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[FM16] Ajax Amsterdam - Building a dynasty of youth

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05.03.2017 - Willem II Tilburg - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 13. Jari Schuurman - Arkadiusz Milik, 78. Lucas Andersen, 82. Richairo Zivkovic - first test of our new attacking tactic in away match and in the first 15 minutes it didn’t look too good. John Heitinga was too passive in defense and gifted Willem II a clear cut chance, but this time Cillessen was able to save. But five minutes later it wasn’t enough - Jari Schuurman took a shot outside of area and it landed in top corner - a great strike by Schuurman and all I could was watch with grim face.

We didn’t offer the most exciting football, but had one good chance in the first half - a good counter attack, great diagonal ball by El Ghazi found Milik on the run and our Polish striker didn’t make a mistake there.

In the 2nd half we slowly started to take control of the match and it looked like we were more likely to score a winner. Our substitutions made impact and in the final 15 minutes it brought the result. First Zivkovic’ shot was parried by Willem II goalkeeper Lamprou, but Andersen was first to rebound and scored our second goal. Few minutes later Lasse Schöne sent a cross in and Zivkovic was there to finish. Willem II players looked a bit broken - they lost it after working so hard for over an hour, but I didn’t mind.

+ great impact by Richairo Zivkovic - a goal and assist for him

- Anwar El Ghazi had a quiet game

- attacking set pieces could have been better - 12 corners, but no danger from those opportunities

At the same time PSV lost 2:3 against NEC Nijmegen (our own Frenkie de Jong leading the troops in NEC) and we increased our lead to 7 points. Confidence is growing and title looks closer and closer.

10.03.2017 - Ajax - FC Twente 1:2 (ED) - 73. Arkadiusz Milik - 2. and 24. Tom van Weert - terrible match, especially for home game. Daley Sinkgraven injury meant that young Justin Kluivert started on the left wing and this gamble didn’t pay off.

We weren’t prepared for the match and conceded a very quick goal - El Ghazi missed his tackle on the right, van Rhijn couldn’t prevent the cross and Heitinga forgot to mark van Weert.

FC Twente got encouragement from quick goal and after Anwar El Ghazi missed our best chance of the match, Twente added another goal in the first half, while we couldn’t get our game going in any way. Arkadiusz Milik’s goal had more of a luck in it than we deserved and in the end it didn’t matter much. Final five minutes added to our misery - Thulani Serero pulled his hamstring and Mitchell Dijks got his marching orders after he received his second yellow card - both men are sidelined for the next derby match against Feyenoord and that’s a blow.

What frustrates me the most though is that I can’t really understand what was wrong with our tactics in this match and why did we played as poor as we did. That’s a lot to think about.

+ Arkadiusz Milik’s ability to find the net

- early conceded goal and overall poor defensive line; Ricardo van Rhijn and John Heitinga especially stood out with their sub-par performances

- no creativity whatsoever, one of the worst midfield performances of the season

- Richairo Zivkovic was completely disappeared from the pitch

- Thulani Serero will be sidelined for 3 weeks with his injury

- Mitchell Dijks’ red card

Only good news of the week was that Holland national team manager invited Abdelhak Nouri, Anwar El Ghazi and Richairo Zivkovic into national squad. Our work with home grown talents do not go unnoticed.

17.03.2017 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 6:0 (ED) - 28. Daley Sinkgraven, 37. John Heitinga, 64. pen. Arkadiusz Milik, 71. Justin Kluivert, 78. Richairo Zivkovic, 80. Anwar El Ghazi - I was worried about Dijks and Serero missing, but that was for nothing because we completely trounced Feyenoord in Amstredam Arena. Lasse Schöne started in midfield and Nicolai Boilesen took over in left defense.

Things started to happen in the middle of the first half. Cillessen made a good save to deny Feyenoord’s best chance (Boilesen was a bit careless and allowed a run behind himself), two minutes later we got an opportunity, but Sinkgraven’s header hit the bar. In the next attack though, van Rhijn’s cross found him again and this time our left winger didn’t make a mistake. John Heitinga scored our second goal from corner and despite Sinkgraven missing another chance, we had a solid 2-0 lead at half time.

We took our game further in 2nd half, didn’t give Feyenoord any chances and completely scored at eas. Milik had a quiet game, but managed to get to score sheet after taking a penalty. Substitutes Kluivert and Zivkovic used their chances well and player of the match Anwar El Ghazi finished the scoring with 6th goal after backheel pass by Zivkovic.

Probably the best result of the whole season and fans are extremely happy about that.

+ great team performance, no weak links in squad

+ biggest win of the season

28.03.2017 - FC Dordrecht - Ajax 0:3 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 16. and 45. Anwar El Ghazi, 65. Richairo Zivkovic - FC Dordrecht had done very well to get as far, but they were no match against us. Things went bad for them early on - their right back Jeffry Fortes could not handle Daley Sinkgraven at all, and after making 5 fouls in the first 10 minutes, he received his 2nd yellow and red card. Anwar El Ghazi opened scoring for us from corner and after first half we were just in full training mode. Dordrecht had a good amount of shots, but majority of those were desperate attempts way out of the box and caused no trouble. A very easy win. In the final our opponent are sc Heerenveen, who managed to beat FC Twente 4-2.

+ Anwar El Ghazi is in great form, two goals and assist by him

+ Richairo Zivkovic' ability to find the net

Eredivisie

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Despite this loss against FC Twente I'm fairly pleased with the month, because we were able to increase our lead and, with season ending, look more confident to take the title. Bottom of the table looks more exciting. AZ Alkmaar is still in relegation battle and Helmond Sport do have some hope to climb to playoff places instead of automatic relegation.

Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 24, Arkadiusz Milik 20, Anwar El Ghazi 13

Ajax assists: Anwar El Ghazi 15, Abdelhak Nouri 12, Ricardo van Rhijn 10

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Not so exciting as I hoped, but we have some material to work with.

Rayan Yilmaz

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At first sight he doesn't look like a great prospect, but my coaches rate this young left winger highly. He has no clear weaknesses, okay technical skill, some pace and useful attributes like flair and teamwork. Fairly sporting by nature.

Dirk van Grinsven

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Right winger. Great pace, excellent teamwork and solid crossing ability for his age. Can improve a lot. Honest by nature. First touch needs to be a lot better and he's quite short, so ineffective in the air, but still looks like a great winger material.

Danny Rutte

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Fairly slow, even for a central defender, but look at those mental attributes! He has high consistency, but lower professionalism than it could be and his determination should be higher, but that's why I have tutoring. He just turned 16, so let's see how he improves in a year.

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01.04.2017 - NEC Nijmegen - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 33. Daley Sinkgraven, 43. Anwar El Ghazi, 53. Arkadiusz Milik - we had a bone to pick with NEC - they did beat us 2:1 in Amsterdam Arena, so now was time for revenge. First goal took a while, but then our crosses started to work and our wingers found space in the box. El Ghazi’s cross found Sinkgraven in front of goal and left winger headed it in from 2 meters out. Few minutes later a superb deep cross by Boilesen reached to El Ghazi who passed the ball in the net. 2-0 for half-time and game was well under our control.

In 2nd half I switched mentality to control and although it looked much more boring to watch, Arkadiusz Milik’s goal gave us 3:0 win.

+ great match by Anwar El Ghazi - a goal and two assists by him

+ excellent defending - we gave NEC no chances and kept another clean sheet

- small minus were our corners - several were poor and we posed no threat from set pieces

At the same time PSV lost 0:1 against FC Utrecht, so we need just one more win to clinch league title.

08.04.2017 - Sparta rotterdam - Ajax 2:4 (ED) - 34. pen. Danny Hoesen, 84. Carlos Castro - 20. and 90.+4 Richairo Zivkovic, 55. Abdelhak Nouri, 83. Terry Lartey Sanniez (og) - Sparta have had a great season so far - for a newly-promoted team to be in 11th position is definitely a great success. They showed their teeth against PSV in previous match day (losing just 2:3) and put a good fight against us, too.

Opening goal by Zivkovic was a good shot and showed that our young striker is well prepared for this fixture, but our goal was soon followed by very poor defending by John Heitinga. The most experienced defender buckled under pressure and committed a foul inside our penalty box. Danny Hoesen made no mistake from the sport and first 45 minutes ended with 1-1.

In 2nd half we looked like a better team for a while - wonderful passing and teamwork was finalized by Abdelhak Nouri goal.

In the last ten minutes mayhem started - at first, Sparta missed their great chance, then Serero’s opportunity was blocked by defender in the last moment. Anwar El Ghazi gave a good cross that almost reached Justin Kluivert, but Sparta right back Terry Lartey Sanniez (who is loaned to Sparta from Ajax!) slided in and tackled the ball into Sparta goal. That’s the way to claim first team football for next season!

Just a few minutes later our defense crumbled again - first shot from the right was parried by Cillessen, but central defenders were slow to react and Sparta striker Carlos Castro scored into empty net. 2-3! Two minutes later another great chance to Sparta, but Cillessen held the ball brilliantly.

In the end this ferocious attacking by Sparta did cost them in the other end - Justin Kluivert’s clever pass found Zivkovic on the run and just before final whistle we finished the game with 4th goal and so clinched our second Eredivisie title!

+ Richairo Zivkovic scored two goals

+ Thulani Serero’s man of the match performance in midfield

+ 4 clear cut chances

- 4 clear cut chances by Sparta

- very very poor and nervous defending in the last 10 minutes

- unbelievable that the man with experience of John Heitinga was the one who buckled under pressure to concede a cheap penalty

- Daley Sinkgraven had a poor game on the left flank

15.04.2017 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 1. Arkadiusz Milik, 67. Lasse Schöne - FC Utrecht is another team next to NEC Nijmegen against whom we did lose before Christmas and now needed to take revenge.

The game started well - Boilesen crossed from left, Arkadiusz Milik won the header and before first minute was played, we were 1:0 ahead. We quickly switched tactics to control and for the next 60 minutes FC Utrecht tried fruitlessly to break through. In 2nd half Lasse Schöne scored a beautiful direct free kick from outside of area and so the game ended with comfortable 2:0 result.

+ Arkadiusz Milik scored his 20th league goal of the season and received a hefty £200,000 bonus check after that

+ great free kick goal by Lasse Schöne

+ solid defense

- perhaps not the most exciting football on display

- Thulani Serero picked up a small knock (bruised thigh) and is out for 5-7 days, but should be OK for Dutch Cup Final

23.04.2017 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 2:2 (Dutch Cup Final) - 41. Daley Sinkgraven, 95. Doke Schmidt (og) - 27. and 108. Luka Zahovic - we weren’t well prepared for the cup final that was held in De Kuip. sc Heerenveen looked like they wanted to win more and we were more nervous of the two sides (perhaps our youth did show a little bit there). sc Heerenveen took a lead after their danger man Luka Zahovic scored a header from corner. We equalized just before half time - El Ghazi sent a good cross into the box and Daley Sinkgraven arrived in time to head it home.

Zahovic had another opportunity 10 minutes before whistle, but that shot went well wide and the game went to extra time.

We were first to break through - Ricardo van Rhijn’s cross almost found Zivkovic in point blank range, substitute Doke Schmidt slided in, but unfortunately tackled the ball into sc Heerenveen’s net. But we couldn’t hold onto lead - Lucas Andersen missed his interception in midfield, Zahovic again found space in our box (poor marking by van der Hoorn) and his good header beat Cillessen. 2-2 and penalty shoot out.

After both teams had missed twice - Zivkovic and Andersen (again!) from our side unable to convert their spot kicks - it was Doke Schmidt (again!) who took a poor shot and Cillessen saved it to bring us our first cup win under my management!

To be honest, we didn’t deserve this win and were just lucky - we couldn’t control midfield, made mistakes in defense and allowed sc Heerenveen 15 corners. But despite their opportunities Heerenveen couldn’t use those chances and so our quality and Cillessen goalkeeping skill brought us the win.

+ few solid performances - Ricardo van Rhijn in defense, Donny van de Beek in midfield

+ solid goalkeeping and 3 penalty saves by Cillessen

- poor defending against Luka Zahovic - don’t even know what I could have done against him - I told my defenders to mark him tightly, but he somehow still managed to score

- few disappointing performances too - Lucas Andersen had a poor game, Nicolai Boilesen had a great form in previous games and he earned the place in starting line-up, but failed to deliver on the pitch

30.04.2017 - Ajax - Heracles Almelo 3:0 (ED) - 7. Daley Sinkgraven, 29. Anwar El Ghazi, 73. pen. Arkadiusz Milik - there was no pressure in this match and we won this one easily. A few first team players were rested and substitutes got their chance to impress. Our wingers Sinkgraven and El Ghazi were the ones who created most dangerous chances in the first half and after the break, substitute Arkadiusz Milik finished scoring with the penalty. Very confident win despite changes in the squad.

+ solid win

+ 5 clear cut chances

+ good performance by usual substitutes Darren Sidoel and Peter Leeuwenburgh

- few notes of complacency in the squad

Eredivisie

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AZ Alkmaar have climbed out of relegation zone, but only just. PEC Zwolle have sunk to bottom of the table and, considering their recent injury troubles, they're most likely to go down if miracle doesn't happen in the last match.

Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 26, Arkadiusz Milik 23, Anwar El Ghazi 15

Ajax assists: Anwar El Ghazi 19, Abdelhak Nouri 12, Ricardo van Rhijn 11

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07.05.2017 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 0:0 (ED) - only one match in May and, although pressure wasn't upon us, it was a principal match between us and sc Heerenveen. Two matches in this season have ended with a draw, so we had a chance to prove our superiority in this game. But we couldn't break through sc Heerenveen defense, although their right back Dion Malone was sent off with second yellow card already in the first half. We controlled midfield, but couldn't create good chances and things only started to happen in the last 10 minutes - Anwar El Ghazi had two great opportunities in a row and he also hit the post. Matthijs de Ligt got a chance from corner, but his shot also bounced back from framework and so the game ended with a goalless draw.

+ good midfield performance and amount of shots

- poor finishing

Eredivisie

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No surprises in the top 3, but bottom of the table offered some great stories - PEC Zwolle played against Excelsior in the last match and were 3-1 up in 2nd half - a result that would have meant 17th place for Zwolle and 16th for Excelsior. But Excelsior turned everything around in the last 12 minutes, banging in 3 goals and winning 4-3. That allowed them to pass AZ Alkmaar and get to safety, PEC Zwolle were held in 18th place and in those 12 minutes AZ Alkmaar found themselves in relegation play-offs. Zwolle was relegated, but both AZ and Helmond Sport (who struggled so badly in the first half of the season) found strength to stay firm in the play-offs and retain their places in top division.

Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 26, Arkadiusz Milik 23, Anwar El Ghazi 15

Ajax assists: Anwar El Ghazi 19, Abdelhak Nouri 12, Ricardo van Rhijn 11

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We had a strong season in domestic competitions and I'm happy about the treble we made (Eredivisie, Dutch Cup, Dutch Super Cup). But to win the league with only 76 points shows there's room for improvements and to tell the truth, aside the penalty win against PSV in the 4th round, cup draw has been fairly easy for us this year, so we can't get carried away.

European season was a short one and that allowed me to go through 2nd half of the season with only 20 men squad. Group draw was difficult and our team is young, but we have to aim higher next season.

Few players had a massive breakthrough season - Abdelhak Nouri was a key player in midfield, Anwar El Ghazi finally opened up on the right flank, Richairo Zivkovic had the first full season for Ajax and banged in 26 goals and Daley Sinkgraven blended in well in the 2nd half of the season.

Fans selected Ricardo van Rhijn as the fans' player of the year for this season and Anwar El Ghazi was selected as young player of the year. Goal of the season award went to Donny van de Beek for his shot against FC Twente in Eredivisie match.

Goalkeeper of the Year

1. Jasper Cillessen - Ajax

2. Adam Bogdan - PSV Eindhoven

3. Kenneht Vermeer - Feyenoord Rotterdam

Golden Boot

1. Abdelhak Nouri - Ajax

2. Sean Klaiber - FC Utrecht

3. Andres Guardado - PSV Eindhoven

Top Goalscorer

1. Dirk Kuyt - Feyenoord Rotterdam - 24 (wow, top goalscorer award at the age of 36!)

2. Arkadiusz Milik - Ajax - 21

3. Luuk de Jong - PSV Eindhoven - 17

Young Player of the Year

1. Anwar El Ghazi - Ajax

2. Abdelhak Nouri - Ajax

3. Jairo Riedewald - Ajax

Champions League Final

PSG - Juventus 1:2

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I allowed squad a long holiday, but few transfer moves still happened during otherwise quiet June.

Anwar El Ghazi went to Tottenham Hotspur for £14,5m + clauses (potentially £17m). He had a £15m minimum release fee clause in his contract, but with heavy hart I did let him go to Premiership.

Everton, who had been lurking around Jasper Cillessen for about a year, finally made an offer and I negotiated it to £16m + clauses (potentially £18m), before finally accepting it. Cillessen is a key player for us, but he's 28 now and I can't get a better bid for him in the future. Plus I need to see if our young goalkeepers have anything in them or not, and next to Cillessen they have no chance for first team football.

These are very high offers for Eredivisie. In fact, rarely any club sells any of their player for higher than £5m and it's just realistic as well to let players leave. While I have some candidates for first team goalkeeper place (Peter Leeuwenburgh, Andre Onana), right wing will be more challenging, but with Dejan Meleg returning from loan and Lasse Schöne able to play there, I hope I can make it through next season.

But there were few players that left from squad in the end of June, two of them noteworthy - Diederik Boer decided to retire from football and start his new career as a goalkeeping coach (not in Ajax though). He played for Jong Ajax this season and his age (36) was enough to hang up his gloves.

We've been haggling with Sheraldo Becker this year about his new contract opportunities and I finally decided not to offer him a new one. He was on loan at Heracles and played actually quite well there, but for a 22 years old player he's not likely to become much better than he is and his only quality is pace (16/16), so in long term his more suitable to another Eredivisie club.

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22.07.2017 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 2:1 (Dutch Super Cup) - 18. Adam Maher, 66. Santiago Arias - 11. Lasse Schöne - Super Cup match was played in a friendly atmosphere this year - both teams were in full fitness and offered great attacking football to fans. We took the lead first - Abdelhak Nouri found Lasse Schöne with a good pass and experienced midfielder scored confidently. But defensive mistakes cost us in this one - soon after our goal we allowed Adam Maher to get to Santiago Arias’ cross first and after half time break it was Arias himself who scored after corner. We had one more great opportunity, but Nouri blasted it well over while he had plenty of space and time in front of PSV goal.

So 1:2 loss that shows we still have some work to do. I wasn’t too harsh with the guys and sympathized with them after the game, but actually we need to improve.

+ good assist and overall performance by Abdelhak Nouri

- poor defense and amount of chances we allowed to PSV

I made on transfer in July and allowed Nick Viergever to go to Serie A side Chievo for £1m. It wasn’t a lot of money and obviously fans criticised the decision, but his contract is about to run out in a year and he’s third best in both DL and DC positions with younger and more talented players coming from youth ranks. He has a good ambitious nature and some qualities as a footballer, but he’s not happy sitting on the bench and I see no point in giving him false promises.

Otherwise our first team squad is getting clear.

Squad 2017/2018

GK: Andre Onana - yes, only one keeper in the squad, but I’ve got some of the younger ones on loan with recall option. 21 years old Cameroonian international is a great shot stopper, but his handling and one-on-ones could be better. Possesses enough pace and agility to try him as a sweeper keeper.

DR: Ricardo van Rhijn - captain of the team

DR: Leeroy Owusu

DRC: Mike van der Hoorn

DLC: John Heitinga - yes, veteran centre-back is still in line. Despite getting slower with age, he’s a good leader on the pitch and vice captain

DLC: Matthijs de Ligt - 18 years old understudy for Heitinga

DL: Mitchell Dijks

DL: Nicolai Boilesen

DMC: Donny van de Beek - regista/playmaker option in deep midfield

DMC: Nathan Leyder - returned from season-long loan at SC Cambuur, he’s more defensively minded midfielder; capable of playing in central defense as well

MCL: Thulani Serero

MCR: Abdelhak Nouri

MCR: Lucas Andersen

MCR: Francesco Antonucci - 18 years old midfielder prospect. Probably better in AMC than MC position. I’ll let Lasse Schöne tutor him to get his attitude more professional. Current Italy U-21 international.

AMR: Lasse Schöne

AMR: Dejan Meleg - Meleg is the one who has to step into Anwar El Ghazi role, although he’s more inside forward than winger. Good at free-kicks, but hasn’t showed anything spectacular in friendlies so far.

