.

We were better in 2nd half though. Justin Kluivert headed in indirect free kick and then Jorri van der Geest was sent off after receiving his 2nd yellow card. After that, the last half hour was easy. Good work by Justin Kluivert on our left flank created us two more clear cut chances - Thokozani Mpengesi missed the first one, but Dirk van Grinsven scored from the other in injury time.

Confident win and I’m pleased with both result and performance.


After very difficult October and November I’m really satisfied with how this month turned out. Four wins in a row and we’re back in the first place. More importantly - tactics are working again, defense is better and confidence is high.


Eredivisie

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Top of the table is still very tight, 5-6 teams are serious contenders for the title and we’re at the top merely because of goal difference.


 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 13, Dodi Hamzah 5, Lucas Andersen 5, Dirk van Grinsven 5

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 7, Ricardo van Rhijn 6, Justin Kluivert 4

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January 2021

 

With transfer window approaching, I offered new contract to Carel Eiting (until 2024).

I also accepted bids for Donny Geerts - I really like this central defender, especially his professional mentality, but talent is not really there to make it in Ajax, so it’s better if he moved on.

Midfield might get rather crowded after Frenkie de Jong returned and Brian Wagener was promoted to first team, but not in a month or so. de Jong picked up an injury (back strain) in training and he’s out for 3-4 weeks and, of course, Cup of African Nations is being held in this year. For us it means we will miss Thulani Serero and Thokozani Mpengesi who received invitations to South Africa national team. Noa Lang will get a serious chance to prove himself as box-to-box midfielder and I hope to share playing time better as those players are absent.

After decision not to offer Amin Younes new contract he accepted an offer from PSV (half of the salary he demanded from us) and I’m not sure if it does any good to his hopes for more first team football.

 

23.01.2021 - Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 4:0 (ED) - 3. Dodi Hamzah, 28. Francesco Antonucci, 65. Lucas Andersen, 69. Mike van der Hoorn - besides Serero and Mpengesi, we missed Darren Sidoel in this game due to small injury and for me it made choosing my line-up even easier.

We looked very strong after winter break and completely demolished Go Ahead. Excellent combination between Kluivert, Meleg and Hamzah gave us the first goal and we played really great football in the first half. Very intensive pressure resulted in our second goal. Substitute Lucas Andersen and Mike van der Hoorn added to scoreline in the second half. Go Ahead Eagles never really got a chance and we looked completely in control.

  • we controlled midfield (60% possession) and were defensively solid
  • very good attack - 21/10 shooting and we finished all three clear cut chances that we created
  • Ricardo van Rhijn, Francesco Antonucci and Dejan Meleg stood out in this great team performance

 

In January transfer window I signed Emil Brown from Ajax CT for £575k - another talented striker from South Africa. He was instantly loaned out to PEC Zwolle until the end of the season, but nevertheless - meet the man.

vXfcIkj.png

 

27.01.2021 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 3:0 (ED) - 6. Jude Aneke, 53. Rui Pedro, 84. Marc Klok - after such a great win we crashed and burned completely against sc Heerenveen. And that was an important fixture.

sc Heerenveen have done great in this season, but they had three defenders out with injuries, so was Jürgen Locadia and their winger Mimoun Mahi was with international squad. Despite that advantage we were soundly beaten.

I made two changes to squad - Dragisa Gudelj started in left defense and Lucas Andersen returned to midfield - purely rotational purposes.

sc Heerenveen took the lead when Mike van der Hoorn failed to clear a cross and ball fell to Jude Aneke. In 13’ our counter gave Dodi Hamzah a clear cut chance, but our young striker couldn’t finish. We gave another two chances to Heerenveen, but managed to block those shots in the last moments.

It was a really poor first half and our game was severely hampered by weather - damp pitch was in poor condition and our technical football was very limited. Dejan Meleg was completely out of the game and Andersen couldn’t create much from midfield.

sc Heerenveen continued in second half - and this time it wasn’t even our poor defense - Rui Pedro just slammed his shot into top corner from 20 meters out and that destroyed our morale. Marc Klok finished a game with his first goal of the season - symptomatic for us in this game - we lost the ball in midfield and sc Heerenveen attack ended with a goal.

I was furious with my team - we really embarrassed ourselves with this result. Looking more closely to stats, the teams were fairly even. Possession was 50/50 and shots were 13/14. Only difference being that while sc Heerenveen created good chances, we didn’t. Resulting in a probably the worst result of our season.

  • 23 individual mistakes indicates how we couldn’t adjust to poor weather and misjudged movement of the ball in those conditions
  • Dragisa Gudelj had a miserable first half - he made 6 errors in the first 45 minutes and picked up a yellow card - first player to receive official warning for poor performance in this season

 

Only small consolation is that PSV have been stunned even more - they led 2:0 against NAC Breda, but had to settle with 2:2 draw after injury time equalizer, and then were defeated 2:1 by FC Utrecht after last minute winner. That must hurt a lot…


 

31.01.2021 - Willem II Tilburg - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 21. Justin Kluivert, 29. Mike van der Hoorn - we were eager to prove that we’re better than sc Heerenveen result showed. Thulani Serero and Thokozani Mpengesi returned from Cup of African Nation and that bolstered our lines.

After disappointing game Dragisa Gudelj landed on the bench. Francesco Antonucci started instead of Lucas Andersen in midfield.

We struggled to finish our chances at first. Dodi Hamzah was particularly struggling - his shot was saved in 6’, and then he wasted his half-chance in 21’ with a poor shot. But set-pieces worked for us - Justin Kluivert and Mike van der Hoorn both scored from corners.

