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[FM16] Ajax Amsterdam - Building a dynasty of youth

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September 2021

 

10.09.2021 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 2:0 (ED) - 7. Gregory Otten, 78. Majeed Waris - international break was a significant one for Nathan Leyder who earned his two first caps for Belgium. But Thulani Serero returned quite tired and I had to rest him for this Feyenoord game. Noa Lang started in midfield in his place.

Feyenoord had a pretty good start so far and a win over PSV proved their quality, but with their goalkeeper injured, I hoped to exploit their inexperience between sticks.

It was away game and first fifteen minutes showed that our usual controlling tactics didn’t work. A mistake by Leyder gave Feyenoord their first goal, but after I switched to more structured formation we looked more attacking team for the rest of the first half. No goals though and we couldn’t get good opportunities to put this inexperienced keeper under real pressure. Nevertheless, it looked like there is a goal in this game somewhere and we continued with same tactics into the second half.

Justin Kluivert headed just over in 63’. Feyenoord almost answered with a goal, but their header from corner was cleared off the line by Ricardo van Rhijn. But then Feyenoord got their second goal - IFK was first saved by de Lange, but Majeed Waris was first to rebound and find the net from narrow angle. Dodi Hamzah wasted our only clear cut chance soon after and that was it.

So, the first defeat of the season and it came in a derby match. Not good. We weren’t that bad, but we lacked this last pass and good shots in attacking third. Our defense in open play wasn’t that bad either - we didn’t give Feyenoord any clear cut chances, but conceded the first goal from individual mistake and the second one from set piece. Feyenoord could find the goals even from half chances while we couldn’t find the target from anywhere.

  • our shooting was extremely woeful, only 1 shot out of 15 found the target

 

14.09.2021 - Juventus - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group A) - 35. Paulo Dybala, 47. Rafinha - our continental season started with the toughest fixture - away against Juventus.

Thulani Serero returned to midfield, but Mike van der Hoorn was suspended for yellow cards from previous season, and Navajo Bakboord took his place in defense.

Both teams exchanged good attacks in the first ten minutes - Paulo Dybala broke free of defenders in 7’, but Jeffrey de Lange made a good save to deny him. One minute later Dodi Hamzah had a half chance that forced Jan Oblak to make a good save on the other end.

We had some opportunities to score - good corner combination ended with a shot by Antonucci, but it was well held by Oblak and then Dybala opened score after turning skillfully around Bakboord in our box and hitting it hard and low - unstoppable for de Lange.

Despite that goal we played a good first half and I encouraged lads to continue well after the break, but very quickly Rafinha got his chance (missed interception by Nathan Leyder) and increased Juventus lead. That second goal killed the game for us - Juventus eased on attacks and kept possession and we couldn’t create anything dangerous either. 2:0 defeat wasn’t good enough, but it’s not the end of the world either.

  • we didn’t play too badly - we didn’t allow any clear cut chances to Juventus, just individual skill and good finishing gave them the edge
  • Nathan Leyder made a second costly mistake in consecutive games; I hope he shakes this off and cuts his errors down

 

18.09.2021 - Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 2:0 (ED) - 18. Alex Samizadeh (og), 87 .Dirk van Grinsven - after two tough losses motivation was high to get all three points from Eagles. I didn’t make any changes to line-up. Go Ahead, at the same time, sent out Jelmer Koning who’s on loan there from Ajax.

We started well and dangerously - two good passes went behind opposition defensive line, but Hamzah couldn’t finish properly. Then Boilesen got a clear cut chance after long pass by Serero, but his shot ended in side-netting.

Corner in 18’ ended with a fortunate goal for us - GAE Summer signing Samizadeh was unlucky that ball bounced into his own goal from him. It was a bit undeserved goal as our shooting hadn’t been too dangerous until that point. Deyovaisio Zeefuik headed against post from IFK in around 37’ mark and that ended first half for us.

We looked solid defensively in the first 45 minutes, but our attack wasn’t smooth enough and we lacked that cutting edge in opposition penalty area. So I was relieved about 1-0 lead and hoped we won’t mess it up in 2nd half.

Dejan Meleg instantly got a great chance to score, but his shot was soft and easily dealt by Eagles’ goalkeeper. After that we failed to find good chances - yes, we attacked and were there, but our attacks weren’t good enough and our midfield display was at times simply frustrating.

Eagles got their best chance in 2nd half - a free kick from 18 meters. The shot was good and curled over our wall, but de Lange was ready and held it confidently.

Finally, IFK in 87’ brought our 2nd goal. First attempt was cleared from the box, but Dejan Meleg curled in another cross and van Grinsven’s header went in off the bar. That meant all three points for us, although display was not really what I expected.

  • we were good enough stats-wise: 18/9 shooting and two clear cut chances should have been enough to win it (only we wasted both of those chances and shots weren’t really that dangerous)
  • I distributed both praise and criticism to the lads - Boilesen and Antonucci stood out while Hamzah and Leyder underperformed
  • 17 years old Aschraf Flemming made his debut for Ajax in 2nd half, replacing Dodi Hamzah

 

 

23.09.2021 - Achilles’29 - Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 22. Dodi Hamzah, 54. Dirk van Grinsven - we played this cup game with substitution players, although Achilles holds 1st place in Jupiler League after 6 match days and so are not expected to roll over.

We won comfortably enough though - didn’t allow any threats to our goal and although our attack wasn’t smooth enough in the beginning, we created enough chances. We just failed to finish most of them. Dodi Hamzah opened scoring for us and I’m happy that he got some confidence back from this goal. Dirk van Grinsven had at least three clear cut chances in this game, but he only managed to score once. It’s nice to see him score in consecutive goals, but it should have been a hat-trick.

In conclusion - not as impressive as it could have been, but deserved win.

  • 80% passing accuracy made me smile
  • Justin Kluivert hurt his heel and he’ll be out for around a week - that means he’ll miss games against Vitesse and Olympique Marseilles, at least

 

26.09.2021 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 2:0 (ED) - 7. Dejan Meleg, 37. Thulani Serero - with only 3 days between games, we go against Vitesse. And with Kluivert injured, Dejan Meleg starts on our left flank with Dirk van Grinsven on the right. Time for van Grinsven to impress and show that he can score in serious games as well. Otherwise it’s our regular team.

Vitesse are missing their two mental leaders on the pitch - Kelvin Leerdam and Sheran Yeini - and perhaps that helped us a bit, but we took a comfortable win.

Dejan Meleg scored an early goal (clever cross by van Grinsven there) and Thulani Serero added another after wonderful through ball by Francesco Antonucci. We had a complete control in the first 45 minutes and had 12 corners, but failed to score from those.

The best chance in 2nd half fell to Dirk van Grinsven, but his shot went well over when he really should have scored. Vitesse made their first and only shot in this game when 85 minutes were played… a very solid win, although a little bit boring.

29.09.2021 - Ajax - Olympique Marseille 3:0 (Champions League Group A) - 42. Dodi Hamzah, 77. and 85. Thulani Serero - second match of the group stage and first home game in this season.

I replaced Mike van der Hoorn with Navajo Bakboord for this game. He deserves a chance and I reckoned that we don’t need so much aerial power against OM, but quick feet and good positioning that Bakboord possesses.

In 3’ OM got a corner that was headed clear off the line by Bakboord, following counter gave us our first clear-cut chance, but Dejan Meleg couldn’t finish in 1-1 situation. Bummer.

OM attacking midfield looks technically very skilled and Andrija Zivkovic dribbled through our defense, only to hit the post. Ten minutes later their Fran Villalba got a great chance, but that was well saved by Jeffrey de Lange. Right from the following corner they hit crossbar.

But we were to draw the first blood - great pass by Dejan Meleg found Hamzah and our young striker sent it past OM goalkeeper to give us 1-0 lead. The first half had been very attractive by both sides and OM probably feel they’re a little bit unlucky not to score from those chances, but we showed good attacking football too and for once I can’t blame our finishing too much. Defensive errors are a little worrying though.

OM started to pressure us after half-time break, but we got counters from these situations and those were dangerous. One of them in 54’ ended with a clear cut chance, but Hamzah wasted it. Three minutes later Dejan Meleg got a chance from counter, but that was saved.

But when our opponents finally started to take more risks in final fifteen minutes, Thulani Serero punished them by two goals. He was first to react to loose ball in first situation and second goal came after a wonderful cross by Dirk van Grinsven. So, in the end it was a secure 3:0 win and fans were delighted.

  • we had only 42% of possession, but 17 shots and 4 clear-cut chances, so we played very attractive counter-attacking football
  • Thulani Serero was outstanding with his superb last fifteen minutes
  • despite positives, we lost a lot of duels inside our box, allowed OM to make 32 dribbles and made 26 individual mistakes ourselves; that shows our weaknesses in defense

 

 

September, in conclusion, was a mixed month for us. Feyenoord result was a big disappointment. Juventus defeat was perhaps more expected, but we got back to our feet and second part of the month was a lot better, especially this last result in Champions League.

 

Eredivisie

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Not bad at all. PSV is in the middle of the table, Feyenoord have dropped some points too and sc Heerenveen haven’t been able to continue their last season’s form.

 

Ajax goals: Francesco Antonucci 4, Thulani Serero 4, Dodi Hamzah 3, Justin Kluivert 3

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 5, Justin Kluivert 4

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October 2021

 

02.10.2021 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 16. Dirk van Grinsven - AZ Alkmaar have done well so far and are occupying 3rd place in the table. For this game they were captained by our own Pieter Stekelenburg. It’s a strange decision - to award the armband to 18 years old loanee.

I put Noa Lang to midfield for this game, to add work rate and energy in away match. Navajo Bakboord remained to line-up, but Zeefuik was rested instead and Bakboord-van der Hoorn duo were our central defense.

We scored the goal after Meleg’s cross found Dirk van Grinsven in the box and young winger continued his excellent goalscoring form. AZ looked dangerous enough too and they forced two good saves from de Lange in first half.

Right after second half kick-off Dejan Meleg had a chance to extend our lead, but his shot was well saved. In 68’ a mistake by van Rhijn gave a great chance to AZ, but de Lange made a key save.

AZ tried hard in the end of the match to search an equalizer, but we held onto narrow win. We probably had a little bit of luck as well - honestly speaking AZ deserved at least one point from this game, but that’s football.

 

After AZ game started the international break and that brought casualties. Francesco Antonucci was sidelined with a calf strain (2-3 weeks) and Dragisa Gudelj with sports hernia (4-5 weeks). With both Antonucci and Andersen out, our creativity in midfield is seriously hampered.

Meanwhile, 19 years old Dodi Hamzah earned his first cap for Holland.

 

 

16.10.2021 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 64. Django Warmerdam - 39. Dejan Meleg - with Andersen and Antonucci injured, Frenkie de Jong started as attacking playmaker.

We got great chances early on - Dejan Meleg couldn’t finish from two consecutive clear-cut chances, Thulani Serero’s shot was well saved and that all inside the first three minutes. In 14’ Dodi Hamzah headed against crossbar from point blank range and when finally Meleg scored from good through ball by de Jong, it was no less than we deserved.

I told my lads to avoid complacency in half-time and we continued to control midfield, but our shooting was still wasteful. Dejan Meleg couldn’t use another clear-cut chance in 52’ and then a mistake by Mike van der Hoorn allowed SC Cambuur their only chance in the game and Warmerdam didn’t let it pass.

Very disappointing to drop points like that. It’s one thing to lose if you’re not the best team on pitch, but this time we were, only unable to deliver. Individual mistakes in defense prove to be costly once again.

  • our shooting accuracy was again disappointing (18/5)
  • we had 6 clear cut chances, but wasted most of them
  • Frenkie de Jong impressed in midfield, spreading good passes and giving assist to our goal

 

20.10.2021 - FC Porto - Ajax 1:4 (Champions League Group A) - 35. Severin Amon - 43. Dejan Meleg, 48. Deyovaisio Zeefuik, 80. Thulani Serero, 83. Justin Kluivert - before going against Brazilian national team (also known as Porto) I made one change in line-up - captain Ricardo van Rhijn was replaced with Tom Drost in right defense, solely because Drost have such a quick feet and pace is one category where we are clearly behind Porto.

First half was not too bad, but we had to concentrate on defense, as predicted. I had to take off van Grinsven in 11’ because he damaged his foot. FC Porto got their best chances in a row between 25-30’. Good saves by Jeffrey de Lange and last second blocks kept us in game, but finally in 35’ Amon finished off his opportunity.

We got our best chance in the end of the half - Hamzah gave a wonderful through ball to Meleg who placed it calmly into the net. That ‘dressing room goal’ lifted our spirits a lot and I encouraged lads in half-time to keep going as they were.

It resulted in a quick goal in 2nd half (Zeefuik’s header from corner) and we played much better football in 2nd half. FC Porto had one more chance to score, but Amon sent his shot into side-netting around 67’ mark. Frustration grew in Porto players and we used it well into our advantage. Thulani Serero scored from bad defensive mistake and three minutes later Justin Kluivert added another goal from IFK (he needed three attempts to finally get it past goalkeeper, but nevermind :). So the shock had arrived to Estadio de Dragao. Nobody gave us a chance before this game, but we returned with 4:1 win.

Juventus and OM made a goalless draw in the other game, so after three games we’re surprisingly topping our group.

  • we got a total of 16 shots in this game, which is a great number in itself
  • defensively we still made too many mistakes (25) and lost too many headers inside our box (FC Porto looked very dangerous from set pieces in the first half)
  • Dejan Meleg had a great game - a goal and assist went to his account
  • Dirk van Grinsven’s damaged foot leaves him sidelined for 2 weeks

 

 

23.10.2021 - FC Twente - Ajax 2:2 (ED) - 10. Wesley van Stijn, 88. Jörg SauB - 22. and 45.+1 Dejan Meleg - FC Twente are 18th in the table and their manager John van den Brom is under heavy pressure already in October.

In Ajax, we still got four players injured. Frank van den Hoek and Darren Kallah who are listed in Jong Ajax, are also out with injuries, so I have to fill the gaps with youth players, who probably won’t get much playing time either.

I promised Sergio Alleyne a chance in first team so he takes van der Hoorn’s place in defense for this game. Ricardo van Rhijn also returns to line-up. My biggest problem is the lack of attacking options - besides 17 years old Aschraf Flemming I have no decent attacking player on the bench.

We made a poor start and Jeffrey de Lange wasn’t ready for that awkward cross from our left flank that turned into far post corner. 0-1 and that was very disappointing because we had better first ten minutes, for sure. FC Twente tactics were clear - they sent long balls towards their strikers Niclas Füllkrug and Jari Oosterwijk, and our defenders struggled to win those headers.

We managed to equalize after Serero took a vicious shot that bounced back from crossbar and Dejan Meleg was first to reach the ball .And Serb sent us to half-time with 2-1 lead, after scoring from excellent free kick from 18 meters. Top drawer stuff! Clearly the best goal of the season so far.

But we couldn’t hold onto lead, despite playing well through the second half. We couldn’t stop that deep cross into far post and Jörg SauB was there to finish. Extremely disappointing to drop points again like that and so late in the game. We have to do better than that.

  • we had 58% of possession, but good chances were rare
  • we allowed FC Twente to make too many runs with the ball
  • Thulani Serero and Frenkie de Jong impressed individually

 

 

29.10.2021 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 4:1 (ED) - 5. and 55. Dodi Hamzah, 15. Nathan Leyder, 25. Thulani Serero - 38. Daniel Moberg-Karlsson - FC Utrecht are 3rd in the table, but their squad looked tired after cup game and we took full advantage of that. Francesco Antonucci was in the squad after missing previous two weeks and I tried Navajo Bakboord in defense - FC Utrecht posed no arial threat and I still haven’t decided on our best central defense partnership.

We took control of the match early on - quick goal by Hamzah was followed by Nathan Leyder’s header from corner situation and after Thulani Serero scored from just outside of the area, we were 3-0 ahead.

First 35’ well fully under our control - our tactics work, our overlapping on wings caused FC Utrect all kinds of trouble and our young striker finally looked composed and comfortable. But then we allowed FC Utrecht two chances in a row - Bakboord missed a run by Moberg-Karlsson into our box and FC Utrecht got one goal back. Five minutes later there was another chance for our opponents, but de Lange saved that one.

We got plenty of chances in the beginning of the second half - Hamzah wasted one, Deyovaisio Zeefuik couldn’t score from following corner but then Hamzah finally doubled his tally and secured our lead. He got one more opportunity to complete his hat-trick, but the shot around 60’ was well saved by goalkeeper.

  • very good, confident and attacking football, we had 24 shots (13 on target) and 6 clear-cut chances
  • stats department was impressive, 56% possession and 83% passing accuracy, for example
  • attacking trio of Dodi Hamzah, Justin Kluivert and Dejan Meleg all impressed

 

 

All in all, I’m happy with October. We were a bit mediocre in our draws against SC Cambuur and FC Twente, but had two great wins over FC Porto and FC Utrecht. Our continental campaign looks satisfying so far and we’re leading Eredivisie title race. Can’t really complain, but we’ve wasted too many clear-cut chances so far (only 11 out of 26 chances ended in a goal in league games) and more clean sheets would also be nice.

 

Eredivisie

TSQH129.png

 

Feyenoord are trying to keep up with us, but PSV is already well behind. VVV Venlo are doing extremely well so far and FC Twente are looking as they’re about to repeat their last season’s relegation play-offs appearance.

 

Ajax goals: Dejan Meleg 6, Thulani Serero 6, Dodi Hamzah 5

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 9, Justin Kluivert 5

Edited by Draakon

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November 2021

 

02.11.2021 - Ajax - FC Porto 0:1 (Champions League Group A) - 16. Severin Amon

We went to this game with same tactics that worked so well in Porto, but I didn’t expect Porto to make the same mistake twice, so win was still a long shot for us.

The first heartstopping moment came in 5’ - Tom Drost made a reckless two-footed challenge on opponent player. Luckily the referee showed a yellow for that, but it really was a foul worthy of red. Ten minutes the same Tom Drost missed his interception, allowed Severin Amon to turn around him in the box and open scoring. We got our best chance in the middle of first half - Dejan Meleg applied a good pressure and got the ball from Porto defenders, but his shot from 1-1 situation bounced back from the post. Unlucky and disappointing at the same time. So first half wasn’t too good, but not too bad either.

After the break we tried more to find an equalizer and FC Porto didn’t have any good chances to extend their lead, but they were more careful in defense and we found them difficult to break. When final whistle was blown, it was 0-1 defeat and although I can’t blame lads too much, I feel that we left something in and could have done better.

  • we had 13 shots, but only 2 on target, while FC Porto had 5/5 - that was the difference between teams
  • FC Porto had one half-chance and they found a goal from it, we had one clear-cut chance and missed it - the result is behind so small differences sometimes…

 

06.11.2021 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 4:0 (ED) - 26. and 45. Dirk van Grinsven, 32. and 65. Dejan Meleg

Newly promoted FC Eindhoven is bound to struggle near relegation zone and they were no match for us. I chose to rotate my squad and Sergio Alleyne, Noa Lang and Dirk van Grinsven started. Our injured players (van Grinsven, Gudelj, Andersen) have finally healed and we’re back to full fitness and that’s a big advantage. 

After warming up in the first 15 minutes we ripped FC Eindhoven defense apart and ran out as comfortable winners. In fact I was disappointed that we couldn’t score more, because we had 8 clear-cut chances and scored from only 3 of those. That’s a low percentage. Substitute Aschraf Flemming wasted two chances to get to score sheet. So, despite this scoreline, I’m not entirely happy. Dirk van Grinsven returned from injury break with two goals and assist.