AML: Daley Sinkgraven

AML: Amin Younes - back in squad after 6 months loan

AML: Justin Kluivert - third 18 years old prospect in first team squad

ST: Arkadiusz Milik

ST: Richairo Zivkovic

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04.08.2017 - NAC Breda - Ajax 0:4 (ED) - 15., 37. and 80. Dejan Meleg, 73. Richairo Zivkovic - NAC is the only promoted club this season and they are predicted to comfortably stay up in Eredivisie. But they got a tough first round draw against us and instantly that was a reality check.

We started well, Daley Sinkgraven’s cross found Dejan Meleg on the far post, he comfortably sent two men to other direction and finished calmly. After a while he scored a great-looking direct free kick from 18 meters and it was 2-0 for half time.

In second half we switched to control strategy, but goals didn’t stop. Substitute Zivkovic made it 3-0 after cross by van Rhijn and then Meleg finished the game with excellent goal to complete his hat-trick

Breda got their best chances in the last 10 minutes. Andre Onana had to make one good save and in following corner situation young debutant Nathan Leyder missed his header and allowed Sjoerd Ars a clear cut chance that was blocked in near post by Mitchell Dijks. That aside, it was a comfortable win and great start to the season.

+ good goalscoring and finishing

+ great hat-trick by Dejan Meleg

+ league debuts for the club were Meleg and Leyder

+ clean shee-t

- Arkadiusz Milik didn’t impress - one of his header clipped the bar, but otherwise he didn’t pose much threat in front of the goal

11.08.2017 - FC Groningen - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 70. Charlison Benschop - 14. Richairo Zivkovic, 90. Lasse Schöne - with his good performance in previous game Richairo Zivkovic earned himself a place in line-up for this one. FC Groningen have been a tricky opponent for us and they still are, featuring some extremely quick players. First good chance of the match fell to Zivkovic, who intercepted a throw in and went 1-1 against goalkeeper, but his shot went well wide. He opened score with a good header from cross by Ricardo van Rhijn. In the 2nd half Groningen equalized after good counter, but they fell too deep too soon and our pressure in the last 10 minutes gave us winning goal - again van Rhijn crossed from right and substitute Lasse Schöne headed it home.

It was a serious blow to FC Groningen, especially because when I looked at the stats they had more shots and created 2 clear cut chances against our 1, but we managed to score 2 goals from almost nowhere and they took a lot of shots from long range.

+ last minute winner

+ good goalkeeping by Andre Onana - he made several good saves, finished with 8.2 rating and was selected to team of the week 2nd week in a row

- poor defending at times

- shooting should have been better - especially Zivkovic (1 out of 7 shots on target)

- we had a lot of corners, but created nothing out of those

16.08.2017 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 6:3 (ED) - 1., 48. and 57. Richairo Zivkovic, 23. and 75. Dejan Meleg, 77. Abdelhak Nouri - 20. and 42. Stef Nijland, 21. David Moberg-Karlsson - what a match. WHAT A MATCH!

I decided to try something new and went for 4-2-3-1 formation - we had tried this a couple of times in pre-season friendlies and my assistant manager suggested it could work against Utrecht.

Things started off quickly - good combination between Nouri and Zivkovic resulted in a goal before first minute was played. But then, in the middle of the first half we suffered a two minutes of atrocious defending - first John Heitinga made a poor mistake that allowed Nijland to score easily and then Mike van der Hoorn was too slow to chase down Moberg-Karlsson for long ball forward. We were down 1-2 so quickly! But we picked ourselves up soon - Sinkgraven crossed to far post and tap-in by Meleg equalized the game. Still, we went to half-time break 2-3 behind after Nijland managed to score another goal.

Second half started better - Zivkovic equalized again after horrible blunder between Bart Vriend and Utrecht goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter. I then finally realized that attacking strategy is way too risky for 4-2-3-1 and we can’t get this game under control if we continue to attack like this. And a draw looked so much better prospect than another conceded goal. But even in control we took Utrecht defense apart.

Zivkovic received a long ball, was surrounded at the byline by no less than three FC Utrecht defenders, but somehow beat them all and scored a wonderful goal to score his hat-trick, give us 4-3 lead and then we never looked back. Two more goals that both came from Mitchell Dijks’ crosses from the left and one great chance after free kick that Mike van der Hoorn couldn’t finish from few meters out.

Great second half and great win in the end and tremendous match for the fans.

+ great attacking football on display

+ wonderful hat-trick by Richairo Zivkovic

+ Zivkovic’ third goal again one to go down to shortlist for goal of the season

+ Dejan Meleg and Abdelhak Nouri played key role in our win

- horrible defending in the first half, especially those two minutes between 20’ and 21’

- poor performance by John Heitinga and Thulani Serero, another sign of Heitinga’s age perhaps?

- three conceded goals in Eredivisie not good by any standards

- Daley Sinkgraven suffered a facial injury and has to sit out the next match against Willem II

20.08.2017 - Ajax - Willem II Tilburg 1:0 (ED) - 26. Richairo Zivkovic - Justin Kluivert started on left wing, but otherwise it was same 4-2-3-1 that played so well against FC Utrecht in the second half.

We wasted an early chance - Serero found Abdelhak Nouri with great through ball, but Nouri shot was saved by Willem II goalkeeper Lamprou. Two minutes later referee awarded a very very dubious penalty for Willem II, but Andre Onana was the man of the moment and made a good save to prevent injustice.

Only goal of the match came by Richairo Zivkovic, who scored his 6th goal of the season after Kluivert gave a clever backheel pass from the byline. That was the only goal and despite having most of possession, we couldn’t create more clear cut opportunities and were unable to beat Lamprou between sticks. Unconvincing win, despite 29 shots made. Konstantinos Lamprou took a man of the match award (9.1 rating).

+ clean sheet and good penalty save by Andre Onana

+ Zivkovic continues his goalscoring form

+ great performance by Abdelhak Nouri (15 key passes)

+ 32 interceptions by Mike van der Hoorn is an impressive stats

- despite having a lot of shots, we couldn’t break Willem II defense down - only 9 shots on target and 1 clear cut chance

- Arkadiusz Milik is still struggling to gain form

- Mitchell Dijks made a rough tackle on Teun van Zweeden (my young right-back on loan at Willem II) that resulted in damaged cruciate ligaments injury and van Zweeden is out for 9-10 months. Season over for him and a serious blow to his chances of getting new contract

27.08.2017 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 3:0 (ED) - 72. and 86. Richairo Zivkovic, 84. Lasse Schöne - Helmond Sport are the weakest team in Eredivisie, at least on paper, so it was time to rotate - Boilesen on the left defense, Matthijs de Ligt replaced underperforming John Heitinga in central defense, Amin Younes started on the left wing and Milik up front. But despite playing small club in front of home crowd, we couldn't get things going in the first half. Lasse Schöne hit his free kick against bar and that was the closest we got to goal in the first 60 minutes. Then I realized that two inside forwards (Meleg and Younes) together don't work and sent Kluivert in to provide width and Zivkovic to replace poor Milik. Instantly attack started to click and after Zivkovic' goal relieved us, we scored two more and took comfortable 3:0 win.

+ confident defending and clean sheet

+ good midfield performance

+ two goals by substitute Zivkovic

- Arkadiusz Milik is seriously underperforming

Can't complain much about how first month has been going. Five straight wins put us on top of the table and Zivkovic is in wonderful goalscoring form (8 goals in 5 games).

Eredivisie

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Sparta is doing well for their standards. Helmond is firmly at the bottom of the table and FC Groningen is having a poor losing streak that they need to overcome.

Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 8, Dejan Meleg 5, Lasse Schöne 3

Ajax assists: Abdelhak Nouri 4, Ricardo van Rhijn 3

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In the last week of August some loan decisions were made.

Nathan Leyder went to ADO Den Haag, Justin Kluivert to Excelsior and Ugur Sezgin who attracted a lot of attention by FC Barcelona this Summer (at one point I had to turn down £5,5m bid for this 17 year old talent), went to NEC Nijmegen for a season.

In the last day of transfer window Hoffenheim came to bid for Mitchell Dijks and they met my asking price - £8,5m + clauses (altogether up to £10m), so our best left back was off to Bundesliga. That was the limit for us - I calculated that 3 first team players leaving in one season is what we can manage and replace with youth, but selling more would hurt us on the pitch.

I brought back Leerouy Owusu on loan from Vitesse to provide cover on both full back position and despite that my squad of 19-20 men looks too thin. Let's see how season goes.

Other than our big selling deals, Eredivisie transfer window was low key. Feyenoord weakened significantly - they sold probably their best player, right-back Rick Karsdorp, and PSV had to give up their key midfielder Andres Guardado (after not reaching to new contract with him). But teams do poor business. While we amassed ~£40m for our players, FC Twente sold players like Renato Tapia and Hidde ter Avest for less than £3m each. Rick Karsdorp is probably equal to Mitchell Dijks, but despite that Feyenoord were happy with half of Dijk's transfer money to sell him.

Nobody brought in noteworthy replacements either and teams are relying on domestic players or their own youth team products.

Eredivisie Summer Transfers 2017

Jasper Cillessen from Ajax to Everton for £16m

Anwar El Ghazi from Ajax to AC Milan for £14,5m

Mitchell Dijks from Ajax to Hoffenheim for £8,5m

Rick Karsdorp from Feyenoord to Southampton for £4,3m

Sven van Beek from Feyenoord to OM for £3,1m

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absolutly love your career mate. such nice details and such a realism. and you always find a solution for your big guys who leave the club

keep up the good work

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As usual, an overview about my squad with screenshots in September.

Goalkeepers

Andre Onana

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Best goalkeeper in the squad, although a big step backwards from Jasper Cillessen. Very agile, can play sweeper keeper and has good reflexes. Good shot stopper overall, but one-footed and handling needs improvements in following 2-3 seasons

Joe van der Sar

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He's in the squad just to provide backup and will play for Jong Ajax throughout the season. Otherwise talented keeper and after being tutored by Cillessen he's displaying resolute character, but his short height, jumping reach and therefore poor aerial ability prevent him to become a keeper that his father once was.

Defenders

Nicolai Boilesen

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Good enough left-back who can contribute to attacking phase. Can cross, can pass, can dribble, sees what's going on around him. Weakest links are positioning and marking, in my opinion.

Ricardo van Rhijn

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Team captain, very reliable player who is seldom injured. Ajax supporter through and through.

John Heitinga

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Veteran centre-back. Is about to get 34 years old this season, excellent tutor for youngsters and I'm trying to keep him in team as U-19 coach after his contract eventually ends. This season he has started to show his age. Not so quick any more, but very intelligent player.

Matthijs de Ligt

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Great prospect. This 18 years old defender is next in line to be tutored by Heitinga, but looks like a great prospect already. Great in the air, can play and pass the ball around. Already Holland U-21 international.

Mike van der Hoorn

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He was the most error prone defender in previous season, but has improved in training and looks more capable on the pitch now. Great in the air, very brave. A little bit slow, but that's OK. Has stupid PPM - why would you try long passes if you can't pass?

Leeroy Owusu

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Very versatile full-back. Runs on left, runs on right, gets forward whenever he can and he's my number 3 full-back to sub either van Rhijn or Boilesen. Marking needs some extra training, but he's quick and can be solid player in the future.

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Midfielders

Thulani Serero

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Hard-working rock in my midfield. I use him as BBM the most.

Donny van de Beek

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One of the most talented youngsters in the squad. Can play regista, DLP or AP and is useful with set pieces too. Great prospect in the next couple of years (unless large bid comes in).

Lasse Schöne

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Veteran midfielder. Not the quickest, but intelligent playmaker and excellent set piece taker. His resolute character makes him a good tutor too.

Lucas Andersen

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After recovering from horrible cruciate ligament injury last season, he's shown that he has enough talent to be in the squad. Either a playmaker, or I've even used him as right winger at times. Great with the ball, has flair and enough pace

Abdelhak Nouri

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The best attacking midfielder in my team. What a player - only 20 years old, but such skill with ball, great vision and agility. Not sure if I'm able to hold onto him for next season.

Francesco Antonucci

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Here's an interesting lad - 18 years old and great looking prospect. Even Nouri isn't so skillful with ball. He has lot of work to do - long shots are useless, finishing should be better and crossing is not good enough, not to mention physical attributes. But still an exciting player and current Italy U-21 international.

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Wingers

Amin Younes

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Not sure if he becomes more than rotation player for me. Can play on either wings, which is a big plus. Is very quick and fairly technical, but not the most intelligent and hard-working player.

Daley Sinkgraven

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First choice left winger. Great technique, very good off the ball movement and solid crossing makes him a danger. Cannot score much himself and most of his goals have come from point blank range, but very useful creator.

Dejan Meleg

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Usually starts on the right wing for me. Good technical player, dangerous set piece taker, but mental attributes could be better - a little bit selfish, poor decisions and low composure

Arkadiusz Milik

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One-footedness is his only con as a player. Solid complete forward.

Richairo Zivkovic

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True wonderkid, especially in this season. Got his first cap for Holland this season. Very quick and technical and good off the ball. I taught him to beat offside trap as well.

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09.09.2017 - FC Twente - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 79. Paolino Bertaccini - 61. Richairo Zivkovic, 76. and 81. pen. Arkadiusz Milik - after playing against Willem II and Helmond Sport, away match against FC Twente was more serious test. First dilemma was about formation - assistant manager suggested to go for 4-1-2-3, while I opted for 4-2-3-1 and control tactics, while FC Twente played the same formation and it was the first time for us to test it against similar approach.

First half was uneventful - we didn’t get our attack going and Twente tried to hit us on counter - their best chance in 7’, but Onana made a good save. We had more shots in first half, but created no chances.

In 2nd half we continued to go with 4-2-3-1 and in 61’ somewhat lucky shot by Zivkovic landed in the net - cross came from left by Sinkgraven. I then substituted Zivkovic (who had been really poor until that goal) and sent Arkadiusz Milik in for Zivkovic and Lucas Andersen replaced Dejan Meleg and also switched to 4-1-2-3. Game changed and Milik was the man to change it - his first goal was nothing less than pure class - went for direct pass, took it, cut inside from right and blasted it into top corner from the edge of area. He’s been really poor so far this season, but in this game he returned with a shout! Twente quickly scored one back - their Italian winger Bertaccini played past Boiesen and scored an easy goal, but a minute later Lucas Andersen was brought down in Twente box by Robbert Schilder. Milik scored from the spot and that secured the win.

+ Arkadius Milik is back! His first goals of the season and that’s a massive boost of confidence for him

+ Lucas Andersen - came in from substitution and laid groundwork for both Milik goals

- lack of chances - the penalty was the only real chance for us, Abdelhak Nouri was well neutralized by FC Twente defense and we struggled to create in attack

- poor defense - FC Twente actually had 3 clear cut chances, but used only one of them and they can fairly feel that they deserved at least a draw out of this game

PSV lost a match against FC Utrecht (Urby Emanuelson scored a winner in injury time) and we’ve slowly increasing our lead in the table.

13.09.2017 - Ajax - Juventus 1:1 (Champions League Group Stage) - 23. Arkadiusz Milik - 62. Claudio Marhiciso - we got a tough draw (again), but that’s the case if you’re seede 4th. Juventus, PSG, Ajax and Dinamo Kiev is our group and it’s difficult to see our progress from here. Europa League could be a realistic ambition.

Don’t know why, but bookies set us as favorites against Juventus - the same Juventus who are defending Champions League champions and the same Juventus with Paula Dybala leading the attack.

We went against them with 4-5-1 control tactics and I chose experience over youth - Milik earned himself a place in line-up with his FC Twente performance and Heitinga returned to central defense.

After first few minutes, we were under hard pressure and Dybala had wasted one 1-1 chance. Abdelhak Nouri suffered a bad injury in 18’ and was forced to come off, but in the 23’ we scored a goal! Onana’s long pass found Milik behind defense and he scored another great goal from 18 meters out. Very similar to the goal he scored in previous game, but because of that we were 1-0 ahead at half time. First assist by our goalkeeper.

In the 2nd half we battled very well, until we didn’t close Marchisio down for one time and that cost us - he scored a great long shot from 20 meters out and our goalkeeper was helpless against it. Very difficult to defend against pure class.

Dejan Meleg had the two best chances we created inside one minute, but Juventus goalkeeper saved both shots - that’s the case when you have a good winger with only decent finishing.

Memphis Depay (yes, he plays in Juve now) had one more clear cut chance in 86’ but Onana made a good save then and in the end we were happy with 1-1 draw.

+ I’m happy with a draw against European giants and CL title holder

+ great goal by Arkadiusz Milik

- we could have won it in the 2nd half, but those wasted chances by Meleg…

- Juventus outplayed us (clear cut chances were 2:2, but they had more possession and way more shots on goal)

- Abdelhak Nouri got injured real bad - damaged achilles tendon leaves him sidelined for 3-4 months and that’s a serious blow to our ambitions. Best creative midfielder out for half the season. Wow… :(

- in other game PSG scored the first goal, but then conceded for and Dinamo Kyev showed they are no pushovers, so that makes progression from this group even tougher challenge

16.09.2017 - Excelsior - Ajax 2:0 (ED) - 13. Richairo Zivkovic, 38. Leeroy Owusu - Nouri is out and Lasse Schöne is sidelined for few matches as well (strained stomach muscle), so my midfield takes hit from injuries. Juventus match really left my team exhausted and while most of the lads are back okay condition, it’s time for rotation.

Leeroy Owusu complained about his first team chances and, after taking a look into calendar, I promised him some first team starts in next month, so this is one of them - he’ll start for Ricardo van Rhijn. de Ligt is back in defense and Heitinga is rested. Lucas Andersen will start in Nouri’s place as AMC and Francesco Antonucci is likely to get minutes from substitution.

Despite that, my 19 men squad is down to 17 men and I’m lacking one substitution, so I have to go to youth team to get my match team squad together.

The game itself was fairly dull one - Dejan Meleg hit the bar from free kick and then we got the first goal after lucky deflection fell in front of Zivkovic in the box. Leeroy Owusu scored a great goal from the edge of the box and that was enough for the win. Excelsior’s best chance came in 2nd half, but their youngster hit the ball to crossbar.

+ solid win, that was enough with tired squad

+ clean sheet and good defense

+ Leeroy Owusu scored his first ever league goal for Ajax

+ good individual performances by Owusu and Sinkgraven

- a bit drab gameplay without much passion

20.09.2017 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 13. Dejan Meleg, 18. Thulani Serero, 64. Daan van Thiel - rotation time: we won easily against MVV in cup. To be honest we should have scored a lot more, but somehow managed to miss both penalties (Milik in the first half and substitute Zivkovic in the second half). Despite that the game was fully under our control. MVV got one good chance that was saved by Onana and one shot that was hacked off the line by Boilesen, but that all happened in 2nd half when everything was decided. Complacency started to creep into our game in the 2nd half and that was partly responsible for our lack of concentration and missed penalties. We need to avoid that in the next games

+ clean sheet and solid performance

+ player of the match was Dejan Meleg

+ youngster Daan van Thiel made his debut from substitution and scored on his debut, heading in a free kick by Meleg

- awful finishing (4 clear cut chances missed), especially two missed penalties

- poor performance by Arkadiusz Milik - he gave assist to first goal, but hit the post from great chance and then missed his penalty - that’s not what he’s capable of

23.09.2017 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 4:1 (ED) - 11. and 78. Richairo Zivkovic, 31. Lucas Andersen, 71. Francesco Antonucci - 90.+2 pen. Johan Voskamp - another good and convincing performance against smaller side. I continued rotating because of tight schedule, but we scored from opportunities that we created and overall I’m very pleased with performance.

Richairo Zivkovic scored two good goals - first after our own man at Sparta Deyovaisio Zeefuik made a defensive error and the second goal was a great finish from Andersen’s cross.

Daley Sinkgraven was forced off in the second half after suffering concussion and because all substitutes were made, we were one man down in the last 20 minutes and that created some opportunities for Sparta. Mike van der Hoorn made a poor decision to foul Sparta player inside the box in the end of the game, and so Sparta got their consolation goal from penalty.

+ good goalscoring form, especially by Zivkovic (12 league goals in 8 games!)

+ Francesco Antonucci scored his first ever league goal by Ajax

+ Lasse Schöne is back from his injury break and played 30 minutes

- conceded penalty in injury time

- Sinkgraven’s injury leaves him out of the next Champions League match

26.09.2017 - PSG - Ajax 3:1 (Champions League Group Stage) - 29. Edinson Cavani, 58. Marco Verratti, 68. Lucas Romero - 77. Stefan de Vrij (og) - very difficult away game against PSG. Zlatan has retired for now and pursuing career in football management, but Angel De Maria, Cavani and others are still in the club and we struggled defensively in 1-1 situations. The game was decided in the end of first half - John Heitinga made a horrible two-footed tackle and was sent off, so the rest was damage limitation only. One good move in the 2nd half resulted in a goal for us - Meleg's cross found Zivkovic in front of the goal. His shot was saved, but ball bounced against de Vrij and into the goal. Unlucky for PSG, lucky for us, but that kept the scoreline somewhat respectable, although PSG win was never in doubt.