Dodi Hamzah continued to struggle - he constantly got into right positions, but Willem II goalkeeper Menno Vink was superb with his saves. Francesco Antonucci got our only clear cut chance in 40’, but that too was saved.

I was still satisfied with possession and good attacking play in first half, and we settled with 2-0 lead after break and concentrated on keeping possession.

  • our good shooting accuracy (20/12) was defied by good efforts of Willem II goalkeeper
  • Dejan Meleg was outstanding - two of his corners resulted in a goal

 

We got two good results in January, but it’s best to forget sc Heerenveen game as good as possible. But luckily for us, the other teams struggled with their games too and we held on to top position in Eredivisie table.

 

Eredivisie

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Healthy four-point lead in the table, but competition is still fierce. In the bottom of the table both Vitesse and FC Twente are fighting against relegation and look too good to drop down, so VVV and Willem II are in danger zone as well.


 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 13, Dodi Hamzah 6, Lucas Andersen 6

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 10, Ricardo van Rhijn 7, Justin Kluivert 5


 

Transfer window was fairly quiet in January, but two major moves went through. AS Monaco came in the end of January and made a bid for Darren Sidoel. I sold him for £7m + clauses (possibly up to £8m) and recalled young right-back Tom Drost from ADO Den Haag to replace him.

Fans were a little bit upset about this transfer, but I struggled to offer him enough playing time. Although his average rating was superb, he wasn’t really centre-back (not good enough in the air) and not really right-back (not technical enough). With great prospect in Tom Drost I feel it was a good move to the club.

ADO Den Haag lost another player - their midfield playmaker Danny Bakker went to Derby County for £4m. Decent fee for a player like that, but of course for ADO he was a key midfielder and they’re worse without him.

Other transfers were less significant in terms of transfer fee.

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Very nice to follow your game. I have a few questions though. Can I add you on steam or send you a PM?

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I love this thread, keep up the good work!

It inspired me to do a similar thing with their big rivals Feyenoord. I'm a few months on the way now, and it's not really a success yet. Therefore I´ve got a few questions:

- What do you do if you have a certain position which is clearly lacking quality, or just lacking players suitable for that position in general? Do you train other players to be able to play this position, or do you work your tactics around it?

- When selecting players, do you take the star ratings your staff gives them into account?

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I had a similar problem in FM13 (my previous FM version with this kind of save) - I couldn't get a decent DL from my youth ranks for 10 years straight. First rule in those situations is not to sell your star player unless you have successor coming from youth teams. So I held onto Boilesen and then Mitchell Dijks for until he was already 32-33 years old (in this game Dutch NT level left-back). I then had to retrain one good DR as DL (I had plenty of talent in DR) - not ideal because his right-footedness.

In attacking positions it's easier, as most wingers are adapted to both wings. Wing-backs, goalkeeper and (lone) striker are your main risk areas.

 

I take star ratings into account, but in FM16 I also consider player mentality (professionalism) and hidden attributes as consistency when deciding who will stay and who will go when youngsters reach certain age (~20 years).

 

 

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February 2021

 

05.02.2021 - Ajax - ADO Den Haag 1:1 (ED) - 89. Lucas Andersen - 82. Kenny Otigba - ADO should have been easy for us, after they lost Danny Bakker and Tom Drost and their goalkeeper Sergio Padt is out injured, but we failed again and almost lost this one.

We couldn’t create much during the match and after Kenny Otigba scored from corner, it took some desperate attacking during the last 10 minutes to find an equalizer. And Lucas Andersen, thankfully, took a good enough shot to take at least this one point from this game.

  • we couldn’t dominate midfield and had only 44% of possession
  • crossing didn’t work at all
  • we made one defensive mistake and that was enough, but couldn’t create much in attack

 

11.02.2021 - FC Red Bull Salzburg - Ajax 2:1 (Europa League 1st knockout round 1st leg) - 82. Jacob Hammershoj, 90.+2 Bogdan Butko - 21. Justin Kluivert - Red Bull was an easy draw for us and it could have been much more difficult, but we failed to win the first leg in away.

Ricardo van Rhijn and Francesco Antonucci were suspended, so Tom Drost started in right defense.

The pitch in Salzburg was snowy and conditions were poor, so I tried my CL tactics against Red Bull and we took the lead in the first half - Justin Kluivert’s header from Meleg’s cross found the net and we scored a very important away goal. Mood in our dressing room was good at half time, as we were the better team.

But, as we were already mentally settling with a narrow 1-0 win, Salzburg substitutions had effect and they equalized from counter and then scored another goal from injury time corner. It was very awful last ten minutes and we fell apart defensively. Yes, away goal still favours us, but to give up our lead like that is completely unacceptable.

  • Tom Drost made his debut for Ajax in this match

 

14.02.2021 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 1:0 (ED) - 68. Dejan Meleg - we lost against MVV in autumn and that added a little bit of edge to this game. Ricardo van Rhijn was suspended and I opted with Francesco Antonucci in midfield instead of Andersen.

We weren’t ready enough and MVV got their first clear cut chance in third minute, but de Lange made a good save. We then had an opportunity to score, but Tom Drost hit the post and fireworks started in around 25-30 minutes - after some of our attacks, MVV got a good counter and forced de Lange to make another brilliant save.