  • eight clear cut chances prove our superiority, but finishing was still not good enough
  • Dirk van Grinsven, Dejan Meleg and Ricardo van Rhijn were outstanding

 

 

10.11.2021 - Feyenoord Reserves - Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 36. Dodi Hamzah, 58. Lucas Andersen

I used all my substitute players for this cup game, but expected them to beat Feyenoord reserves 5-0 or something like that. So only two goals count as a disappointment despite the win. Dodi Hamzah had two chances in the first half, before he finally scored from a header. In second half, Lucas Andersen scored in his return game after a long injury break and about that I’m delighted. Otherwise it was a boring win.

  • 17 years old striker Sieme Plat made his debut in 2nd half

 

International break brought news of Holland qualifying to 2022 World Cup. I have been offered a lot of job interviews lately - Swansea, Sevilla and Real Sociedad all contacted me in November and Croatian football association tempted me with a chance to manage their national team.

 

20.11.2021 - VVV Venlo - Ajax 2:4 (ED) - 32. Jason Bourdouxhe, 38. Max Huiberts - 14., 47. and 53. Dodi Hamzah, 82. Dejan Meleg

VVV have been overachieving so far and are 8th prior this game, so they can’t be underestimated. But we had full team fit after a long while and I was confident that we’ll win this one. 

We started well and Dodi Hamzah scored from our first good chance. In 28’ Francesco Antonucci’s shot clipped the post and we were in control for the first half hour. But then started to happen. VVV’s Henk Veerman got past Deyovaisio Zeefuik, but blasted it against crossbar in 1-1 situation. Three minutes later VVV equalized - a wonderful free kick by Bourdouxhe was unstoppable for Jeffrey de Lange. And then Max Huiberts gave them a lead with a header from corner. VVV showed exactly why they’re doing so well, and we were in disarray.

I had a lot to say at half time and it helped us to turn things around. Dodi Hamzah equalized quickly after 2nd half kick-off, although it was a very controversial goal. Nicolai Boilesen made a clear foul while challenging VVV player in opponents box, but referee didn’t whistle and it was easy to find Hamzah after that. In 53’ Hamzah completed his hat-trick and after VVV’s Teun Bijleweld received his 2nd yellow card in 74’, it was clear that VVV can’t come back from this. Dejan Meleg finished scoring for us in 82’, so in the end it looks like a convincing win, but VVV fans can rightfully feel aggrieved about that equalizer.

  • we dominated statistics department - 59% of possession and 28/13 shots
  • Dodi Hamzah and Dejan Meleg were outstanding

 

24.11.2021 - Ajax - Juventus 2:3 (Champions League Group A) - 69. and 85. Dodi Hamzah - 20., 40. and 48. Memphis Depay

After defeat from FC Porto, we needed to prove ourselves against Juventus. We had a good first 15 minutes. We played positive, attacking football (although no real chances), but in 20’ we were punished by good counter of Juventus. Memphis Depay finished it with a great strike from the edge of area. In 40’ he scored after a brilliant solo run into our box and unstoppable shot to top corner and shortly after half-time break it was 0-3. We really didn’t play badly and didn’t give Juventus too many chances in attack, but one man was just too much for us in that night.

We weren’t disenchanted though. Dodi Hamzah had a little bit of luck on his side, but his long shot took a deflection and ball somehow sucked itself in from between post and goalkeeper. And in 85’ we had a good counter that brought the 2nd goal - Justin Kluivert’s cross found Hamzah in the box. So final five minutes were very nervous for Juventus and true come-back was on the cards, but that was a little bit too late and we couldn’t find the third goal.

It was a fairly good display, despite our loss, and Dodi Hamzah was impressive with his goalscoring form, but this result means we’re finishing 3rd in the group. Qualification places are 4 points ahead while OM are 4 points behind us. So it’s Europa League football in February, again.

 

27.11.2021 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 45.+1 Justin Kluivert, 69. Frenkie de Jong

There were some very tired legs after Juventus game. Schedule is tough and will continue to be tight in December, so rotation is necessary. Sergio Alleyne and Dragisa Gudelj start in defense. Nathan Leyder is rested and Noa Lang plays as DMC for this game and Justin Kluivert starts while Dirk van Grinsven is dropped.

It was a wet evening and instead our technical football it was a midfield struggle for most of the match. We had most of possession, but Sparta had the best chances in the first half. Noa Lang made a poor error in defense, but Jeffrey de Lange saved Muamer Tankovic’s shot. In 38’ Sparta got their first clear cut chance - Deyovaisio Zeefuik missed a run by Jay-Roy Grot, but de Lange was again better and parried the shot.

And, as it often happens in football, if you can’t score, you concede. We had our only good opportunity in injury time of the first half - Dodi Hamzah hooped a clever free kick over defensive line to Kluivert, who put it into near corner. It was almost undeserved lead, but that happens sometimes.

In 2nd half we concentrated more on holding possession and substitute Frenkie de Jong scored his first goal of the season to make our position a little bit more secure. Sparta got another opportunity soon after that, but Jeffrey de Lange saved Mats Seuntjens’ shot in 1-1 situation.

Good three points in the end, although defensive errors were troubling.

  • we conceded two clear-cut chances and in truth, we’re lucky to win this game
  • Ricardo van Rhijn was in outstanding form

 

 

November has been a very good month in Eredivisie, but we fell just a little bit short in both Champions League games. I’m not too disappointed, but we hoped for more.

The month ended with the first managerial casualty - John van den Brom was sacked by FC Twente. I wonder what took them so long. Let’s see if Twente can climb up from the bottom of the table now.

 

 

Eredivisie

owxJ92n.png

 

We’re in good position and Feyenoord look like contenders in this season. I expect FC Twente to do better in 2nd half of the season, so relegation battle will be fierce.

 

 

Ajax goals: Dodi Hamzah 11, Dejan Meleg 9, Thulani Serero 6

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Justin Kluivert 7

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December 2021

 

01.12.2021 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 1:1 (ED) - 46. Dodi Hamzah - 26. Robert Muric

MVV were the biggest spenders in Summer transfer window, and they pay some outrageous wages for Eredivisie standard. It’s not unusual that their first team players (who are often mediocre players) earn £30-40,000 p/w. So it’s interesting to see how this bunch of overpriced footballers perform against us.

I made one change in line-up - Deyovaisio Zeefuik was dropped for Navajo Bakboord in defense, but otherwise it was our regular eleven.

We started well and completely dominated the first half, but MVV defense was difficult to break down. MVV didn’t get too many good attacks, but we made things easy for them - tackle by Antonucci sent the ball directly on the run for Robert Muric, who scored from 1-1 situation.

Very frustrating to leave for half-time break with 0-1, as we held 64% of possession and were dominating midfield.

I asked my team to step up and they did exactly what was told - Dodi Hamzah equalized right after second half kick-off with a great looking bicycle kick! But MVV got their rhythm back and after I took off Antonucci we lost our spark, so in the end we had to settle with 1-1 draw.

I’m disappointed, because we should’ve won and deserved to win this game. On the other hand, we didn’t deserve to win against Sparta, so I guess these things kind of balance out in time.

  • 56% of possession and 19 shots, but lack of good clear cut chances prevented us from scoring more goals

 

After this game, Dodi Hamzah talked to me and asked for a move to bigger club. What can I say, to ambitious wonderkid - that he should stick to Ajax? I feel that he’s not quite ready in his 19 years, but more importantly - with him finally playing great football and Aschraf Flemming being only 17 years of age, I also have no decent replacement for him. I tried to placate him and it wasn’t the worst outcome, but he’s certainly unhappy here. I think if I can get £20m bid, I consider selling him, but that move would send us 1,5 years back with all those offensive problems, lack of chances and scoring troubles.

 

04.12.2021 - NAC Breda - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 32. Kike - 56. Sergio Alleyne

A lot of rotation in line-up because of this schedule. Sergio Alleyne got his chance to impress, Lucas Andersen also started in midfield.

It was a drab match and we couldn’t get our game going. We didn’t give NAC too many opportunities, but missed interception by Jeffrey de Lange gave them the only chance and Kike used it well. We equalized in 2nd half - Alleyne scored in free kick situation, but we couldn’t turn this game completely around. Dirk van Grinsven had a great chance to score a winner in 80’, but his shot from clear cut chance went against post.

The second poor draw in a row and that troubles me. Does Hamzah poor morale really have such an influence?

  • shooting was poor (14/3), no wonder we couldn’t score
  • Sergio Alleyne scored his first ever goal for Ajax

 

07.12.2021 - Olympique Marseille - Ajax 2:1 (Champions League Group A) - 25. and 34. Jeremie Porson-Clemente - 23. Dirk van Grinsven

This game didn’t decide anything in the group, but after those draws we needed a positive result. I rested Ricardo van Rhijn and Dejan Meleg, but I reckoned our team was good enough to win even without them.

We took the lead in the first half - Hamzah found Dirk van Grinsven who made a nice run into box and sent the ball past OM goalkeeper. But equalizer wa quick - Porson-Clemente got a chance after Tom Drost’s missed header and ten minutes later the same man made it 1-2. Game was more under OM control after our goal and we couldn’t create much else in the first half.

We did better after the break - Dodi Hamzah had a great chance in 48’ but it was saved by veteran keeper Mandanda and substitute Aschraf Flemming had two shots that caused troubles, but were still dealt by goalkeeper. Despite trying hard, we couldn’t equalize and had to leave Marseille with a defeat.

I’m disappointed that while we were leading the group after first three games, we continued with three straight defeats and couldn’t get results. Differences in games weren’t big and all defeats came with only one goal, but that’s an area for improvement.

  • statistically there wasn’t much difference between teams - better finishing and individual brilliance by Porson-Clemente decided this match
  • Dragisa Gudelj was in all sorts of troubles, making a bunch of mistakes on our left flank and looked completely out of place in the first half

 

11.12.2021 - PEC Zwolle - Ajax 0:4 (ED) - 11. and 64. Dejan Meleg, 51. Thulani Serero, 74. Justin Kluivert

I now really needed a win after poor start to December and first team players started against PEC Zwolle. As Zwolle didn’t pose any areal threat in attack, Navajo Bakboord started in defense to help move the ball around.

Dejan Meleg opened scoring after good cross by Boilesen, but first half was mostly midfield battle and we couldn’t create more chances. Things improved after half-time break - first Kluivert and Serero combined a good counter-attack that Serero finished with an excellent strike next to post. In 60’ Serero was again in action, but his fierce shot was parried by goalkeeper with difficulties. But then Meleg added his second goal and after Zwolle’s Sander Heesakkens received his second yellow card, it was easy. Justin Kluivert scored our fourth goal and I was a lot more pleased with our second half performance.

  • our defense didn’t give Zwolle any scoring opportunities
  • Thulani Serero and Justin Kluivert had a great game

 

14.12.2021 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 1:3 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 82. Paul Gladon - 32. Dodi Hamzah, 55. Ricardo van Rhijn, 67. Noa Lang

Sergio Alleyne and Tom Drost were suspended for this cup game, but otherwise I rotated squad to give everybody playing time.

Again, as in previous game, we weren’t too sharp in first half - Dodi Hamzah score a very good goal, but otherwise it was a rather poor football and we couldn’t create enough chances.

Second half, again, was better - Ricardo van Rhijn scored his first goal of the season after a good counter and Noa Lang score a long shot that took a difficult deflection for Eindhoven goalkeeper.

But complacency started to creep in and Paul Gladon’s consolation goal for FC Eindhoven was a clear sign of that. I addressed it in next interviews and press conferences to keep the squad concentrated until Christmas break.

 

18.12.2021 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 5:0 (ED) - 17. and 39. Dejan Meleg, 43. Nathan Leyder, 51. Dodi Hamzah, 90.+1 Justin Kluivert

sc Heerenveen have a mid-table position, despite being in top 3 in recent years. But it’s easy to miss the fact that they’ve played 3 games less than other teams and can easily climb up in the table. Interestingly, schedule predicts that we play two games in a row against them - first at home and then away.

Both teams missed key players in midfield - our Francesco Antonucci and sc Heerenveen’s Bramco van den Boomen were both suspended. But Heerenveen players looked a lot more tired after long stretch of games.

We started very well - Dejan Meleg’s first shot was saved by Joel Drommel in 6’, but he opened scoring in 17’ after nice cross from our left by Dodi Hamzah.

In 39’ we had another good attack - Meleg saw his shot being parried, Kluivert laid rebound to Dodi Hamzah who couldn’t score while unmarked, but rebound again fell to Meleg who finished it off. sc Heerenveen looked disheartened and we tried to take advantage. In 41’ we had a good counter, Hamzah found Kluivert in the box, but our left winger smashed it against post. But two minutes later Nathan Leyder scored our third goal - a nice shot taken low from just outside of area and at half time it was 3-0.

We continued our good performance in 2nd half - Dodi Hamzah scored a great backwards header to extend our lead. Substitute Aschraf Flemming picked up an injury and had to be taken off in 75’, but although we were with 10 men, Justin Kluivert added our fifth goal in injury time.

Great performance all around and it’ll be interesting to see how sc Heerenveen pick themselves up from this in four days.

  • we didn’t have too many chances, but finishing was excellent
  • good attacking display with 18/10 shooting accuracy
  • our defense didn’t give sc Heerenveen any scoring opportunities, although we made a lot of individual mistakes (24) there was always a teammate to help out
  • Dejan Meleg, Thulani Serero, Nathan Leyder, Nicolai Boilesen and Dodi Hamzah were outstanding
  • Aschraf Flemming’s injury is a serious one - strained knee ligaments keep him sidelined for 6-7 weeks

 

22.12.2021 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 2., 30. and 60. Dodi Hamzah

I made one change in line-up - Francesco Anonucci started in midfield and Lucas Andersen moved back to bench. Sergio Alleyne started in defense.

We had a great start to the match - Dodi Hamzah dribbled past Jeffrey Gouweleeuw, and sent his shot to top corner from an angle. Incredible strike! Excellent finish! And sc Heerenveen, who obviously came to this game to prove themselves, looked shell shocked.

They got themselves going quite fast though, and in 8’ Mimoun Mahi shot bounced back from our goal post. For a while it looked like Heerenveen got a little bit of advantage, but then poor backpass by defenders was intercepted by Hamzah and it was 2-0. Young striker added his third goal in 2nd half and completed his hat-trick, and Heerenveen didn’t recover from that.

  • sc Heerenveen had most of possession, but we had by far better chances
  • Dodi Hamzah was unstoppable

 

 

December was a bit of average month. I’m not too concerned about OM defeat, but those draws in the beginning of the month should have been two victories. We ended in a better form though and two very convincing wins over sc Heerenveen send us to Christmas break in buoyant mood.

 

 

Eredivisie

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We’re nine points clear in Eredivisie table. I still reckon PSV as our biggest competitor, but they’re 18 points behind. No pressure since November.

Bottom of the table looks really tightly contested, though. FC Twente have picked themselves up after change of managers.

 

Ajax goals: Dodi Hamzah 17, Dejan Meleg 13, Justin Kluivert 7, Thulani Serero 7

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Justin Kluivert 10, Dodi Hamzah 7, Nicolai Boilesen 7

 

 

Fun fact of the month - half of the season is over and we haven’t got any penalties yet in this season.

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January 2022

 

Transfer window passed without much fuss. No major moves in Eredivisie, only Premiership clubs poaching some youngsters from clubs and our own Didier Yao was signed by Dortmund Borussia. We were compensated by £775k. I kind of let it happen because as talented as he was, we’ve got plenty of young strikers waiting to come up from youth ranks and Yao wasn’t quite the type I needed in my single striker formation.

 

21.01.2022 -  ADO Den Haag - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 30. Thomas Bruns - 32. Justin Kluivert.

Navajo Bakboord and Aschraf Flemming were still out for this game, but otherwise we had full team in my disposal. We looked a little bit rusty after long break - first 30 minutes were rather boring midfield battle and that stopped in 30’ - ADO’s Thomas Bruns got perhaps too much space in midfield, but he sent a great shot into our goal from distance - a very good shot and unstoppable for Jeffrey de Lange. That goal woke us up and soon Justin Kluivert equalized. But  we weren’t able to create much in 2nd half and at times it looked as we tried to avoid defeat and ADO were settled with a draw, so in the end a draw it was. Not the best game, but I think we needed it to regain our rhythm after a month without games.

  • we had 81% of passing accuracy, but couldn’t create enough chances

 

26.01.2022 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 21. Ji Dong-Won - 23. and 58. Dejan Meleg

Dirk van Grinsven hadn’t recovered from cold and sat out this match. I opted with Sergio Alleyne in defense and, in away game, tried to go with structured formation that had served me well in Champions League. That didn’t work and first 20 minutes saw PSV having 70% of possession and was topped with PSV goal. Sergio Alleyne could have done better in goal situation.

I changed back to more regular tactics and two minutes later Dejan Meleg equalized. But besides two goals it was a drab first half, both teams were cautious and PSV defended well to limit our chances.

In 2nd half though, Dejan Meleg gave us a lead with excellent header that landed in top corner. In 60’ PSV were awarded penalty, after referee thought Sergio Alleyne played with high foot inside our box. It was a harsh decision and Alleyne looked miserable, but Jeffrey de Lange saved the spot-kick and our lead stood. It was the end of the game for Alleyne though - I took him off to avoid more problems in defense. We controlled the last 30 minutes and had a couple of half-chances that we couldn’t score from, but 2-1 was good enough.

  • good passing from the team and after changing tactics in 20’ we finished with 55% of possession
  • we used our half-chances very well
  • we made too many individual mistakes (25)
  • Nicolai Boilesen was outstanding

 

29.01.2022 - Ajax - FC Groningen 4:1 (ED) - 3. Dodi Hamzah, 9. Lucas Andersen, 64. Dirk van Grinsven, 73. Aschraf Flemming - 72. Mohamed Diaby

Morale was great after the win over PSV and in this game I rotate a bit, to keep all the promises I’ve been handing out about first team football. Dragisa Gudelj, Sergio Alleyne, Dirk van Grinsven all started and Lucas Andersen started in midfield.

FC Groningen players looked tired and we took full advantage of that. Dodi Hamzah opened scoring in 3’ with an excellent header - almost Robin-van-Persie-like header, leaping high in around 10 meters out and sending it into the net. Lucas Andersen extended our lead after corner and in 27’ Justin Kluivert’s shot hit the post. First half was completely under our control and  our lead could’ve been bigger, but Justin Kluivert wasted one clear-cut chance.

We continued well after the break. Dirk van Grinsven scored from corner and although we became complacent and allowed Groningen to got one goal, we replied quickly with our fourth.

Overall, a great performance and convincing win.

  • we practiced attacking set pieces before this game and it paid off - two goals came from corners
  • Lucas Andersen, Thulani Serero, Justin Kluivert and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding
  • Aschraf Flemming scored his first ever goal for Ajax

 

 

Overall I’m very happy with January. Yes, we dropped points against ADO, but extended our lead in league table despite that. Winning over PSV is always nice and FC Groningen game proved that we’re still in good form and I hope it extends to February.

It’s been a fairly quiet transfer window in January. I loaned Navajo Bakboord out to Elche, young central defender Tarik Gennissen went to Roda JC until Summer, but no big money moves, although Manchester United and Real Madrid showed some interest towards Dodi Hamzah

 

Eredivisie

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Bottom of the table is clearly more interesting than title race. Seven teams are still in relegation battle.

 

 

Ajax goals: Dodi Hamzah 18, Dejan Meleg 15, Justin Kluivert 8

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 12, Justin Kluivert 12, Dodi Hamzah 8, Nicolai Boilesen 8

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February 2022

 

01.02.2022 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 6:3 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 5. and 52. Dodi Hamzah, 8. Justin Kluivert, 23. and 37. Dirk van Grinsven, 24. Hans Hateboer (og) - 8. and 78. Jude Aneke, 11. Kevin Strootman

It was interesting to see if sc Heerenveen had learned something from those two defeats in December. They had become weaker in goalkeeping department - after selling Joel Drommel (who I reckoned was one of the top 3 goalkeepers in Eredivisie) to Watford in January they’re left with two 17-18 years old goalkeepers and Remco Postma made his debut for them in this cup quarter final.

sc Heerenveen started carefully, but their plans were thrown out of the window when Dodi Hamzah got the ball and just blasted it into top corner from 24 meters. What a goal! What a player! Excellent stuff from Hamzah. Heerenveen couldn’t even recover from that when they were 0-2 behind - Justin Kluivert used his chance well.