+ we tried our best while one men down and clearly outplayed

- John Heitinga's red card decided the game

- poor performance by Arkadiusz Milik in the first half

- difference in class between teams was evident at times

So, altogether an excellent month domestically, especially in Eredivisie - we have won 8 straight games and sit atop of the table. But European campaign is getting more difficult - while I can pleased with our draw against Juve, PSG match showed that 3rd place could be what we play for in this season.

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 12, Dejan Meleg 6

Ajax assists: Lucas Andersen 5, Abdelhak Nouri 4, Ricardo van Rhijn 4, Daley Sinkgraven 4

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01.10.2017 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 1:1 (ED) - 74. Daley Sinkgraven - 37. Michiel Kramer - perhaps it was PSG loss why we lost our rhythm, but we had to settle with draw against SC Cambuur. Cambuur have done well in recent seasons and established themselves as top half club, but we still should have won this one.

We couldn’t create enough chances and the ones we did create, we missed. Both Serero and Meleg wasted their opportunities in the first half. Our defense wasn’t impressive too - although we didn’t give any clear cut chances, we allowed Cambuur players to have several dangerous shots and Onana had to make some good saves. Kramer’s shot went in off the bar and gave Cambuur half-time lead and in the second half they defended well. We equalized after Sinkgraven scored from good free kick by Dejan Meleg. In the end both teams were settled with one point.

+ good goalkeeping by Andre Onana

+ Daley Sinkgraven’s first goal of the season

- lack of creativity, key passes and chances in front of goal

- poor game by both Zivkovic and Milik

- we allowed SC Cambuur too many shots

This draw didn’t hurt us too bad - PSV drew 1-1 against Excelsior, so we’re still comfortably leading the league table

14.10.2017 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 81. Francesco Antonucci - AZ Alkmaar is one of those teams that have invested into squad last Summer and they have enough quality and depth to fight for top 3 places. So not an easy fixture by any means.

Both teams started carefully and because AZ plays with two DM-s it was difficult to find space for a good shot in attacking phase. Our best chance of the first half was long shot by Donny van de Beek, but AZ goalkeeper made a good save. In other end, Andre Onana had to make some saves as well, but half time ended with 0-0.

In second half things changed in 56’ - AZ defender Tom Beugelsdijk saw red card for his two footed tackle on Arkadiusz Milik. We switched to 4-2-3-1 and started to attack more against 10 men AZ, but it still took all the way up to 81’, when substitute Antonucci finally scored a winner.

Very difficult match, but I’m happy that we managed to break through and take 3 points from here. PSV at the same time again lost 2 points - this time a poor draw against Excelsior

+ good defensive performance

+ man of the match - Ricardo van Rhijn

+ great impact by young Francesco Antonucci

- not enough chances (neither team had any ccc-s)

17.10.2017 - Ajax - Dinamo Kiev 2:0 (Champions League Group Stage) - 74. Daley Sinkgraven, 75. Eugene Khacheridi (og) - a must win game in this group if we want to get anything out of our continental campaign this season. Both teams started cautiously, we again with our controlling 4-5-1 formation. These continental games look like a world cup tournament matches - cautious and defensive-oriented. Lucas Andersen had two opportunities for us in first season, but his poor finishing showed. Andre Onana had to make one good save in the other end.

In the 2nd half I switched our full backs to attack and this produced results quickly enough. Thulani Serero had the first clear cut chance, but it was saved. Arkadiusz Milik hit the post. I brought Dejan Meleg to right flank for Lasse Scöhne and this turned the game for us. Meleg’s cross found Sinkgraven in front of the goal and a simple tap-in gave us the lead. After a minute Zivkovic’ ambitious shot from outside of the area took a wicked deflection from Dinamo defender and their goalkeeper was completely defeated by this awkward bounce. Dinamo spirit was defeated after those two successive goals and so we took convincing two-goal win.

+ discplined defending and clean sheet

+ first win in the group

+ Ricardo van Rhijn was man of the match

- shooting should have been better - 14 shots, 3 on target

21.10.2017 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 4:0 (ED) - 45. Daley Sinkgraven, 51. Lucas Andersen, 62. Francesco Antonucci, 75. Richairo Zivkovic - Vitesse is a strong team and has been in top 6 in last seasons, but we crushed them completely. I chose the same 4-5-1 that was successful in midweek game against Kiev, with two exceptions - Dejan Meleg got his chance on the right and Leeroy Owusu replaced Boilesen as left back. I said that we crushed Vitesse, but it took some time. Dejan Meleg had two of the best chances in the first half, but missed both times. In the final minute before half time break van Rhijn’s cross found Sinkgraven and left winger scored another simple goal in front of the goal. We looked ever so dangerous, both in the box and from outside - shots by Serero and van de Beek kept Vitesse goalkeeper busy.

In the second half two costly mistakes by Johan Kappelhof gave us 3-0 lead and the match was decided. Substitute Richairo Zivkovic added the last one with good header to extend his goal tally.

Andre Onana had to make one good save after Vitesse found a single good chance.

+ good goalscoring form

+ 5 clear cut chances

+ excellent defending

+ impressive performances by Sinkgraven, van Rhijn and Owusu (2 assists by the left back)

- poor finishing by Dejan Meleg

PSV continue to struggle and now they settled with 1-1 draw against Sparta. We look good for the title already!

24.10.2017 - HHC Hardenberg - Ajax 0:3 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 38. Thulani Serero, 40. Dejan Meleg, 70. Arkadiusz Milik - cup game against small HHC side was easy enough fixture. We won comfortably with our 2nd choice players on the pitch and 17 years old right-back Tom Drost made his Ajax debut in this match. Hosting Ajax was a big moment for small amateur side and big crowd hopefully filled their coffers with ticket money, but we gave them no chance on the pitch. Dejan Meleg was player of the match - good goal by him and massive 16 dribbles on the left wing. Arkadiusz Milik have been goalless for a while and I especially let him play to get him scoring. He did exactly that and it hopefully helps his confidence

+ solid win, no fuss

+ debut by Tom Drost (nearly got a goal as well, but his header came back off the bar)

29.10.2017 - Heracles Almelo - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 47. Dejan Meleg, 56. and 88. Arkadiusz Milik - Heracles sent out 4 of our players who are currently on loan there, so lots of familiar faces in opposition team. Scoreline looks easy, but we didn’t win this match - Heracles lost it. We couldn’t get our game going in the first half, and in the end of the half Heracles wasted a great chance. 2nd half started a bit better - Meleg scored from the edge of the box, then a minute later Nicolai Boilesen gifted Heracles winger van Ewijk another clear cut chance, but luckily he missed again! Only then we got things under our control. Substitute Milik increased our lead from good free kick by Meleg and finished off with another goal after good work by Lucas Andresen. In the end it looked comfortable three goal win, but it was just the difference in finishing that secured us 3 points.

+ good goalscoring by Arkadiusz Milik

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

- poor first half, Daley Sinkgraven and Richairo Zivkovic both had a quiet game and couldn’t pose any threat to Heracles goal

- Nicolai Boilesen gifted two clear cut chances from his win, luckily for him those didn’t result with a goal

Not a bad month - SC Cambuur draw was a small blip from our side, but we've managed to extend our unbeaten form in domestic competitions (while rivals PSV are continuously struggling) and got our first win in difficult Champions League Group. That allows us to be optimistic.

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 13, Dejan Meleg 8, Arkadiusz Milik 6

Ajax assists: Lucas Andersen 6, Ricardo van Rhijn 5, Dejan Meleg 5, Daley Sinkgraven 5

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01.11.2017 - Dinamo Kiev - Ajax 6:1 (Champions League Group Stage) - 19. pen. Derliz Gonzales, 33., 44., 45.+1 and 47. Junior Moraes, 90.+1 Vladyslav Kalitvintsev - 68. Lucas Andersen - to get something out of this group, we needed to show what we’re capable of against Dinamo, but this match went completely down the drain. A foul by John Heitinga gifted Kiev and undeserved penalty, but that was just the beginning. Last 15 minutes of first half was a complete one man show - Kiev striker Moraes run rounds around our defenders and we couldn’t get him under control. Through balls and crosses cut us open and in the end of first half we were already in tatters. 2nd half didn’t start any better and game in conclusion was an utter embarrassment. We got a few chances of our own - both Meleg and Zivkovic couldn’t find the net, but it didn’t really matter because the game was lost in defense.

Our only bright moment of the match was Lucas Andersen goal - lovely chip from 35 yards over goalkeeper who had run too far out, but that was not enough to save our mood. Kalitvintsev hammered in the 6th goal in injury time and so our chances to any continental success went out of the window.

That loss was hard to take. Mainly because I can’t tell what exactly went wrong - stats-wise we weren’t so bad to justify this result, just a sheer amount of clear cut chances we gave away and good finishing by Moraes slammed us. Either way, some harsh words were said in the dressing room. Hopefully we’ll pick ourselves up from this really quickly.

+ Lucas Andersen goal. He was the one player who tried his best, despite what result was

- performance of pretty much every other player was sub-par

- absolutely the worst defending I’ve seen from my team in those 1,5 seasons

- in addition to embarrassing result, our European campaign is pretty much ended after 4 games played

Before the next match Richairo Zivkovic came to me and said he wanted to move on to bigger club. At the age of 21 it’s perhaps a little too soon, but obviously he is a great talent and probably able to make himself a name in bigger leagues. I tried to talk him out of this, but that didn’t work and it’s pretty big chance that I have to let him go in the next transfer window. Which is not perhaps the worst scenario in short term (considering we have comfortable lead in the league and we’re virtually dropped out of Champions League), but I’d like to keep him for a few more seasons if possible.

04.11.2017 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 1:1 (ED) - 46. Daley Sinkgraven - 86. Ninos Gouriye - we had a lot of tired legs in the squad after this horrible match in Ukraine and I had to rest van Rhijn and Andersen. The team started well nevertheless and we created plenty of chances in the first half, but wasted all four ccc-s we got (Richairo Zivkovic was the most wasteful with 3 missed chances). In the beginning of 2nd half Sinkgraven scored from free kick situation, but substitutions didn’t work out, nervousness creeped in and in the end of the match we allowed Heerenveen to equalize - Gouriye’ shot from the edge of the area found its way past Onana.

That was an undeserved point for sc Heerenveen, but that’s football and we could just rue our missed chances. This draw didn’t hurt us too bad, because both PSV and Feyenoord lost their matches and dropped further behind. Hopefully international break allows us to gather ourselves and get back some of our rhythm.

+ Thulani Serero had a good game

- overall confidence of the squad is a bit lost after big loss in Kiev

- Richairo Zivkovic is in poor form and couldn’t convert any of his chances

17.11.2017 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 79. Richairo Zivkovic - two weeks of international break allowed us to compose ourselves and prepare for this Topper Derby. Importance of the match was somehow lessened by PSV-s poor season - they haven’t won in their last six games and find themselves in mid-table position. But they still are a formidable team, especially in away match.

Game itself was fairly even, but PSV had by far the best chances. Our individual mistakes in defense gifted some opportunities for their strikers - fortunately they were very wasteful. In the 2nd half initiative slowly started to turn to PSV and Andre Onana had to make several saves to keep us in the game. PSV in average are 3 cm taller than we and it showed in corner situations - the closest they got to goal was a header that rattled against crossbar.

But, perhaps against the run of play, we managed to found the only goal of the game - some quick footwork on the right wing by Amin Younes, good cross in and Zivkovic’ header found its way into the net. PSV looked frustrated and we managed to hold onto our lead until the final whistle.

If we deserved to win against sc Heerenveen, but were held to draw, against PSV we didn’t deserve to win, but were fortunate to scrape it 1-0. PSV miserable season continues and they are now 17 points behind us and, with only 13 games played, look like they’ve lost all chances for title.

+ good goalkeeping and clean sheet by Andre Onana

+ good defensive performance by Mike van der Hoorn (also man of the match)

- we gifted 4 clear cut chances to PSV and were lucky to escape from this

- we created no real chances and were lucky to find a goal with such a poor creativity

21.11.2017 - Juventus - Ajax 1:0 (Champions League Group Stage) - 24. Rafinha - in this away match we tested new counter-attacking approach to our regular 4-1-2-3 tactics. Without much success in attacking part, but our defense looked pretty solid. Rafinha managed to score in the first half, but we gave no clear cut chances and I can’t fault the effort our team put in.

A drab match, but at least we kept the score respectable in the end.

Dinamo Kiev is stunning everyone and slammed PSG in Paris 3-2.

+ good defensive effort

- no chances in the second consecutive match

25.11.2017 - Ajax - ADO Den Haag 0:1 (ED) - 90.+1 Marvin Zeegelaar - first loss in the league. This result was decided because three things. Firstly, both Zivkovic and Andersen wasted their great chances in the first half. Secondly, Mike van der Hoorn made a horrible two-footed tackle around 60’ and was sent off with a red card. And thirdly - conceding a late injury-time goal.

We did fairly well surviving with 10 men up to this point and I can’t fault the defensive effort, but our attack suffered in the end of the match and a point would have been good result. Thulani Serero was our best player, working hard, getting everywhere and tackling very well, but in the end that wasn’t good enough.

- Richairo Zivkovic’ poor attacking performance - created opportunities for himself, but finishing was wasteful

- Mike van der Hoorn’s bad foul and deserved red card

29.11.2017 - Ajax - NEC Nijmegen 0:0 (ED) - this was a carbon copy of the previous match, except red card and late conceded goal part. We again played a solid game defensively and created two clear cut chances, but both Daley Sinkgraven and Arkadiusz Milik found the post with their shots. Frustrating draw and against such a leaky defense that NEC has shown in this season we really should have been better.

+ solid defense and clean sheet

- 3rd match in a row without a goal

As a whole it has been the first really poor month for us - in Europe we were miserable and 1:6 defeat left its mark to whole month. Games in the league haven't been so good either - poor draws against Heerenveen and NEC and injury time loss against ADO don't allow us to be happy about win over PSV (but to be honest, PSV is like a wounded animal this season so it doesn't feel like a kill it used to be). To make matters worse, morale looks to go down and few of the players don't react too well to my criticism. Perhaps their right - effort has been there most of the times, just without the result we need.

Eredivisie

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Our form is not great, but our lead is still big enough. ADO have had a great month and with that win over us they've climbed to 3rd place. Feyenoord have dropped places and Sparta is surprisingly still in comfortable top half position.

Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 14, Dejan Meleg 8, Arkadiusz Milik 6

Ajax assists: Lucas Andersen 6, Ricardo van Rhijn 5, Dejan Meleg 5, Daley Sinkgraven 5

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you must have so much cash in the bank?

Available transfer funds are somewhere between £90m - £100m. Balance, IIRC, is a bit over £100m.

Available wage budget is appr £750k per week, but I actually use about £200-300k p/week. Biggest contract is £26,5k p/w, I try to keep salaries under £30k even for key players and only a handful of them earn over £20k

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02.12.2017 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 21. Marko Veijinovic - 2. Donny van de Beek, Arkadiusz Milik - a new month started from new page and with a win against rivals Feyenoord. Being a top 3 contender, Feyenoord have made some questionable transfers and after selling two of their best full backs lack quality in those position, plus their best striker is 37 years old Dirk Kuyt. Because of European games (they’re in Europa League) and tight schedule their squad looked a bit ragged, tired and need of a rest, but it didn’t make our task too much easier.

We started very well. When minute was played, Shöne’s corner found van de Beek who headed in his first goal of the season - and our first goal from corner in this season. It has been a bit strange how we haven’t been able to produce goals from set pieces, but at least this time our corner routine worked.

But in the middle of first half we started to fall apart - good counter by Feyenoord and missed interception by van Rhijn resulted with a ball falling to Vejinovic in front of goal and he didn’t make a mistake. In 25’ Boilesen tripped Elia inside our box, but Kuyt penalty hit the post. We looked like we could concede another goal before half time, so to keep 1-1 until half time break looked good enough.

I made some changes in half time - we went from 4-1-2-3 to 4-2-3-1, applying more pressure, giving Feyenoord less space to move ball around and it worked. We got more opportunities and Milik made it 2-1 after a good cross by Nicolai Boilesen. Substitute Francesco Antonucci hit post in the final 10 minutes and Milik wasted a great chance created by Dejan Meleg, but 2-1 win was really good enough for us.

I’m happy with the result and with the fact that tactical changes worked to our advantage. Feyenoord can probably feel that they deserved a draw after this missed penalty, but that’s football. Both team captains (van Rhijn and Kuyt) put in a poor performance in this derby.

+ a win over rivals is always pleasing

+ Donny van de Beek was our best player on the pitch

+ our shooting was pretty accurate (21 shots, 10 on target)

- poor performance by Ricardo van Rhijn

- Lucas Andersen was forced off in the 2nd half with a sprained ankle and he’ll be sidelined for 2-3 weeks

Half of the season is now over and with 17 games played we’ve got 42 points, which is impressive start to the season. There’s a fierce fight for top 3 places, but other teams keep cancelling each other out and robbing points from each other (PSV beat sc Heerenveen and Sparta grabbed 3 points from ADO Den Haag after injury-time winner),, so that works for us and we’ve got pretty good 9 point lead in the table.

06.12.2017 - Ajax - PSG 1:2 (Champions League Group Stage) - 74. Thulani Serero - 15. Mattia De Sciglio, 51. Edinson Cavani - in a match that decided 3rd place in our group, we weren’t able to beat strong PSG at home, despite offering great entertainment to our fans. PSG got the first goal from corner - ball bounced between players and somehow fell onto the foot of De Sciglio who scored into empty net - unluck and a bit against the run of play. That goal was quickly followed by couple of good attacks by us, but Dejan Meleg’s shot against crossbar was the closest we got to goal in the first half.

In the beginning of the 2nd half we conceded another very stupid goal - van der Hoorn tackled inside our box and the ball just went in front of Cavani who had no trouble scoring. Two very similar goals and, despite the fact that by that time Andre Onana had made a couple of very good saves, we felt a bit cheated.

We came back into game with a shout after Serero scored a wonderful screamer from 30 yards - the best goal of the season so far and probably one of the best long shots I’ve seen by our players in those 2,5 years as a manager! A wonderful strike!!

That goal shook PSG a little and gave us hope. Despite having initiative in the last 15 minutes we were unable to break through and so had to settle with 1-2 defeat.

I can’t fault the performance - we were fairly even with PSG in terms of football, but two unfortunate chances for them decided the game.

+ Thulani Serero’s goal was a definite highlight of the match

+ despite conceding two goals, Andre Onana had a very good game

- defensive performance could have been better and those two goals should have been avoided

09.12.2017 - Ajax - NAC Breda 2:2 (ED) - 1. Arkadiusz Milik, 71. Dejan Meleg - 34. Alex Schalk, 61. Josimar Lima - these tough continental games definitely drain our physical resources and a few players looked like they could need a rest after PSG match. I was confident that we could get a result at home against NAC despite some rotation, but I was proved to be wrong in that.

We started excellently - Boilesen sent a good cross to Milik who turned around and scored a goal before our opponent could even touch the ball. After 30 minutes were played NAC came back into the match. Alex Schalk easily skipped past van der Hoorn and scored an easy goal He had another chance in the beginning of 2nd half, but this time, fortunately, he missed.

Josimar Lima sent NAC ahead with his goal from corner and we looked trouble then, but Zivkovic and Meleg created another goal and brought us back into game - we pressed hard for the last 20 minutes, but had to settle with draw.

It was a poor result and frustrating match. Despite controlling midfield we couldn’t create enough good chances and I’m especially unhappy with our defensive effort - NAC didn’t attack too much, but got 3 clear cut chances and looked especially dangerous from set pieces - something we should have been able to avoid. Fans were obviously disappointed with this result and rightfully so.

+ Nicolai Boilesen and Dejan Meleg were two players who earned their place on the pitch

- poor defending, especially from set pieces

12.12.2017 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 3:1 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 4., 55. pen. and 68. Arkadiusz Milik - 45. Mitchell te Vrede - Helmond Sport was an easy draw for cup 4th round, but first half was as frustrating as the match against NAC Breda. We chose to go with more familiar 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, after 4-2-3-1 had failed us in recent games, and, like against NAC scored a quick goal (Milik again scored after cross from left wing), but allowed Helmond to equalize in the end of the half, pretty much out of nowhere.

In 2nd half we were lucky to get a penalty call from referee. Amin Younes went down in the box, but it looked like a dive and referee gave a harsh penalty for us. Arkadiusz Milik took a poor spot kick, but somehow it found a way through goalkeeper hands and that gave us lead again. Milik then completed his hat trick to secure us the place in quarter finals.

I’m happy with result, but not with performance and we still don’t look very convincing defensively.