  • We had 60% of possession in the first half, but were very vulnerable to counters and I chose not to use offside trap any more.
  • Perhaps that helped, but we got our defense in order after half-time and Dejan Meleg finally scored after a good counter attack.
  • I was happy with the result, but not with performance. MVV have become a difficult opponent, but we should have done better and considering the chances they got, we were rather lucky to win this one


18.02.2021 - Ajax - FC Red Bull Salzburg 0:1 (Europa League 1st knockout round 2nd leg) - 90. Jacob Hammershoj - we had every chance to overturn this 1:2 defeat to aggregate victory, but we failed again and I can’t even explain how. We had good possession, but couldn’t get any good chances and then in the final minute they came with a counter and substitute Hammershoj scored against us like in the first leg. Yes, we missed Dodi Hamzah with a gashed head, but that didn’t matter as the other attacking players were as poor as ever.

  • very good possession (59%), but nothing to show for it
  • poor shooting (14/3)

 

So, Europa League is over for us and only Eredivisie to play for. Perhaps it’s even better that in current miserable form we can at least concentrate to only one competition.

 

21.02.2021 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 0:2 (ED) - 67. Jesper Drost, 90. Leandro Bacuna - I know what is wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it. Our attack isn’t just working and in this match it was even more atrocious because our best goalscorer and set-piece taker Dejan Meleg was out with a bruised head and Dodi Hamzah wasn’t fit enough to start, so we created almost nothing in attack during those ninety minutes. I tried Lucas Andersen on our right flank, but he was almost invisible through the whole game.

We defended well though, but despite that Feyenoord managed to squeeze two goals in - first was a shot behind and between defenders that surprised Jeffrey de Lange. Second goal came from direct free kick that our goalkeeper couldn’t stop.

Morale is low in our dressing room after those defeats and we just can’t find goals from anywhere.

  • we had 6 shots, but only one of them on target
  • Thokozani Mpengesi is having a nightmarish season - he just can’t score from anywhere, he really can’t even be at the right places at the right time, so no shots, no goals - selling Ugur Sezgin is coming back to haunt us


 

24.02.2021 - NAC Breda - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 74. Thokozani Mpengesi - a difficult away game after getting beaten by Feyenoord. Dodi Hamzah was back in team, but Dejan Meleg was still unfit and Ricardo van Rhijn looked tired before this match and was rested, so I can say that again we went with weakened squad. Tom Drost started as right-back and Amin Younes went on the right wing.

In the first half our attacking troubles were clearly visible again - we were good with possession, but couldn’t create anything dangerous. Deyovaisio Zeefuik headed against post from indirect free kick and that was the closest we got to a goal.

After the break NAC Breda were awarded a very questionable penalty, but Jeffrey de Lange was able to save Younes Namli spot kick and kept us in the game. We looked better in attack, but final pass was still lacking, until Justin Kluivert’s cross found Thokozani Mpengesi in the box and substitute striker scored a long-awaited goal - his first after long goal drought that lasted more than 11 games. We almost lapsed in the last ten minutes and gifted NAC a clear cut chance, but Pieter Simons put it wide from open position.

In the end we held onto this win and scraped it 1-0, despite looking a bit shaky in defense and not at all convincing in attack. But I hope this win gives us some confidence that we so desperately need.

  • our shooting was very poor - 16 shots is good, but only 4 of them went on target
  • Jeffrey de Lange was our best player - saving a penalty and playing key role in this win


 

27.02.2021 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 90.+1 Jeffrey de Lange (og) - 27. Dejan Meleg - we were back in full fitness. I sent Francesco Antonucci and Thokozani Mpengesi out in starting line-up.

The first incident came in 23’ - Mike van der Hoorn tripped FC Utrecht player in our box and we conceded another penalty in consecutive games. But just like against NAC Breda, Jeffrey de Lange stepped up and made a penalty save - second in a row!

Few minutes later a great counter attack brought us our best opportunity to score and Dejan Meleg made no mistake.

It wasn’t the best first half, I was upset about the penalty, but we were ahead and I hoped to build on it. I had to take off Dejan Meleg in the 2nd half (gashed head), but otherwise we got this game under our control, until injury time started and FC Utrecht got a free kick from dangerous position - ball went over our wall, de Lange got a hand on it, but unfortunate bounce from his own back put it over the goal line - very unfortunate equalizer for us and truly disheartening moment.

  • our attack was miserable again - only 4 shots (1 on target) and we couldn’t create anything dangerous after half-time break


 

February has been probably the worst month of my career in Ajax. We managed to get two wins in Eredivisie games despite playing poorly, we’ve dropped points against ADO Den Haag and FC Utrecht, we’ve been overplayed by Red Bull Salzburg in Europa League and we topped it with devastating 0:2 defeat against arch rivals Feyenoord. Not good at all and I’m struggling to overturn this run of poor results.


 

Eredivisie

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Fortunately, other teams have been as clumsy and top of the table is still very tight. Bottom three is surprising too - Vitesse and FC Twente still haven’t found their game and smaller teams like VVV Venlo look like they can survive this season in top tier.

 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 15, Lucas Andersen 7, Dodi Hamzah 6

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 12, Justin Kluivert 8, Ricardo van Rhijn 7

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March 2021
 

05.03.2021 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 1:0 (ED) - 59. pen. Dejan Meleg - Deyovaisio Zeefuik was suspended for yellow cards in this game, but we got Dejan Meleg back in fitness and he helped us to scrape 1:0 win against AZ Alkmaar.