But the game wasn’t over just yet - sc Heerenveen found a goal right after kick-off after our 2nd goal. Dragisa Gudelj was perhaps a bit passive on our left flank, allowing a cross, Mike van der Hoorn missed his interception and Jude Aneke got between two central defenders to reach the ball first and score. Three minutes later veteran midfielder Kevin Strootman equalised and we were a bit shocked.

But it didn’t took long until we resumed to control. Justin Kluivert found Dirk van Grinsven with a long diagonal cross and our right winger made it 3-2. A minute later unfortunate own goal by Hans Hateboer made it 2-4. Dirk van Grinsven was our most dangerous player in attack and although he wasted one clear cut chance in 30’, he scoured our fifth goal in the first half and it looked clear that Remco Postma just couldn’t handle this in sc Heerenveen goal.

We went to half time with 5-2 lead - that has to be some kind of record, at least I can’t remember such goalscoring from any other game.

Dodi Hamzah scored his 2nd half - his shot from the edge of area took unfortunate deflection and Postma was again helpless. Towards the end of the game Jude Aneke showed his quality again, him being the only spark in otherwise miserable sc Heerenveen team. He got the ball on the edge of our area and sent it to top corner from difficult angle - a wonderful strike, unstoppable for de Lange, but our defense should have done better and applying more pressure to him.

In the end, a very entertaining 6-3 win.

Feyenoord, Groningen and MVV got to semi finals and we go against Feyenoord in March.

  • great attacking performance, but we forgot to defend at times and individual mistakes contributed to two sc Heerenveen goals
  • I’m happy with passing accuracy (86%) and amount of chances created
  • attacking trio Dodi Hamzah, Justin Kluivert and Dirk van Grinsven were excellent

 

06.02.2022 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 1:0 (ED) - 86. Dodi Hamzah

Our only league defeat in this season is from Feyenoord and players were ready to take a revenge.

We started well and Justin Kluivert’s shot hit the post already inside the first minute of football. Actually, the whole first half was under our control, but we just couldn’t break through. Our finishing could have been better, but honestly we didn’t have a real clear cut chances either. Feyenoord seemed to be happy just defending and at half time we had 13 shots, 64% of possession and Feyenoord hadn’t made a single decent attack.

They were a bit better in 2nd half, but generally concentrated in defense. We finally managed to break through four minutes before full time - substitute Dirk van Grinsven gave a clever chipping pass to the run for Dodi Hamzah and our best goalscorer didn’t make a mistake from there. Feyenoord did really well to park the bus for so long, but it was a deserved win for us.

  • 60% of possession, very good defense and a clean sheet - I’m happy about that.

 

 

11.02.2022 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 2:0 (ED) - 52. Nathan Leyder, 82. Dejan Meleg

Once again I tried to keep my promises and Dragisa Gudelj, Dirk van Grinsven and Lucas Andersen started.

First half was rather uninspiring from both sides. We controlled midfield and were organised in defense, but didn’t have too many opportunities to score. Sergio Alleyne and Dodi Hamzah both saw their shots saved.

After half-time we improved. First Alleyne headed against crossbar - a solid warning for AZ - and then Nathan Leyder found the net after good corner by substitute Dejan Meleg. Meleg himself extended our lead in 82’ - Dirk van Grinsven made a great dribbling and sent an excellent cross to far post from our right wing.

Solid win in the end and I’m satisfied with clean sheet.

 

17.02.2022 - FC Kobenhavn - Ajax 3:5 (Europa League 1st knockout round 1st leg) - 8. Israel Coll, 58. Sylvester Igboun, 84. Simon Andersen - 15., 49., 64. and 71. Dodi Hamzah, 85. Dirk van Grinsven

We dropped out last season in the same Europa League phase against FC Kobenhavn and it was a time for revenge. Tom Drost was suspended for this match and Lucas Andersen injured himself in training (twisted ankle) and will be out for 3 weeks. But first team players were present and we turned this game into a goal glut.

We started perhaps too carefully and in the first ten minutes Kobenhavn had the initiative and that resulted in their first goal.- Dragisa Gudelj allowed their player past him, van der Hoorn made a tackle in the box, but Coll was first to get to the loose ball and it was an easy goal.

But we picked ourselves up from this. Good combination between Antonucci, van Grinsven and Hamzah brought us level. In 22’ van Grinsven did well to intercept Kobenhavn’s long throw, but missed his shot from point blank range and five minutes later Thulani Serero’s shot hit crossbar. So after that first goal we looked like a better team and were a bit unlucky not to score our second goal in the first half.

Second half showed true attacking football from both sides. Hamzah scored after good dribbling and cross by van Grinsven had created the opportunity, but then again we were too passive and allowed Igboun to equalize. But for that moment Hamzah was cool and confident and Kobenhavn defenders couldn’t stop him. Two more goals from him put us in control. The last one was especially impressive - he brought the ball down expertly, beat two defenders and slammed it into top corner with a fierce shot. Outstanding stuff!

Substitute Simon Andersen got one more goal to Kobenhavn (again we failed in set piece situation - long throw into the box, Noa Lang lost the header and it was too good chance for Andersen to miss). But Dirk van Grinsven reacted with a goal in the very next attack and so this thriller ended with 3-5 scoreline. Those away goals puts us in a very good position for second leg game.

  • defensively I’m not happy - we conceded two goals from set piece situations and didn’t looked organized enough
  • Dodi Hamzah was outstanding with four goals and Dirk van Grinsven impressed on our right flank

 

 

20.02.2022 - Go Ahead Eagles - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 86. Orhan Dzepar - 41. Dirk van Grinsven

Ricardo van Rhijn served his suspension in this match and some of our key players were rested for the next FC Kobenhavn match. That’s why we weren’t at our best and in the end had to return with a draw.

We looked poor from the beginning - Nathan Leyder’s missed header gave Eagles their best chance in 3’, but the shot wasn’t good enough and de Lange held it confidently. First 30 minutes looked drab - we allowed set pieces and lost headers in our box and that predicted trouble. Our best chance came in 32’ - Dodi Hamzah got the ball and had plenty of time in the box, but his shot too landed in the hands of goalkeeper. But in the end of the half we opened scoring, after some good work on the right and cross by Tom Drost, the ball fell to van Grinsven and he used his chance well.

We looked much better in the second half, at least defensively, but couldn’t create too many chances and, of course, conceded a late equalizer out of nowhere. That’s a bummer, as I’d say that Go Ahead didn’t deserve this point, but we also weren’t good enough to win that night.

  • our shooting was woeful (12/3) and our finishing should have been better
  • young defensive midfielder Frank van den Hoek made his debut in 2nd half

 

 

24.02.2022 - Ajax - FC Kobenhavn 6:0 (Europa League 1st knockout round 2nd leg) - 8. and 25. Justin Kluivert, 34., 39. and 87. Dirk van Grinsven, 74. Aschraf Flemming

Due to secure lead from first leg I continued with rotation players and they delivered an outstanding 6:0 win over FC Kobenhavn demotivated players.

Dodi Hamzah started with a shot that bounced back from post, but excellent counter attack in 8’ resulted in a great strike by Justin Kluivert. Dirk van Grinsven scored a hat-trick and his best goal was at 34’ - counter attack and a dribble from inside our own half and excellent finish to cap it with a goal.

In the end it was an easy game and offered fans plenty of goals. Our opponent in 2nd round is Borussia Dortmund.

  • our finishing was great - chances actually wasn’t so good most of the time, but scoring ability was superb
  • Dirk van Grinsven, Justin Kluivert and Nathan Leyder were outstanding
  • two memorable goals (8’ and 34’ strikes) go into shortlist of best goal of the season contest

 

 

In conclusion, we can be happy with the month. We did beat Feyenoord which was the biggest test in terms of league competition and we reached to the next round in Europa League. A draw against Go Ahead is the only disappointment, but I can live with that.

Player of the month for me is Dirk van Grinsven - 7 goals in February, also contributing with a lot of assists and really working hard for his team. He with Dragisa Gudelj and Sergio Alleyne were the ones asking for more playing time and van Grinsven really proved that he’s worth it, while jury is still out there for Gudelj and Alleyne.

 

 

Eredivisie

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Our lead is very secure. PSV is still struggling and dropping cheap points here and there and with FC Utrecht and Feyenoord being in really good form it’s difficult for PSV to reach top three.

Relegation zone is also taking shape - FC Eindhoven, NAC Breda and Go Ahead Eagles are most likely to battle for relegation play-off places.

 

 

Ajax goals: Dodi Hamzah 25, Dejan Meleg 16, Dirk van Grinsven 14, Justin Kluivert 11

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 13, Justin Kluivert 13, Dirk van Grinsven 11

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March 2022

 

01.03.2022 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 2:1 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 26. Carlo Pronk, 74. Rob Viergever - 50. Dodi Hamzah

League position was secure enough and so we concentrated extra for this match, but failed to deliver and were defeated by arch rivals.

First half was end-to-end football, with both teams attacking freely. Feyenoord got their first chance in 11’, but Segun Owobowale hit the post from narrow angle. Ten minutes later their goalkeeper saved Dejan Meleg’s free kick with difficulties. Antonucci’s header in 23’ forced a good reflex save and rebound was smashed against post by van Grinsven.

But set piece defending let us down and Carlo Pronk headed it in from corner.

In first half we were in trouble defensively, but root of our problems lied in midfield - too many poor passes and lost balls put us under pressure and allowed Feyenoord to create counter-attacks.

We were better in 2nd half - Antonucci’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper in 47’ and then Dirk van Grinsven found Hamzah with excellent cross and there was our equalizer. We looked more in control in 2nd half, but Antonucci’s missed interception allowed Feyenoord another goal - 18 years old Rob Viergever scored his first goal for Feyenoord after Italian missed his interception in our box. We tried in the last ten minutes and applied some pressure to Feyenoord goal, but couldn’t find an equalizer.

Disappointing to go out like that. In the game we lacked a little bit of decisiveness and better finishing, but to lose against Feyenoord definitely hurts.

 

05.03.2022 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 4:0 (ED) - 11. Justin Kluivert, 24. and 29. Dirk van Grinsven, 80. Deyovaisio Zeefuik

We bounced back from Feyenoord defeat with a destruction of SC Cambuur. We looked in control from kick-off until the end and after first half hour it was settled. Very comfortable win and it managed to lift our morale a little bit.

  • Justin Kluivert and Dirk van Grinsven were excellent

 

10.03.2022 - Dortmund Borussia - Ajax 4:1 (Europa League 2nd knockout round 1st leg) - 7. and 31. Fred, 25. Matthias Ginter, 62. Mats Hummels - 88. Dejan Meleg

We had two important tasks for this game - first, not to concede too many goals and second - away goal would be nice to take away from Dortmund.

We went to game with our Champions League tactics - structured 4-1-2-3 Wide. It has served us well in Champions League group stage, but failed against Dortmund.

First half was a nightmare and we couldn’t handle Dortmund attacking midfielders - they found too much space inside our box and between our lines. We didn’t give away too many chances, but their finishing was excellent and we found ourselves 0-3 behind in 31 minutes. Simple mistakes cost us - Fred found space between our central defenders, Nathan Leyder lost him constantly and forgot to track back etc. etc. We weren’t under heavy pressure at all, but conceded three goals in the first half. In second half of the pitch it wasn’t better - we couldn’t break Dortmund’s defense and although we had 7 shots, none of them went on target.

We tried harder after half-time break. Dirk van Grinsven sent his header narrowly over in 47’, but then Mike van der Hoorn missed his interception and allowed Hummels to score another goal from IFK.

Dortmund got a little bit complacent in the end and allowed us some chances in the final five minutes. Dodi Hamzah sent a dangerous shot against framework from around 30 meters in 87’. A minute later our good attack was finally rewarded with consolation goal. Two away goals would have been great, but I’m not sure we can overturn 1-4 in Amsterdam Arena.

  • defense failed us and Jeffrey de Lange couldn’t save us either, excellent finishing by Dortmund led to four conceded goals
  • we got some chances in attack, but our shooting was inaccurate (13/2) and that emphasizes the difference in class - we couldn’t score from those half-chances we got
  • we made a little too many defensive mistakes (22)

 

 

13.03.2022 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 3. Sean Klaiber

Away game against FC Utrecht was a very important match for us. Not only because rivalry between two teams, but FC Utrecht are 2nd in Eredivisie table at the moment and it’s important to keep that distance in points. It’s been a great season for them so far and they’re in good form.

We made two changes in line-up before this game - Lucas Andersen replaced Francesco Antonucci in midfield and Ricardo van Rhijn returned to right-back position.

I think we weren’t ready enough for the match and that’s why we conceded a quick goal. Mike van der Hoorn blocked the first shot, but rebound fell to Klaiber who had almost an empty net to aim for. That goal aside, it was a very drab first half and neither of teams couldn’t create much in attack. We were especially poor and didn’t have a single chance in those first forty-five minutes.

Things didn’t get much better in second half. We couldn’t create anything in attack and FC Utrecht were well organized in defense. The closest we got to goal was in 71’ - Justin Kluivert’s header almost crossed goal line, but goal was not given by referees.

But after that frustration grew and our discipline with it. It was a very poor display in most of departments - ****** midfield display, poor passing, players not getting to loose balls. We were always late - late to tackle, late to react, late to move forward and late to close down the space. I was furious at the players and let it out in dressing room after the whistle.

Probably our worst game in this season.

  • we didn’t create a single chance in whole ninety minutes and that speaks volumes
  • only 70% of passing accuracy, while our average is around 80%
  • it’s been a very long time since we couldn’t score in Eredivisie (over 20 games), and FC Utrecht managed to shut us down completely

 

17.03.2022 - Ajax - Dortmund Borussia 2:0 (Europa League 2nd knockout round 2nd leg) - 17. Dodi Hamzah, 25. Dragisa Gudelj

We started this game without much pressure and got the best chances in the first half. Dodi Hamzah wasted his first opportunity to score in 15’ - his shot was held by Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki. But he made amends two minutes later and after Dragisa Gudelj scored his first goal of the season in 25’ it was a glimmer of hope for us. But Dortmund regained their composure and played a lot better in 2nd half. They didn’t attack much, but midfield was under their control and we couldn’t create any more clear cut chances in second half, so 2-0 and aggregate 3-4 saw us drop out of continental competition. It was a good ninety minutes and good result, but 1-4 from the first leg was too much to overturn

  • we had only 40% of possession, but created better chances
  • Dodi Hamzah goal was his 27th of the season - new Ajax record
  • Francesco Antonucci was forced off with an injury in the first half and after inspection it appeared that he’s broken his collarbone and his season is effectively over

 

26.03.2022 - Ajax - FC Twente 6:1 (ED) - 11. and 71. Dirk van Grinsven, 23., 53. pen., 75. and 90. Dejan Meleg - 57. Wesley van Stijn

Apparently we haven’t been able to win in our last five games against FC Twente and our previous encounter ended 1-1 in Autumn. I wasn’t aware of that before media drew my attention to the fact, but this record needed to be improved. We missed Antonucci for this game and Thulani Serero was away on international duty, so midfield duo for this game was Noa Lang and Lucas Andersen.

Long story short - after five games without a win, we demolished FC Twente in this match. The game was under our control from start to finish and both our wingers played major role in all goals. Dejan Meleg offered some really impressive touches, especially with his goal in 23’ (direct free kick from the edge of area) and 75’ (a fluke goal after his cross from left flank screwed towards goal and surprised FC Twente keeper).

FC Twente got their consolation goal from IFK situation in 2nd half - Nathan Leyder lost his header against Wesley van Stijn. Lack of concentration perhaps.

Overall - a very impressive display and well-deserved win.

  • it was our first penalty in this season - awarded after Meleg was pulled from shirt in the box and converted by the man himself
  • Dejan Meleg, Dirk van Grinsven and Noa Lang were outstanding
  • Dejan Meleg reached to his 20th goal in this season

 

30.03.2022 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 2:0 (ED) - 5. Keran Karaman, 34. Tom Drost (og)

It has been a poor month and we ended with even worse performance and away defeat against Vitesse.

We still missed Thulani Serero who was on international duty. I replaced both full-backs - Tom Drost and Dragisa Gudelj started.

Mike van der Hoorn was the one to blame for early goal - he missed his interception and gave Karaman a good chance. We couldn’t bounce back quickly and our best chance of the half came in 25’, but Dodi Hamzah’s header clipped crossbar and went over. And then we conceded another goal - Jordy de Wijs was completely unmarked in corner situation. Jeffrey de Lange couldn’t gather his header and it crossed goal line after deflection from Drost. Terrible set piece defense.

We couldn’t improve after half-time break and frustration grew with every wasted possession. Dirk van Grinsven got our best chances of the game in around 80’ mark,but he too blasted his shots well wide and over.

I was very frustrated at the sideline and obviously let it loose in the dressing room after the match. Most frustrating was the fact that I couldn’t grasp where did it went wrong. We did so well against FC Twente and now looked like a shadows of our last game form.

  • our shooting was only 16/2 in this match - that’s seriously bad

 

 

March has been the worst month of the season. So many important games and so many failures. I’m not too upset about being knocked out by Dortmund - they always were a tricky opponent and although we had a small chance of winning this tie on aggregate goals, we put up a good fight.

But cup semi final defeat against Feyenoord, key match against FC Utrecht and now this Vitesse draw leave a bad taste. Not only results, but performances as well should have been better.

There’s still plenty to play for - we do have a healthy lead in the table and most of the team are fit, so I expect us to improve.

 

Eredivisie

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FC Utrecht look like a main contenders to compete for the title. PSV are still struggling and inconsistent.

 

 

Ajax goals: Dodi Hamzah 27, Dejan Meleg 21, Dirk van Grinsven 18, Justin Kluivert 12

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 14, Justin Kluivert 14, Dirk van Grinsven 14, Dodi Hamzah 10

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Youth Intake 2022

 

This season’s youth intake has less quality than we got in previous couple of seasons. When we approached March I figured that we could really use a talented left back and a goalkeeper, a left winger wouldn’t hurt either.

What we got was another great striker (although some way off from being comfortable in CF role), a very good right-back prospect (where we have enough depth at the moment) and a decent winger, comfortable on both flanks.

Unpleasant surprise was the amount of unambitious players and youngsters with low determination. Very unusual for Ajax. It could be fixed by tutoring, of course, but those characteristics usually come with additional flaws such as lack of intelligence, inconsistency and low professionalism.

 

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Andre Pröpper

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Physically strong striker, with very good finishing, composure and anticipation. Determined as well and our best prospect from this intake.

 

Peter Mulder

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Very good right-back. Also physically strong, and has decent crossing ability for the start. Instantly tutored by Ricardo van Rhijn.

 

Ludovic Roy

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Decent left winger, but needs a lot of work to become Ajax first team player. Possesses great pace, but technical skills are mediocre at best. His attitude needs most attention - he's rather selfish and inconsistent. Unfortunately I don't have a suitable tutor for him.

 

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April 2022

 

02.04.2022 - Ajax - VVV Venlo 1:0 (ED) - 65. Dodi Hamzah

Our poor form continued in Amsterdam Arena against VVV Venlo. This time we managed to get all three points, but performance was poor throughout.

Justin Kluivert got our best chance in the first half, but his shot was saved in 7’ and although we were well organized in defense, we had troubles creating space and opportunities in attack. We had only 41% of possession in the first half and VVV looked satisfied with 0:0.