+ great hat-trick from Arkadiusz Milik

+ solid performance from Daley Sinkgraven who created two goals

- poor defense and lapse of concentration in the end of first half

Team looks ragged and tired and we desperately need mid-season break to recover. Abdelhak Nouri is back in training, but still some time apart from returning to match fitness and we also miss Lucas Andersen until Christmas. I probably need to bring one or two players back from loan in January if I want to keep our players fresh and motivated.

15.12.2017 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 33. Urby Emanuelson - 10. Matthijs de Ligt, 43. and 51. Richairo Zivkovic - before this rival match it’s appropriate to remember the legendary battle in Amsterdam Arena earlier this season which ended 6:3. This time we aimed to be better defensively and control proceedings from the beginning.

We started well and Matthijs De Ligt scored his first goal of the season from corner. We had some more chances and our attack looked a lot better than in previous matches, but we weren’t able to extend our lead and in the middle of the half Urby Emanuelson equalized. Another match where we couldn’t keep a clean sheet and poor defense cost us.

Fortunately, before some harsh team talk, Zivkovic scored (good shot from the edge of area) and we went to half-time with 2-1 lead. Good combination between Sinkgraven and Zivkovic added another goal in 51’ and that secured us the result. Dejan Meleg wasted a great chance in the 2nd half, but he had a solid game in attack anyway.

+ solid win and good attacking play

+ Richairo Zivkovic and Daley Sinkgraven were the best creators in attacking phase

- too many individual mistakes in defense that ultimately resulted in conceded goal

- Nicolai Boilesen had a poor game and I had to take him off in 2nd half

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 16, Arkadiusz Milik 11, Dejan Meleg 9

Ajax assists: Daley Sinkgraven 7, Lucas Andersen 6, Dejan Meleg 6

In the end of December Abdelhak Nouri finally returned to full fitness, and despite being injured for the past 4 months, was presented European Golden Boy award!

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First half of the season is over, we’re leading the table and we’re leading the table and we’re still in cup contest, so that’s great, but European campaign has been a failure (if I’m completely honest). Despite result, our game in recent months have been poor and frustrating - we’re not creating enough chances, our finishing should be better and our defensive line-up looks shaky.

Goalkeepers: Andre Onana have done pretty well, he has had some really good games and he’s done some great saves, so overall he’s done well as our first choice GK. Joe van der Sar haven’t had a chance in first team yet.

Full-backs: Ricardo van Rhijn has had a strong season so far, he’s been reliable on the right. Nicolai Boilesen has offered some ups and downs on the left. Leeroy Owusu has earned more playing time on both flanks, but besides one or two good matches he’s been pretty average. Boilesen looks like a bit of liability defensively and that’s one part of our defensive problems.

Centre-backs: Mike van der Hoorn has played better than in last season, but well, he’s still Mike van der Hoorn - he’s working very hard, making a lot of headers, winning duels, collecting interceptions, but at the same time making mistakes as well - less than last year, so that’s improvement. But outrageous red card is a good indicator why he’s not too reliable in the back line. John Heitinga has experience, but lacks pace and he’s gifted a few goals as well. Matthijs de Ligt has talent, but no experience. Nevertheless, he’s been slowly, but surely taking a first team place away from Heitinga and veteran centre-back can soon find himself on the bench.

In conclusion I feel I need some options in DC position, perhaps to recall Navajo Bakboord?

Midfielders: Abdelhak Nouri’s serious injury has definitely been a factor and limited our creativity. Lucas Andersen did well enough, although couldn’t really replace Nouri, and after Andersen was sidelined we started to struggle a lot. Francesco Antonucci is a bright talent, but he’s got a lot of work ahead and a lot of training to do. Lasse Schöne offers experience and has been always at least in passable form, but he lacks pace and really isn’t as explosive as his younger teammates.

In controlling midfield Donny van de Beek and Thulani Serero have been on their regular level, but those two look especially out of fuel and need some rotation. Perhaps I need to bring Nathan Leyder back to play as DMC.

Wingers: Daley Sinkgraven looked brilliant in the beginning of the season, but his form faded in November and December. Looks like he’s more dangerous in 4-1-2-3 formation as W(a), but not so much in 4-2-3-1 as W(s). Dejan Meleg had a brilliant start of the season, but he’s been very inconsistent and in some games he disappears completely. It shows especially in Champions League games. Amin Younes has been a substitute player at best and very average performer. He’s turning 24 now and has balanced personality (= not tutor material) so perhaps it’s time for him to move on and start to bring up other wingers. Lasse Schöne can cover AMR for a while, I could bring back Justin Kluivert from loan to AML position and I’ve got some 17 years old players in Jong Ajax, so I can put them on the bench in league games. That’s a lot of decisions.

Strikers: Richairo Zivkovic had a wonderful August and September, but ran a little out of gas after that. Arkadiusz Milik had slow start to his season, but has showed better form in recent weeks and gathered his 10+ goals before Christmas, so all in all, I’ve got two solid strikers to choose from.

What I didn’t plan, of course, was Zivkovic request to leave to a bigger club, so if he leaves, I have to find a replacement for him. Queensy Menig could probably settle for a backup role and he’s had a good season in NEC. I can also recall Ugur Sezgin, who’s also on loan at NEC, is just 17 years old, but looks very promising.

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19.01.2018 - Ajax - FC Groningen 2:1 (ED) - 38. and 58. Arkadiusz Milik - 80. Sheraldo Becker - mid-season break was a bit long and it takes some time to get match fitness back, but Abdelhak Nouri returned to team after his injury break that lasted 4 months and that’s a huge impact to our game. Mike van der Hoorn served suspension for 5 yellow cards, but otherwise we were in full fitness and ready for second half of the season.

We were clearly better team than FC Groningen, but couldn’t use all of our chances. Arkadiusz Milik had one shot against post, but then gave us a lead with a header after van Rhijn cross.

In 2nd half we continued to attack - Matthijs de Ligt headed it against post from corner and Dejan Meleg wasted his clear cut chance, then Mililk’s header was held by goalkeeper, although it looked like it crossed the goal line - goal was not given though. Nevertheless - second goal came, after Milik finished from Younes’ cross (again from right flank) and that secured us a win, despite allowing Sheraldo Becker to score one in 80’ - John Heitinga’s missed interception leaded to this clear cut chance.

+ Arkadiusz Milik is in great form and goals keep coming

+ Abdelhak Nouri is back in action

- Dejan Meleg didn’t impress

- John Heitinga’s costly mistake continues to add to his poor season - he’s been very error-prone and his ratings suffer from that. Time to replace him, although I try to keep him as a tutor as long as possible

24.01.2018 - Ajax - FC Twente 1:0 (ED) - 10. Abdelhak Nouri - I’m very happy with performance on display against FC Twente, because we played good football and deserved to have more goals, but had to settle with narrow win. Nicolai Boilesen dived in FC Twente box and got us a cheeky penalty, but Zivkovic’ spot kick was saved by FC Twente goalkeeper Joel Drommel. In following attack, Abdelhak Nouri scored from Sinkgraven’s pass. That remained the only goal, despite 9 shots on Drommel’s goal. You could say that our finishing should have been better, but FC Twente goalkeeper finished the game with 9.1 rating and deserved man of the match award. Our best performer was Abdelhak Nouri.

+ very good performance in midfield and attack, great attractive football

+ clean sheet, finally!

- Richairo Zivkovic wasn’t so poor as ratings showed (missed penalty aside), but he also was a bit unlucky, 4 out of 4 shots found target and he had a good impact to our attacks, but just couldn’t find the net

27.01.2018 - Willem II Tilburg - Ajax 3:0 (ED) - 11. pen. and 15. Erik Falkenburg, 69. Adam Nemec - second defeat of the season and this was an embarrassing one. Willem II, who are one of the worst teams in the league, managed to stunned us. And not only stun, but humiliate. Fans won’t forgive that for a while.

The blame for this loss is shared between manager and Mike van der Hoorn. We went for the kill and selected 4-2-3-1 tactics (against which Willem II have struggled this season). But our gameplan went out of the window in the first 15 minutes. Mike van der Hoorn pulled Adam Nemec’ shirt inside our box and Erik Falkenburg scored from spot. Few minutes later, indirect free kick was sent into our box and ball bounced into the pile of men. Mike van der Hoorn again wasn’t agile enough to react and Falkenburg blasted it into top corner. 2-0 and alarm bells were ringing. We switched to 4-1-2-3 to make a change and in the end of first half looked very good in attack, but failed to deliver - Amin Younes had two clear cut chances, but hit them both against post, Daley Sinkgraven wasted another opportunity and Willem II goalkeeper Kostas Lamprou were again in top form against us (to remind you - he was the man of the match with 9.1 rating in our first game against Willem II).

In 2nd half poor clearance by Nouri allowed our own loanee Navajo Bakboord send a cross into area, defenders missed the run of Nemec, Andre Onana stood on his line, ballwatching and Nemec had no problems to finish into the empty net.

It’s the worst domestic defeat of the season, and we were deservedly beaten - poor in defense, conceding chances left and right, struggling in set piece situations and in attacking phase unable to convert anything

- poor defending

- three wasted clear cut chances

- Mike van der Hoorn was a complete mess on the pitch, costing us two goals and unable to win headers (1 out of 7).

30.01.2018 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 2:4 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 40. Tomer Hemed, 67. Dabney dos Santos Souza - 2. Dejan Meleg, 8. Nathan Leyder, 38. and 50. Arkadiusz Milik - there was a lot to prove in this match - first to bounce back from disastrous defeat by Willem II. Secondly we lost our first league game against ADO, so there’s revenge to take. Thirdly, I made one change in my squad during January - because Abdelhak Nouri was fit again, Francesco Antonucci went on loan and I recalled Nathan Leyder who had spent 6 months in ADO and was a key player for them in the first half of the season. And Leyder was sent right against them in this match - he replaced Donny van de Beek in DMC position.

We started with real drive - Meleg scored right on after good cross by Sinkgraven and then Leyder headed in a free kick by Schöne. ADO looked a bit shell-shocked and when Milik scored, it looked like the game was decided. But Tomer Hemed had a good shot from the edge of area and Onana couldn’t do anything about it. 3-1 at half time.

Sinkgraven and Milik created our 4th goal in 50’ and it was Sinkgraven’s third assist in this match, but then we dropped perhaps too deep and ADO increased the pressure. They got chances, but Onana saved us twice and van der Hoorn arrived on time to block one clear cut chance. We conceded one more goal, but that didn’t put the result in real doubt. Little bit Leicester-like performance by us in this match - ADO had more possession and shots, but we had 4 shots on target and all of them were goals.

+ good attacking performance

+ great match by Daley Sinkgraven

+ Arkadiusz Milik was the man of the match

+ Nathan Leyder had a solid debut - a goal and 15 tackles by him

- we allowed ADO to have 21 shots - a lot, and we were in real trouble during 2nd half, so that could have been avoided

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Richairo Zivkovic 16, Arkadiusz Milik 15, Dejan Meleg 10

Ajax assists: Daley Sinkgraven 11, Ricardo van Rhijn 6, Lucas Andersen 6, Dejan Meleg 6

January transfer window caused a lot of trouble, because I didn’t receive any good offers for Zivkovic (£8m is an insult) and that counted as a broken promise, which upset him and split the team in half - some players supported their teammate, but others backed my decision not to allow him leave. Team meeting mended overall attitude, but morale still suffered because of that and now I’ve got unhappy player at my hands.

Otherwise, no moves by Ajax in transfer market. I had to offer a new contract to Daley Sinkgraven to keep him happy at club and there was some sniffing around Milik, van de Beek and Boilesen, but nothing serious. Only big move in Eredivisie was Jorrit Hendrix’ transfer from PSV to Dortmund for £7,5m.

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04.02.2018 - Helmond Sport - Ajax 2:3 (ED) - 49. and 51. Charles Edoa Nga - 31. Arkadiusz Milik, 44. Dejan Meleg, 79. Lasse Schöne - I can’t get a grip on 4-2-3-1 tactics any more. First half went really well - Daley Sinkgraven’s cross and Milik header gave us a lead and just before half time Dejan Meleg shot low from 20 meters into bottom corner - 2:0! Perhaps a little undeserved because neither goal came from good chance per se, but that shows clinical finishing which is a value on its own and had been missing in so many previous games.

But second half started disastrously - Helmond’s left winger Charles Edoa Nga managed to escape twice from van Rhijn and good attacks allowed them back into game. Horrible first 15 minutes ended with another clear cut chance to Edoa Nga, but this time van der Hoorn got there on time to block his shot.

Experience brought us the win this time - substitute Lasse Schöne scored from direct free kick in the end of the match and we managed to keep things under control from there. Not the best performance, but 3 points is what we needed from Helmond and that’s satisfying to walk away with, after such second half.

+ two remarkable goals from distance

+ Daley Sinkgraven, Dejan Meleg and Lasse Schöne stood out

- terrible defense, especially in 2nd half - not sure how to stop my 4-2-3-1 leaking goals

10.02.2018 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 12. and 40. Richairo Zivkovic, 14. Nicolai Boilesen - this time we went with 4-2-3-1 again, because same tactic gave us 4-1 win against Sparta last time around and according to scout report they’re very vulnerable against this formation, and so they proved to be.

Sparta was predicted to become 16th before this season, but currently occupy 5th position - biggest overachievers in Eredivisie. But that didn’t help them against us.

The first goal was a bit lucky one - Dejan Meleg sent the cross in, Sparta goalkeeper somehow awkwardly tried to block it and after fumbling with the ball it fell to Zivkovic, who finished into the empty net. Boilesen added quickly another goal (his first of the season) and, after Danny Hoesen had wasted Sparta’s best chance, Zivkovic scored our third goal after clever pass by Abdelhak Nouri.

Second half didn’t bring any more goals. Leeroy Owusu cross from right gave Zivkovic a great chance for hat-trick, but this time goalkeeper managed to parry it. 3-0 in away match is still a very satisfying win.

+ good attacking game, 4 clear cut chances and 3 goals

+ clean sheet

+ Richairo Zivkovic was the man of the match, despite his disappointment over transfer drama

17.02.2018 - Ajax - Excelsior 0:1 (ED) - 17. Cedric Badjeck - infuriating defeat. Excelsior is a small club and we should have beaten them easily, but we failed to deliver and there are no excuses. In the first 15 minutes nothing happened (seriously, nothing) and then long ball found Badjeck on the run - Owusu lost him for a moment, Matthijs de Ligt was perhaps too passive and Badjeck used well the one and only good chance that Excelsior got during the match.

We dominated the next 70 minutes, but without a goal. I tried different formations and tactics, sent all men forward, we had 24 shots (14 on target), created 3 clear cut chances (but our right wing players Dejan Meleg and Amin Younes were extremely wasteful) and in the end of the match had to leave with devastating defeat.

Needless to say I was furious. Despite our lead in the table it is still too early to give up cheap points like this and we have to keep our concentration up to secure the title.

+ Thulani Serero worked hard in midfield, both in defense and offense and was perhaps the only player who was worth his place on the pitch

- extremely poor finishing cost us the match

23.02.2018 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 1:0 (ED) - 90. Arkadiusz Milik - in the first match between those clubs we managed to scrape 1:0 win in the last 10 minutes and this was no different - AZ is playing fairly cautious football when against stronger clubs and they are fairly difficult to break down. Our best chances came from distance - Donny van de Beek sent some vicious shots towards goal, but GK managed to parry them. Eventually, we managed to get a winner just in the last minute - Boilesen sent a good cross in front of the goal and Milik scored a simple goal.

Very satisfying to get a last minute winner. Like I’ve said so often - those 1-0 wins make a champion and that shows determination of the team.

+ solid defense and clean sheet

+ late, last minute winner by Arkadiusz Milik pleased our fans

27.02.2018 - FC Twente - Ajax 0:3 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 29. Arkadiusz Milik, 66.Dejan Meleg, 86. Mike van der Hoorn - no surprises in cup this season - Ajax, FC Twente, sc Heerenveen and PSV reached semi finals and in away match we came out as comfortable winners.

First half was fairly drab match and opening goal came pretty much out of nowhere - Milik headed in Boilesen’s cross, despite being well marked, and it caused frustration in FC Twente squad.

Twente came to second half with more attacking mindset and they got some chances, but the best opportunity was wasted by Yannick Boli - he blasted his shot over from 6 meters out.

But in the other end, patience paid off and another good cross by Boilesen found Dejan Meleg at the far post to make it 2-0 and in the end of the match Mike van der Hoorn scored his first goal of the season from corner.

Great result and I’m happy to reach into the final. In the other match PSV needed extra time to beat sc Heerenveen 4-3, so it’s us vs. PSV in the final in the end of April.

+ solid defense and clean sheet

+ Nicolai Boilesen has been in great form recently - 3 assists in last two games and he was deservedly man of the match in this semi-final

+ Arkadiusz Milik have scored 7 goals in the competition

The month have been fairly good, except disastrous defeat against Excelsior. I’m not happy with 2 conceded goals against Helmond either, but our defense have improved since that game. Reaching to cup final is one more goal achieved this season.

Eredivisie

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Despite dropped points against Excelsior, the other teams haven’t close the gap. sc Heerenveen are losing some pace - after cup loss to PSV they lost a match against overachieving Sparta and PSV is gaining momentum.

Bottom of the table still consists 5 teams that are battling hard against relegation.

Ajax goals: Arkadiusz Milik 18, Richairo Zivkovic 18, Dejan Meleg 12

Ajax assists: Daley Sinkgraven 12, Dejan Meleg 7, Ricardo van Rhijn 6, Lucas Andersen 6

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04.03.2018 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 0:0 (ED) - well, the result was certainly disappointment, but draw was a fair result for both teams - we had possession and more shots, but couldn’t get our attack going and couldn’t find enough chances. Both teams had one good opportunity in the first half - SC Cambuur striker Michael Kramer wasted his opportunity that fell to him after intercepting poor backward header by Matthijs de Ligt. Soon after that de Ligt sent a great looking long ball towards Richairo Zivkovic, but our best goalscorer in the league missed his shot.

In the end of the match we took more risks, but Cambuur had some dangerous shots and two good saves by Andre Onana gave him man of the match award in this goalless draw.

+ good defense and clean sheet number 13 by Andre Onana

- poor attacking performance by Zivkovic and Daley Sinkgraven

11.03.2018 - Ajax - Heracles Almelo 3:0 (ED) - 10. Daley Sinkgraven, 22. Donny van de Beek, 60. Arkadiusz Milik - back on winning track and I have to say that this win came fairly easy. Arkadiusz Milik and Daley Sinkgraven combined two goals between each other and we didn’t allow Heracles any real chances. Donny van de Beek scored a rare goal in this one-sided fixture.

+ good goalscoring form and dominating performance

+ another clean sheet in the league - it’s been almost 5 full games since we last conceded a goal

24.03.2018 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 13. Pablo Zeballos - 31. Daley Sinkgraven - it was difficult to prepare for this fixture without Richairo Zivkovic and Thulani Serero. Zivkovic was recovering from pulled hamstring and Serero was still with South Africa international squad. And with Nathan Leyder injured too (strained stomach muscle) I had to turn to Jong Ajax to fill my bench for this one.

Thulani Serero was the most difficult to replace. I put Lasse Schöne to midfield with CM-support orders, but he doesn’t have Serero’s energy and that cost us a bit in possession, I suppose.

We started dangerously - Mike van der Hoorn headed against post from free kick. Soon after that Vitesse goal was chalked off because of offside, but few minutes later the same situation - deep cross to far post - repeated itself and this time Pablo Zeballos got to score sheet.

Our equalizer came through Daley Sinkgraven - Arkadiusz Milik sent a good ball forward, Sinkgraven took it down, sent two defenders the other way and smashed it to top corner. A truly great goal.

It was a physical game and in the 2nd half Arkadiusz Milik was forced off due injury and now we had no striker. I sent Dejan Meleg forward and 17 years old Rene Timmer to right wing and it was the youngster who got a great chance - Donny van de Beek shot was saved by goalkeeper, Timmer was first to rebound, but smashed it against post from tight angle.

This forced substitution left its mark to the rest of the match, so 1-1 was a fair result in the end, considering all things.

+ great goal by Daley Sinkgraven and he was one of the few players that stood out in this match

- our crossing didn’t work, only 1 of 23 crosses found its target

- not enough creativity up front

- too many individual mistakes

- Vitesse wingers are fairly good with the ball and we allowed them to dribble at ease

- Arkadiusz Milik will be sidelined for up to two weeks with thigh strain

31.03.2018 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 3:0 (ED) - 1. Sam Larsson, 24. Luka Zahovic, 48. Rui Pedro - extremely important match against sc Heerenveen, and we crashed and burned with high flame.

Because both Milik and Zivkovic were injured, I had to recall Queensy Menig from NEC Nijmegen to be our striker for those key matches against Heerenveen and PSV. And although he’s not thet bad, he’s not CF, but AF, so I had to go with 4-2-3-1.