The game itself was drab as it has been for us recently. We defended well, but couldn’t create chances for ourselves, but we were helped by AZ defense in the second half - Lucas Woudenberg pulled Meleg’s shirt in the box and our best goalscorer added another goal from penalty spot. As the rest of the team looked very lacklustre, we can safely say that he single-handedly brought us three points that day.

 

  • defense was actually pretty good and we didn’t allow AZ any chances

  • poor attack was topped with poor shooting accuracy (10/3)

 

14.03.2021 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 1:5 (ED) - 11. Adama Diomande - 6. and 39. Justin Kluivert, 16. Dodi Hamzah, 51. Francesco Antonucci, 82. Thokozani Mpengesi - with over a week to prepare, this was a completely different game, and it was about time.

I started Noa Lang in midfield (to compensate great work rate by SC Cambuur players) and Zeefuik returned to central defense.

We started with fireworks early on. Justin Kluivert got a clear cut chance in our first attack, but it was well saved by SC Cambuur goalkeeper. Noa Lang then sent his shot narrowly wide and Dodi Hamzah wasted another chance when only 5’ were played. We then took the lead, but allowed SC Cambuur equalize (Carel Eiting’s missed interception gave Diomande an easy opportunity). But we’ve finally got our attack running and soon Hamzah made it 2-1 and Justin Kluivert extended our lead with a lovely chip in 39’.

Very attacking first half by both teams, plenty of chances, but I wasn’t entirely happy with our defense. Few things were talked over in our dressing room and we started 2nd half with better concentration. Francesco Antonucci capped our excellent counter attack with a goal and substitutes Tom Drost and Thokozani Mpengesi created another goal. Second half was much better in terms of discipline and organized gameplay. We were better defensively and dictated tempo better.

  • finally good attacking movement, good amount of chances and shooting accuracy (18/10), although finishing in our clear cut chances could have been better
  • Justin Kluivert and Dejan Meleg were outstanding - Meleg had two assists and he created at least three clear cut chances

 

After this matchday Willem II dropped to 18th position and their management sacked Jurgen Streppel, replacing him with Adrie Bogers. Let’s see how it works for them.

Our physios brought me bad news about Justin Kluivert - he had some discomfort in his knee and was diagnosed with knee tendonitis. That means his season is over and he’ll be out for 4-5 months, meaning that he’s also sidelined for pre-season and can perhaps return before August. That’s a bummer - especially after he played so well in this last game. Amin Younes will now start as AML for the rest of the season, but I really lack cover in wide positions.

 

20.03.2021 - FC Twente - Ajax 2:2 (ED) - 9. John Smit, 83. Jörn Sauss - 14. Dodi Hamzah, 81. Thokozani Mpengesi - spirits were high after great win over SC Cambuur and I hoped to extend our good series.

Justin Kluivert was injured and Thulani Serero was away with South African national team. I sent out Lucas Andersen in midfield and Amin Younes to left wing.

It looked like our defensive troubles returned for this match. John Smit scored with a completely unmarked header, but Dodi Hamzah equalized soon enough. We had most of possession in the first half and FC Twente tried to break us with counter attacks, but both teams cancelled each other out and all in all it was an even half.

We were better defensively after half time, but struggled to create chances. Finally substitute Thokozani Mpengesi scored a goal that looked like a winner, but this time we allowed FC Twente to reply with a quick goal. Very disappointing to concede so quickly after scoring and so late in the game, but in the end we had to settle with a single point.

 

  • we had 58% of possession, but the number of shots was even
  • we looked solid enough overall, but were very poor on those two situations that led to FC Twente goals


 

March has been a lot better month for us, despite this last game. We got our confidence back from this 5:1 win and we showed once again that we can attack and we can score and, obviously, this win made a lot of good to our goal difference, which also can be crucial in the end of the season.


 

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 16, Dodi Hamzah 8, Lucas Andersen 8

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 15, Justin Kluivert 8, Ricardo van Rhijn 8

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Ajax Youth Intake 2021

 

This year’s harvest has been really good and gives us 4-5 solid prospects for the coming years.

 

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Aschraf Flemming

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We’ve got several good strikers already and this one fits right in. Very determined nature, quick feet and good finisher.


 

Didier Yao

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Interesting name, but also a very talented striker.


 

Rick Koning

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Very talented right-back, but casual nature could hinder his progress. Extensive tutoring by Ricardo van Rhijn could develop a great player out of him, still.

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April 2021


02.04.2021 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 4:1 (ED) - 12. Lucas Andersen, 66. and 77. Thokozani Mpengesi, 90.+2 Francesco Antonucci - 63. Nicolas Isimat-Mirin - it was a true derby match, a title race six-pointer and in front of our home fans we came out victorious.

Lucas Andersen opened scoring in the first half and we looked comfortable enough to desire more from the first 45 minutes. In 40’ Carel Eiting hit the post and another corner gave opportunity to Amin Younes, but his shot was saved.

PSV got an unlikely equalizer - Isimat-Mirin hit a powerful shot from angle. It surprised both defense and goalkeeper and went in off the bar. But we responded quickly - substitute Mpengesi headed in from IFK and soon converted another clear-cut chance to gave us more convincing lead. Francesco Antonucci finished with a good strike in injury time.

It was a very important win, a very good performance in a key match and I’m really delighted with the team.