I pushed up our defensive line after half-time in attempt to reduce space and time for VVV players and it brought dividends. We got more balls back and finally succeeded in 65’ to score a winning goal - Kluivert’s pass behind defenders found Hamzah on the run and wonderkid striker were composed enough to finish it calmly.

It was a very difficult game against very defensive side. I’m satisfied with three points, but not with poor attacking display - we should have been better.

 

08.04.2022 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 33. Romano van der Stoep - 54. Dodi Hamzah

I made several changes in line-up, most based on performances against Vitesse and VVV. And critical feedback was given to some of players, about their training efforts and recent for.

But the changes didn’t have much effect. Our first half was a drab one and despite having most of possession, we didn’t have enough good chances. Instead our captain Ricardo van Rhijn was caught in possession in seemingly innocent situation and allowed a cross in from our right, followed by the goal by van der Stoep. An extremely cheap goal to concede, especially in this stage of the season.

We improved after half-time and our pressure finally resulted in a goal by Dodi Hamzah. Substitute Dirk van Grinsven had our best chances in the second half - his good shot was parried in 63’ and he got two clear cut chances in 82’, but couldn’t finish this off. Eindhoven’s Romano van der Stoep found our goal post with his header in 85’ and Dodi Hamzah’s shot forced another save from FC Eindhoven goalkeeper, but we failed to deliver another goal and had to settle with a poor draw.

Frustrating game and I wasn’t happy with players. We just aren’t good enough and I’m struggling to find in-form players who could make impact weather in starting line-up or from the bench.

  • our shooting was 29/8 - that’s extremely wasteful; too many long shots and too many misses from inside the penalty box
  • five mistakes by Noa Lang stood out on stats sheet

 

16.04.2022 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 31. Mike van der Hoorn, 85. Dirk van Grinsven

MVV are doing well. Yes, they’ve got a big budget, but they’ve established themselves as top six team in recent years and this season is no exception. So i was well aware of their strengths and knew it will be a tough game.

We had initiative in the first half, a couple of half-chances were parried by good goalkeeping, but we had initiative and that was important. We took the lead in 31’ - Mike van der Hoorn had an opportunity after Dejan Meleg whipped his free kick into the box and big central defender scored his first goal of the season. What a way to rise to occasion.

Jeffrey de Lange had to show his skills in 27’ to make a good save, but otherwise the first half was well under our control and we headed to half time with deserved lead.

We concentrated on keeping possession in 2nd half and that limited MVV chances to equalize. Dirk van Grinsven scored our 2nd goal in 85’ and that put result beyond doubt.

Not the most exciting 90 minutes for spectators, but tactically spot on and well played out by the lads.

  • I’m happy with 64% of possession and 24/14 shooting is a big improvement from our previous games
  • 33 dribbles showed we were good with ball and better technically
  • Dirk van Grinsven was forced off with injury late in the game - broken ankle ends his season; hopefully he’ll be OK before pre-season ends

 

April was an improvement compared to March. I’m not happy with quality of football that we’re showing, but at least the results have come our way and MVV win virtually secured our title for the season.

Player of the month: Nicolai Boilesen. April lacked outstanding performances, but Boilesen was composed and confident on his left flank, giving good crosses and being solid in defense.

 

The moment of the month came, surprisingly, from U-19 team. Our youngsters won the U-19 cup final against fierce rivals Feyenoord 3-2. Not just won, but they initiated a come-back in the end of the game, after trailing 0-2 for the most of the match. Three goals scored in the last ten minutes is a wonderful testimony of their determination and a great moment to remember for most of them. Feyenoord’s misery only makes it even sweeter.

 

 

Eredivisie

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FC Utrecht have almost secured their 2nd place and battle for top three spots offers more surprises. ADO Den Haag smashed Feyenoord 4-0 in April and grabbed the third place. PSV is still in the middle of the table and so it’s turning out to be a very interesting final table.

There are four teams still in relegation battle and our last game of the season will be against NAC Breda in Amsterdam Arena, where NAC will definitely give their all to get some points and move out of relegation playoff places.

 

 

Ajax goals: Dodi Hamzah 29, Dejan Meleg 21, Dirk van Grinsven 19, Justin Kluivert 12

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 15, Justin Kluivert 15, Dirk van Grinsven 14, Dodi Hamzah 10

Edited by Draakon

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May 2022

 

01.05.2022 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 0:0 (ED)

We were short of a few players for this game - Mike van der Hoorn and Frank van den Hoek were suspended, Dirk van Grinsven injured and Francesco Antonucci - while almost recovered from his injury - not yet fit enough to train with full effort.

We’ve virtually clinched the title after FC Utrecht made a goalless draw against FC Eindhoven, but needed one point to make it official.

We controlled first half completely, but wasted too many chances. Dodi Hamzah had two great opportunities in the first half, but he wasted them both. Then his pass found Noa Lang on the run into the box, but young midfielder was too nervous and blasted it wide.

Same continued in the second half - we seemed comfortable with the ball and most of the football was played around Sparta box, but we lacked shooting accuracy and lethal finishing.

Goalless draw was good enough to start our title celebrations, but the game itself wasn’t good enough in my eyes.

  • 24/4 shooting and 3 wasted clear cut chances indicate where our problems lied in this game

 

08.05.2022 - Ajax - NAC Breda 3:0 (ED) - 27. Dodi Hamzah, 43. pen. Dejan Meleg, 75. Justin Kluivert

We had nothing to play for in this last game of the season. NAC Breda, on the other hand, had everything on stake here. Losing here could mean their relegation if results elsewhere won’t go their way and that’s a huge motivation.

But they failed to put up a good fight. We dominated from start to finish. Dodi Hamzah was sharp to improve from his last outing and his header grazed crossbar before two minutes were played. Lucas Andersen forced a good save from goalkeeper in 6’ and Hamzah then wasted his first clear-cut chance in 14’.

But our striker made it up in 27’, sending a wonderful shot into top corner from just outside of area. Truly excellent strike.

Dejan Meleg added another goal from penalty after Noa Lang was clattered by NAC defender inside their box and Justin Kluivert finished things off with another goal in the 2nd half.

A very comfortable win and great finish to our season.

  • 30/16 shooting shows how much better we were in this game
  • Tom Drost and Noa Lang were outstanding
  • Dodi Hamzah goal was his 30th of the season
  • as dreaded, NAC Breda dropped 18th after this game and were automatically relegated from Eredivisie

 

 

Solid two weeks in the end of the season for us, clinching the title and finding our usual game again.

Player of the month award goes to Lucas Andersen, who did well to lead our attacking play from midfield in those two games.

 

 

Eredivisie

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Here it is then - a very unlikely final table. Go Ahead Eagles and PEC Zwolle did won their relegation play-off games and retained their places in Eredivisie. Helmond Sport will be promoted from Jupiler League.

 

Dutch Cup final offered another surprise - MVV Maastricht stunned Feyenoord and took the cup after penalty shoot-out.

 

 

Ajax goals: Dodi Hamzah 30, Dejan Meleg 22, Dirk van Grinsven 15, Justin Kluivert 13

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 15, Justin Kluivert 15, Dirk van Grinsven 14, Dodi Hamzah 10

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Season In Review 2021-2022

 

I can be happy with domestic season - we won Eredivisie comfortably and weren’t under real pressure by any contenders since November. Our form dropped in March, but that was a short slump.

Our cup journey ended in semi-final. Not exactly what was expected by fans and the board, but not a complete failure either. In semis it’s usually one of the more serious clubs against you and in this one game anything can happen, so I’m not too disappointed.

Champions League season was a really promising one for the first three games, but then we failed to keep surprising against stronger opponents. You have to keep in mind that the draw was tough for us and we had three very difficult teams in our groups.

All in all, good season, although not fantastic.

 

Individually, this season saw Dodi Hamzah raising his true potential. For the first time we had a player who scored 30 goals in the season and looked very impressive in Champions League level too.

 

Fans Player of the Season:

  1. Ricardo van Rhijn
  2. Nicolai Boilesen
  3. Dejan Meleg

 

Goal of the Season:

Dodi Hamzah against sc Heerenveen 01/02/2022

 

Young player of the Season:

Justin Kluivert

 

 

Eredivisie Awards 2021/2022

 

Goalkeeper of the Year:

  1. Jeffrey de Lange - Ajax
  2. Eric Verstappen - PSV Eindhoven
  3. Peter Leeuwenburgh - FC Utrecht

 

Golden Boot:

  1. Dejan Meleg - Ajax
  2. Renato Ibarra - Vitesse Arnhem
  3. Sean Klaiber - FC Utrecht

 

Top Goalscorer:

  1. Dejan Meleg - Ajax (20)
  2. Majeed Waris - Feyenoord Rotterdam (16)
  3. Dodi Hamzah - Ajax (16)

 

Dutch Young Player of the Year:

  1. Dirk van Grinsven - Ajax
  2. Ebenezer Boakye - PSV Eindhoven
  3. Dodi Hamzah - Ajax

 

Manager’s Manager of the Year:

  1. Erik ten Hag - FC Utrecht
  2. Me
  3. Ruud Kaiser - MVV Maastricht

 

 

Other news from European football: Champions League Final was all English affair - Liverpool defeated Chelsea 5-3 after extra time and Jürgen Klopp could celebrate his first Champions League title.

World Cup 2022 was held in this Summer and in unlikely final Belgium defeated Austria 2-0. That means our own Nathan Leyder is now World Cup winner and he wasn’t warming the bench, but featured usually in the team either in central defense or midfield, doing well most of the time. Belgium had the meanest defense in the tournament and they fully deserved this success.

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June 2022

 

While players were on holiday there was a lot of backroom affairs to sort out. I chose not to extend contracts for three of the coaching staff and had to find replacement.

Firstly I signed 43 years old Frenchman Johan Liebus as U19 GK coach to replace Erik Heijblok. Then I brought in retiring Estonian captain Ragnar Klavan and offered him U-19 coach position.

Chief scout Hans van der Zee announced his retirement. I found an easy solution and was happy to offer his position to our scout Angel Vales, who would be perfect fit for that role. Unfortunately Real Madrid offered him a scout position and snapped him up, leaving me with £300k compensation money and a key position to fill.

 

 

Transfers

Expected move of Dodi Hamzah was decided in June. He was unsettled for the past six months and with his final year of contract approaching, I had to let him leave. AS Monaco and Swansea were willing to offer his minimum release fee and so he left to Swansea for £20m.

Deyovaisio Zeefuik joined Aston Villa for £2,4m + clauses (potentially £3m). He had turned 24 years old and was a role player in my team, so it was a time for him to move on and not to keep a place in our line-up from younger and more talented players.

 

Hamzah is a really difficult player to replace. My hopes are on young Aschraf Flemming and we also got Melvin Jongeling back from loan at PEC Zwolle - 11 goals in Eredivisie last season looks promising enough start for this 19-years old.

We’ve got more talent in central defense - Navajo Bakboord returned from loan and young Tarik Gennissen has improved a lot in his 6 months time at Roda JC.

 

 

Loans:

central midfielder Jeroen Pattinama went to Roda JC Kerkrade

forward Sieme Plat went to Sparta Rotterdam

central midfielder Pieter Stekelenburg went to FC Twente

central defender Danny Rutte continued his loan at FC Groningen, where he featured in first team regularly last season

forward Emil Brown moved back to South Africa for one season to play for Orlando Pirates

 

Players out:

Joe van der Sar (GK) - already 24 years old, no point to keep him around

Sven Keller (GK) - spent last season in Heracles, but didn’t do enough to earn new contract

Edwin Postma (DR) - very inconsistent season in VVV Venlo, surplus to our needs

Fatih Celik (DC) - we have enough talented defender, Fatih Celik is a good prospect, but not good enough

Mohammed Amrani (DC) - spent inconsistent season in Roda JC, not going to make it in Ajax

Chelton Mühl (AMR) - injury-ridden season in Go Ahead Eagles, but not good enough, especially compared to Dirk van Grinsven

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July 2022

July brought transfer trouble from unexpected area. Our goalkeeper Jeffrey de Lange attracted a lot of interest and when Liverpool started to make bids, it was too difficult for him to remain patient. He’s not a great goalkeeper, but a solid one and consistent and I like that. But he’s undervalued by market and it was unacceptable for me to allow my first team keeper to leave for only £1-2m. But after he insisted that I’d allow him leave, I had no other choice than accept Liverpool’s next bid. Which was £1,3m + clauses (up to £1,7m).

Goalkeeper is a key position and de Lange is not easy to replace. We have 20 years old Bob Leeflang who spent the last season on loan, and 18 years old Marvin Koops who played for Jong Ajax. Neither of them is fully Eredivisie-ready at the moment, not to mention Champions League. So let’s hope for the best and see what happens.

But to lose both our best goalkeeper and best goalscorer is a very bad omen for the coming season.

The other deal in July was selling Navajo Bakboord to PAOK for £900k + clauses (up to £1,1m).


 

23.07.2022 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 9:1 (Dutch Super Cup) - 16. and 21. Aschraf Flemming, 18., 23., 31. and 62. Dirk van Grinsven, 38. Dejan Meleg, 73. Justin Kluivert, 86. Lucas Andersen

The first test to show how we do without those players was the Super Cup match  against MVV and we past it with flying colours.

We missed Nicolai Boilesen and Noa Lang due to injuries. Aschraf Flemming started in attack and Bob Leeflang between sticks.

It took fifteen minutes, but when we started scoring then MVV couldn’t stop leaking goals and our attack did just flow and cut through their defense like a hot knife through butter.

Dirk van Grinsven completed his hat-trick in the first 31 minutes, he finished with 4 goals. Dejan Meleg dished out 4 assists and Nathan Leyder hit the crossbar once.

MVV scored one consolation goal in the 2nd half, but that didn’t change anything.

  • our attack was the best I’ve seen against Eredivisie level opponents - 27/16 shooting and 9 clear cut chances
  • most of the performances were outstanding, even substitutes contributed (Tom Drost with assist, Justin Kluivert with a goal)
  • Bob Leeflang made his debut for Ajax - he did well with one good save in the end of the first half and can’t be blamed for the goal
  • that result is a new Dutch Cup record, so is 4 goals scored by Dirk van Grinsven




 

Loans:

  • central defender Hein Yilmaz went to FC Eindhoven
  • right-back Jelmer Koning to Vitesse Arnhem
  • winger Rayan Yilmaz to Excelsior
  • striker Lamin Abdelhadi to US Creteil-Lusitanos


 

Manager’s movements in July brought news about old Ajax favourite Urby Emanuelson becoming new Holland U-19 manager. Let’s hope he’ll bring some success for Dutch youngsters, this year’s U-19 European Championships tournament was a failure and we couldn’t progress from group stage.


I was offered job interview by West Ham United that I rejected easily.

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August 2022

 

05.08.2022 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 2:1 (ED) - 32. Thulani Serero, 85. Aschraf Flemming - 42. Pantelis Hatzidiakos

The first game of the new season against AZ Alkmaar. AZ are predicted 9th by media and pundits, so they’re decent mid-table team.

We missed Noa Lang (back in training, but not fit yet) and Nicolai Boilesen (not yet match fit, started from bench) for this game. Dragisa Gudelj was our left-back, but otherwise I relied on my first choice players.

We had initiative in the first half but couldn’t create good chances. Thulani Serero broke deadlock after good IFK combination through right flank and headed it in. But we dropped our lead in the end of the half, after poor defense in corner situation, giving Hatzidiakos two chances to shoot. Passive defense, too much ball watching and unacceptable in the end of the half.

My half time team talk motivated the lads and we played better in 2nd half, but chances were still rare, although we dominated possession and game was mostly played in AZ half. Patience paid off in final ten minutes - Dirk van Grinsven found Flemming in the box with his deep cross and youngster scored a winner from point blank range.

It’s nice to start with a win, but it wasn’t the most convincing performance and we need to improve against better teams.

  • I’m pleased with possession and overall stats - we were the better team and deserved to win


 

10.08.2022 - FC Twente - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 45.+1 Rogier de Kogel - 46. Dejan Meleg

Next stop is Enschede and FC Twente, with our own loanee Pieter Stekelenburg within their ranks. FC Twente are rated 12th by the media (underestimated by my opinion).

Noa Lang and Nicolai Boilesen were back at 100% and it gave me a task of choosing both first team and bench players.

Our start was a little shaky and that gave Pieter Stekelenburg the first good chance of the game in 9’, but Bob Leeflang managed to parry his shot. We then slowly started to dominate possession and increased pressure on FC Twente defense from 30’ onward. But the end of the half was a disappointment - again we conceded from corner and this time very late in the first half. Unacceptable.

We bounced back right after second half kick-off: good combination between Francesco Antonucci, Aschraf Flemming and Meleg gave us equalizer, but despite dominating most of the 2nd half, we couldn’t find another goal. A draw is definitely what was expected of the team and I’m not happy about our set piece defending.

  • our shooting accuracy was just 12/1 - mostly because we didn’t have good enough opportunities
  • striker Melvin Jongeling made his first team debut in 2nd half


 

14.08.2022 - Ajax - Go Ahead Eagles 2:0 (ED) - 56. Justin Kluivert, 73. Mike van der Hoorn

Back in Amsterdam Arena and a must-win game against Eagles. We were 100% fit and I made some changes in line-up: Francesco Antonucci started in midfield (Lucas Andersen was poor in FC Twente game, so it was well deserved) and Nicolai Boilesen returned as left back (I need his crossing ability against Go Ahead).

We played a poor first thirty minutes and then started to create chances, but wasted them carelessly. Thulani Serero blew his chance after a good counter and just before half time whistle Aschraf Flemming saw his shot saved. So it was goalless after 45 minutes and I was frustrated, because we should have been ahead.

Flemming missed another chance in 51’, but then set-pieces made the difference. We scored two goals from corners and took 2-0 win, but that should have been much more convincing than it was.

  • terrible finishing, especially by Aschraf Flemming - he was always at the right place on time, whether giving or receiving key passes, but just needs to be more composed and put those chances in
  • 11/8 shooting accuracy shows we actually got good chances and hit our shots on target


 

20.08.2022 - Helmond Sport - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 51. Aschraf Flemming

Newly-promoted Helmond should be an easy win for us, but with our away form I wasn’t too sure.

I brought Dragisa Gudelj in as DL and dropped Dirk van Grinsven for Justin Kluivert.

Our first half was again very poor and we created nothing during those 45 minutes, but in the beginning of 2nd half Flemming got our only clear cut chance and finished it well. Things opened up more and in 54’ Francesco Antonucci saw his shot saved by Helmond goalkeeper and in 61’ Helmond Sport got their only good chance in this game, but ex-Ajax player Ezra Walian blasted it well wide.

We held on to a victory here, but it was a poor match and I wasn’t happy about it

  • defense has been good and Bob Leeflang didn’t have much to do in this game either

 

After Hemond game Manchester United swooped in and suddenly offered £5m for our hot prospect striker Melvin Jongeling. That’s his minimum release fee and off to Old Trafford he went. Not for long though - he joined FC Groningen on loan for this season, so he may as well come back and haunt us.

It was a completely unexpected move and I didn’t want to lose another talented youngster, but honestly, I didn’t expect that any club would pay £5m for him and that was a generous offer.


 

27.08.2022 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 0:0 (ED)

SC Cambuur have been rated 11th before this season and I anticipated a tricky fixture.

I’m still searching for right line-up. This time I sent Lucas Andersen to midfield and tried to break opponents by allowing attacking players more creativity.

We got our first good chance in 7’, but Dejan Meleg managed to waste his opportunity. Aschraf Flemming saw his good shot saved in the end of the half, but that was again one of those drab matches where we couldn’t create as much chances I would have liked.

But we had few, and Ricardo van Rhijn reached into the box after our counter-attack, but sent it well over when he should have scored. That’s why we had to settle with goalless draw, although I feel that we did enough to scrape it 1-0.