We conceded the first goal after only 15 seconds were played and it went all downhill from there. Daley Sinkgraven got a chance quickly in 2’, but missed it. Matthijs de Ligt wasted another opportunity and then we were punished by long ball over the top - Luka Zahovic is a bright talent and he was at his best against us. Third goal came in the beginning of 2nd half and heads dropped then. Menig had a chance in front of goal, but his shot was saved too and that was it.

When I looked the stats after match, it was unbelievable that we lost - we had more possession, more shots, more shots on goal, 4 clear cut chances, but no goals and somehow we conceded three. Seems unfair, but because of quick goal I have to admit that we were beaten badly. That was our second 0-3 defeat of the season and as embarrassing as the first one.

+ Abdelhak Nouri was the only player who looked like a footballer on the pitch

- inability to convert chances - we wasted 4 ccc-s in this match

- poor defense and three conceded goals

- we couldn’t handle Luka Zahovic, who played part in all three sc Heerenveen goals

Let's be honest, it was a poor month. Away draw against Vitesse was only just good enough result for us and one good win over Heracles doesn't compensate for dropped points against SC Cambuur and sc Heerenveen. sc Heerenveen loss hurt our morale and in this point, despite 6 points lead in the table, it feels like we're satisfied to just somehow get through the final phase of the season and hold onto the title. Hold onto title, not kick everyone's ass and claim it with style. That's the huge difference. I now have a huge task to set the team up mentally to secure us Eredivisie win and compete for Dutch Cup in April.

Eredivisie

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Despite a great win against us, sc Heerenveen are losing ground fast. Bottom of the table is more interesting - Helmond Sport looks like they're doomed for relegation, but other 4 teams continue to fight at the brink of danger zone.

Ajax goals: Arkadiusz Milik 19, Richairo Zivkovic 18, Dejan Meleg 12

Ajax assists: Daley Sinkgraven 13, Dejan Meleg 7, Lucas Andersen 6, Abdelhak Nouri 6, Ricardo van Rhijn 6

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Compared to previous years, our youth intake was fairly average (if not to say - below par).

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Bob Leeflang is a fairly good goalkeeper prospect (although I don't really need another, because we got Sven Keller from previous intake) and Hein Yilmaz is a decent central defender, but otherwise it's quite mediocre, both skill- and personality-wise. Because I have a lot of players in youth team at the moment, I had the luxury to sign only about half of the candidates this March and avoid wasting 3 years of watching this bunch of young guys without significant talent to

Bob Leeflang

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Hein Yilmaz

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06.04.2018 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 1:1 (ED) - 16. Dejan Meleg - 26. Valeri Qazaishvili - we had to forget sc Heerenveen match quickly, because this was a true title showdown. Extremely important 6-pointer, and although a draw would suit our goals very well, we aimed for the win to end all speculation about PSV title chances.

We started well in front of home fans, but finishing let us down again - Dejan Meleg got an early chance and Thulani Serero sent his shot wide from open position before Dejan Meleg finally scored from inside of area with a good shot. We enjoyed our lead (and played good possession football) until PSV had a rare attack and stunned us with deep cross to far post, where van Rhijn had lost Qazaishvili on the run. 1-1.

Abdelhak Nouri wasted his chance around 33’ mark, but this first half hour of the match was our purple patch and game settled down after that. We defended well, but so did PSV and neither of teams couldn’t break through, so it remained 1-1. We could definitely be more pleased with this result, although 3 wasted clear cut chances again indicated that with better finishing our results would be so much better than they really were in previous weeks.

+ Dejan Meleg - great performance from him in such an important game, scored a goal, created chances and contributed a lot in attack

+ good passing and possession game

- poor shooting accuracy and wasted chances

- I know that Mike van der Hoorn is quite error-prone and his defending style is rather risky, but 9 individual errors in one match is huge number even for him

13.04.2018 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 2:3 (ED) - 62. Tomer Hemed, 82. Danny Bakker - 2. Lasse Schöne, 26. Mike van der Hoorn, 55. Arkadiusz Milik - we had probably the best 60 minutes in recent weeks, followed by rather poor 30 minutes. Lasse Schöne scored a quick goal and sent two free kicks in that both resulted with a goal - first by van der Hoorn and in second half by Milik.

Attacking movement looked good, we created chances and despite missing some, had 3-0 lead. The end of first half was goalkeepers’ show - ADO’s Martin Hansen made several key saves, both from close range and long shots, followed by some brilliance by Andre Onana.

But then we allowed ADO to come back into game - cross from left found unmarked Hemed inside the area and ADO had scored one back. They increased the pressure, took more risks and found the second goal from corner - ball bounced awkwardly and fell onto Bakker’s foot who scored a simple finish inside 6 yards box.

So the last 10 minutes looked pretty nervous, but ultimately we hung onto win and 3 points.

Because of this win in friday match we put pressure on PSV and they couldn’t handle it - their draw at home against Heracles means we’ve clinched the title and can now prepare for Dutch Cup final.

+ Lasse Schöne made it happen today - a goal and two assists by veteran midfielder

+ two set piece goals showed a good preparation in this area

- the last 30 minutes we gave away initiative, crumbled defensively and couldn’t break down ADO from counters

- defense, defense, defense - to concede two goals is a poor display and we leak chances against any team; good that we could score enough goals to overcome these problems

22.04.2018 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 1:1 (Dutch Cup Final) - 43. Valeri Qazaishvili - 88. Dejan Meleg - after securing the title, this cup final was the single most important match left in this season. We started with regular 4-1-2-3, and for the first 45 minutes couldn’t create anything dangerous from open play. Matthijs de Ligt’s header from corner was parried off the line by defender, but that was it. We defended fairly well ourselves, but again allowed one dangerous deep cross by Santiago Arias that found Qazaishvili on the run - exactly like in this final league game between clubs.

In 2nd half we changed to 4-2-3-1 and it turned the game - we got more possession and attacked well, but it was difficult to found good shots as PSV defenders constantly reached there in the last moment to block or intercept. Breakthrough came just before whistle - Dejan Meleg’s shot from 12 meters found the net and we got an equalizer.

Extra time was even more under our control and we got even one clear cut chance, but Meleg’s shot was blocked away this time. In penalty shoot-out we looked a lot more composed, scoring 4 penalties and Andre Onana made two good saves to retain Dutch Cup for Ajax after 120 minutes of difficult football

+ great comeback in 2nd half

+ very calm finishing in penalty shoot-out

- we couldn’t find target during 120 minutes - out of 20 shots only 4 went towards goal

29.04.2018 - NEC Nijmegen - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 81. Dylan Donkers - 31. Richairo Zivkovic - with everything decided in this season, I went against NEC Nijmegen with mostly substitutions. And that obviously affected our game. We scored a goal in the first half - Nicolai Boilesen sent a good cross in and Richairo Zivkovic got to score sheet after a long time, but it was a drab match most of the time and we allowed NEC to equalize just before the end - Boilesen’s missed interception to blame there.

Poor display, but fans didn’t really care and me too, to be honest. Still, I expected better performance by some of the players.

- we lost most of the challenges, both on ground and in the air

- no real chances created up front

Securing Eredivisie title is a big thing from this month, but I'm not happy with performances. Defense is our weakest link and we can't stop leaking goals. Things to improve during Summer.

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Arkadiusz Milik 20, Richairo Zivkovic 19, Dejan Meleg 14

Ajax assists: Daley Sinkgraven 14, Dejan Meleg 7, Lucas Andersen 6, Abdelhak Nouri 6, Ricardo van Rhijn 6, Nicolai Boilesen 6

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06.05.2018 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 7:2 (ED) - 11., 28., 33. and 47. Dejan Meleg, 52. and 62. Daley Sinkgraven, 59. Matthijs de Ligt - 15. Roy Beerens, 89. Vincent Janssen - I wanted to end this season with great feeling and this win over Feyenoord was exactly what we needed. To be honest - we were helped by the fact that Feyenoord Kenneth Vermeer was injured and they sent out very young and inexperienced goalkeeper and their left-back was also a youngster I didn’t know. And Dejan Meleg on our right flank took full advantage of this opportunity, scoring 4 goals and laying groundwork on two others. We ripped Feyenoord apart in Amsterdam Arena and despite conceding two goals ourselves, it was probably the best performance of the whole season.

+ great attacking performance and confident goalscoring

+ Dejan Meleg - wonderful performance from him

- Feyenoord goals could have been avoided

With this positive note the 2017-2018 season is over. We won the title, but it wasn’t as impressive as it could have been - under 80 points is not enough to win Eredivisie most of the seasons. Our cause was helped by extremely poor start by PSV and sc Heerenveen collapse in the end of the season.

Eredivisie

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ADO Den Haag have been consistently good in the last seasons and so were they this time around. Sparta are probably the biggest overachievers, considering their budget and lack of true quality.

NEC Nijmegen survived relegation playoff battle, despite finishing 17th. Heracles Almelo were relegated (we had Peter Leeuwenburgh, Noa Lang, Dani De Wit in Heracles on loan, but they couldn’t help their team stay up).

Ajax goals: Arkadiusz Milik 20, Richairo Zivkovic 19, Dejan Meleg 18

Ajax assists: Daley Sinkgraven 14, Dejan Meleg 8, Nicolai Boilesen 7, Abdelhak Nouri 7

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It's been another good season domestically, but our Champions League campaign was once again cut short in group stage. We lack experience and a little bit of depth. I made some in-depth analysis about our Eredivisie performances and found some interesting facts:

1) We created more clear cut chances in this season (74 vs. 72), but our finishing out of those chances dropped (28 vs. 35 goals).

2) We earned only 1 penalty during 34 games (6 penalties last season)

3) We scored only 3 goals from long shots

4) Number of goals from set pieces dropped from 18 to 11.

5) We somehow managed to find the frame of goals a lot more this year - 24 shots against woodwork compared to 17 in previous season.

Fans Player of the Season:

1. Abdelhak Nouri - very good performances despite his long injury break during autumn

2. Ricardo van Rhijn - consistent performances by captain mean that he's usually high up in this list

3. Daley Sinkgraven - the best provider in the squad with his assists

Goal of the Season:

Thulani Serero screamer from 30 yards against PSG in Champions League group match in December. Excellent goal and well worth remembering.

Young Player of the Season:

Abdelhak Nouri - still only 21 years of age despite his important role to our squad

Match of the Season:

7-2 trashing of Feyenoord in Amsterdam Arena in the last matchday of Eredvisie

Moment to Forget:

0-3 defeat against Willem II Tilburg - yeah, not very proud about that result

Eredivisie Awards

Golden Boot

1. Santiago Arias - PSV Eindhoven

2. Tomer Hemed - ADO Den Haag

3. Robbie Kruse - AZ Alkmaar

Top Goalscorer

1. Charlison Benschop - FC Groningen - 22

2. Carlos Castro - Sparta Rotterdam - 22

3. Tomer Hemed - ADO Den Haag - 21

Young Player of the Season

1. Dobney dos Santos Souza - ADO Den Haag

2. Abdelhak Nouri - Ajax

3. Richairo Zivkovic - Ajax

Manager's Manager of the Year

1. Philip Cocu - PSV Eindhoven

2. Me

3. Henk Fräser - ADO Den Haag

Goalkeeper of the Year

1. Sergio Padt - PSV Eindhoven

2. Andre Onana - Ajax

3. Sergio Rochet - Vitesse Arnhem

Champions League Final: Chelsea - Atletico Madrid 2:1

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Squad end of season break started quietly, but in the end of June total mayhem started and bids flowed in from left and right, unsettling my players and forcing me to make big transfer decisions. I quietly thought to myself that if I sell up to three first team players each Summer, I should be OK. Depending on position and if I have adequate cover, of course. But over three could leave me very exposed and vulnerable for next long season. Besides I'd like to keep hold of my young talents a little bit more to make next step forward in Champions League, but perhaps our poor form in Europe is exactly the reason why they are so easily tempted by bigger clubs. We're ranked 36th in Europe, which means there are 20-30 clubs who can swoop in, offer more money and better level of football to our players.

Anyway, I firstly allowed Daley Sinkgraven to move to Olympique Marseille for £9m + clauses (possibly up to £12m). Yes, he's our best assist distributor on the left, but the bid was fair and I though about making room to Justin Kluivert (who spent a season in Excelsior) and Daan van Thiel.

Secondly, there was the issue with Richairo Zivkovic - I'd promised to sell him to bigger club long ago, but January passed without any decent bid for him and all through Spring there was interest about him by various clubs. Finally solid offers were made and I reluctantly accepted them. He chose Manchester United and transfer was agreed to £15,75m + clauses (possibly up to £19,75m). This means that Arkadiusz Milik is our go to guy in attack and I have to start searching for his long term replacement - 18 years old Ugur Sezgin, perhaps, who spent 6 months in NEC Nijmegen, and is frequent U-21 international.

Then came the blow I wasn't prepared for - Matthijs de Ligt was unsettled by bids for him and demanded move to bigger club. I tried to talk him out of this, but failed, and very reluctantly let him leave to Bayer Leverkusen for £11,25m + clauses (possibly up to £12,5m). This I didn't planned to do, but I had no other options and this move seriously damages our already fragile defensive line. John Heitinga turned 34 and is still a solid tutor, OK backup, but not exactly a 30+ games in a season first team player. Mike van der Hoorn is adequate, but old enough not to show any big improvements in his football and next to them I have just a bunch of unproven 18-20 years old players - Deyovaisio Zeefuik had a decent season in Sparta (playing his part in a fact that they finished 6th this season), Navajo Bakboord spent this season on loan at Willem II (and finished his Eredivisie year with 32 games and 7.02 rating, which is not bad at all, considering his teammates). Or young Sergio alleyne who played for Jon gAjax this season, but already attracted attention of the one and only FC Barcelona.

So, I prepare for July friendlies without three influential players and a lot of testing and difficult choices to make.

Besides those three players I sold one regen striker for small amount of cash (+ clauses) and allowed no less than 12 players to leave for free. Few of them (Markus Bay, Stan van Bladeren, Mauro Savastano, Noa Benniga) look very good players for most of Eredivisie side, but they're not going to make it in Ajax and there's no point to hold them in my reserves at the age of 20. Better to let them find their own path in other clubs.

Initial Selection

GK: Andre Onana

GK: Peter Leeuwenburgh - returned from Heracles Almelo

GK: Jeffrey de Lange - returned from Almere City

DR: Ricardo van Rhijn

DR: Leeroy Owusu

DC: Navajo Bakboord - returned from Willem II Tilburg

DC: Deyovaisio Zeefuik - returned from Sparta Rotterdam

DC: John Heitinga

DC: Mike van der Hoorn

DL: Nicolai Boilesen

DL: Dragisa Gudelj - returned from Red Star

DMC: Donny van de Beek - managed to extend his contract despite interest from several clubs

DMC: Carel Eiting - returned from Helmond Sport

MC: Thulani Serero

MC: Noa Lang - returned from Heracles Almelo

MC: Abdelhak Nouri

MC: Lucas Andersen

MC: Franceso Antonucci - returned from 6 months loan at Young Boys

MC: Frenkie de Jong - returned from NEC Nijmegen

MC: Lasse Schöne

AMR: Dejan Meleg

AML: Amin Younes

AML: Justin Kluivert

ST: Arkadiusz Milik

ST/AMC: Ugur Sezgin - spent 6 months in NEC Nijmegen

One goalkeeper is obviously a suprlus to our need, but two other names should be sent on loan too, to trim our squad down to 22 men.

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28.07.2018 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 1:2 (Dutch Super Cup) - 71. Justin Kluivert - 14. and 27. Luuk de Jong - we went against PSV in Super Cup match and it proved that we’re just not ready yet. PSV hasn’t made any big transfers yet and we had lost three first team players + Abdelhak Nouri had to miss this game because of back strain, so no wonder we looked a bit worse than in Spring. First lesson was that 4-1-2-3 doesn’t work against PSV and by the 30th minute we were 2-0 down. Second goal was extremely embarrassing - our defense was wrapped open by PSV free kick combination and after Amin Younes missed his interception, it was easy for de Jong to finish the move. PSV got two more clear cut chances in the end of first half, but Andre Onana was there to save us from the worst.

Second lesson was that Deyovaisio Zeefuik looked extremely shaky against strong attack like PSV has. Luuk de Jong was extremely difficult to defend and Zeefuik lost most of the headers against him. Adam Maher’s creativity also caused all sorts of problems.

We then switched to 4-2-3-1 and our game improved. We had most of possession and our pressing helped us to get the ball back, but chances were still rare and PSV defended well in crucial moments. We got one goal back in 2nd half - Kluivert’s shot after corner found the net, but that was all.

Fans were disappointed, but for me it wasn’t too important game - we had two more friendlies to go before Eredivisie kick-off and I understand that we have a lot of work to do to improve as a team.

+ good second half possession game

- very poor defense, both Mike van der Hoorn and Deyovaisio Zeefuik looked worse than I expected

July has passed rather uneventfully. A few loan moves in transfer market have thinned our squad, but not too much - Francesco Antonucci, Navajo Bakboord and Frenkie de Jong have moved to loan. There was a lot of interest about my services - I dismissed rumours about Manchester United job, declined interview from Athletic Bilbao and rejected offers from national teams - Croatia, Holland and Mexico.

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10.08.2018 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 2:0 (ED) - 25. Dejan Meleg, 48. Lucas Andersen - we started our season with home game against Vitesse. Vitas have lost their best striker Munas Dabbur, who went to Fiorentina, and as a replacement they brought in David Moberg-Karlsson from FC Utrecht. Despite their last season being a disappointment (10th place) and loss of Dabbur, they’re predicted to be 4th this year around (can’t really agree with this estimation, to be honest).

I struggled with decision about who should start on our wings, and finally went for Dejan Meleg on the left and Lasse Schöne as AP(s) on the right. Abdelhak Nouri was back in training after his injury, but not lacked match fitness, so he started from bench and Lucas Andersen was in starting line-up instead.

We started with our usual 4-1-2-3 formation, but set both full-backs to attacking mode, to increase width and pressure on attacking phase and this idea worked from the beginning. We quickly gained control over midfield and started to attack in numbers. Vitesse defended well, but looked vulnerable both from open play and set pieces. It took us 25 minutes, until van Rhijn cross found Dejan Meleg at the far post and the Serb scored a simple goal - 1:0. I was happy with first half display, but 1:0 is a shaky lead and I felt we should have found the second goal from somewhere during this first half.

But the 2nd goal was coming after half-time break - Arkadiusz Milik, who sent most of his own shots wide that night, sent a cross in from left side and out of all players it was Lucas Andersen who won the header in 6 yard box and sent the ball into goal. Second goal decided the match and Vitesse attacks didn’t pose any threat after that.

+ clean sheet and good defense - we didn’t allow Vitesse any chances

+ we won majority of duels (both tackles and headers 80+ %)

+ Deyovaisio Zeefuik made his league debut for Ajax

+ man of the match performance by Ricardo van Rhijn

- Arkadiusz Milik shooting accuracy was not good enough - only 2 shots out of 7 found target and from his opportunities he should have found at least one goal. He wasn’t a complete disappointment, though, supporting our attacks and creating a goal

15.08.2018 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 3. pen. Jop van der Linden - 37. and 72. pen. Dejan Meleg - first away match of the season and I considered my tactics and selection carefully, but in the end I went with the same first eleven who did so well against Vitesse.

The first key moment of the match came in 3rd minute - Robbie Kruse fell very easily on the edge of the box, but referee pointed to spot and van der Linden converted the penalty. Harsh start for us, but we had plenty of time left and we had to work hard to turn things over.

We took control of the match, but wasted some chances - Milik’s header found crossbar and then he had a close range shot blocked by AZ goalkeeper Nick Olij. Finally Dejan Meleg found an equalizer after a good headed pass by Lucas Andersen.

In the 2nd half we continued to press, but chances were rare until Meleg was dropped in the box and he converted the penalty himself. There was a hint of diving in the penalty situation and referee made his second poor decision of the match, this time, however, undoing his first error.

AZ Alkmaar had one half chance in injury time and so nearly equalized, but luckily Robbie Kruse sent his shot wide and final whistle gave us valuable three points.

+ good fighting spirit after conceding early unjust penalty

+ low number of individual defensive mistakes

+ man of the match performance of Dejan Meleg

+ Nicolai Boilesen was impressive on left flank, contributing both defensively and in attacking phase

+ Ugur Sezgin made his debut for Ajax

- Arkadiusz Milik wasted some chances and got only 1 out of 6 shots on target

18.08.2018 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 1:1 (ED) - 87. Amin Younes - 30. Valeri Qazaishvili - first true test of our league campaign. With Super Cup loss fresh in our memories, we wanted revenge in front of home fans, but had to settle with a draw.