  • we had 57% possession and we used it well
  • we made only a few individual mistakes and that contributed to good defense
  • very good substitutions (Mpengesi and Antonucci) that brought this win in the second half
  • captain Ricardo van Rhijn stood out, creating 3 clear cut chances and playing key role on the right wing


 

11.04.2021 - Ajax - VVV Venlo 3:0 (ED) - 7. Amin Younes, 14. pen. and 23. Dejan Meleg - great emotion from PSV match continued in a comfortable win over VVV Venlo.

Mike van der Hoorn was suspended for this game and I also picked Tom Drost and Francesco Antonucci to start.

Amin Younes gave us a lead with a header and after Thulani Serero was tripped inside VVV penalty box, Dejan Meleg extended our lead from the spot. He scored another goal from direct free kick from 17 meters and we were well in control when 23 minutes were played.

We gave VVV Venlo their first chance in 34’ when Tom Drost was half asleep and allowed Daoud Bousbiba to run free, but Bousbiba couldn’t finish when it was easier to score and smashed it against post.

We were active in the beginning of the 2nd half, but couldn’t score. Dejan Meleg hit the frameworks twice and wasted his clear cut chance (and with it his chance for a hat-trick). Thulani Serero also saw his clear cut chance saved. Last 30 minutes were already uneventful.

  • good possession (54%) and good attack
  • I noted complacency in 2nd half and that allowed VVV to get two good chances
  • Dejan Meleg was outstanding in set piece situations and was unlucky not to score a hat-trick

 

17.04.2021 - FC Groningen - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 45. Kamohelo Mokotjo - 39. and 47. Dodi Hamzah, 82. Thulani Serero - FC Groningen have been inconsistent in recent years, but this season they’re one of the top clubs and very difficult to beat.

We had Mike van der Hoorn back after he served his suspension and I put Nathan Leyder in starting line-up, as Carel Eiting looked like he couldn’t handle pressure very well before those important games.

The first half was uneventful midfield battle until 35’ - Dodi Hamzah got two great chances in a row, but couldn’t finish. He made it up four minutes later by converting a cross from left flank and giving us 1-0 lead. But we couldn’t hold it and in the end of the first half Kamohelo Mokotjo scored - Jeffrey de Lange made a small mistake in my eyes, coming out for the cross but not really getting there on time. Lucas Andersen then had a chance to put us in front, but his shot was saved and first half ended 1-1. I was disappointed about the late goal, because really we should have been 2-0 ahead, but that’s football.

I sent the team out with encouraging words and told Dodi Hamzah he can make a real difference there. And he did! We got an excellent counter that he converted to start the second half really well and after that we looked like a better team on the pitch. Francesco Antonucci saw his shot saved in 63’ and then Thulani Serero secured us all three points with a shot from the edge of area that landed in top corner. Excellent finish and FC Groningen hopes were diminished. They got another opportunity in the end of the game, but Jeffrey de Lange parried Jari Oosterwijk’s shot.

  • we looked good in attack, again - good shooting (20/11) and good crossing
  • we didn’t look too bad defensively, but somehow gave away another two clear-cut chances and that could put us in trouble


 

It’s been a really great month for us, after such a difficult season. This win over PSV was really special and gave us a lot of confidence and we look like a completely different team on the pitch.

 

Eredivisie

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sc Heerenveen dropped points against SC Cambuur and that gives us pole position before last two match days. PSV is out of the title race and Willem II really need a miracle to avoid relegation.

 

Lasse Schöne announced his retirement in the end of the season. I try to sign him as U-19 coach.

 

Dutch Young Player of the Season shortlist arrived and that’s the first year when all five shortlisted players are from Ajax - Francesco Antonucci, Tom Drost and Justin Kluivert play in Ajax. Rene Timmer is on loan at ADO Den Haag and Jorri van der Geest has had a great season at PEC Zwolle.


 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 18,  Dodi Hamzah 10, Lucas Andersen 8

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 17, Ricardo van Rhijn 9, Justin Kluivert 8

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May 2021

 

02.05.2021 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 1:1 (ED) - 54. Dodi Hamzah - 89. Ali Messaoudi - we were clear favourites against injury-ridden Sparta, but failed to deliver.

Nicolai Boilesen injured himself in training and his season is over (pulled hamstring leaves him out for 3 weeks). Dragisa Gudelj took his place in left defense instead.

We were better team in the first half and had a purple patch of attacking pressure between 15-20 minutes when Amin Younes, Dodi Hamzah and Carel Eiting took 5 dangerous shots in a row, so Sparta goalkeeper looked like a windmill, trying to parry them at all. But goals didn’t come and first half ended in 0-0.

We were better after the break - Dodi Hamzah finally broke through, but in the end we couldn’t hold our lead. Substitute Noa Lang lost the ball in midfield and following counter ended with the only chance Sparta got throughout the game and, of course, with a goal.

Very disappointing to drop points like that, in a game that we should have won easily. sc Heerenveen won their game, so we’re now level on points, but better goal difference gives us advantage in the league table.

  • our attack actually was good, we had possession and created chances, just finishing let us down


 

09.05.2021 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 3:1 (ED) - 21., 33. and 77. Dodi Hamzah - 15. Aleksandar Boljevic - Thokozani Mpengesi suffered concussion in a game against Sparta and wasn’t fit enough for this game. Vitesse are bound for relegation play-offs and have been poor through this season, so our task should be a little bit easier than sc Heerenveen’s, who host PSV in their final game.

We started very well and put Vitesse under real pressure, but then conceded a clumsy goal from corner that came completely against the run of game.

We recovered quickly enough though, and two goals by Hamzah sent us to half-time with 2:1 lead. We could and should have scored even more, but just like against Sparta - chances were there but finishing wasn’t.