  • our poor shooting (12/3) sums up our scoring troubles
  • while attack has been poor, things are good in defense department - again Bob Leeflang didn’t face any shots on target


 

So, August have been a mixed month. We’ve come through league games undefeated, but poor performances against smaller teams and dropped points against SC Cambuur are omen for a tough and difficult season.

I promoted two-footed young striker Darren Kallah from Jong Ajax to fill the bench after Jongeling departure.

 

 

Loans out:

  • Jorri van der Geest to Malmö FF
  • Frenkie de Jong to FC Utrecht

 

Champions League groups were drawn. We were seeded 4th and will go against FC Bayern, Liverpool and Dynamo Kyiv. Very unlikely that we could progress from here, with such a young goalkeeper and strikers. We’ll play for the 3rd place and hope for the best.


 

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 4, Dirk van Grinsven 4

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 6, Dirk van Grinsven 4

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Transfer Update Summer 2022

Few of the transfers stood out this Summer. Dodi Hamzah move, obviously, the most outstanding. MVV was again busy and initiating a lot of moves within Eredivisie, but not many new signings brought in. A lot of loans though, and several teams added quality by loaning Premier League or Serie A youngsters.

We sold a lot of players this Summer. Jeffrey de Lange, Deyovaisio Zeefuik and Navajo Bakboord were sold, and I allowed 6 players with professional contracts to leave for free . That's 11 players in total and means a lot of shuffling in our first team.

 

 

Notable transfers in Eredivisie this Summer

  • Dodi Hamzah from Ajax to Swansea for £20m
  • Wesley van Stijn from FC Twente to Sheffield United for £5m
  • Melvin Jongeling from Ajax to Manchester United for £5m
  • Niels van Delft from Feyenoord to Bayer Leverkusen for £3,2m
  • Marcin Figiel from Lech to MVV Maastricht for £3,1m - MVV showing their financial muscle again by signing this Polish striker from Ekstraklasa

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Squad Update 2022

With many departures and lot of youth players coming up, this is the squad for 2022-2023 season.

 

Goalkeepers

 

Bob Leeflang

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Decent young keeper. His weakness is one-on-one situations (although not really evident so far in matches). Good reflexes, decent handling. Only 21 years old, so plenty of time to develop.

 

Marvin Koops

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Hot prospect. 19 years old and breaking into Holland U-21 squad. His achilles heel is rushing out, but he's very good ball handler and overall good prospect

 

 

Defenders

 

Ricardo van Rhijn

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Team captain

 

Tom Drost

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His development have stalled a little. He's very quick, but could do with more intelligence on pitch. Also, he can't cross like van Rhijn and his contribution in attacking phase is less effective.

 

Mike van der Hoorn

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Enjoying his best years so far, bringing aerial power and experience into back line.

 

Sergio Alleyne

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Younger partner in central defense for van der Hoorn. Very good marker, excellent decision making and great team-work attributes. Good in the air and strong enough, but also very quick and agile for this position - that allows me to push defensive line up.

 

Tarik Gennissen

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18 years old hot prospect. Driven nature and very good at tackling, but not so good aerially. Probably a very good option in the future against small and technical forwards.

 

Nicolai Boilesen

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Very good attacking full-back. 60 games in Denmark national team, very experienced player. Vice-captain of the team.

 

Dragisa Gudelj

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A bit more mature than couple of years back, has received invitations to Serbian national team. Very good choice for Eredivisie game,s but struggled so far in Champions League against bigger teams.

 

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Squad Update 2022

 

Midfielders

 

Nathan Leyder

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Not many players can call themselves World Cup winners. Nathan Leyder can.

 

Frank van den Hoek

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Talented young defensive midfielder. Good with the ball, very good set piece taker and has excellent leadership abilities - possible future captain?

 

Thulani Serero

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Very experienced midfielder, but age is starting to get to him. Over 85 caps for South Africa

 

Noa Lang

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I once had bigger hopes for this young man, but now he seems more like a decent rotation/backup option in midfield.

 

Lucas Andersen

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Francesco Antonucci

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Brian Wagener

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Young, 19 years old playmaker. Looks like a great prospect.

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Squad Update 2022

 

Wingers

 

Dirk van Grinsven

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Young right winger really opened up last season and I hope he can progress even further this year.

 

Dejan Meleg

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Experienced Serb is our best assist distributor for several seasons and main set piece taker.

 

Justin Kluivert

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Dirk van Grinsven pushed him 3rd in wingers pecking order last year. Good attributes overall, but nothing exceptional. But with only three solid winger option he'll have plenty enough starts.

 

 

Strikers

 

Aschraf Flemming

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Has done fairly well to replace Dodi Hamzah. Plays as false nine. Very agile, good movement and technical ability, but could improve in reading the game and spotting right passes

 

Darren Kallah

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Not really good enough to start in Eredivisie games, but talented youngster and can provide some minutes from bench

 

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September 2022

 

09.09.2022 - Ajax - FC Groningen 1:0 (ED) - 80. pen. Justin Kluivert

After international break we returned to Amsterdam Arena to host FC Groningen. They’re rated 8th by media and as I said above, bolstered their ranks with our loanee Danny Rutte in defense and ManU’s Melvin Jongeling in attack.

We concentrated in attacking set pieces before the match and missed Francesco Antonucci for this game due to strained wrist.

As usual in this season, we had a slow start and couldn’t get our attack going. The best opportunity came from counter in 7’, but van Grinsven’s shot was saved. We were better team, but couldn’t capitalize and missed this clinical edge in attack.

Most of the 2nd half passed the same, but things started to happen in the last 15 minutes. FC Groningen got their first opportunity when through ball found Charlison Benschop completely alone in the box, but Bob Leeflang made superb save to keep his goal intact. Our captain Ricardo van Rhijn received his 2nd yellow card in 78’ and suddenly survival mode was on for us.

But Danny Rutte came for help and (unintentionally, of course) fouled Aschraf Flemming in the box and gifted us a penalty, that Justin Kluivert converted to bring us valuable 1:0 win. It was way too difficult, but turning this game to our favour with 10 men shows determination and I’m happy with that.

  • to have such scoring troubles with 21/10 shooting is beyond my understanding
  • we allowed 32 dribbles and made 21 fouls and I’m not happy with these stats

 

13.09.2022 - Ajax - FC Bayern 1:1 (Champions League Group B) - 45. pen. Dejan Meleg - 18. Julian Draxler

We went to this game without Tom Drost - right-back was serving suspension from last season. I wasn’t too hopeful, because Bayern were clear favourites and couldn’t see us winning this match. Not to be slaughtered was our first aim.

But we started well enough and had our best opportunity to score in 9’. van Rhijn’s cross from right wing surprised Manuel Neuer - he dropped the ball, but Dirk van Grinsven couldn’t finish the rebound.

Julian Draxler scored for Bayern then, and our left flank was in all sorts of problem - Dragisa Gudelj just couldn’t handle Thomas Müller and his crosses and creativity initiated most of Bayern attacks.

But then, in the final minute of first half, we had a good attack, Aschraf Flemming received a through ball and was almost clear of defenders when he was tripped by Timur Iskhakov and penalty was awarded. Meleg converted the spot-kick and we equalized just before half-time.

Second half was better - we managed not to give Bayern easy chances and could have won this game in the last minute, but good counter ended with a shot by van Grinsven that bounced wide from goal post.

Despite that I’m fairly pleased with a draw and we showed good football against one of the top clubs in Europe.

  • stats department proved that we had better chances in this game, although Bayern had more possession
  • 7 mistakes by Dragisa Gudelj illustrate all his defensive troubles in our left-back position

 

17.09.2022 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 1:0 (ED) - 80. Dirk van Grinsven

That should have been an easy match - FC Eindhoven was predicted to become 18th and currently lie at the bottom of the table.

We missed Ricardo van Rhijn in this game - our captain served his suspension after dismissal in FC Groningen game.

We dominated midfield in the first half, but couldn’t score. Dirk van Grinsven came close twice and his shot hit crossbar in 5’, but the best chance of the half went to FC Eindhoven - their combination in 38’ ended in 1-1 situation, but Bob Leeflang made a superb save to keep our clear sheet.

Second half looked fairly similar - Dejan Meleg hit crossbar in 51’ and then followed thirty minutes of poor attacks and atrocious shooting, until Dirk van Grinsven finally broke deadlock in 80’ to score a winner. Game opened up in the last ten minutes - Justin Kluivert smashed his shot over bar from clear cut chance and Aschraf Flemming couldn’t score from point blank range after clever through ball by Brian Wagener.

In conclusion - another narrow win, unsatisfying performance and poor attacking display

  • our shooting was extremely poor (28/6)
  • we got 20 corners, but couldn’t create anything dangerous out of these set-piece situations


20.09.2022 - Excelsior - Ajax 0:1 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 51. Aschraf Flemming

Rotation time - Noa Lang, Tom Drost, Justin Kluivert started in the first eleven. It can’t get worse than it already is, and cup games are meant for rotation players.

But the game was very similar to our last one - we dominated midfield, but couldn’t create good chances and first half was really boring for the fans.

But our young striker Aschraf Flemming showed his talent with great shot from 22 meters out that landed in the corner of the net. Nothing that opponent goalkeeper could do about that. Sometimes this kind of individual brilliance decides the game and that happened here, but again - no reason to be happy about overall display.

 

25.09.2022 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 5:0 (ED) - 14., 26. and 45. Aschraf Flemming, 17. Dirk van Grinsven, 18. Francesco Antonucci

We did beat MVV 9:1 in Super Cup game in July and no doubt they were after revenge. They are not a bad team, predicted to be 4th in Eredivisie and have invested another £13m to new players over Summer.

I had to change how we play, because so far we hadn’t been good enough in recent games. I switched to fluid formation, increased defensive line and allowed more roaming for wide players.

Can’t really say if that was the case there, or just MVV tactics suit us, but we steamrolled them in the first half - just as we did in Super Cup match.

Aschraf Flemming opened scoring from another long shot from 19 meters. Dirk van Grinsven and Francesco Antonucci followed with quick goals and in the end of first half Aschraf Flemming completed his hat-trick.

We eased off our pressure a little in 2nd half, and MVV got some chances in the last ten minutes. Daan Thomassen’s header hit the post in 87’, but we managed to keep a clean sheet and take a convincing win. Excellent result, great attacking performance and big improvement from our previous league fixtures.

  • Aschref Flemming, Francesco Antonucci, Nicolai Boilesen and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding
  • young striker Darren Kallah made his league debut for Ajax in 2nd half


28.09.2022 - FC Liverpool - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group B) - 10. pen. Son Heung-Min, 51. Roberto Firmino

I didn’t change line-up for this game, but did change tactics - deeper defensive line, retain possession, no overlapping and Dragisa Gudelj with Tom Drost were set as limited full-backs.

Despite all that, we were soundly beaten by much more talented Liverpool side in front of Anfield crowd. Our troubles started with Antonucci foul inside our penalty box and penalty for Liverpool. But not only - they got at least four clear cut chances in the first half and their wasteful finishing was the main reason we were only 0-1 behind at half-time.

Firmino scored after half-time break and that put result beyond doubt. We had some half-chances around 60’ mark, but that couldn’t change anything.

As expected, we returned from England with defeat. Scoreline wasn’t the worst, but in truth we were hammered most of the match and just focusing on damage limitation.

  • we couldn’t handle Liverpool front line at all, allowing 30 dribbles and making 26 individual defensive mistakes



 

Despite my frustration about lack of chances and poor attacking display, results have come our way in September. All wins domestically (although most of them with narrow 1-0 scoreline) and good fight against Bayern, which counts as a small surprise.

Liverpool defeat was expected, I can’t imagine us beating them or Bayern in away games.

We’re on top of the Eredivisie table and that’s a good platform to build on.

 

Player of the month: Aschraf Flemming - 18 years old striker showed his talent this month. He earned two crucial penalties for us, scored highlight goals against Excelsior and MVV and had a role in 6 goals out of 9 that we scored in September.


 

Eredivisie

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We’re ahead and undefeated, but gaps are narrow still. FC Eindhoven look like they’re struggling from early on and relegation prediction might as well be on spot for them.


 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 8, Dirk van Grinsven 6, Justin Kluivert 3, Dejan Meleg 3

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 6, Aschraf Flemming 3, Dirk van Grinsven 3

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October 2022

 

02.10.2022 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 44. Rashaan Fernandes

October started for us with a defeat in Klassikier Derby.

Feyenoord have not added much players in Summer transfer window and Niels van Delft departure probably weakened their defensive line, so they’re rated 5th by pundits before this season. Feyenoord haven’t been comfortable opponent for us in De Kuip, but they looked really tired after long stretch of games and we were fully fit, so I hoped this time we could succeed.

Unfortunately, that was not the case - we conceded a goal in the end of even first half (Sergio Alleyne’s missed interception turned out to be a costly one), and although we looked better in 2nd half, we couldn’t find an equalizer.

We put Feyenoord under real pressure for the last ten minutes and our substitute Darren Kallah got himself a clear cut chance, but wasn’t able to shoot it past Feyenoord goalkeeper. Learning curve that is.

Disappointing result, because I feel we deserved a draw from this game. And obviously fans are not very happy about it either.

  • it was our first defeat in last 17 league games; quite an achievement


15.10.2022 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 88. Justin Kluivert

International break went fairly well, but Dirk van Grinsven picked up a knock and will be sidelined for a couple of weeks, so Meleg and Kluivert are on the wings against sc Heerenveen.

sc Heerenveen is a tough side, predicted 3rd by media, but a little bit underachieving at the moment They’re a difficult team to play against, especially at home, and we saw that in this game.

Both teams were careful in the first half and the first good chance came just in 44’, but Dejan Meleg hit the post and Lucas Andersen’s rebound shot was blocked.

Things grew nervous in 2nd half, but it has to be said that both teams tried to win until the end and attacked with reasonably big numbers.

But we managed to turn this game to our win in the end. A good attack from our left wing, combination between Flemming and Kluivert and left winger’s good shot ended the game with high notes. Crucial goal, crucial win and a great way to bounce back from Feyenoord defeat.

  • we lost way too many headers inside our own box and that was the risk through all of the game


 

19.10.2022 - Dynamo Kyiv - Ajax 1:0 (Champions League Group B) - 60. Denlis Gonzalez

Visits to Ukraine and Russia are always difficult - long flight different time zone. But we needed good results against this side if we want to achieve something in this group.

I changed fullbacks - Tom Drost and Dragisa Gudelj got their chance. Dirk van Grinsven was still not fit and we had to play without him.

We played actually good football in the first half. Justin Kluivert got a great chance in 23’, but shot was too weak and held easily by goalkeeper. We were better team in the first half, especially between minutes 30-45, and I was optimistic that we could turn this into goals in second half.

We continued to attack well and create chances - Noa Lang wasted his shot in 52’.

But Dynamo got a rare opportunity in 60’ and instantly scored a goal, completely against the run of play. Lucas Andersen had a chance to equalize in 76’, but that shot went wide.

Very frustrating defeat, because we really played well and deserved to win. I can honestly put this down to players, because tactics were right and chances came, but in this moment when you’re 1-1 against goalkeeper, you just have to put it into net and in those moments we buckled under pressure.

  • three clear-cut chances wasted - that cost us the game


 

22.10.2022 - Ajax - VVV Venlo 2:0 (ED) - 18. Justin Kluivert, 50. Aschraf Flemming

We’re back at home and game against VVV was a must win for us. They’re predicted to reach 16th in Eredivisie, so difference in class should reflect on the pitch. Boilesen and van Rhijn returned to line-up to offer more attacking options from full-back positions.

We didn’t play extremely well, but defense was in order and those couple of chances that we managed to create gave us one goal before and one after half-time. Although not the best football, it was a comfortable win for us and gave much needed confidence to players.

 

25.10.2022 - Achilles’29 - Ajax 1:2 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 37. Antonio Duarte - 17. Brian Wagener, 111. Francesco Antonucci

Dirk van Grinsven was finally ready to play, but otherwise it was a chance for rotation players to show their skills. We took the lead in 17’ - Brian Wagener sent a beautiful chip into net over Achilles goalkeeper. Dirk van Grinsven wasted a clear cut chance in 34’, but after that our defense collapsed for a few minutes and this didn’t go unpunished. We gifted two clear cut chances to their attackers and Antonio Duarte used the first, but luckily Bob Leeflang managed to save the other one.

Second half was 45 minutes of our pressure on Achilles’ goal, but we couldn’t break through. I didn’t want it to go to penalty shoot-out, and fortunately it didn’t, as substitute Antonucci managed to score in extra time to give us 2-1 win.

Despite that, it wasn’t good enough against Jupiler League side.

  • our shooting was 31/14, but we lacked good scoring opportunities
  • Tom Drost and Brian Wagener put in superb individual performances
  • Brian Wagener scored his first ever goal for Ajax

 

29.10.2022 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 57. Walter Medina - 46. Aschraf Flemming

Eredivisie schedule in October is a difficult one - a lot of tough games against difficult teams and most of them in away stadiums. ADO Den Haag is not an easy opponent - they’ve finished 3rd and 4th in previous seasons, occupy 2nd place at the moment and media prediction of 7th place does not give them enough justice, I feel.

We started a little bit better, but first half went without fireworks until 32’ - referee awarded a penalty for ADO for a foul by Ricardo van Rhijn, although replays showed it was never a contact between players and penalty was a really poor decision. But Bob Leeflang stepped up and saved Kenji Gorre’s spot-kick, so first half ended 0-0.

Our tactics clearly wasn’t working and I made changes at half-time. It immediately showed on the pitch and we scored early goal after 2nd half kick-off. We had possession, but ADO counter-attacks looked fairly dangerous and well-orchestrated, so we had to be wary of that.

Unfortunately we made it all too easy for our opponents - Sergio Alleyne gave a very poor backpass to goalkeeper that was intercepted by Walter Medina and goal was then an obvious outcome. Alleyne looked very error-prone in this game and our biggest liability in defense.

In the end, a draw was a fair result and I’m not too disappointed about that in away game.

  • our shooting was poor, just 12/3
  • Sergio Alleyne’s form has been declining recently and that was a topic between me and the player after this game


 

In conclusion, October has been mediocre for us. Feyenoord defeat, of course, hurts the most, but in most games we managed to secure result and played good football in doing that. sc Heerenveen late winner was the moment of the month.

Having said that, I feel we should be able to play better football. We’re not creating enough chances and are not clinical enough in our finishing. Fortunately, all players are fit and so we have different options from bench.

We miss Dejan Meleg’s goals (compared to last season) - our set pieces haven’t provided much (Antonucci’s winner against Achilles’29 in extra time came from corner), and despite playing most of the month as AMR, he hasn’t found too many chances.

 

Player of the month: Aschraf Flemming - a difficult choice, but he’s been consistently good during those games. Gave assist to Kluivert’s late winner, scored against VVV and ADO and contributed well in attacking phase.


 

Eredivisie

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Surprisingly the only team without defeats is FC Utrecht, who are 2nd in the table, but with their three games in hand they might be find themselves 1st with a comfortable lead. Big teams have stumbled here and there. We lost to Feyenoord, Feyenoord lost to sc Heerenveen and PSV had some poor results against smaller teams.


 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 10, Dirk van Grinsven 6, Justin Kluivert 5

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 7, Aschraf Flemming 4, Dirk van Grinsven 3

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November 2022

 

01.11.2022 - Ajax - Dynamo Kyiv 3:0 (Champions League Group B) - 3., 5. and 66. Aschraf Flemming

We went after revenge and did beat Dynamo Kyiv convincingly in Amsterdam Arena. We were 2-0 ahead in the first five minutes and never looked back. Our defense was organized and we didn’t allow our opponents any chances while Dejan Meleg and Lucas Andersen missed their 1-1 chances to score. Aschraf Flemming finished this match with hat-trick and I’m sure he’ll soon attract attention from big teams if he continues to perform so good in Champions League level.