I made one change in line-up - Abdelhak Nouri started and Lucas Andersen was on bench. We started well, getting initiative quickly and getting shots in, but in 30’ we were stunned by a set-piece goal that came completely against the run of play. Free kick from deep found Qazaishvili in the box and his header went in from underside of the bar. Deyovaisio Zeefuik should have marked him, but lost his man a little bit and that was enough.

We struggled to find an equalizer, despite having most of possession. Boilesen’s shot clipped the bar at the other end of the pitch. Then Nouri got his chance after clever pass by van de Beek, but his shot was blocked. Our equalizer came from substitutes and very late in the game - young Ugur Sezgin sent a hopeful long shot towards goal. PSV goalkeeper Mickey van der Hart saved, but was unable to hold onto ball and Amin Younes was the quickest to react.

Considering how these 90 minutes went, I’m happy with equalizer and one point in the table, but after looking to stats sheet I feel we deserved to win - we had 2 clear cut chances, more shots, more corners and held PSV without any real chances during 90 minutes and that deserves a lot of credit, but this one conceded goal from IFK took away our chance to deliver the first blow in this season’s title race.

+ late equalizer

+ man of the match performance by Donny van de Beek

+ Noa Lang made his league debut for Ajax

- Arkadiusz Milik and Dejan Meleg were disappointing up front

- Mike van der Hoorn is performing worse than his young central defense partner Deyovaisio Zeefuik - second match in a row

24.08.2018 - Ajax - NAC Breda 0:0 (ED) - a very drab match and to be honest, we were nullified excellently by NAC Breda. We couldn't create anything in attack and struggled to retain possession. Perhaps our focus was a bit lost after first tough games. So, as a result, a goalless draw. I feel like we lost our first two points in this game that we should have won, and fans were obviously disappointed too.

+ solid defensive performance

+ man of the match performance by Ricardo van Rhijn (although even he wasn’t excellent)

- zero creativity in attack and no chances created whatsoever

- mixed performance by Nicolai Boilesen - yes, his match rating was above 7.0, but 8 missed tackles and a lot of missed interceptions make me think that we were lucky NAC couldn’t exploit our left flank better

- Thulani Serero picked up a knock and will be sidelined for 2 weeks

As a whole, our month has been OK. Fixture list has been fairly difficult and to remain undefeated is a good start to our season. Games against PSV and NAC could have been won, but that's OK - no real harm done there.

Eredivisie

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Debutants MVV have started well and Sparta is also up there, once again. sc Heerenveen and AZ Alkmaar have suffered poor start and have to improve.

Champions League draw was made and we got a tough group once again:

Manchester City

Bayern

Basel

Ajax

PSV lost to Inter Milan in play-offs, so Eredivisie rating relies heavily on our shoulders.

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It was a busy transfer window in Eredivisie and our fourth major sell of the Summer happened in August. AS Monaco splashed the cash on Donny van de Beek and I decided to let him leave for the biggest fee yet. In the final day of transfer window, PSV finally agreed to sell Luuk de Jong to West Ham - one move I'm quite happy about. He was probably the best striker in the league and it's great we don't have to face him any more.

Donny van de Beek from Ajax to AS Monaco for £18m + clauses, up to £26,5m

Richairo Zivkovic from Ajax to Manchester United for £15,5m + clauses, up to £19,5m

Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax to Bayer Leverkusen for £11,25m + clauses, up to £12,5m

Luuk de Jong from PSV to West Ham for £9,5m + clauses, up to £12m

Daley Sinkgraven from Ajax to OM for £9m + clauses, up to £12m

Luka Zahovic from sc Heerenveen to Stuttgart for £5m

Jeffrey Bruma from PSV to West Ham for £4,1m

Munas Dabbur from Vitesse to Fiorentina for £3,1m

Simon Tibbling from FC Groningen to Newcastle for £3,1m

So, we're a selling league for sure. No incoming transfers over £3m, but plenty of talent moving to leagues and clubs with bigger reputation. Perhaps I've cut too deep once again, allowing four first team players to leave in one Summer, but PSV lost two key players as well. In the league we should be OK. Achieving something in Europe, after Summer like that, is an uphill challenge for sure.

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Overview about this season's squad. Few players have left, a lot of new face have returned from loan and took their places in our 18 man main squad.

Goalkeepers

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Andre Onana is our first choice keeper, but young Jeffrey de Lange is almost his equal. This season he'll get some cup games and plays mostly for Jong Ajax in Jupiler League, but next season? Who knows. Andre Onana is current Ghana international and that somewhat helps him gain experience and quality in international games.

Defenders

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Ricardo van Rhijn is our team captain and number one right-back.

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Nicolai Boilesen competes with Leeroy Owusu for left-back position. Has some flaws, but can contribute a lot to attack and his last month of the previous season was brilliant.

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After Matthijs de Ligt left, our defense relies on van der Hoorn even more. Has got more consistent over time, which is a big plus. Great in the air, but a bit slow and his anticipation needs some work

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Leeroy Owusu is a rotation full-back, capable of playing both DL and DR position

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Veteran centre-back, mainly in team for tutoring purposes, but can get a game here and there to keep his match fitness up. He'll turn 35 this November and his physical stats are declining quickly. I'll probably offer him coaching contract in next Summer

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Deyovaisio Zeefuik is a new lad in defensive line. After spending last season in Sparta Rotterdam and being tutored all Summer by Heitinga, he's more-less ready for first team football in Ajax. Good determination and spirited nature, good positioning skill, can tackle and is okay in the air and all that at the age of 20, so plenty of time to improve.

Midfielders

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Carel Eiting is the one to replace Donny van de Beek as DMC. Yes, he doesn't look like much, at least not yet, but all my coaches praise his potential and there's certainly something about him. His strength is good decisions and anticipation, but he needs definitely some improvement in physical stats. Compared to van de Beek he lacks long shot skill, so that's one less option in attack.

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Abdelhak Nouri is our best creative midfielder and remains one of our key players, despite the fact that at some point this Summer there was a substantial interest from Manchester United

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Lucas Andersen have been a little bit in the shadow of Nouri, but when getting chances, he's done fairly well and he's improved over time.

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Here's another new player in team. Noa Lang - a true box-to-box midfielder and understudy for Thulani Serero. Great work rate and stamina and only 19 years old.

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Lasse Schöne is our most experienced midfielder and usually played as AMR. I offered him a contract extension for another two years. He's a solid tutor and good set piece taker and I need him in difficult games.

Wingers

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Our biggest hopes are on this Serb - he scored 18 goals last season and another 15 goals + 10 assists are required this year too

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Amin Younes was almost on transfer list this Summer, but after Sinkgraven left, he'll get another chance. Ambitious fellow, but lack of work rate and selfishness impact his game.

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Back from loan, Justin Kluivert needs to prove himself in Ajax first team now.

Strikers

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First choice striker, after Richairo Zivkovic left. Unfortunately picked up a very bad injury in September and is out for the next 6 months.

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With Milik injured, young Ugur Sezgin has to carry our attack this year. Started more as AMC in Ajax U-19, but plays as False 9 in first team. Professional attitude and great talent for future.

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Good read Draakon. Surprised to see Nunnely not in your first team yet. He looks a real talent. Looking to start a save soon. Just a shame my laptop has a lot of problems. Looking to get Ziyech for £8m which is a steal imo. Looks absolutely fantastic.

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ReggaeBwoy, if you read from beginning, you'd know that Nunnely got poached from me by Chelsea in the beginning of the save :(

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02.09.2018 - Willem II Tilburg - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 30. Hasan Kilic (og), 67. Arkadiusz Milik - a little bit drab match and we couldn’t create good chances, especially in the first half. There was a hint of fortune about our first goal - van Rhijn’s cross took a bounce from Kilic and found its way into goal. In second half, finally a good combination in attack created a clear cut chance - Amin Younes showed his pace and skill on the right wing and his cross found Arkadiusz Milik in front of empty goal. Great to see our best striker scoring again and hopefully he can continue this form.

Despite 2:0 win, I have some worries over performance - we have switched to more attacking tactics this season. Somehow, it has resulted in solid defense, but our attacking struggles more because of that. We get 1-2 good chances each game, but we need to finish better to win games from those chances.

+ solid defense and clean sheet

+ good game by youngsters Carel Eiting and Noa Lang

+ man of the match performance by Nicolai Boilesen

- poor finishing, especially in the first half

- Arkadiusz Milik got over his goal draught, but his finishing is still terrible - only 1 out of 6 shots went on target and 2 missed clear cut chances

15.09.2018 - NEC Nijmegen - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 26. Ugur Sezgin, 78. Deyovaisio Zeefuik - before this game we got the worst news possible - Arkadiusz Milik got his foot broken in international match and will be out for 5-6 months. That leaves us with 18 years old Ugur Sezgin in attack and, just before European campaign kicks off, without much hope to progress from this tough group.

But first - the league encounter against NEC.

Fortunately, Thulani Serero recovered from his knock and returned for this game. I put Lasse Schöne on bench for his poor performance against Willem II and Amin Younes started instead on the right wing. There was some nervousness from both teams. Our best chance came in 22’, but Sezgin’s shot was saved by NEC goalkeeper. Four minutes later good cross found Sezing in the box again and this time he didn’t mess up. He had one more chance in 2nd half but headed it against bar from close range.

Second goal came after clever combination from free kick - Carel Eiting continued with header to far post, van der Hoorn was there to head it back to other side of goal where Zeefuik was waiting.

NEC got no shots on target, and no clear chances, but they managed to hit frames of goal three times, so it wasn’t so far off.

In conclusion a solid win with weakened team.

+ another clean sheet and solid defense

+ first league goals for Ajax by Sezgin and Zeefuik

+ man of the match performance by Deyovaisio Zeefuik

- passing should have been better

19.09.2018 - Ajax - FC Bayern 2:3 (Champions League Group Stage) - 21. Ugur Sezgin, 34. Thulani Serero - 22., 33. and 81. pen. Arturo Vidal - FC Bayern team looks so much better than ours that I didn’t hope to get anything out of this match. My assistant advised us to use attacking tactics and I thought - what’s the difference, let’s give it a try.

Mike van der Hoorn served his suspension from the end of previous continental campaign and 34 years old John Heitinga stepped up for this match.

Against all odds it was Ajax who drew first blood - after suffering initial attacks by Bayern, we played a very clever IFK. Schöne found Nouri on the run - his shot was saved by Manuel Neuer, but rebound fell to Sezgin who gave us 1-0 lead. That didn’t last long - Lewandowski and Vidal picked our defense apart in very next attack and equalized. Ten minutes later it was already 1-2. But after that it was our turn to bounce back. Abdelhak Nouri got his shot in after corner, rebound fell to Thulani Serero who sent his shot just below crossbar. 2-2!

First half was very enjoyable attacking football from both sides and at this point I hoped to at least get a draw out of this game. Bayern had possession, of course, and more shots in, but we looked motivated and showed some attacking skill too. But that wasn’t going to happen - Abdelhak Nouri conceded a penalty 10 minutes before whistle and Arturo Vidal completed his hat-trick from the spot. That was a poor foul inside our box, some distance away from the ball and I’m not sure that most IRL referees would have given it, but that’s just me complaining.

We got a wonderful chance from counter attack in 89’. Younes found Dejan Meleg on the run, but left winger’s shot was brought out from top corner by Manuel Neuer.

In conclusion a little bit unlucky defeat, but a lot of positives to take away from this match.

+ we looked very dangerous from set pieces and scored our both goals from dead ball situations

- defensive line clearly struggled against more skillful players

- poor penalty conceded by Abdelhak Nouri - there was no need for that foul

- we lost most of headers inside our box - both Lewandowski and FC Bayern defenders looked better in the air than us; absence of van der Hoorn definitely showing there

22.09.2018 - Ajax - Excelsior 1:0 (ED) - 80. pen. Lasse Schöne - after tough Bayern match, home game against Excelsior should have been piece of cake, but we struggled in attack and edged it only narrowly in the end.

I allowed couple of players some rest - Ricardo van Rhijn was rested and Abdelhak Nouri started from bench. Perhaps that, but perhaps just our lack of skill in attacking phase, but first half was fairly drab and our regular tactics didn’t produce any chances.

In 2nd half it gradually got better - Deyovaisio Zeefuik hit the bar from corner, then around 70’ mark Sezgin’s great through ball found substitute Justin Kluivert on the run, but young winger was too nervous in this situation and blasted it against goalkeeper.

We finally got our goal in 80’ - Mike van der Hoorn was fouled in corner situation and experienced Lasse Schöne converted the penalty. 1:0 and I’m happy about three points, but very disappointed about our performance.

+ good defending and clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Leeroy Owusu

- poor creativity and especially poor shooting in attack

- Ugur Sezgin didn’t impress in this match, being mostly invisible in attack and a little bit late to most situations

- we missed too many tackles and allowed too many runs against a team such as Excelsior

26.09.2018 - Ajax - Montfoort 6:0 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 2., 75. and 89. Justin Kluivert, 12. Lucas Andersen, 61. and 86. Rene Timmer - I rested a lot of first team players and some youngsters got his chance - 18 years old central defender Fatih Celik made his debut in this match, along with goalkeeper Jeffrey de Lange.

Nothing too much to report about this game - we smashed small lower league side Montfoort since opening minutes and finished with comfortable 6-0 lead. Justin Kluivert got a hat-trick and substitute Rene Timmer added two goals.

+ man of the match performance by Justin Kluivert

+ clean sheet

+ I expected to see some goals and we scored six, which is good enough

- I had to take off Ugur Sezgin after he twisted his ankle and he’ll be out for 3-4 weeks, which leaves me very little options in attack

29.09.2018 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 24. Rafhael Lucas - scoring without strikers looked fairly easy against Montfoort, but not against good Eredivisie side in away match. ADO Den Haag finished 3rd last season and they look strong enough to be in top 6 this time around, so I didn’t expect an easy match, but to lose points like this is definitely a disappointment.

ADO goal came almost out of nowhere - Rafhael Lucas won a header in the box (Zeefuik perhaps too passive there) and Onana couldn’t save it. That happens. But our attack was very poor for full 90 minutes, especially after Amin Younes was forced off and I had to send young Rene Timmer in.

Lasse Schöne was creative up front, but didn’t have enough support and couldn’t pose a threat on his own, so poor performance by us and disappointing defeat.

+ man of the match performance by Ricardo van Rhijn

- poor creativity in attack

- poor shooting

- high number of fouls

- Amin Younes picked up a knock and will be sidelined for 3-4 weeks with damaged knee cap

September as a whole has been difficult for us. Most of results in Eredivisie have come our way, except last game against ADO. We put up a good fight against Bayern and I’m pleased about that, but injuries have thinned our squad and now our lack of depth is clearly exposed.

Eredivisie

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We hold 1st position, but several clubs have two games at hand, so top three is probably more accurate to describe our current position. Vitesse have underperformed the most during those first two months and they can’t get their game going.

Ajax goalscorers: Justin Kluivert 4, Dejan Meleg 3

Ajax assists: Ricardo van Rhijn 3

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ReggaeBwoy, if you read from beginning, you'd know that Nunnely got poached from me by Chelsea in the beginning of the save :(

Ouch sorry. too much too read, can't keep up :D

That is a shame. I think that will teach me to give him pro contract from the start. Great read though mate.

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Very good read - excited to see how Ugur Sezgin does as your first prospect to make it into the first team.

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02.10.2018 - Basel - Ajax 0:2 (Champions League Group Stage) - 4. Thulani Serero, 87. Justin Kluivert - after defeat from ADO and our poor attacking display it was clear we have to change something. Our usual overlapping and crossing hasn’t worked without Arkadiusz Milik and I decided to try working ball into box with more technical Lasse Schöne in ST position. Justin Kluivert started on the left, Dejan Meleg moved to right wing and Leeroy Owusu replaced Nicolai Boilesen who looked a little bit tired.

We started very well, with good creativity and took the lead in 4’. Justin Kluivert got his chance, but Basel goalkeeper Marwin Hitz made a save, Schöne got rebound, but his shot hit the post, Basel defenders struggled to clear the ball and so Thulani Serero found himself in front of empty goal - 1:0 after a lot of fumbling, tumbling and pinball in Basel 6 yard box.

We looked dangerous throughout the game, but couldn’t finish our chances. Lasse Schöne got us the penalty in 38’, went to take it himself, but Hitz saved it easily. Another chance was missed after half-time and I started to get a little bit nervous, because 1-0 lead is never too safe. We had possession, but Basel attempted to counter and fairly dangerously. Their danger man was Jean-Paul Boetius on the right wing and Leeroy Owusu struggled to contain him properly, missing some tackles and allowing one good chance from the left.

In the end, it was Justin Kluivert who scored our second (and his 5th of the season) goal from cross by substitute Rene Timmer. Good away win for us - I’m happy with three points and a lot better performance and that looks encouraging despite our injury troubles.

+ first win of Champions League campaign

+ a lot better attacking game: 20 shots (10 on target), 7 clear cut chances and we hit the frames twice

+ clean sheet

- we wasted too many chances

- Lasse Schöne was terrible when he should have scored - he was okay in creating phase, spreading good passes and getting a penalty for us, but missed four clear cut chances, including the same penalty; 5.7 rating was well deserved

07.10.2018 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 4:2 (ED) - 23. and 84. Dejan Meleg, 72. Carel Eiting, 90.+3 Rene Timmer - 64. Robert Muric, 70. Queensy Menig - we played a good first half against SC Cambuur and although our first goal came from corner, it was a wonderful volley right from the air by Dejan Meleg.

In half time I warned players about complacency, but our defense collapsed for 10 minutes in the middle of 2nd half - first Robert Muric scored a header from corner to equalize, then Nicolai Boilesen couldn’t stop his man coming through our left flank and his cross was headed in by our own loanee Queensy Menig. Things looked doomed for a couple of minutes, but then our young midfielder Carel Eiting headed in a free kick by Lasse Schöne and then we started to attack seriously for the last 20 minutes. And it brought results - Schöne found Meleg in far post with his cross to make it 3-2 and substitute Rene Timmer finished scoring in injury time.

Strong result and good goalscoring, but to concede two goals at home is too much and we definitely made it too hard for ourselves.

+ good come-back after being 1-2 behind

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg

+ good shooting accuracy (17/11)

+ Carel Eiting scored his first goal ever for Ajax and did so in a very crucial moment to initiate our come-back

+ Rene Timmer scored his first league goal for Ajax

+ Lasse Schöne made up for his last poor performance by distributing 3 assists

- defensive display in those 10 minutes in 2nd half and two conceded goals

20.10.2018 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 27. Stef Nijland - 35. Lasse Schöne, 78. Lucas Andersen - after international break it was time for Eredivisie football to return. Thulani Serero returned from Africa looking pretty tired and I needed him against Manchester City, so young Noa Lang started in midfield, but otherwise it was our usual first eleven.

We conceded first goal from corner, but Lasse Schöne soon equalized after Kluivert found him inside 6 yard box. Schöne had another good opportunity, but he only managed to hit the post.

Second half was much less exciting and chances were rare, but inside the final 15 minutes, Lucas Andersen found a goal from pretty much nowhere - his shot from 15 meters went straight into the net and FC Utrecht goalkeeper Sergio Padt couldn’t do anything to stop it. FC Utrecht attacked fiercely in the end and forced Andre Onana to make 2-3 good saves, but we held onto win and three points.

+ good come-back (again)

+ man of the match performance by Nicolai Boilesen

- we tend to concede from set pieces and we conceded from corner again, that needs to change

24.10.2018 - Manchester City - Ajax 3:0 (Champions League Group Stage) - 19. Mike van der Hoorn (og), 25. Sergio Agüero, 39. Raheem Sterling - we didn’t expect to win against Manchester City in Etihad stadium, but it was a deep learning curve for us. My assistant advised to play counter attacking tactics and I tried to use that, but fairly poorly, at least in first half. We were immediately under heavy pressure by a lot more technically skilled ManCity players and their pressure brought first goal after van der Hoorn intercepted a cross, and unluckily, put it into our own goal. Van der Hoorn then misjudged his header and allowed Agüero to go 1-1 against Onana and Argentinian made no mistake in a situation so easy. City added another goal in the first half and things looked pretty bad after Sterling scored their third goal inside the first half.

In second half I made a lot of changes to our tactics and these brought results. Well, not exactly in terms of goals, but our gameplay got a lot better and we got some shots in too, but damage was already done.

You can safely say that I learned a thing or two about how to approach games like that and my second half tactics will be tested further in away match against Bayern, but, of course, we have to admit that this is the difference in classe between clubs and winning against European giants is extremely difficult whatever I choose from drawing boards.