Second half was more under our control and we got the chances too. Amin Younes wasted two opportunities and finally Hamzah completed his hat-trick when Vitesse goalkeeper blocked Dejan Meleg’s free-kick and Hamzah was the first to get to rebound.

  • we created 8 clear-cut chances and had 29 shots, so finishing is clearly an issue
  • Dodi Hamzah had a great night and a hat-trick for reward, finally looking like a first team striker that we need


 

As sc Heerenveen lost 0-1 against PSV, we secured the title with this win. It’s been some time since title race has continued until the last match day. Usually we secure the title some weeks earlier. And it’s not very usual to win Eredivisie with only 75 points. That shows how even and tightly contested this year’s competition was.


 

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 18, Dodi Hamzah 14, Lucas Andersen 8

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 18, Ricardo van Rhijn 10, Justin Kluivert 8

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Season Update 2020-2021

 

It has probably been one of the most difficult seasons in near history. We fell out of Dutch Cup very early, won Eredivisie with difficulties and, while looking very competitive in Champions League, getting knocked out from Europa League by Salzburg is not the level I expected after solid group stage in CL.

Few changes are needed and perhaps necessary to rejuvenate the squad. I definitely did cut too deep, selling Ugur Sezgin to Arsenal in August and leaving myself short of attacking options. Lasse Schöne is retiring, Amin Younes (while being solid in the final stage of the season) is signing for PSV. There are plenty of young talent coming back from loan and from U-19 ranks, so finding the right balance between experience and youth is a key challenge here.


 

Ajax Fans Player of the Season: Ricardo van Rhijn - team captain is voted once again as the player of the season by our fans.

Goal of the Season: Thulani Serero against PEC Zwolle 19.12.2020

Ajax Young Player of the Season: Francesco Antonucci


 

Goalkeeper of the Year:

  1. Jeffrey de Lange - Ajax
  2. Joel Drommel - sc Heerenveen
  3. Sergio Padt - ADO Den Haag

 

Golden Boot:

  1. Dejan Meleg - Ajax
  2. Sheraldo Becker - FC Groningen
  3. Odion Ighalo - ADO Den Haag

 

Top Goalscorer:

  1. Charlison Benschop - FC Groningen (20)
  2. Odion Ighalo - ADO Den Haag (20)
  3. Dejan Meleg - Ajax (16)

 

Young Player of the Year:

  1. Rene Timmer - ADO Den Haag (on loan from Ajax)
  2. Francesco Antonucci - Ajax
  3. Justin Kluivert - Ajax

 

Manager’s Manager of the Year:

  1. Me
  2. Robin Maaskant - sc Heerenveen
  3. Johan Mjällby - SC Cambuur - Cambuur had a great season and they won the Dutch Cup, so my previous assistant Mjällby has done a great job there

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Bit more exciting this season with the title being decided on the final day. Hope you can push on in the CL in the coming years. Quick question, is the Golden Boot not for the top goalscorer?

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Yeah, I hope so, too. Getting tactics right is a challenge because focus is completely different. In Eredivisie the challenge is how to turn our superior techincal ability (especially first touch and passing) into goals. In CL we have to be prepared to win while losing midfield, possession and battling deep in midfield.

While tactics could be right, getting the familiarity high for those 6 games in a season is completely another challenge. And when everything looks good enough,we'll bound to concede from set pieces against stronger teams :(

 

In Eredivisie, the Golden Boot is a different category from top goalscorer. I'm not entirely sure how Golden Boot is decided, but I think it's more connected to average rating and a little bit to goals and assists.

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astonishing level of detail and commitment! enjoyed reading your thread mate

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July 2021

 

24.07.2021 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 2:1 (Dutch Super Cup) - 26. Thulani Serero, 58. Justin Kluivert - 55. Julian Lelieveld - as said in the end of last season, Dutch Cup had unlikely winners in SC Cambuur and Johan Mjällby has done some good work improving his team in pre-season, but we were still better team without too much effort.

We missed Mike van der Hoorn and Nathan Leyder with injuries. Navajo Bakboord started in central defense and Noa Lang in defensive midfield position.

We started well and after Dodi Hamzah wasted our first great chance to score, Thulani Serero found the net from IFK. We had more possession and good chances in the first half, but still finished first forty five minutes with narrow 1-0 lead.

And we were punished after the break - SC Cambuur had a good counter attack and Lelieveld was unmarked on the left flank and sent it to near post - positioning by goalkeeper could have been better there and defensive coordination wasn’t the best either. But we regained our lead quickly - Francesco Antonucci found Justin Kluivert with a great pass and our left wing scored a winner after long injury break since February.

We controlled second half better and had more chances - Dejan Meleg missed from open chance and Justin Kluivert’s shot hit the post. So finishing is still an issue.

That’s our third Super Cup win in a row and our start of the season was solid enough.

  • good possession (56%)
  • good attacking football and shooting accuracy (18/11), despite some wasted chances
  • we won majority of duels both on the ground and in the air; both tackling and heading went to our side with over 80% percentage

 

Nothing else significant happened in July. Usual friendlies and loan deals for younger players. Toulouse offered me a job interview but no interest from more reputable clubs.

I'm starting to get an idea about the squad for the next season. Let's see if this plan is interrupted by some large bids in August.