  • 80% passing accuracy and 50 key passes shows how well we controlled midfield
  • Tom Drost, Nicolai Boilesen and Aschraf Flemming were outstanding


05.11.2022 - Ajax - PEC Zwolle 1:0 (ED) - 31. Dejan Meleg

PEC Zwolle is predicted to be 15th, but are overachieving this season and find themselves in the middle of the table at the moment.

I went to more attacking line-up, brought back Ricardo van Rhijn as right-back and sent Brian Wagener in to offer more creativity in midfield.

We weren’t ready for the game and Zwolle got their first chance already in 1’, but Bob Leeflang made a great save.

I recently complained about lack of goals by Dejan Meleg, and Serbian winger took notice. His shot gave us the lead in the first half and in 40’ Justin Kluivert should have added another, but his shot from close range was well saved by Zolle goalkeeper. We should have led 2-0 at half-time, so I wasn’t entirely happy about performance.

And rightly so, as Zolle got their best chance to score in 49’ - after IFK and missed header by Mike van der Hoorn. But Bob Leeflang held that shot brilliantly. The rest of the second half was better under our control and we tried to retain possession and protect our lead rather than go for more goals. Substitutes Noa Lang and Dirk van Grinsven both saw their shots bounce back from woodwork, but in the end it was a narrow win, although not the most convincing performance.

 

19.11.2022 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 38. Dirk van Grinsven, 66. Aschraf Flemming

Vitesse are predicted 10th, but are overachieving and at the moment challenging for top three places, so I anticipated a very tough away fixture. Vitesse’s success perhaps comes from successful transfer activities - they brought in 13 new players in Summer, but somehow managed to gel them all together quickly.

I chose a little more conservative tactics - flexible formation and tuned down creativity a bit

Both teams started carefully and first half chance came to Vitesse at 31’, but Bob Leeflang made brilliant save and then Dirk van Grinsven scored with a nice and unexpected shot from the right side of Vitesse box.

We had more possession in the first half, but chances weren’t good enough. After the break we had more opportunities, as Vitesse were searching for the equalizer. Francesco Antonucci sent his shot wide in 48’ and Mike van der Hoorn had an opportunity after corner situation, but centra defender couldn’t finish it.

Aschraf Flemming scored then one of the best goals of this season - he received long ball forward, skipped past two central defenders in a row and calmly passed it into the net. Wonderful skill and excellent goal.

With that, the game was done and we secured three points from difficult tie.

  • I’m happy with possession (59%) and clean sheet
  • our shooting accuracy was not good enough (23/5)
  • Tom Drost was excellent in right defense, supporting attacks and defending well


23.11.2022 - FC Bayern - Ajax 2:0 (Champions League Group B) - 53. Robert Lewandowski, 56. Thomas Müller

I didn’t expect to win against Bayern and tried to experiment with 4-4-1-1 tactics instead (that my staff have recommended to me for a while now).

We couldn’t handle FC Bayern and made too many fouls against their forwards to my liking, but at least the first half ended 0-0 and we weren’t hammered down in the first forty-five minutes. But despite that Bayern had some sort of purple patch between 50-60’ and they scored two goals in a short period of time.

While defense was quite OK with 4-4-1-1, we couldn’t create anything dangerous in attack and had no chance to come back after conceding those goals. At least we weren’t humiliated and scoreline was quite respectable in the end.

 

27.11.2022 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 62. Dirk van Grinsven

FC Utrecht are the only team without defeat and virtually hold 2nd position at the moment, so it was a very difficult, but very important game at the same time. They came with their regular 5-3-2 WB tactics, although it was evident that tight schedule and continental football have left its mark on their fitness.

Both teams started carefully in the first half. FC Utrecht had the first great chance in 24’ - Clyde Drenthe managed to beat Mike van der Hoorn, but his shot bounced back from the post. In 40’ Dejan Meleg saw his shot being saved, but otherwise it was uneventful half and ended 0-0.

It looked like one goal could decide this match and we took initiative in 62’ - Tom Drost created space on the right with his dribble and found Dirk van Grinsven in 6 yard box with a cross. Easy finish. One more half-chance from counter came in 69’, but Brian Wagener’s shot was saved and we decided to hold our lead until the end after that.

  • very good possession (61%) and another clean sheet
  • Tom Drost was outstanding again, both defensively and his cross to our goal was vital in attack

 

30.11.2022 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 2:2 (ED) - 7. and 57. Aschraf Flemming - 16. Yohan Boli, 73. Wesley Hoedt

Before this Topper Derby I realized that PSV is not what it used to be any more. They finished 7th in Eredivisie last season and, despite being predicted 2nd by national media, they’re occupying 7th place again. Much of it comes down to poor financial decisions - stadium expansion plus some questionable contract decisions (£53,000 per week to Kyle Ebecilio, seriously?) have led their finances to insecure state. That, plus no continental football in this season, restricted their transfer ability and they didn’t bring in any new signings in Summer. Therefore they’ve lost some quality on the pitch and on bench, especially in goalkeeping department.

We went against them with fluid formation - I sent in Nicolai Boilesen and Noa Lang. Sergio Alleyne has been poor recently, and due to his inability to handle pressure in big games he was replaced by young Tarik Gennissen.

We took the lead quickly - Aschraf Flemming scored with a nice shot from 13 meters, but then conceded a quick goal back - defensive line was surprised by clever through ball and Mike van der Hoorn was too slow to react.

In 37’ Davy Pröpper tripped Dirk van Grinsven in PSV box, but Dejan Meleg’s penalty was saved. That miss was costly and we went to half-time with 1-1 scoreline.

Second half showed another proof of Flemming’s brilliance - he took the ball, cut inside and scored from 30 yards out with a wonderful shot. Magical stuff indeed and probably the best goal of the season. Dejan Meleg saw his two shots saved shortly after that - he had a poor evening in front of the goal. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold our lead - Wesley Hoedt headed in an equalizer from corner and to my disappointment, we had to settle with a draw.

Very attractive football from both teams and surely neutrals enjoyed it, but we should have done better.

  • our new central defense partnership didn’t work - both Gennissen and van der Hoorn picked up early yellow cards in the first half and were under pressure after that
  • we practiced defending set pieces in training before this match, but still conceded from corner


 

November, in conclusion, was quite OK month. We had a good win against Kyiv and played well in Eredivisie. We had a lot of away games and schedule was quite difficult, but we got the results and several clean sheets. Win over FC Utrecht was the key match in this month.

Player of the month: Tom Drost - his performances in right defense were key factor of our success


 

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 16, Dirk van Grinsven 8, Justin Kluivert 5

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 8, Tom Drost 5, Aschraf Flemming 4

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December 2022

 

03.12.2022 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 0:0 (ED)

Away game against Sparta ends our first round in Eredivisie. Sparta are predicted to become 13th in the league and I didn’t expect much of them, but we couldn’t break their defense and overall had a very poor night - we offered no creativity in attack and no real chances. Complete disappointment to our fans after so many good games in November.

The closest we got to goal was Aschraf Flemming’s long shot in 63’ that hit crossbar.

  • our shooting was awful (13/2)
  • we lost too many headers inside our box and I can’t be happy with that
  • Dirk van Grinsven suffered concussion in the end of first half - he had to come off and will miss our next game too

 

Half of the season has now been played and we’ve gathered 38 points from 17 games. Not too bad (although my usual aim is 40 points in this stage). We haven’t scored too many goals, but our defense has been outstanding and we’ve conceded only 6 goals in Eredivisie so far.

Few of our attacking players have been sub-par. Aschraf Flemming has been carrying most of the goalscoring load and Dirk van Grinsven has supported him well enough, but Dejan Meleg is far from his best form and has wasted most of his clear cut chances. Justin Kluivert has been in poor form as well, and midfield players haven’t supported attack enough.

 

06.12.2022 - Ajax - Liverpool 0:3 (Champions League Group B) - 7. Philippe Coutinho, 57. Gabriel Barbosa, 64. Son Heung-Min

It looked like we didn’t have much to play for in this game. We couldn’t qualify and if Bayern did beat Kyiv in the other game, we’d secured 3rd place in the group

But I expected to see good performance against Liverpool nonetheless, and it didn’t come. We got the first good chance of the game, but Justin Kluivert wasted his opportunity in 4’. Three minutes later Philippe Coutinho opened scoring for Liverpool, but we looked solid enough for the rest of the first half and went to half time 0-1 behind.

Gabriel Barbosa scored Liverpool’s second goal - he simply played past Mike van der Hoorn and sent a strong shot past Bob Leeflang and, sad to say, we sort of collapsed after that. Some poor defending allowed Liverpool’s third goal and we didn’t show much desire to come back after that.

I’m not so much disappointed about the result, but the manner of defeat. Of course, in the other match Kyiv managed to beat Bayern 2-0, so we dropped 4th in the group and our European season is over now.

 

10.12.2022 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 0:0 (ED)

We were sloppy in the beginning of the game, allowing AZ a clear cut chance in 8’, but Bob Leeflang made a good save. Six minutes later Dejan Meleg had a great chance after intercepting AZ’s long throw-in, but he sent his shot wide.

Justin Kluivert’s shot in 24’ did beat the keeper, but bounced back from far post.

Sadly, that’s where good football ended - we couldn’t create good chances and although AZ couldn’t find a good shot either, we gave them too many corners and things looked fairly nervous at the back.

Our attack wasn’t much better either - our movement was poor and we found ourselves offside pretty much every other attack. Very frustrating. To top it off, our shooting was poor as usual (14/3) and so goalless draw was the best we could get from this game.


 

14.12.2022 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 8. Dejan Meleg, 45. Aschraf Flemming

In cup game against Eredivisie’s weakest team, I decided it’s time for younger players to prove their worth. Frank van den Hoek, Tarik Gennissen, Brian Wagener got their chance to impress and, to my slight surprise, we did much better than in previous game.

We didn’t look too impressive for the big part of the first half, but two great crosses from our right flank created two opportunities and led to two goals. We were more in control of possession after half-time break, but lacked so good chances. Nevertheless, I was happy about good win and clean sheet.

  • Ricardo van Rhijn was outstanding on our right defense


 

17.12.2022 - Ajax - FC Twente Enschede 2:1 (ED) - 3. Dejan Meleg, 49. Bart Vriends (og) - 28. Niklas Füllkrug

We went against FC Twente with more creative mindset. Noa Lang and Francesco Antonucci were in midfield, with Dejan Meleg on our left flank.

We scored a quick goal - Tom Drost found Meleg with his cross. The Serb sent his first header against crossbar, but scored from rebound and gave us an early lead. But FC Twente equalized from good counter and first half ended 1-1. We didn’t have too many chances, so I was very disappointed about conceded goal.

Second half was a bit better and we regained our lead quickly - Bart Vriends got in front of Dirk van Grinsven’s shot, but so unfortunately that he sent the ball into own goal. FC Twente were down to ten men in 70’, after Luciano Slagveer injured himself, and we held onto our lead until final whistle. Francesco Antonucci had a chance in 79’, but his weak shot was held easily by FC Twente goalkeeper.

Our win wasn’t too impressive, but I’m satisfied with three points. Shooting was still poor - only 15/5  - and our attacking movement could be a lot better.



I wasn’t happy with our games in December. Two poor goalless draws in Eredivisie and very disappointing display against Liverpool in Amsterdam Arena, that’s not good enough. A win over FC Twente doesn’t repair that. Our attacking players were in poor form and defense was error-prone too. Sergio Alleyne hasn’t impressed much in central defense.


 

Eredivisie

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FC Utrecht have a lot of games in hand, but a lot of other contenders have dropped points and are well behind us.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 17, Dirk van Grinsven 8, Dejan Meleg 6

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 8, Dirk van Grinsven 5, Tom Drost 5

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January 2023

 

January started with some contract problems. We couldn’t reach terms with Jorri van der Geest and he’ll leave for KV Mechelen in July. Thulani Serero also didn’t sign his new contract - squad status was the key point with him. He expected first team role, but I was only willing to offer him backup status. Youngsters Sieme Plat, Jeroen Pattinama and Lamin Abdelhadi all signed new contracts.

Trainings haven’t passed without problems either - young striker Darren Kallah broke his leg in training and his season is as good as over. Nicolai Boilesen and Lucas Andersen suffered sprained ankles and are both out for 4-5 weeks.

 

Transfer window has been fairly quiet. There was some interest in Nathan Leyder from Napoli and Stuttgart, but both clubs failed to reach my expected transfer fee. Young striker Andre Pröpper was the subject of interest by the biggest clubs in England and Germany. ManU, Manchester City, Arsenal, Bayern and Chelsea all made their bids, but I rejected all of them. Pröpper will be my backup striker in 2nd half of this season, because of Darren Kallah’s injury.

I sent Brian Wagener on loan to Watford - he requested this temporary move to get first team football and perhaps six months in Premier League will do good for his confidence and development. We’ve got adequate cover for attacking midfielder position with van der Geest back in the team and young Simon Janssen trying to get some minutes in the end of games.

 

I rejected Manchester City job interview and started to look for new young coaches I could sign in Summer. Luckily Gery Vink finally agreed to sign a new contract (money was an issue with him, but he finally agreed to £4,1k p/w salary).


 

21.01.2023 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 3:0 (ED) - 24. and 56. Aschraf Flemming, 28. Dejan Meleg

The first fixture of new year was an easy win over Helmond Sport. We missed Boilesen, Andersen and Kallah due to injuries and Tom Drost was suspended (5 yellow cards), but won comfortably even without them.

Aschraf Flemming got his first chance in 14’, but his shot was horrible and went well wide. But ten minutes later he equalized from corner and that was followed quickly by Dejan Meleg’s goal (finally, time for him to score already).

The best goal of this game was Flemming’s wonderful shot from the edge of area - incredible goal and once again this youngster shows what kind of player he really is. And let’s not forget he’s just 18 years old!

  • Aschraf Flemming and Ricardo van Rhijn were outstanding in this game


25.01.2023 - Go Ahead Eagles - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 90.+3 Peter van Ooijen - 28. Noa Lang

Go Ahead Eagles looked like an easy prey. They’re small club anyway, but in addition both their goalkeepers were injured and best defender suspended for this game, so it looked like it might turn into goal glut.

Tom Drost returned to defensive line, but otherwise we had the same line-up.

We dominated first half, but chances didn’t come easy. But Noa Lang put us ahead with wonderful screamer from well outside of area. Another contender for goal of the season award and it looks like 2023 is a year of beautiful goals.

Dirk van Grinsven saw his header rattle crossbar in 30’, but despite having most of possession we didn’t create as much chances as I expected in the first half.

Second half looked better in attack, but we lacked a little bit of luck. Aschraf Flemming’s shot was brilliantly saved by young opposition goalkeeper in 55’. Noa Lang’s direct free kick hit the bar in 70’ and three minutes later he found the bar again with his shot from corner.

Framework wasn’t our friend that night - Aschraf Flemming found the post with his shot in 86’ and, as feared, then we threw it all away by allowing Eagles to equalize from good counter in injury time. That was a real blow and I was stunned for a while. So unlucky not to win this one and fully undeserved for Go Ahead.

  • hitting four times against frame of goal is some sort of record, I believe - incredibly unlucky

 

28.01.2023 - FC Groningen - Ajax 2:4 (ED) - 45.+1 and 64. Melvin Jongeling - 45.+2 Nathan Leyder, 46. Dirk van Grinsven, 54. and 83. Dejan Meleg

FC Groningen looked tired before this game - they don’t rotate as much as they should. It was interesting to see how our own Danny Rutte does against us. He’s become first team central defender for FC Groningen in his loan period.

I didn’t change our line-up, but tweaked formation from fluid to flexible for this away game.

First half was fairly even. We had a couple of half-chances, but couldn’t find the net and just before half-time whistle FC Groningen opened scoring. Dragisa Gudelj couldn’t stop Sheraldo Becker going past him and Becker found ex-Ajax man Melvin Jongeling in the box. There was still time to make amends though, and in the next attack Nathan Leyder found the goal after Antonucci’s shot was saved from point blank range. Tremendous couple of minutes in injury time.

We regrouped, talked some things over in half-time and Dirk van Grinsven scored a quick goal after second half kick-off. A minute later Bob Leeflang had to make a good save to block Sheraldo Becker’s clear cut chance. It looked like both teams had thrown caution out of the window. Meleg’s goal gave us two goal cushion, but then Jongeling scored again and 2-3 was nervous scoreline.

Our defense is hailed as the best in Eredivisie, but it was nowhere to be seen as Melvin Jongeling got another clear-cut chance in 80’ - saved by Bob Leeflang again. It has to be said that FC Groningen regrouped from 1-3 very well and for a period of time they had all initiative in midfield and attack. But our win was secured when Dejan Meleg scored his second goal and put this game into bed.

I’m satisfied with away win and four goals, but our defense was terrible and there were some puzzled faces in our dressing room, not really understanding what just happened.

  • both teams had four clear-cut chances, but we were able to finish better
  • Dejan Meleg and Francesco Antonucci impressed with individual performances
  • Tom Drost suffered bruised thigh and will probably miss the next game against PSV

 

Overall, I’m fairly pleased with January. We got the results we needed. Late equalizer from Go Ahead Eagles will hurt a bit, but it was unfortunate and we deserved to win from this game, so fundamentally nothing’s wrong about that. More importantly, fixtures elsewhere have been favourable to us. FC Utrecht, PSV and Feyenoord all have struggled and we’ve managed to put safe distance behind us in the table.

Player of the month: Noa Lang. He’s been consistently good in those three games, getting ratings between 7.7-8.6 and played Thulani Serero to bench with his performances. Worked hard in midfield and topped it with a wonderful goal.


 

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 19, Dejan Meleg 9, Dirk van Grinsven 9

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Tom Drost 6, Dirk van Grinsven 5

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February 2023

 

01.02.2023 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 1:2 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 90.+2 Valeri Qazaishvili - 18. Francesco Antonucci, 43. Aschraf Flemming

PSV is struggling mid-table and, most importantly financially. There’s a number of clubs (including PSV) who have taken a loan and expanded their stadiums and now lack funds for any new transfers. So PSV didn’t sign anybody in January and they were surprisingly lacklustre in this game against us.

Tom Drost skipped this game due to small knock and Ricardo van Rhijn took his place in right defense, but Nicolai Boliesen and Lucas Andersen were back in training and started this game on the bench.

Dejan Meleg got the first chance of the game, but his shot in 10’ was brilliantly saved by PSV goalkeeper. Two minutes later Valeri Qazaishvili hit the post, but Francesco Antonucci opened scoring from corner and just before half-time Aschraf Flemming extended our lead, so we looked well in control of things at half-time.

We concentrated in possession in 2nd half and didn’t take too many risks, but Qazaishvili caused us some problems, forcing Bob Leeflang to make a brilliant save in 59’ and then scoring a consolation goal for PSV in injury time. We didn’t look as good in second half - Dirk van Grinsven wasted our only clear cut chance and the goal we conceded should have been avoided.

  • I’m happy with 60% of possession and 16/11 shooting
  • Aschraf Flemming scored his 20th goal of the season


 

06.02.2023 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 1:0 (ED) - 48. Mike te Wierik (og)

Few changes in line-up for this game. Tom Drost returned to starting line-up and Justin Kluivert replaced Dejan Meleg on the left wing. I chose fluid, more creative tactics with normal defensive line.

We had okay first half, but aside two half-chances weren’t dangerous enough. We had 11 corners in the first half, but that too didn’t give us a goal. So when Mike te Wierik helped us out a little in 2nd half by scoring an own goal after Justin Kluivert’s shot was saved, it was a bit of relief. Second half wasn’t much better in terms of creativity - a few shots that went narrowly wide was all that we got. On the other hand, we limited SC Cambuur attacks to almost zero and secured us all three points.

  • possession stats are good lately, 63% in this game

 


12.02.2023 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 1:4 (ED) - 74. Paul Gladon - 6. Sebastiaan de Wilde (og), 8. Dirk van Grinsven, 20. and 53. Justin Kluivert

It was a same line-up and same tactics than in SC Cambuur game, but this time we were a lot more effective.