+ second half performance wasn’t too bad and we didn’t give City too many clear cut chances

- we had difficulties controlling their more technical players like Sterling, De Bruyne and Agüero

- high number (30) of individual mistakes

27.10.2018 - Ajax - FC Groningen 3:3 (ED) - 37. Thulani Serero, 52. Carel Eiting, 79. Lucas Andersen - 68., 86. and 90. Charlison Benschop - FC Groningen sold a lot of key players in Summer and made some £7m transfer profit, but despite that they currently lie on the 3rd place in the table and they’ve proved to be good team in this season, so I prepared for a tough match, and rightfully so.

We had an early chance, but Dejan Meleg headed it against crossbar and Ugur Sezgin couldn’t finish from rebound, and after Andre Onana had to make his first good save, I switched tactics a little bit. It brought results - we had a great counter and Thulani Serero finished it well. A good corner combination in the beginning of 2nd half finished with thunderous strike by young Carel Eiting and the game looked well under our control after that. But we allowed FC Groningen back into game - Mike van der Hoorn was unable to make a clearance after Onana blocked a close range shot and FC Groningen danger man Charlison Benschop scored his first goal. We got another corner goal, this time by Lucas Andersen, to increase our lead, but collapsed inside the last 5 minutes. Nicolai Boilesen couldn’t stop Sheraldo Becker on his flank and Benschop scored another two goals from tight angles to give FC Groningen unlikely draw. One of the goals is clearly on Lucas Andersen conscience - his missed interception lead to FC Groningen chance.

I was absolutely devastated by the course of events. We worked so hard for the first 85 minutes just to give away two points that looked almost secured. That’s a tough learning experience for our young team and t takes a lot of spirit to regain our confidence after that.

+ good performance by Carel Eiting

+ two goals from corners proved our threat from set pieces

- the fact that we allowed Groningen to equalize from 1:3 behind is absolutely gutting and there’s no excuse for such a defensive meltdown

- Ugur Sezgin managed to miss three clear cut chances in this game and shares his blame for this loss

30.10.2018 - DETO - Ajax 0:5 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 19. Amin Younes, 40. Rene Timmer, 45. pen. John Heitinga, 50. Ugur Sezgin, 65. Justin Kluivert - after this sort of disappointment we needed to get our confidence back, and going against amateur side in cup series is certainly one way to do it. But we almost tumbled here too - both van der Hoorn and John Heitinga caused one clear cut chance inside first 20 minutes for DETO and luckily for us their strikers weren't good enough to actually use them. But then the game went back to normal and with goals starting to flood, we secured a solid 5:0 lead. Our 4th round opponent is AZ Alkmaar.

+ big win after a difficult month to help regain our confidence

+ man of the match performance by Rene Timmer

- poor defensive mistakes by van der Hoorn and Heitinga that went unpunished

Aside that FC Groningen result, it really wasnt' too bad of a month. We can be pleased with our first win in Champions League and most of the results have come our way in Eredivisie too, but performances on the pitch are not nearly good enough and there's a lot to improve in near future.

Eredivisie

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We're still on top of the table, but only because PSV and ADO have played two less games. Sparta Rotterdam are up there in top 6 again and middle of the table looks very tight. NEC Nijmegen had a terrible month and they find themselves at the bottom, while MVV looks determined to stay up this season.

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 6, Dejan Meleg 5, Lucas Andersen 4

Ajax assists: Lasse Schöne 5, Ricardo van Rhijn 5

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Great thread mate.

I'm trying to manage Ajax like yourself and limited myself to buying only U21 talent and old Ajax players.

Had a good first season, won the league and knocked out in quarters of champs league!

This summer lost El Ghazi 15m, Tete 12m and Riedewald 15m. Going to be very hard in replacing them as the three were my best players last year.

Keep up the post mate, cracking job.

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03.11.2018 - Go Ahead Eagles - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 40. and 76. Justin Kluivert - before the match, John Heitinga came to me to demand more first team football and I finally agreed to give him more chances in the next month, so a match against perhaps the weakest team in Eredivisie was a suitable time for that move.

The match itself was a drab affair - we defended well, but chances were rare. Luckily for us, we managed to score two goals from two good chances to secure us 2:0 win. Anticipation of the coming game against Manchester City in midweek was perhaps a little distracting, and it’s easy to lose concentration in a situations like that, so I’m pleased with the result.

+ good defense, no chances for Go Ahead and a clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Justin Kluivert

- poor shooting (19/7)

- high amount of individual mistakes (23); either concentration wasn’t at 100% or a few players were just a little bit out of rhythm

07.11.2018 - Ajax - Manchester City 0:3 (Champions League Group Stage) - 27. Raheem Sterling, 68. Kevin De Bruyne, 84. Nicolas Otamendi - I thought we had found a good tactics against bigger teams, but the result was the same at home as it was in away 0:3 defeat and disappointment was clear - we were overplayed most of the match.

Our best chance came in 12’, but Sezgin missed from 1-1 situation and, despite hard work in defense and several wonderful saves by Andre Onana, we conceded three unanswered goals.

Best to forget this match as soon as possible and carry on with league games.

+ great performance by Andre Onana - he made 12 saves and saved 3 clear cut chances and certainly don’t share the blame for this defeat

- whatever the tactics and gameplay - the result was the same as in Manchester

- we gave away 5 clear cut chances, no wonder we lost

- Ricardo van Rhijn made way too many mistakes for his status

- with this defeat, we’re realistically out of contest in our group and can now only play for 3rd place

10.11.2018 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 2:0 (ED) - 45. Lasse Schöne, 49. Dejan Meleg - little bit drab match, only three days after facing Manchester City and we got the win, although not exactly in style. We weren’t creative enough in attack and finally got our chance in the last minute of the first half - Amin Younes was tripped in the box. Lasse Schöne took a very poor penalty that was saved easily, but fortunately he got to rebound himself and gave us 1-0 lead. In the beginning of second half Dejan Meleg made 2-0 and that was enough. Not the best performance, but we needed a win and I’m pleased with that.

+ good defense and clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg

- Lasse Schöne was wasteful again, despite scoring once he missed one clear cut chance from open play, in addition to missed penalty

20.11.2018 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 0:0 (ED) - sc Heerenveen are a difficult opponent and well organised team and they defended fairly well. Both teams looked cautious enough and didn’t take too many chances. We couldn’t break down their defense, although we got some fairly good opportunities inside the last 15 minutes, but overall it looked like both teams were content with goalless draw

+ clean sheet

+ man of the match performance by Abdelhak Nouri

- Noa Lang looked nervous and made a lot of mistakes

27.11.2018 - FC Bayern - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group Stage) - 36 .Robert Lewandowski, 69. David Alaba - we were hopeful going for this away match and surely, for the first half it didn’t look too bad. We kept the clean sheet and tested Manuel Neuer with three very good shots by Carel Eiting and Ugur Sezgin, but in the end of first half Robert Lewandowski opened the scoreline and after half-time things looked much more under Bayern control. We looked tired and Bayern players’ confidence grew, chances came from right and left and only the brilliance of Andre Onana kept the scoreline respectable. David Alaba scored their second goal from indirect free kick (after being completely missed by Deyovaisio Zeefuik) and I had to be pleased not to concede more. Disappointing, because although we played well in some parts of those four matches against Bayern and Manchester City, we were still convincingly beaten by bigger clubs.

+ man of the match performance by Andre Onana - he made a lot of good saves, turned away 4 clear cut chances and finished the match with 9.3 rating

- Deyovaisio Zeefuik looked like a weak link in defense and was to blame for not marking Alaba correctly before 2nd goal

- we allowed Bayern 42 dribbles during the match. Sure, they are technically skilled, but that’s too much open space

So, we've done OK in Eredivisie in this month, but didn't surpass expectations in the Champions League. That's OK, but we hoped for better results.

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 8, Dejan Meleg 6

Ajax assists: Lasse Schöne 5, Ricardo van Rhijn 5

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01.12.2018 - FC Twente - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 53. pen. Dave Bulthuis - 9. Thulani Serero, 45.+2 Abdelhak Nouri, 82. Ugur Sezgin - December is full of difficult games against tricky opponents and FC Twente in away game isn’t easy at all. Their main striker Yohan Boli was out injured and that made it a little bit easier for us.

There was an early scare in 4’ when Twente right winger Kevin Tano got 1-1 against Andre Onana, but our keeper made a good save. Five minutes later Ricardo van Rhijn cross found Thulani Serero in front of the goal and it was 1-0. FC Twente played good football and we struggled to keep possession, but we defended well and didn’t allow too many shots. In injury time of first half we managed to add to scoreline - Dejan Meleg’s free kick found Abdelhak Nouri and the playmaker made it 2-0.

I told lads to keep their concentration at half time, but just seven minutes into second half Nicolai Boilesen gave away a penalty and FC Twente got one goal back. Next 30 minutes it was a fairly even game and our opponents clearly wanted to attack and seek an equalizer, but then 18 years old Ugur Sezgin did something I haven’t seen him doing before in a league match - he got the ball from Serero and sent it to top corner from 23 meters out. It was a superb shot and that effectively ended this match. FC Twente looked frustrated, because to be honest, they worked hard and deserved to get something from this match, but I don’t really mind.

+ good attacking game

+ wonderful long shot goal by Ugur Sezgin

- we lost possession in midfield

- too many individual mistakes (27)

- Mike van der Hoorn picked up his 5th yellow card and will be suspended for the next match

05.12.2018 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 47. Lasse Schöne - away match against Sparta was a drab one. We defended fairly well, but couldn’t create much in first half. I told lads to be more creative in half time and that brought instant dividends - Lasse Schöne had a good shot that went in off the bar. Five minutes later Andersen found Amin Younes in the area, but the winger couldn’t finish his clear cut chance. Sparta reacted well to reorganise their defense, but damage was already won and 1-0 win brought us important three points.

+ clean sheet

+ a few individual performances stood out - Thulani Serero and Lasse Schöne dominated midfield, but man of the match award went to Lucas Andersen for his key passes and creativity

- poor shooting accuracy (15/4)

- Dejan Meleg looked out of form

- Ugur Sezgin picked up a thigh strain in the first half and will be out for a couple of weeks

08.12.2018 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 3:1 (ED) - 78. and 90.+4 Mike van der Hoorn, 88. Amin Younes - 85. Roy Beerens - our situation for this match became more complicated, because our captain Ricardo van Rhijn was suspended for his 5th yellow card. Losing a captain in a derby like this is tough, but Leeroy Owusu replaced him in right defense and did very well in the end.

Game itself really started just in the last 15 minutes. Mike van der Hoorn headed home from corner and when we were already half-celebrating, Feyenoord managed to equalize in 85’. Andre Onana parried their long shot, but rebound fell to Roy Beerens and it was an easy goal after that. Deyovaisio Zeefuik was to blame for the goal - his missed interception caused the whole situation.

But we didn’t give up - substitute Amin Younes had a chance that was saved, but he reacted quickly to score from rebound. And then Mike van der Hoorn scored his second goal of the match deep in injury time. This time from IFK by Dejan Meleg.

Good solid win in front of home fans. I’m pleased with determined performance and with the fact that we went for the win until the final whistle.

+ man of the match performance by Mike van der Hoorn

+ good execution from set pieces (and we prepared for this match for those chances)

- tackling should have been better

12.12.2018 - Ajax - Basel 3:1 (Champions League Group Stage) - 10. Mike van der Hoorn, 34. John Heitinga, 82. Thulani Serero - 42. Shkelzen Gashi - last match of the group stage was important to secure us 3rd place in the group. We took control early in the match, scoring two goals from indirect free kicks and, despite allowing one goal back, took comfortable 3:1 win. Goal of the match was clearly a screamer by Thulani Serero, who sent his shot from 23 meters into a top corner

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

+ two set piece goals (we’re getting really good at that!)

- Ricardo van Rhijn put in a poor performance and that’s very unlike him

15.12.2018 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 2. Lasse Schöne, 51. Justin Kluivert - I anticipated difficult match in away against Vitesse, but we got a flyer that helped us a lot in our game. Our own player on loan, Darren Sidoel, sent a poor header backwards and that was intercepted by Schöne, who converted his 1-1 chance against Vitesse goalkeeper without hesitation. 1-0 and just two minutes played. Justin Kluivert added a second goal in 2nd half after good cross by Dejan Meleg and so we took a good win in away game. I’m fairly happy with our defense and how we limited Vitesse chances.

+ clean sheet

+ good creativity in attack

+ man of the match performance by Nicolai Boilesen

- poor shooting accuracy (18/6)

19.12.2018 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 2:3 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 31. and 57. Pablo Zeballos - 49. and 62. Abdelhak Nouri, 77. Thulani Serero - good news was that Ugur Sezgin is back in line-up, although he started from bench in this game. Because it was cup game, Jeffrey de Lange started in goal instead of Andre Onana, and he had to make an early save when Pablo Zeballos got his first chance after 9 minutes of football. AZ played good football in the first half and they took lead after Zeballos scored in 31st minute - John Heitinga perhaps had dropped too deep to cover offside and allowing this chance. We had an opportunity to equalize - Dejan Meleg was tripped in the box, but Lasse Schöne penalty was a disaster and was easily saved by Nick Olij.

We had to improve after half time and we did that - Abdelhak Nouri equalized, but then a missed interception by Mike van der Hoorn allowed Pablo Zeballos to score his 2nd goal. Nouri answered with his 2nd after good combination with Thulani Serero. Serero had the impact in 2nd half and his goal from 22 meters out finally secured us the win. He’s scored two great long shot goals in the last week and that’s wonderful to see.

Quarter final draw sends against PSV in February.

+ good shooting accuracy (14/9)

+ man of the match performance by Abdelhak Nouri

+ great goal and good overall contribution by Thulani Serero

- we gave away too many chances to AZ

- Lasse Schöne was a disappointment today and his missed penalty could have cost us the game

- John Heitinga didn’t impress, although he’s been after more first team football recently

In conclusion, December has been a great month for us. Only wins during those weeks and those were some tough games both in league, cup and Champions League. Home win against Feyenoord is perhaps the highlight of the month. It’s good to note that while winning we’ve scored some great goals on the way - three long shot beauties (Ugur Sezgin once and Thulani Serero twice) during December have been saved to highlights review.

Off the pitch news - I declined job interview invitation from Inter Milan and in the end of December extended contracts of Amin Younes and Ricardo van Rhijn.

Eredivisie

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PSV have dropped some points and we’ve put some distance between us and others. FC Groningen continue their great season and are third. In the bottom of the table NEC’s struggles are obvious and their manager is the first in sacking line-up if he can’t turn things around soon enough.

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 9, Dejan Meleg 6, Thulani Serero 6

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 8, Lasse Schöne 7, Ricardo van Rhijn 6

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anuary in 2019 means that the Cup of African Nations is being held and that hits us the hardest of all Eredivisie teams - two first team players, Andre Onana and Thulani Serero are with international teams until February.

January started with two friendlies that caused additional havoc in squad - our captain Ricardo van Rhijn will be out for two months with dislocated shoulder, Amin Younes pulled his hamstring and Justin Kluivert is down with a virus.

To complete the list, Leeroy Owusu asked to move on to bigger club and I couldn’t talk him out of this plan, so I let him leave to SLB for £4,4m + clauses.

That, in conclusion, means we’re 6 men short before next league games and I needed to overcome this. I started with recalling Dragisa Gudelj and Darren Sidoel back from loan to bolster full back positions that were hit hardest with departure of Owusu and injury of van Rhijn.

26.01.2019 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 3:0 (ED)- 7. Carel Eiting, 32. Nicolai Boilesen, 40. Ugur Sezgin - despite bringing Gudelj and Sidoel back from loan, we looked in disarray before AZ match. Jeffrey de Lange started in goal and Sidoel took right-back position. Noa Lang started in midfield and with no proper right wing, Lasse Schöne went to AMR. In conclusion - a lot of youngsters and unproven squad.

AZ at the same time suffered their own losses - Mustafa Saymak was sold during transfer window, Robbie Kruse and Guus Hupperts were injured, so pretty much most of their creative midfield was sidelined.

Perhaps because of that, the game was very one-sided and we destroyed AZ completely. After taking early lead from indirect free kick we looked well in control and AZ never really got a chance to score during 90 minutes. Nicolai Boilesen added 2nd goal after clever free kick combination and Ugur Sezgin scored a great goal after good ball by Noa Lang and excellent dribble of his own, rounding two defenders and a goalkeeper to score into empty net.

So we could play second half without much pressure and played free-flowing attacking football. 3-0 win is a great way to start second half of the season, so let’s hope this form continues. I’m very happy with how our young players performed and that’s clear evidence that we have a lot of talent out on loan, in youth teams or on the bench.

+ good defense and clean sheet

+ two goals from set pieces

+ man of the match performance by Noa Lang - he got everywhere in midfield, always first to reach loose balls, defending well and also created two clear cut chances in attack

+ several players made their league debut for Ajax - Jeffrey de Lange, Dragisa Gudelj and Fatih Celik

- a little bit of complacency was evident in second half

- poor shooting accuracy (24/8)

Before the next very important match against PSV Eindhoven we made the biggest move in transfer market. Real Madrid swooped in and offered £19,5m + clauses (up to £22m) for Abdelhak Nouri. That's a lot of money and although he's a key player in our midfield, I had to let him go.

30.01.2019 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 2:2 (ED) - 70. Adam Maher, 90.+3 John Heitinga (og) - 55. Lucas Andersen, 58. Ugur Sezgin - still with a little bit ragged squad, and without Nouri, we went in away stadium against PSV. After fairly uneventful first half we took control of the match, scored two goals inside five minutes (Ugur Sezgin's shot landed in goal after lucky deflection) and looked confident to secure very important three points, but then we dropped the pace and allowed PSV back into game. First Adam Maher scored after Mike van der Hoorn failed to intercept inside our box. Then Carel Eiting's lapse in concentration almost cost us another goal, but this time Maher hit the post. We gave away our win in the end though. Substitute John Heitinga failed to intercept a cross from our right, Jeffrey de Lange made a good reflex save, but ball bounced into goal from Heitinga and so PSV escaped narrowly with a draw.

I'm very disappointed, because once again we fail to deliver the blow against our biggest competitors in those decisive moments. On the other hand - we missed several players (Andre Onana, Ricardo van Rhijn, Arkadiusz Milik, Justin Kluivert, Thulani Serero, Amin Younes) and we looked very good on the pitch for the first 70 minutes, and to consider it's away game against PSV, which should be the toughest match of the season, it wasn't bad at all. And we didn't allow PSV to close the gap on us, so they're still 7 points behind, so no serious harm done.

+ we were better team on the pitch and level of football was very encouraging

+ Dirk van Grinsven made his league debut

- conceding an equalizer in injury time always hurts morale

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 9, Dejan Meleg 6, Thulani Serero 6, Ugur Sezgin 6

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 9, Lasse Schöne 8, Ricardo van Rhijn 6

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So, we lost two players in January transfer window, but it looked fairly active month for other teams too. Biggest signings in January 2019:

Abdelhak Nouri from Ajax to Real Madrid for £19,5m + clauses (up to £22m)

Jerry St. Juste from sc Heerenveen to OM for £6m + clauses (up to £8m) - sc Heerenveen sold their talented central defender

Ji Donw-Won from Palermo to PSV Eindhoven for £5m - PSV bought a South Korean striker, who was instantly called to international team for Asian Nations Cup

Leeroy Owusu from Ajax to SLB for £4,4m

Yassin Ayoub from FC Utrecht to Bournemouth for £3,7m - FC Utrecht lost their best midfielder in this January

With January, we've gathered more than £64m from transfers during one season. It's a small miracle we're leading the table!

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03.02.2019 - Ajax - Willem II Tilburg 1:0 (ED) - 90.+1 Justin Kluivert - we had some players back from injuries - Justin Kluivert started on the left wing and Amin Younes from the bench. We took control of the game and from 10’ onward we created several dangerous attacks, but Willem II goalkeeper Konstantinos Lamprou has always been difficult to beat and so it was today. Willem II got their best chance in the end of first half - Carel Eiting forgot to follow Erik Falkenburg, but the attacking midfielder sent his shot wide.

In 2nd half our pressure eased a bit - Lasse Schöne’s shot from 30 meters hit the post, but chances became fewer, until very last moments of the match. Debutant Nicky Gaddum found Justin Kluivert with a pass and our best scorer in this season gave us three points with injury-time winner. His shot from the edge of area wasn’t the best, but somehow surprised goalkeeper and went in from near post.

+ good creativity and attacking football

+ man of the match performance and late winner by Justin Kluivert

+ debut game by 18 years old midfielder Nicky Gaddum

- Dejan Meleg had a poor game, he wasted his chances and I took him off in 2nd half with 6.3 rating

- Noa Lang was taken out with a knock and he’ll be sidelined for 2 weeks with twisted knee

06.02.2019 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 2:0 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 20. Dejan Meleg, 88. Justin Kluivert - February schedule is very tight and that sets high demands on stamina and physical preparation of the squad. Thulani Serero returned from CAN, but he needs a rest and started from bench against PSV. Arkadiusz Milik is finally ready to play after being out for 5 months with broken leg, but he too lacks match fitness. Because Noa Lang injury Lasse Schöne started in midfield and Amin Younes on the left flank, Dejan Meleg moved to AMR again.