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August 2021

 

06.08.2021 - Ajax - PEC Zwolle 3:1 (ED) - 54. Dodi Hamzah, 57. and 65. Francesco Antonucci - 81. Edwin Gyasi - we started our league season against PEC Zwolle. Lucas Andersen injured himself badly against our last friendly and is sidelined for 3-4 months with torn calf muscle, Nathan Leyder is not yet match fit and so Noa Lang started again in DMC and I opted for Navajo Bakboord in central defense.

We almost got a goal in 3’, but header by Dodi Hamzah rattled against crossbar. Mike van der Hoorn had a chance from IFK in 15’, but he smashed his shot against goalkeeper. We controlled possession and attacked more, but Zwolle had the best chances from set pieces and Jeffrey de Lange had to make two brilliant saves to keep us from conceding. I was not happy about that and also not pleased with how we ended our attacks, and things improved after half-time break.

First shot from corner by Antonucci was saved in 52’. Two minutes later Hamzah headed in after good cross from the left - it was a great header and it reminded me of Arkadiusz Milik, proving that Hamzah really is developing into true complete forward. Clever IFK combination created Antonucci a clear cut chance that he easily converted and, after cc by Boilesen was saved by goalkeeper, Antonucci scored another goal from corner. That looked a lot better than first half and I was pleased that our attacking set pieces training paid dividends in the game.

We conceded a late goal though - Noa Lang missed his tackle on the left wing, allowing Zwolle to continue attack and then Navajo Bakboord allowed Gyasi to pass himself way too easily and shoot it past de Lange. Fortunately it didn’t change much.

We played a good second half, but I can’t be happy with poor defending in set piece situations.

  • good attacking football and 29/12 shooting
  • attacking set pieces worked well and resulted in 2 goals
  • Francesco Antonucci had a brilliant second half and he scored two goals

 

14.08.2021 - Ajax - ADO Den Haag 4:1 (ED) - 8. Nathan Leyder, 11. Dejan Meleg, 47. Francesco Antonucci, 84. Justin Kluivert - 74. Kenny Otigba.

I made two changes in line-up for this game. Nathan Leyder returned to defensive midfield and Deyovaisio Zeefuik replaced Navajo Bakboord in central defense.

ADO Den Haag had a good season and they’ve spent £1,6m for additional three players in Summer. They look solid enough, at least on paper, with Darlington Nagbe in attacking midfield and one of the last season’s best goalscorers Odion Ighalo up front.

We practiced attacking set pieces before this game and it paid off - Dejan Meleg’s free kick found Nathan Leyder in the box and midfielder scored to celebrate his return from injury break. Three minutes later a good attack ended in clear cut chance and a goal by Meleg. Two very good chances in short period and two goals, so I was quite pleased with our first half.

We started our second half in the same manner - Ricardo van Rhijn found Francesco Antonucci in a box and 3-0 was a fact. And despite ADO managed to score one back (from long attacking throw-in) we answered with our fourth strike in 84’. This time Justin Kluivert was the scorer and van Rhijn again provider.

It was a very impressive win and, based on our first two games we look very strong in attack and our attacking midfielders have scored plenty of goals.

  • very confident finishing in this game - we created four good chances and scored four goals from them
  • great game from Justin Kluivert - a goal and assist from our left winger and his crossing was difficult for ADO Den Haag defenders
  • we were good from set pieces, we scored one goal and we got into good positions in dead ball situations
  • Dodi Hamzah’s shooting accuracy was a disappointment - only 1 out of 7 shots found target

 

20.08.2021 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 2:0 (ED) - 45.+1 Justin Kluivert, 89. Deyovaisio Zeefuik - now here’s a test. We went against PSV with the same line-up and hoped to use our momentum to our advantage. We come from back to back wins while PSV only got one point from their first three games - a poor draw against PEC Zwolle and losses from AZ and Feyenoord is not the start they wished for. So they looked a bit like a wounded animal and I hoped to exploit that. And we did.

We got our best chance in 8’ - Justin Kluivert had a great opportunity and his shot was just saved on the goal line. But in the end of the half, in injury time, Kluivert scored from great through ball by Dodi Hamzah. Great time to score and it put PSV under pressure for the second half.

Frustration of PSV players grew and they collected a lot of yellow cards. Alexander Büttner was finally sent off in 84’ after receiving his 2nd yellow and in the end of the game Deyovaisio Zeefuik’s goal from IFK secured us a very valuable win.

  • I’m very happy with defense - we didn’t allow any chances to PSV and they didn’t get any shots on target
  • it was our first clean sheet of this season


 

In the end of August the draw for Champions League groups took place and that made me curse. We fell into 4th seed group again and got Juventus, FC Porto and Olympique Marseille in our group. That’s tough. That’s seriously tough. I’d be happy to finish 3rd, but even this is a huge challenge compared to previous couple of years.

sc Heerenveen didn’t qualify to group stages (they were beaten 0:7 by FC Porto in qualifying stages) and so Eredivisie reputation is solely on our shoulders.


 

27.08.2021 - FC Groningen - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 35. Francesco Antonucci - it was our first away game of the season and I approached a bit more carefully. FC Groningen area a tricky opponent too.

We had a good chance early on, but Dodi Hamzah headed over empty goal. Francesco Antonucci scored from corner and we took the lead in the first half. Then, after the break, we concentrated more on keeping possession and limiting FC Groningen’s attacks. Successfully until injury time - they got a header from free kick that smashed our crossbar. We were a little bit lucky there, but held onto win in this game, although performance wasn’t as impressive as in previous matches.