We scored two quick goals from corners (well, the first one came after strong deflection from Nathan Leyder’s shot) and when Justin Kluivert scored our 3rd goal the game was as good as over. We looked very confident in the first half and FC Eindhoven looked just happy to survive.

Justin Kluivert scored his 2nd goal in 53’ (although he needed three attempts to finally put it into the net), but then complacency started to creep in and we allowed FC Eindhoven some chances. Paul Gladon took one in 74’ and my mood at the sidelines darkened a little. There’s no excuse for being careless on the pitch.

  • Justin Kluivert and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding in this game

 

After being left out of South Africa national team for Cup of African Nations in January, Thulani Serero decided to retire from international football - 86 caps and 5 goals for South Africa is a great achievement.

 

17.02.2023 - Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam 4:1 (ED) - 1. and 66. Aschraf Flemming, 21. pen. Dejan Meleg, 58. Dirk van Grinsven - 82. Romain Simon

This game was important for three reasons. First - it’s a Klassikier derby, so every Ajax fan needed us to win it. Secondly - Feyenoord gave us our only defeat in this season, so we were after revenge. And thirdly, Feyenoord are 2nd in the table, despite 13 points gap between us - win against us would give them hope, and defeat would bury all hopes of Eredivisie title.

I made two changes to line-up. Ricardo van Rhijn started in defense and Dejan Meleg on our left wing.

We started well and Aschraf Flemming’s flyer gave us an early lead, but Feyenoord had their best chance in 5’ - Bob Leeflang had to make a brilliant save after their player got to open position in front of goal after corner. Feyenoord players looked a bit frustrated and Leandro Bacuna pushed Meleg in the box and gave us penalty. That put us 2-0 ahead and we never looked back.

Noa Lang suffered concussion in 2nd half and had to come off, but substitute Thulani Serero made impact to the game. His cross found Dirk van Grinsven in the box for the 3rd goal and clever pass played Flemming into 1-1 position and young striker scored his second goal.

Romain Simon scored a consolation goal with a good header that looked like a fairly easy ball, but somehow surprised Leeflang. Despite that our fans left the stadium with great spirits and I can’t really see that someone could contest our title any more.

  • very good possession (58%) and attacking football - we created five clear cut chances and our shooting accuracy was 20/12
  • Noa Lang suffered concussion and is out for the week, but should be OK for the next game

 

25.02.2023 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 42. pen. Dejan Meleg

News from training ground say that Nicolai Boilesen injured himself in training and will be sidelined for three weeks with pulled hamstring. Fortunately, Noa Lang recovered from his concussion.

Tom Drost is back in line-up and Thulani Serero’s good game from substitution against Feyenoord gave him first team place in this fixture.

First half was fairly even, with a lot of midfield duels and both teams tried to create something. Mike van der Hoorn saw his header going just wide in 10’ and Dirk van Grinsven’s shot demanded good save from opposition goalkeeper in 15’. But Bob Leeflang had to step up as well, parrying dangerous shot in 11’.

Key moments came towards the end of the half. Tom Drost was brought down by Derrick Luckassen in the box and Dejan Meleg scored from penalty. However, replays showed that it was a very light touch and more like a dive by Drost, so MVV players have every right to be unhappy about that decision.

We had a couple of good shots in second half - Aschraf Flemming took a number of chances from long range and some of them went on target, causing difficulties to goalkeeper. But our own defense started to crumble after MVV sent in Marcin Figiel. He first found an open chance in 63’, but luckily sent it wide, and another of his 1-1 situation was calmly handled by Leeflang in 75’.

MVV started to attack more and we got chances for counters - one of those ended with a brilliant chance for Justin Kluivert who had all the time in the world to put his feet right and score our second goal, but instead he just smashed it against goalkeeper.

So - a narrow win from a very doubtful penalty and two missed chances for opponents. I feel we were a little lucky here.

  • our shooting was 25/8 which proves that we had a good number of attempts, but accuracy should have been better
  • Tom Drost had a great game

 

February was a good month. A very good month. We’ve put a lot of distance behind us in the table, have won against PSV and Feyenoord in progress and confidence is high again.

Player of the month: Tom Drost - has been excellent in right defense against all opponents


 

Eredivisie

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While title seems almost secured, the bottom of the table is getting more interesting. There’s still three teams struggling to avoid direct relegation and the fiercest games probably come from there.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 22, Dejan Meleg 11, Dirk van Grinsven 11

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Tom Drost 7, Dirk van Grinsven 6

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March 2023

 

04.03.2023 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 1:0 (ED) - 64. Francesco Antonucci

I chose fluid tactics against sc Heerenveen and sent in Ricardo van Rhijn, Noa Lang and Justin Kluivert to rotate my squad a bit.

We had two good chances early on, but both Dirk van Grinsven and Francesco Antonucci put their shots just wide. Sergio Alleyne had a great chance from corner in 30’, but his shot was blocked. We looked well in control first half, but chances were rare and we couldn’t finish properly.

We continued to dominate in 2nd half - Nathan Leyder’s long shot hit the upright and then Francesco Antonucci found the net near penalty spot. Dejan Meleg had another clear-cut chance in 73’, but couldn’t make it count.

It was a narrow win, but we always looked confident and in control of what happened on the pitch, so it was actually a fairly easy game.

  • 81% of passing accuracy shows we got the most of possession and were comfortable with the ball

 

12.03.2023 - VVV Venlo - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 66. Rene Rauws (og)

Francesco Antonucci was suspended for this game and Lucas Andersen took his place in line-up. Nicolai Boilesen was back in training, but started on the bench. I sent in Tarik Gennissen in defense and chose more creative tactics with higher defensive line.

We had good chances in the first half, but couldn’t score. Tom Drost made a good dribble into the box in 24’, but his shot was saved by goalkeeper. In 36’ we had a great counter and Dirk van Grinsven found Aschraf Flemming in front of goal, but another brilliant save by Rene Rauws stopped his shot. So, it was a little bit disappointing not to have a lead after the first half.

We were helped out by VVV Venlo players - a poor touch in 5 yard box put Rene Rauws into trouble and he stumbled over goal line with ball in his hands.

We had a chance to extend our lead late in the game - youngster Simon Janssen was tripped in the box by Djavan Anderson, but Dejan Meleg’s penalty was saved.

Another narrow win and we looked good defensively, but wasted three clear cut chances in the other end and that’s not good enough.


17.03.2023 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 40. and 77. Aschraf Flemming

A win in this game would clinch the title for us. Francesco Antonucci returned after serving his suspension, Noa Lang was dropped for Thulani Serero. I chose flexible formation and tuned down creativity compared to VVV game.

The first half offered fairly even football. We had some half chances and Dirk van Grinsven’s fierce shot in 23’ forced the best save out of ADO goalkeeper. Aschraf Flemming was in the right place at the right time and scored to take us to half time with 1-0 lead, but I feel we should have done better in the first half.

Thulani Serero’s good shot was saved in 60’ and then Flemming extended our lead to secure us all thee points. ADO got their best chance from counter attack in 80’, but Odion Ighalo blasted it over in 1-1 situation.

Solid work from the team and we secured Eredivisie title after matchday 29. Now it’s time to focus to Dutch Cup.

 


29.03.2023 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 1:2 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 43. Ali Messaouid - 10. Dragisa Gudelj, 114. Tom Drost

International break left us without Nathan Leyder. Belgium defensive midfielder just didn’t return on time to help us in this game, so young Frank van den Hoek took his place in midfield.

FC Utrecht are strong team who play very uncomfortable 5-3-2 and they’ve proved their good form in this season. I chose higher defensive line with flexible formation to counter that.

We took the lead when Dragisa Gudelj scored from inside the box in just 10’ (his first goal of the season) and had a couple of half-chances after that, but FC Utrecht regained their composure and had initiative after 30 minutes mark, that was topped with equalizer just before half-time - Ali Messaoudi had a clear cut chance that he finished calmly.

In second half it felt like we were the nervous ones and FC Utrecht have figured out our tactics. We were lucky that Bob Leeflang’s missed interception in IFK situation went unpunished. In 83’ there was another mess in the box and Messaoudi smashed it against crossbar and Clyde Drenthe wasted his chance in 88’. We, at the same time couldn’t create anything and struggled to keep possession. We lost most of the headers in midfield and all those duels went to FC Utrecht’s way.

I switched mentality from control to standard before extra time and we looked a bit more lively after that. Flemming and Andersen saw their half-chances saved and then Tom Drost dribbled into the box and fired it hard and low to give us the winner. It was his first ever goal for Ajax - what a way and moment to score it!

It was a great win in extra time, but I have to admit that we were lucky - FC Utrecht should have decided it in 2nd half, but they wasted four clear cut chances and were punished by Tom Drost’s goal.

  • our second half was probably the worst football after Christmas that we’ve had
  • Tom Drost was outstanding, giving a cross to first goal and scoring the winner
  • 32 individual mistakes is a huge number, even considering extra minutes
  • our opponents in cup final are Sparta Rotterdam


 

A very good month, early title celebrations and decisive win in Cup semi final, a very pleasing indeed. Our defense have held most of the time and we’ve had the most clean sheets in Eredivisie. The five last games give me a chance to rotate more and share playing time for youngsters.


 

Eredivisie

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With title decided, Vitesse, FC Utrecht and Feyenoord battle for 2nd place. Relegation battle is also fierce, although FC Twente have managed to climb few places above this danger zone.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 24, Dejan Meleg 11, Dirk van Grinsven 11

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 11, Tom Drost 8, Dirk van Grinsven 6

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Youth Intake 2023

 

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No surprises there. I got two talented strikers, one very good midfielder/playmaker, decent centre-back and half-decent left-back. As DL is the most problematic position in terms of good youth prospect, I'll take that 2,5* boy and try to tutor him into rotation player, at least.

 

Mounir El Amrani

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Very good target man already - strong in the air and good finisher. Excellent work ethics. Balanced personality is neither good or bad, but I have no mature strikers in my team to offer some sort of tutoring options so I'll have to live with that. Could be quicker and will be working on it individually, at least for now. Second nationality - Moroccon. Has shoots from distance as PPM, but with long shot attribute 7 it puzzles me and perhaps we'll have to work it off (or, train his long shots) to counter that.

 

Peter van der Wal

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At the first glance there's nothing there - good work rate and decent intelligence, but nothing special - but my coaching staff ensures he's a bright talent. In my system he looks versatile enough to play on both midfield roles. Will be tutored by Lucas Andersen to add determination, professionalism and perhaps some useful PPM-s.

 

Stanislas Gonzalez

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Stanislas came to us through our feeder club network in France. He's decent finisher with good physical abilities, but lacks vision and awareness to play single-striker role. His low determination is a problem (again, check my remark about first team strikers). Dejan Meleg will try to help him improve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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April 2023

 

01.04.2023 - PEC Zwolle - Ajax 0:2 (ED) - 18. Noa Lang, 52. Aschraf Flemming

After Eredivisie title was secured, I chose to rotate players for remaining fixtures.  Nicolai Boilesen returned to line-up for this game, young Tarik Gennissen started in defense and Justin Kluivert on our left wing. Tactical setup was fluid with normal defensive line

We were a little asleep in the beginning of the match and Zwolle got their clear cut chance early in 3’, but the shot went wide. That was a wake up call that we needed - as we struggled to regain possession, I pushed our defensive line back up a notch and that made a difference.

Our first goal came from set piece, though. Corner reached to Noa Lang who sent unstoppable screamer into Zwolle goal off the upright. Zwolle probably felt that was harsh, but nothing to do about such shots, defensively.

The game was under our control after that goal. Dirk  van Grinsven saw his shot being saved and Lucas Andersen’s header went just over in 31’. Aschraf Flemming doubled our lead in 2n half and after Zwolle’s Dylan Donkers was sent off after his second yellow card, the game was over.

Solid 2-0 win and another clean sheet for us.

  • despite good result our performance could have been better - we didn’t have any clear cut chances and our shooting accuracy was only 18/6
  • we had 17 corners in this game
  • it was Ricardo van Rhijn’s 300th league appearance for Ajax


 

08.04.2023 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 3:0 (ED) - 43. and 59. Aschraf Flemming, 73. Mike van der Hoorn

Small tweaks in line-up and tactics for this game. I asked players to show more creativity against Vitesse.

The beginning of this game was very similar - we allowed an early clear cut chance that came after Vitesse corner, but Nicolai Boilesen was there to block close range shot. First half was otherwise fairly boring and without great chances for both teams, but just before half-time Noa Lang found Flemming with through ball and wonderkid striker scored.

We showed a lot better attacking football in 2nd half. Justin Kluivert’s cross found Flemming in the box for the 2nd goal and Mike van der Hoorn added another from IFK. Vitesse got their chance for consolation goal in 87’, but Renato Ibarra wasted this opportunity.

  • it was our 12th straight win in the league and we’re 17 games unbeaten
  • Vitesse had 10 shots and created 2 clear cut chances, but they failed to find target and Bob Leeflang didn’t have to make a single save - their wastefulness certainly helped us
  • Aschraf Flemming was outstanding in this match for us
  • Noa Lang suffered sprained wrist and will be out for around 10 days

 

14.04.2023 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 2:0 (ED) - 58. Francesco Antonucci, 84. Justin Kluivert

FC Utrecht game meant a bit more for us. They’re rivals, firstly, but they’ve hold 2nd place in Eredivisie most of the season and we just had a fierce cup semi final with them, so we couldn’t afford to lose this game now.

A few line-up changes: Thulani Serero replaced injured Noa Lang. Dragisa Gudelj and Tom Drost were back in FB positions to stop FC Utrecht wing backs in their trademark 5-3-2 formation. I also tuned down creativity.

The first half was uneventful and without good chances, but after half-time break both teams started to look for the winning goal. FC Utrecht got the first chance in 52’, but Bob Leeflang made a great save to deny this shot. Six minutes later Antonucci scored from Tom Drost’s cross and after that we had the upper hand in the game. Justin Kluivert’s goal clinched the win and we showed FC Utrecht once again that they’re still some distance behind us in terms of football.

 

23.04.2023 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 1:0 (Dutch Cup Final) - 90.+2 Aschraf Flemming

We had over a week to prepare for this game. Sparta Rotterdam don’t look like much, honestly, but at this stage it’s a massive game and nerves are expected to show, so everything can happen if we’re not well prepared.

Noa Lang was back in fitness for this final, but Ricardo van Rhijn injured himself in training and so the captain was sidelined for so important match. Dirk van Grinsven had a couple of quiet games in this month and so Dejan Meleg was selected over him for AMR position. I preferred young Tarik Gennissen in defense, because Sergio Alleyne is known to be shaky in big games.

Both teams had few shots in the first fifteen minutes, but our nervousness in defense almost cost us. Sieme Plat, our own loanee in Sparta, had the first clear cut chance in 26’, but his shot was easily held by Leeflang. Central defenders looked both too nervous and we couldn’t create much in attack either, so first half was a disappointment.

I replaced Kluivert with van Grinsven in half-time, but at first it didn’t have much impact. We had our best period in around 70’. Dejan Meleg saw couple of shots saved by Sparta goalkeeper, Tom Drost had a good shot and Aschraf Flemming as well. Pressure didn’t result with a goal, unfortunately, and Sparta tried to take advantage. Tom Drost missed his header in 88’ and Sieme Plat got his second 1-1 chance in this game, but again he couldn’t take advantage of that and, as it often happens in football, the bigger club took the spoils just before final whistle. Dragisa Gudelj put a cross in from left and missed interception by Sparta defender gave Flemming an easy chance to score.

It must have been harsh for Sparta and to be honest we were lucky to win this final after so poor defensive display,but that’s football. Sparta wasted three clear cut chances in this game and we needed just one opportunity to score.


 

30.04.2023 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 6:1 (ED) - 19. and 24. Justin Kluivert, 36., 59., 70. and 87. Aschraf Flemming - 45. Rodrigo Aguirre

Losing in cup final certainly did hurt Sparta team morale and that was evident if two teams met soon after that in Eredivisie fixture. With nothing to play for, Sparta looked like a very different team and we demolished them in Amsterdam Arena by five goals. Justin Kluivert started scoring, but after Aschraf Flemming took over it was a one man show.

Sparta found one goal in the end of first half, but we got rid of complacency after half-time team talk and raised our game in 2nd half to finish our last home game in this season with style.

I’m happy with our attack and shooting accuracy (22/14)

  • Aschraf Flemming scored his 30th goal of the season in this game - second time that has happened after Dodi Hamzah scored 30 in 2021.
  • Aschraf Flemming, Justin Kluivert, Lucas Andersen and Tom Drost (3 assists for him) were outstanding in this game
  • Aschraf Flemming’s 9 player of the match awards in this season is a new Ajax record
  • young goalkeeper Marvin Koops made his debut for Ajax in 2nd half


 

April has been excellent for us. Dutch Cup was our first priority in this month and we’ve completed our treble after winning in final. Our long winning streak in Eredivisie continues and despite few mistakes in defense we’ve kept a lot of clean sheets in the process.

Player of the month: Aschraf Flemming - scored 8 goals in 5 matches, including this injury time winner in cup final.

 

A few team news after Sparta game. Our chief scout Henk Veldmate announced his retirement after this season, so I’ve got a position to fill in this Summer.

More disturbing is Aschraf Flemming’s desire to join a bigger club, so if his minimum release fee (£21,5m) is matched, I might have to allow him to leave in this Summer. That’s a shame. There are a few interested clubs already, with Valencia leading this pack.

Francesco Antonucci have caught attention of different clubs as well, with Premier League club Nottingham Forest showing the most interest. Nottingham’s manager have been seen in Amsterdam Arena a couple of times already to do the scouting himself.

 

Our physios let me know that Darren Kallah can start light training in May following his long injury break with broken foot. That’s been a difficult time for our young striker, but hopefully it’s uphill from here on.

 

From world football the biggest news say that a certain Cristiano Ronaldo has announced that he’ll retire from football after next (2023/2024) season. He’s 38 years old already, but still playing for Real Madrid, has started in 19 games in this season and scored 10 league goals, but age is finally starting to get him. Managerial career is the most likely future for him.


 

Eredivisie

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Relegation battle has cleared a bit and bottom three have shaped up. Go Ahead Eagles have a chance to climb 17th in the final matchday, so they’ve got a very important 90 minutes coming up.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 32, Dirk van Grinsven 11, Dejan Meleg 11

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 12, Tom Drost 12

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May 2023

 

07.05.2023 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 2:1 (ED) - 2. and 36. Joel Campbell - 82. Aschraf Flemming

PSV’s decline has certainly taken some edge off from Eredivisie competition in last couple of year. They’re 8th in the table now, struggling financially and I can see it hampering them even further if they fail to extend contracts with key players and make new signings. 8th place keeps them off from European football as well, so I can’t see from where they could find money in next season.

Nevertheless, it’s a Topper derby and I’d like to end our season with a win over PSV.

Line-up for this game was also selected with yellow cards in mind - I tried not to involve players who could pick up suspensions for the first match in next season.

But we were too comfortable early on and allowed PSV to score an early goal and although first half was fairly even after that, another mistake by Nicolai Boilesen gave Joel Campbell another goalscoring opportunity - so in otherwise even half, two defensive mistakes did  cost us dearly.

We improved after half-time break, but our finishing was poor despite that. Justin Kluivert got a great chance 57’ but his shot hit the post. Dirk van Grinsven’s shot hit the post again, but Aschraf Flemming gave us hope - his wonderful long shot from 30 yards out was what we needed to have faith again. But then Justin Kluivert missed another 1-1 opportunity and time ran out before we could find equalizer. Not the best way to end a good season.