The match itself was fairly one-sided, and even surprisingly so. We had most of possession, but our first goal came from good counter - Ugur Sezgin found Dejan Meleg at the far post with a good cross and the Serb scored from his first good chance of the match.

We didn’t get too many opportunities, but PSV got even less. Their best shot from close range was blocked by Mike van der Hoorn, but it came already deep into second half. In the final minutes we god another counter - Lasse Schöne intercepted a poor pass by PSV players and Meleg found Justin Kluivert on the run, who scored a great goal to secure us the place in semi-final. PSV didn’t really look like themselves and I expected a much more difficult game, but I’ll take this win anyway.

+ we had 60% of possession and controlled midfield very well

+ clean sheet and good defense

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg

10.02.2019 - NAC Breda - Ajax 3:3 (ED) - 5. Steven Bergwijn, 63. and 65. Danny Hoesen - 26. and 69. Dejan Meleg, 78. Dirk van Grinsven - I chose to rotate some players and Mike van der Hoorn started from bench; central defensive partnership of Deyovaisio Zeefuik and John Heitinga had to show what they’re worth. Justin Kluivert returned to left wing.

We started poorly and allowed NAC to score a quick goal - Steven Bergwijn turned around Zeefuik with his quick feet, John Heitinga was there to block his shot, but ball took deflection and Jeffrey de Lange couldn’t save it. We equalized soon enough - Kluivert’s good cross found Dejan Meleg in front of the goal and the Serb put it into the net. I wasn’t too impressed with our first half performance, but worse was yet to come.

NAC got a chance to break in 50’ after our corner, Darren Sidoel was our last man at the back, he went for the ball two-footed near central circle, but seemed like he got it enough. NAC forward went down like he’d been shot and the referee showed a very unfair red card to Sidoel. We were left to ten men and I had to bring in van der Hoorn.

NAC started to press in attack and it brought result. Mike van der Hoorn missed his header and allowed Danny Hoesen to score his first goal. Two minutes later Hoesen picked up a loose ball after Boilesen’s tackle inside our box and hit it into empty net 1-3 and it started to get embarrassing.

But we didn’t give up. van der Hoorn sent a great long ball to the run of Kluivert, who sent another cross to far post where Dejan Meleg arrived in time again. And then another Kluivert’s cross was converted by substitute Dirk van Grinsven, who made it 3-3 and brought us back from two behind with 10 men on the pitch. Incredible fightback and excellent first league goal for the young winger.

+ great determination to fight back and equalize from 1-3 behind

+ three assists and man of the match performance by Justin Kluivert

- too many defensive errors and conceded goals

13.02.2019 - Ajax - NEC Nijmegen 4:0 (ED) - 3. and 75. Dejan Meleg, 6. Dragisa Gudelj, 54. Justin Kluivert - after dramatic draw against NAC Breda, we looked determined to show what we’re capable of against NEC Nijmegen and we didn’t give any chances to relegation-battling NEC.

Our squad was stronger because Andre Onana rejoined us after his Cameroon side finished 3rd in CAN. Thulani Serero was also back in starting line-up after being rested against NAC and Deyovaisio Zeefuik moved to right defense to cover for suspended Sidoel.

Dejan Meleg started scoring already in the third minute, Dragisa Gudelj added another goal from corner three minutes later (his first league goal for Ajax) and NEC was under heavy pressure for the first 15 minutes. We continued to attack in 2nd half and created both chances and goals. Kluivert scored after good cross from Dejan Meleg and the in-form Serb scored his second goal from rebound after NEC goalkeeper Halldorsson saved Younes shot.

A very good and confident performance from the team. Our wingers Justin Kluivert and Dejan Meleg look like they’re unstoppable and link up very well together, let’s hope this kind of form continues for some time.

+ good defense and clean sheet

+ great attacking game with 5 clear cut chances created

+ man of the match performance by Dejan Meleg - two goals and assist for him

17.02.2019 - Excelsior - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 23. Amin Younes - it was a poor win, but a win nevertheless. Amin Younes scored a goal after great combination by Lucas Andersen and Justin Kluivert, but in 53' Carel Eiting received his 2nd yellow card and in 2nd half we just had to hold on. Andre Onana made a couple of great saves to held our lead, but in the end we showed that we were the better team even with only 10 men.

+ clean sheet, despite being one man down for over half an hour

+ man of the match performance by Deyovaisio Zeefuik

- too many fouls (20), and, obviously, a red card by Carel Eiting

21.02.2019 - Ajax - FC Porto 1:5 (Europa League 1st knockout round 1st leg) - 46. Dejan Meleg - 23. Giannelli Imbula, 34. Andres Candado, 68. and 74. Leo Baptistao, 82. Guychel Zakuani - I consider us equal with the teams like FC Porto, although after Abdelhak Nouri left in this January we have lot less talent in midfield. Despite playing well for the most of the match, we were heavily beaten on score sheet. Just individual brilliance of our opponents players and a few individual mistakes decided this match. First Porto goal was just too good of a shot - nothing Andre Onana could do, although it wasn't a good chance to start with. We seemed like we could get back into game after the break - Justin Kluivert's cross found Dejan Meleg and we scored a quick goal to make it 1:2, but another three conceded goals made it sure that this tie is decided after first leg, and our European campaign with it. Very disappointing, because looking at the stats, we played a solid game of football, it just didn't reflect on the score sheet.

+ we had 53% of possession

+ we created good amount of chances

- defensive errors and five conceded goals

- we fell apart in the second half and allowed Porto to add to scoreline too easily

- Darren Sidoel made 6 mistakes on his own

- Mike van der Hoorn had extremely poor game and he finished with 5.9 rating

24.02.2019 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 2:1 (ED) - 39. pen. Queensy Menig, 81. Lars Veldwijk - 62. Ugur Sezgin - after heavy beating by FC Porto we needed to bounce back with a win to improve mood in the dressing room and cheer the lads up a bit. Carel Eiting was suspended in this match for picking up five yellow cards. Noa Lang returned to fitness and took his place in defensive midfielder role.

We had a good start to the match and always looked more likely to score - Justin Kluivert had several opportunities in the first half, but couldn’t break through. Then Deyovaisio Zeefuik got a clear cut chance after free kick, but our young central defender showed his poor finishing by sending it well wide from two meters out. He then made another mistake in the other end, tripping our loaned striker Queensy Menig inside our penalty area and Menig scored from the spot. Not the best first half and I didn’t have much good to say at half time.

In 2nd half, things looked a bit better and we equalized - Justin Kluivert headed the ball onwards for the run of Sezgin and after a long time our young striker scored. But that wasn’t enough to save a point for us - Lars Veldwijk scored a winner for SC Cambuur, heading it in from corner. Deyovaisio Zeefuik was again to blame, because he was the one to lose this header inside our 6 yard box. Dejan Meleg got a chance to equalize in injury time, but his shot landed in side netting.

Disappointing defeat in the end, because statistically we were better team, but we couldn’t use our chances and conceded two goals from set pieces, that could have been avoided. Probably the first match of the season where one player was so single-handedly to blame for all the most important blunders - Deyovaisio Zeefuik missed his good chance in attack, and was responsible for both goals in defense. He’s been quite solid player for his age so far, but he seriously slipped up this time.

+ we played a solid game according to stats, nothing to be ashamed of and I feel we didn’t deserve to lose - 53% of possession, two clear cut chances + a bunch of shots on target; perhaps just wasn’t our night

- Deyovaisio Zeefuik missed his ccc and was responsible for both conceded goals

- defending from set pieces should have been better, we made it too easy for smaller team

- high number of individual defensive errors as a whole (23)

- we created two clear cut chances, but missed them both; we have to start finish better

28.02.2019 - FC Porto - Ajax 1:0 (Europa League 1st knockout round 2nd leg) - 38. Leo Baptistao - everything was decided before this match, but I wanted to win the 2nd leg to show that we too can play football, unfortunately, that was not going to happen. FC Porto controlled first half very well in their own home and one of the attacks ended with a goal by Leo Baptistao. We changed our tactics in half time, started to attack more, and that changed the match, but didn't change the result. Justin Kluivert got our best chance in 62', but his shot was saved and so we had to accept another defeat. Andre Onana had a full working day in the other end, making several good saves to keep us in the match. Nice to see that he's in good form.

+ man of the match performance by Andre Onana

- inability to score

- high number of individual errors (23)

It's been a mixed month. We've been on a great run in Eredivisie since December and we're still 10 points clear in the table despite that loss against SC Cambuur, but the end of February doesn't look so great at all. A lot of factors contributed to SC Cambuur loss - fatigue, suspensions and extremely intensive schedule in February, but those three losses in a row hurt the morale and I have to avoid us freefalling because of that.

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 12, Justin Kluivert 12, Thulani Serero 6

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Justin Kluivert 10, Lasse Schöne 8

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03.03.2019 - Ajax - ADO Den Haag 2:0 (ED) - 45. Carel Eiting, 65. Dejan Meleg - after three defeats in a row we desperately needed a win, but there were lots of tired legs in the squad. That’s why I had to rest Lucas Andersen and put Lasse Schöne on as midfield playmaker. It also counted as revenge match, after our 0-1 loss against ADO in the first round of this season.

We started fairly well, though, but lacked this final clinical pass or shot that’s needed to score. Dejan Meleg got our best chance of the match in 15’, but his shot landed in side netting. Another good opportunity by Meleg was saved by ADO goalkeeper Hidde Jurjus. Darren Sidoel’s poor pass was intercepted and followed by attack and best chance by ADO, but Andre Onana made a great save.

We got a lot of corners in this match and one of them brought a goal - after a shot and several deflections the ball fell to young Carel Eiting, who scored an easy goal just before half time whistle. It was his 4th league goal of the season, which is quite remarkable for DMC.

In 2nd half the match was more under our control, defense was well-organised and ADO players grew frustrated. Dejan Meleg had a poor game, he was constantly called for offside and his wasted chance from first half perhaps haunted him, but he was the player to score our 2nd goal and put this game beyond doubt. Clever flick-on pass by Lasse Schöne to create an opportunity.

I’m happy with performance and a win, let’s hope our form starts to improve from now on.

+clean sheet and solid defense

+ a lot of corners (18), and one of them brought a goal as well

+ man of the match performance by Lasse Schöne

- too many offsides (11)

- 9 individual mistakes by Darren Sidoel (and one glaring error almost cost us dearly)

- a yellow card for Nicolai Boilesen was his 5th in this season, he’ll be suspended for the next match

John van den Brom was sacked after this matchday by AZ Alkmaar. They’re probably not happy by being 14th in this stage of the season and alarmingly close to relegation zone.

In our dressing room, the lack of goals for Arkadiusz Milik is starting to trouble him. He hasn’t scored after his injury and has collected only 1 goal and 1 assist this season. His last goal dates back as far as September 2018.

09.03.2019 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 3:0 (ED) - 21. Dejan Meleg, 50. Thulani Serero, 87. Ugur Sezgin - Nicolai Boilesen was suspended for this match, Ricardo van Rhijn was back in training, but not ready to play yet, so few rotation decisions were needed.

We wanted to win against rivals FC Utrecht, but game started nervously. Deyovaisio Zeefuik’s missed header inside 6 yard box gave FC Utrecht a great chance in 9’, but Stef Nijland’s shot from two meters was parried by Andre Onana.

We took the lead from direct free kick by Meleg - the first DFK goal in the league this season. We’ve had at least couple in previous seasons, but really the first one here came just in March. Great strike from 20 yards out. Thulani Serero added to scoreline in the 2nd half.

In 2nd half FC Utrecht started to recover and applied some pressure. Their crosses look dangerous and we lost too many headers inside our own penalty area. But then, in the end of the match, Lucas Andersen sent a splitting killer ball behind FC Utrecht defense, Ugur Sezgin reached there first and hit a fierce shot from the corner of the box into far top corner. A truly unstoppable shot and all hopes of our opponents vanished.

FC Utrecht got a chance for consolation goal in injury time and they hit the post, but we kept clean sheet and took solid 3:0 win. Two great goals (by Meleg and Sezgin) found the way to this season’s highlight review.

+ good work in defense and clean sheet

+ we had 57% of possession

+ Dejan Meleg’s great free kick goal

+ Ugur Sezgin’s wonderful goal in the end of the match

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

- we didn’t gave Utrecht too many chances, but two CCC-s we allowed were really good and they should’ve taken advantage of that

- we allowed too many headers inside our box for a period in 2nd half and conceded too many corners

15.03.2019 - FC Groningen - Ajax 0:0 (ED) - our captain is back! Ricardo van Rhijn was fit enough to start this match and that gave a boost to whole team. Justin Kluivert’s performances have been a little bland lately, so he landed on the bench and Amin Younes started on the left wing. Otherwise it was our regular first eleven.

Things started to happen in the end of first half. FC Groningen got their best chance of the match from free kick - Ricardo van Rhijn was perhaps a little rusty after his injury and he allowed Sheraldo Becker to have an open shot to goal, but Andre Onana made a crucial save. Few minutes later Dejan Meleg blasted a free kick towards FC Groningen goal - his shot was saved, but Arkadiusz Milik was first to rebound and somehow managed to shot it against goalkeeper from 2 meters. What a miss and it definitely doesn’t do any good to his confidence, after having a long dry spell anyway.

2nd half had less chances in it, but even more drama. Carel Eiting received two yellow cards in six minutes and received his marching orders in 72’. That’s already 2nd time in this season when he does that and puts his team in deep trouble. To add to this, Ricardo van Rhijn picked up another injury and had to be taken off. Despite that, we held on with ten men and in the end were satisfied with goalless draw.

+ clean sheet and good defensive work, despite being a man down

- Carel Eiting’s 2nd red card of the season

- missed chances

- Ricardo van Rhijn had just recovered, but is now out again for 4-5 weeks with sprained ankle

23.03.2019 - Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 1:0 (ED) - 60. Justin Kluivert - home game against minnows looked secure enough, so I decided to rest Mike van der Hoorn and Dejan Meleg. Carel Eiting was suspended and Ricardo van Rhijn out.

Although it should have been easy win, we struggled to break through. Eagles were sitting deep and defending hard and weren’t easy to break at all. Our attack looked bad in the first half and we couldn’t create any good chances before half time.

We got somehow lucky goal in the end - Amin Younes crossed from the right, central defender missed his header and ball landed on the foot of Justin Kluivert, who scored his 13th goal of the season. Two minutes later Noa Lang hit the post, but that was it. On the other hand - our opponents were equally bland and so the game ended with 1-0 win.

+ clean sheet

+ Darren Sidoel stood out, defended well and contributed in offense too

- poor shooting accuracy (16/4)

- lacking creativity

- three yellow cards are too many against such a small team

- Darren Sidoel will be suspended in the next match after his yellow card today

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 14, Justin Kluivert 13, Ugur Sezgin 8

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

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This year youth intake looks promising, especially in strikers and midfielders department. I'm happy with that, because we have enough defensive prospects at the moment, but another striker or two would bolster our ranks for the coming years.

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Dodi Hamzah

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Great prospect and almost ready for first team football too. Not quite CF or F9 as I'd like, but probably can make it as a single forward.

Melvin Jongeling

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Another prospect. Quick, good teamwork and work rate and suitable for different roles.

Brian Wagener

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Good midfield playmaker. Solid teamwork, first touch, composure, decisions. Very young and will turn 17 in next winter.

Pieter Stekelenburg

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No known relations to Maarten Stekelenburg, but this kid is all around central midfielder. Good passer of the ball and quick around the pitch.

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02.04.2019 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 1:0 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 55. Ryan Babel - and our cup run ended in semi-finals this year. We had to go to this match against our internationals - Nicolai Boilesen, Lasse Schöne and Lucas Andersen were still with Denmark national team, and Arkadiusz Milik with Polish. Don’t know if just that, but our game looked really poor, we lacked leaders on the pitch in every line and we couldn’t create anything in midfield without Andersen there. Youngsters got their chance, but failed miserable.

Jeffrey de Lange made the only noteworthy performance, carrying us at times and keeping the score respectable, but no real chances up front and sc Heerenveen finally scored a goal in 2nd half - Babel’s shot from narrow angle beat de Lange. To be honest, sc Heerenveen deserved to win and we didn’t deserve to be in the final with such a poor display.

+ Jeffrey de Lange can keep his head high after this defeat; he did everything he could

- poor midfield display and no creativity whatsoever

- too many individual mistakes (21)

- careless defense at times, allowing too many chances

06.04.2019 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 2:0 (ED) - 9. and 50. Hicham Faik - our poor form continued with embarrassing defeat against small MVV side. Our internationals were back, but Darren Sidoel was suspended, and Deyovaisio Zeefuik took his place in right defense. That instantly meant we were less dangerous down the right flank and one overlapping-crossing threat was missing.

Hicham Faik scored his first goal from direct free kick. The first DFK we conceded this season, but it was a great shot and difficult to save, so nothing to do about it. Still, it gave MVV an option to drop deep, defend in compact shape and wait our move. Home fans helped them out at times - Arkadiusz Milik got his clear cut chance in 20’, but his shot went over and he really looked without any confidence. We created several good chances, but couldn’t break through and in 2nd half Faik doubled MVV lead from corner after Nicolai Boilesen was too slow to react.

Frustrating defeat in the end - no goals, although plenty of chances, and two conceded set piece goals. Probably the most unexpected defeat of the season as well.

- 4 clear cut chances missed

- poor set piece defending

Only good news from this week is that Nicolai Boilesen signed a contract extension until 2022.

13.04.2019 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 4:0 (ED) - 24. Nicolai Boilesen, 56. Ugur Sezgin, 63. pen. and 64. Dejan Meleg - we needed a win after two losses and we wanted a revenge against sc Heerenveen, but most of all, we needed just 3 points to secure Eredivisie title and that’s what mattered the most.

We played a lot better match than in cup semi-final and took the lead in 24’ after corner. Lucas Andersen shot took multiple deflections and finally fell to Boilesen, who turned and sent it into goal. Ugur Sezgin added another goal from corner in 2nd half. Then we got a bit cheeky penalty - Darren Sidoel fell inside sc Heerenveen box and Dejan Meleg converted the spot kick. Just a minute later those two were in action again - Sidoel’s deep cross found Meleg at the far post and our best scorer this season converted his 2nd chance. We shut down sc Heerenveen in 2nd half very well and they didn’t got a way back into this game after half time.

Great win in the end, a lot of goals and our title secure with 3 games to go.

+ clean sheet and good defense

+ good creativity and goalscoring

+ three goals from set pieces - shows our strength in this department

+ man of the match performance by Nicolai Boilesen

19.04.2019 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 3:0 (ED) - 10. Roy Beerens, 14. Vincent Janssen, 29. Jens Toornstra - good news prior to this match was that Ricardo van Rhijn was fit again! I sent him out with John Heitinga in central defense and opted Lasse Schöne on the right wing. Schöne has been overlooked for a while, with Dejan Meleg in good form, but I thought he could be better option against Feyenoord.

Bad news is - we weren’t ready for this match. Perhaps it was a hangover from title winning, or those two replacements in defensive line, but we found ourselves behind very quickly.

Roy Beerens was the first to reach to ball after John Heitinga’s tackle and we were 1-0 down. Four minutes later a deep cross came in from our left flank, and curled dangerously towards goal. Andre Onana could get his hand onto it, but dropped the ball and Janssen was there to finish it from point blank range. A rare error from our goalkeeper. Meanwhile in the other end, Dejan Meleg’s shot clipped the bar and we builded good enough attacks to turn this game around, but Jens Toornstra effectively ended the match with his thunderous shot into top corner from 30 meters out - nothing to do against those and in such a moment it was a real sucker punch.

The game was as good as lost, but we showed some good football in the 2nd half - Arkadiusz Milik missed from clear cut chance and Amin Younes’ shot hit the bar, but we were unable to get at least one goal and so it ended 0-3. One of the worst results for us in this season and I was genuinely unhappy about that.

+ we actually didn’t look too bad on the pitch, created chances and held 55% of possession

+ man of the match performance by Lucas Andersen

- three quick goals and poor defense as a whole, especially by John Heitinga

- poor shooting accuracy (13/5)

As a whole, I have to say that despite securing Eredivisie title, it was a poor month in terms of results. Falling out from Dutch Cup was definitely harsh, as I hoped to retain our cup for another consecutive year and we looked so strong after knocking out PSV. In the end of April, sc Heerenveen won the Dutch Cup, after beating NEC Nijmegen 2:0 in the final.

But now the season has effectively wrapped up for us, only two games left and then Summer break.

Eredivisie

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Relegation battle at the bottom of the table looks especially fierce this year. Plenty of clubs still might go down to playoffs.

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

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

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