  • we had 60% of possession and we played really good game defensively

 

August has been excellent for us. Four straight wins, including the one over PSV means it’s all smiles in dressing room. PSV have had a miserable start and they only got two points from five first games.

We made one move in the end of transfer window. Thokozani Mpengesi left to Parma for £3,5m - that matches his minimum release fee clause. I wasn’t really sure in him making it in Ajax - he looked often too nervous on the pitch, wasn’t as good as Hamzah and considering the amount of talent we’ve got in this position coming from U-19, it was an easy sell.

I brought Aschraf Flemming up from U-19 to replace him. I don’t often promote 17 years old youngsters, but he’s a true wonderkid and deserves to have a chance or two in first team despite his age.

 

 

Eredivisie

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I usually do transfer update after transfer window is closed, but for the second time in a row there’s no point. Transfers of Carel Eiting and Thokozani Mpengesi were the only noteworthy moves in this Summer. MVV made a lot of signings, spending almost £14m on 16 players (incl. bringing 33 years old Gregory van der Wiel back to Eredivisie). Let’s see how it pays off in results

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Squad Update 2021

Not much has changed compared to previous season. Two players have left and a lot of youngsters have made a step up in their development.

 

Goalkeepers

Jeffrey de Lange

eS5o1GC.png

He's OK keeper, pretty good with no major flaws, but not spectacular either. Jasper Cillessen was surely better and de Lange is not likely to reach Holland national team level. Having said that - we don't have any better talents coming up either. Plenty of decent backups like Joe van der Sar, but no great talent that could overcome de Lange in the next 2-3 years. And, as he'll be 24 soon, he'll become decent tutor for younger players.

 

Defenders

Ricardo van Rhijn

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Team captain is reaching to veteran status. His contribution  to attacking phase is his biggest virtue in my eyes. He's created 5 clear cut chances already in this season and his crosses look always dangerous.

 

Tom Drost

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Mike van der Hoorn

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He's had a good start to this season, but his last year was pretty poor. He caused the most clear cut chances against us and his errors led to more goals than anyone else in defensive line. Could add a goal or two more in attacking set pieces as well.

 

Deyovaisio Zeefuik

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He's my first choice defensive partner for van der Hoorn, but for how long? He's turning 24 this season and he's not likely to improve much. Good as he is, I've got better prospects coming up. Perhaps it's time for him to move on, if I receive a solid £7-8m bid for him.

 

Sergio Alleyne

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Perhaps the best choice to replace Zeefuik with. Physically strong, hard-working and determined, good decision making and aggressive  defender. Too bad I've only got right-footed centre-backs.

 

Nicolai Boilesen

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Danish left-back has been in great form this season so far and he's earned invitations to national team for his efforts, too. 

 

Dragisa Gudelj

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Gudelj struggles to play his way past Boilesen, but I'm not allowing him to leave either, because I don't really have a decent cover in left-back position. So, perhaps a two more year of patience is needed from him.

 

Najavo Bakboord

oTIN8Gq.png

Defender number three in pecking order at the moment. Good talent, very good on the ball, quick feet, but perhaps a bit short and vulnerable in the air to my liking. I'll try to give him playing time depending on the opponents.

 

Nathan Leyder

4mJ9PIm.png

Took over DMC position after Carel Eiting left. Works hard and does well, although some costly errors have slipped in too. Broke into Belgium national team this September.

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Squad Update 2021

 

Midfielders

Thulani Serero

DPKDoSh.png

The second veteran in my team next to van Rhijn. Very experienced midfielder, still part of South Africa national team. But slowly starting to show his age. Hopefully he'll be good for two more years, until Pieter Stekelenburg matures.

 

Noa Lang

QIbArTD.png

He has some qualities over Serero - he tends to keep his head up and spot the pass better, but hasn't developed as well as I hoped

 

 

Lucas Andersen

mBUbnki.png

Objectively - he's lost his battle to AP position to Antonucci, and to add to this, suffered a long injury in the beginning of this season that leaves him sidelined until November, at least. It will be a struggle to come back from this.

 

Francesco Antonucci

3eYwtFj.png

I was able to keep him despite some interest from mid-table Premiership clubs. And I need him too as Andersen is seriously injured at the moment. Very good with and without ball, but offers less defensive support in midfield.

 

Frenkie de Jong

cWP8Zz9.png

Third best attacking playmaker in the squad, but while Andersen and Antonucci are used with AP-attack orders, de Jong is AP-support. Turned 24 this year and can now tutor youngsters and pass forward his excellent determination.

 

Wingers

Dejan Meleg

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Best goalscorer and creator from last season. Also our best set piece taker.

 

Dirk van Grinsven

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I definitely try to give him more playing time this season. He offers different kind of football than Meleg on our right wing - very quick, direct and precise crossing.

 

Justin Kluivert

ocART7Y.png

Has had a great start to this season so far, creating and scoring goals. Still only 22 years old, so has time to improve and I hope he'll continue to convert this talent into goals.

 

Strikers

Dodi Hamzah

T04GPHA.png

Definitely most improved player since last season and slowly emerging into true complete forward. Described as wonderkid and I predict that I can't keep him for more than two seasons.

 

Aschraf Flemming

fQxmGFZ.png

The best talent of my youth intake from Spring 2021. Quick, agile, naturally fit.  Very determined and good finisher. Only 17 years old, but already capped for U-19 national team and earned invitation to U-21 camp too. More suitable for F9 role than CF, but Ugur Sezgin showed that this might also work very well in my formation. In this season gets his minutes from substitution and plays for reserves.

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