  • we had all chances to equalize or even win, but couldn’t finish, our shooting was 19/5 and all clear cut chances were wasted
  • we allowed too many dribbles and defensively should have been better
  • Francesco Antonucci injured himself and will be out for 2-3 months with torn hamstring


 

Eredivisie

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Go Ahead Eagles were relegated, but other teams held their places in relegation play-off. NAC Breda won Jupiler League and will return to Eredivisie for the next season.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 33, Dirk van Grinsven 11, Dejan Meleg 11

Ajax assists: Dejan Meleg 12, Tom Drost 12

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Season Summary 2022/2023

 

It’s been another season full of domestic silverware and disappointments in continental competitions. Few of the players have really broken through and carrying more load than they’ve used to - Tom Drost, Noa Lang, Aschraf Flemming.

It has been a good season for youngsters in our squad - Tarik Gennissen and Frank van den Hoek got some good games and developed well. And Flemming has turned out to be a real prodigy.

We’ve been excellent defensively. Bob Leeflang has recorded 22 clean sheets. At the same time we’ve created a bit less chances and scored fewer goals than in previous seasons. We’ve been usually better at set pieces but in this year corners and free kicks produced less goals than usual.

 

A few records were broken. Tom Drost’s average rating (7.99) is a new record, so is Aschraf Flemming’s goals scored (33) and player of the match awards (9) in a single season.

 

Fans player of the season: Tom Drost

Young player of the season: Tom Drost

Goal of the season: Aschraf Flemming against PSV Eindhoven 30/11/2022


 

Goalkeeper Of The Season:

  1. Bob Leeflang - Ajax
  2. Roy Oomen - Vitesse Arnhem
  3. Peter Leeuwenburgh - FC Utrecht

 

Golden Boot:

  1. Renato Ibarra - Vitesse Arnhem
  2. Mattias Johansson - AZ Alkmaar
  3. Sheraldo Becker - FC Groningen

 

Top Goalscorer:

  1. Aschraf Flemming - Ajax (22)
  2. Ji Dong-Won - PSV Eindhoven (18)
  3. Ali Messaoudi - FC Utrecht (18)

 

Young Player Of The Year:

  1. Aschraf Flemming - Ajax
  2. Walter Medina - ADO Den Haag
  3. Clyde Drenthe - FC Utrecht

 

Manager’s Manager Of The Year:

  1. Me
  2. Erik ten Hag - FC Utrecht
  3. Robert Maaskant - sc Heerenveen

 

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June 2023

 

It’s been a busy month. First of all, transfer talk. I decided to let several players leave that we’re probably good enough to stay, but we’ve been too crowded in certain positions and I couldn’t just keep them on the bench for the rest of their careers.

Frenkie de Jong, Jorri van der Geest and Hein Yilmaz left for free and when Newcastle United finally came with a bid for Lucas Andersen, I decided to accept it. The Dane is 28 years old and he’s been a little behind Francesco Antonucci in recent years, and with Brian Wagener returning from loan, there’s no point to keep him around with his £27,000 p/w paycheck. Also, his age means that it’s now or never to try a new challenge and try to make it in England. We agreed with £5.75m fee for his transfer, with clauses (possible £7,25m). Decent fee, but fans were obviously very upset about his departure.

Few other players left for smaller money - Jeroen Pattinama and Rayan Yilmaz went to PEC Zwolle.

As usual, many youngsters went on loan for the next season, but I decided to keep Pieter Stekelenburg and Brian Wagener in Ajax for the next season to bolster my midfield. With Lucas Andersen gone and Thulani Serero showing signs of age, it’s time to build for the future.

 

I dismissed a couple of job interviews from Köln and AS Monaco, but I was also heavily linked with jobs at FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

I decided to appoint our scout Roberto Gemmi as the new chief scout as Henk Veldmate retired in July.

Some of the players received new contracts to dismiss transfer rumours - Simon Janssen, Cengizhan Caliskan, Emil Brown, Sergio Alleyne and Frank van den Hoek were tied down until 2026.

 

And so it’s time to prepare for the Summer friendlies, starting with friendly cup game against Chelsea.

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July 2023

 

Pre-season went fairly well. Highlight of it was 3-3 draw against Chelsea in friendly cup competition (we lost that game after penalty shoot-out though). We looked fairly good overall and team looked like we’re well prepared for the next season.

We finally signed a player! That’s a big news of this Summer. As I promised we only sign players from feeder club and I spotted talented right winger Nketsi Matal in Ajax CT. His relationship with coaching staff had broken down and I brought him to Ajax for just £6k. Despite modest price tag, he’s really quick and fairly talented and as we have only three solid winger in our first team he can offer good competition for first team places. Meet the man:

 

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29.07.2023 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 1:3 (Dutch Super Cup) - 48. Dirk van Grinsven - 8. Sean Klaiber, 20. Morten Thorsby, 26. Francisco Duarte

FC Utrecht have strengthened their ranks and their depth is certainly better than in last season. It could be useful for them in continental competitions. But their signings indicate that they’re preparing to let their best striker Ali Messaoudi go if big offer is received.

However, we failed to win our 5th Super Cup in a row and FC Utrecht took the spoils in this evening. Our overall tactics and game looked good, but individual errors in the first half cost us dearly. FC Utrecht took the lead from corner after Dragisa Gudelj missed his interception next to far post. Then Mike van der Hoorn’s error allowed Thorsby to score another goal and soon it was 0-3. FC Utrecht was clinical with their finishing while we wasted our chances. Aschraf Flemming blew his 1-1 situation with goalkeeper and we couldn’t turn our possession and shots into goals.

Second half started well and we looked more hopeful after Dirk van Grinsven scored a goal, but spark went off from the game after that and we never really challenged FC Utrecht. Aschraf Flemming hit the post in 90’, but that didn’t make any difference.

Disappointing defeat to start our season with. Individual errors in defense was poor and our overall defensive organisation need much improvement. FC Utrecht didn’t have too many chances, but everything clicked for them and their shooting was very efficient.

 

There are two more friendlies to go before Eredivisie season starts and we have to use them to gain our confidence back.

I turned down Schalke job interview and while I was heavily linked with Real Madrid they’ve not made their move to get me to the table yet.

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August 2023

 

11.08.2023 - SC Cambuur - Ajax 1:4 (ED) - 89. Vincent Janssen - 3. Nathan Leyder, 5. and 12. Aschraf Flemming, 8. Francesco Antonucci

We missed Frank van den Hoek because of suspension, but the rest of the pack was fit and ready to start our league campaign. We were determined to show that we’re going to take Eredivisie title, after that loss in Super Cup final raised any questions. I’m not sure if it was because we were so ready and prepared, or SC Cambuur weren’t, but that game was over in twelve minutes.

Nathan Leyder scored our first goal from long shot from some 20 yards out that took a lucky deflection to beat SC Cambuur goalkeeper (ex-Ajax youngster Sven Keller by the way) and it looked like SC Cambuur didn’t regain their composure after this quick goal. Flemming and Antonucci quickly added three more and first win was secured.

Second half was much less exciting - Dirk van Grinsven missed his clear cut chance in 82’ and then we took it too easy and allowed Vincent Janssen to score consolation goal for SC Cambuur. Not happy about that, bye-bye clean sheet bonuses.

  • we dominated midfield and had 24/14 shooting which is a very good sign for away game
  • we made 34 dribbles which shows we were good with the ball (or the pitch was still in good condition in August)
  • Aschraf Flemming, Dirk van Grinsven, Dragisa Gudelj and Nathan Leyder were outstanding
  • Andre Pröpper made his league debut in 2nd half


 

17.08.2023 - Ajax - FC Utrecht 2:0 (ED) - 54. Stefano Denswil (og), 90.+3 Aschraf Flemming

Revenge was on the cards for this game. I chose fluid shape, but didn’t change tactics compared to Super Cup game. Chelsea have been interested in Aschraf Flemming, so Jose Mourinho himself took time to come to Amsterdam to see this wonderkid play.

We had a chance to take lead, but Francesco Antonucci hit the post in 6’ and FC Utrecht answered with a couple of good shots that forced Bob Leeflang to make some brilliant saves in our goal. Fluid shape didn’t work and I switched back to flexible in the end of first half, but it remained goalless at half-time. Bob Leeflang looked like the best player over the first half because his saves were crucial.

Second half was our under control and Denswil’s own goal took some pressure of our shoulders. We couldn’t create clear cut chances and so own goal was a real gift. Aschraf Flemming hit the post in injury time, but then finally found target before final whistle - Dirk van Grinsven’s free kick found him in the box so Mourinho got to see what he came here for - a goal by Flemming.

 

20.08.2023 - PEC Zwolle - Ajax 0:0 (ED)

I made few changes in defense for this game - Ricardo van Rhijn and Tarik Gennissen started. PEC Zwolle are predicted to become 15th, but they played very well against us. Actually, I don’t have much to report about this game, because Zwolle parked their bus very expertly and completely nullified our attack, while they didn’t create any chances in our end either. In 2nd half I felt I was out of ideas how to add more creativity to our game, so we had to settle with goalless draw. PEC Zwolle have started well - their tactics working brilliantly and they’ve had three clean sheet with one 1-0 win in their first three games.

 

26.08.2023 - Ajax - MVV Maastricht 3:1 (ED) - 41. pen. Francesco Antonucci, 46. Justin Kluivert, 83. Dejan Meleg - 74. Marcin Figiel

MVV are predicted to become 2nd in this season and they’ve spent another £9m on new players in Summer transfer window.

I put Sergio Alleyne back in central defense, to counter aerial threat from 2.00 tall Daan Thomassen. Justin Kluivert started on our left wing instead of Dejan Meleg.

First half was uneventful until Tom Drost was tripped in MVV box and Antonucci’s spot-kick sent us to half-time with 1-0 lead. We started second half with all guns firing and Kluivert quickly extended our lead, but then Tom Drost received his 2nd yellow card in 52’ and we prepared for very tough 40 minutes.

Fortunately MVV couldn’t take full advantage of that situation, although they did. Daan Thomassen hit the post in 68’ and Marcin Figiel goal gave them hope, but substitute Dejan Meleg scored our third goal from good counter and that secured us a very good win.

  • I’m happy with 22/12 shooting, although we didn’t create too many good chances
  • Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding - he gave two assists in 2nd half


 

August was a good month and we’ve showed good football in those first games. We’re leading Eredivisie and our goal difference is good.

Player of the month: Noa Lang - he’s been constantly good in our midfield, always motivated and working his socks off in midfield.


 

Eredivisie

 

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Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 3, Francesco Antonucci 2

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 5, Dragisa Gudelj 2

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Transfer Update Summer 2023

 

Eredivisie transfer market has been busy, but big transfers are rare nowadays. Lucas Andersen’s £5.75m move to Newcastle stands out and only other noteworthy signing was Martin Herrero’s transfer from SC Cambuur to MVV for £3,7m (another okay, but overpriced signing by MVV who are rich club, but don’t have too much brains and scouting knowledge to pick up good young players.

 

Ajax transfers:

  • Lucas Andersen to Newcastle United for £5,75m + clauses (up to £7,25m)
  • Jeroen Pattinama to PEC Zwolle for £120k
  • Rayan Yilmaz to PEC Zwolle for £82k
  • Jorri van der Geest, Frenkie de Jong and Hein Yilmaz left for free


 

Loans out:

  • DR Rick Koning to Heracles (JL)
  • DR Jelmer Koning to SC Cambuur (ED)
  • DC Danny Rutte to FC Groningen (ED)
  • MC Simon Janssen to FC Twente (ED)
  • MC Thulani Serero to Rosenborg (Norway)
  • MC Cengizhan Caliskan to FC Eindoven (ED)
  • ST Darren Kallah to Go Ahead Eagles (JL)
  • ST Emil Brown to Standard (Belgium Pro League)
  • ST Sieme Plat to Sparta Rotterdam (ED)
  • ST Lamin Abdelhadi to KV Mechelen (Belgium Pro League)

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Squad Update 2023

 

So, we're heading towards the new season with the squad that has only changed a little. Lucas Andersen and Thulani Serero have left and their places in midfield have taken over by Pieter Stekelenburg and Brian Wagener. New signing Nketsi Matal will try to leave impression on our right wing and offer rotation options, but the core of the team is pretty much the same. Younger players have been training hard and improved a lot though and I hope that will show in our results.

 

Goalkeepers

 

Bob Leeflang

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On paper he doesn't look like much, but he was consistently good in last season, making a string of great saves and finishing with outstanding 22 clean sheets in 34 Eredivisie games. He saved our ass in 12 one-on-one situation which is a great number and in my years at Ajax only Jasper Cillessen and Jeffrey de Lange have been on similar level. Despite his low reputation, he attracted some attention from foreign clubs in this Summer and it's a small wonder I can still pay him just £2,500 per week.

 

Marvin Koops

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This 20 years old keeper haven't really had a chance to show his skills for Ajax. His attributes are promising though, and although he needs to get some experience and composure, his technical skills - handling and reflexes, are top class. I feel I have a good backup and Koops can certainly offer competition for first team place.

 

 

Defenders

 

Tom Drost

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Tom Drost have played team captain Ricardo van Rhijn onto the bench. That's the sad truth. His main advantages are physical - he's extremely fast, but also powerful in the air. Although his technical stats doesn't look like much he provided 12 assists in the last season.

 

Ricardo van Rhijn

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32-years old team captain is still a valuable player for us and often starts in the league. His age doesn't show yet and his mentality is right for the club and tutoring. Probably the most popular player among fans.

 

Mike van der Hoorn

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Veteran center-back is, honestly, an average player. I think central defense is the area we can improve and I have to give younger players a chance to impress. van der Hoorn is reliable most of the times, but he still makes mistakes and doesn't excel in any area. For the time being he's still in our first team for at least a couple of seasons, but Danny Rutte is certainly one player who'd like to return from loan and take his place.

 

Sergio Alleyne

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Alleyne didn't have a great season, but he improved a lot in training. He's physically strong, good in the air and quick on the ground. Good tackler and excellent decision maker. Could be more brave and better with ball on his feet.

 

Tarik Gennissen

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This is one of the up-and-coming defenders in our squad. Only 19 years of age, but very intelligent and a great tackler. Quick and strong, but not the best in the air and that's why van der Hoorn still has a place in our first team. But Gennissen is certainly the player to watch in this season.

 

Dragisa Gudelj

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Last season was very important for Dragisa Gudelj. The Serb overtook Nicolai Boilesen as our fist choice left-back and deserved recall to Serbian national team. Not the quickest of full-backs and not the best crosser either, but good with ball otherwise and also a good decision maker. Defensively he's much less error-prone than Boilesen and as he's also much younger I need him for the coming years.

 

Nicolai Boilesen

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Boilesen's future in Ajax is in doubt. He has some qualities that Gudelj doesn't have - better aerial presence and crossing ability that might be handy when playing more attacking football against smaller teams in the league, but his missed tackles often allow uncontested runs for opponent wingers and his age (31) shows that he's not improving in the future. His contract runs out in next Summer and his salary demand doesn't reflect his true position in the team, so instead of paying him £30,000 per week I might as well let him go. Jury is still out in this question.

 

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Midfielders

 

Nathan Leyder

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Nathan Leyder is exactly the type of player I need in midfield. Hard-working, very intelligent and experienced players despite being only 26 years old. I decided that if any club would come with £15m offer, I'd let him go, but I think that actually it would be better for his career to continue in Ajax. He's not good enough for Premier League, but here he can play every week, get invitations to Belgium national team and enjoy Champions League football as well.

 

Frank van den Hoek

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Frank van den Hoek is another player on the verge of breakthrough. Only 20 years of age, but great leader on the pitch and very good with set pieces. I believe that in two years he'll be contesting Leyder for first team place. Until that - rotation role and cup games are his chances to shine.

 

Noa Lang

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Thulani Serero's departure gave Noa Lang a chance to establish himself in our first team and he's proved to be worthy of that place. Best player for BBM role in our team, but has very good vision and passing ability as well.

 

Pieter Stekelenburg

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It's been difficult to find a good role for him. His great passing ability makes him CMs, but I need BBM in my midfield to close gaps in front of defensive line, so sometimes Stekelenburg has to play that role. He's still young and needs to develop mental strength and right attitude to approach all games. Best passer I've got.

 

Francesco Antonucci

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Lucas Andersen's departure made some space in midfield and established a pecking order - Antonucci is our first choice advanced playmaker. We desperately need a player like that - a magician with ball, with softest of first touch and great dribbling ability to create chances for himself and others. He's scored plenty of goals and given plenty of assists. Tires quickly though and that's why a good backup is necessary. He also likes to pick up yellow cards, so late in season he's likely to be suspended for a game or two. He's been on the verge of Italian national team and got another invitation this September, but failed to secure his first cap for his country.

 

Brian Wagener

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Very talented young player, although his style is vastly different than Antonucci's. While Italian is dribbler, Wagener keeps his heads up and distributes balls behind defensive line to free his team-mates. Certainly one of the players to improve a lot in the next couple of seasons.

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Wingers

 

Dirk van Grinsven

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Dirk van Grinsven had a breakthrough two seasons ago, but his last year wasn't so fruitful. He's a great player and very quick on our right wing, creating a lot of chances for himself and others, but he also was very wasteful with his finishing. Despite that I'm not sure I can keep him around for more than another year.

 

Dejan Meleg

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Our most experienced winger was also less efficient in last season. His set pieces were less productive and he missed more clear cut chances than anyone else in the team. He has to improve if he wants to be in the first team on regular basis.

 

Justin Kluivert

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Kluivert is a rotation player and the reason why is his inconsistency.  But that doesn't mean he doesn't have his moments of brilliance. He was our 2nd best goalscorer in Eredivisie last year and he's started very well this season too. 

 

Nketsi Matal

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New signing hasn't had a true chance to impress for our first team.

 

 

Strikers

 

Aschraf Flemming

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What can I say - a true wonderkid. Look at those attributes! It's a small miracle we managed to keep him in Ajax this Summer, but he most certainly will leave next year. Perhaps even in January. If we fail to progress in Champions League I might not be so sad to allow him leave.

 

Andre Pröpper

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18- years old striker is clearly player for the future. In this season he'll get some games from substitutions, but mostly plays for Jong Ajax.

 

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September 2023

 

01.09.2023 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 4:0 (ED) - 5. Aschraf Flemming, 25 .Francesco Antonucci, 42. and 64. Justin Kluivert

Tom Drost was suspended for this game - captain Ricardo van Rhijn started in right-back instead. Familiar face of Jose Mourinho was spotted on the stands, clearly watching Aschraf Flemming inaction. And Flemming didn’t disappoint, as he opened scoring from simple finish early in the game. Francesco Antonucci added another goal and Justin Kluivert ended the first half with 3-0.

It was a relatively easy game for us - PSV created nothing dangerous in attack and while we didn’t create too many clear cut chances, we were clinical with our finishing. Justin Kluivert’s second goal made it 4-0 in 2nd half.

It’s a great result and great afternoon for fans. Justin Kluivert and Ricardo van Rhijn were outstanding for us and stood out with their performances.


 

15.09.2023 - Feyenoord Rotterdam - Ajax 2:1 (ED) - 64. Faris Coolen, 72. Majeed Waris - 56. Justin Kluivert

I absolutely hate international breaks. Those two-week gaps break all the rhythm and it takes time to concentrate to club matters. Add injuries to this and you have a real season turner.

This international break was up and down. Up was Dirk van Grinsven’s first cap for Holland, topped with debut goal and clearly I was delighted for him. Down was Bob Leeflang’s injury - he strained his stomach muscles in training and is out for 2-3 weeks, which means that Marvin Koops has to show what he’s got in the next games.

First half of this Klassikier derby was a careful football. We had one good chance in 23’, but Justin Kluivert’s shot hit the post. Feyenoord didn’t have much to show in attacking terms either, so goalless first half represented the game pretty well.

Second half was much more fireworks. Justin Kluivert opened scoring and few minutes later Dirk van Grinsven had a chance to extend our lead, but he wasted his opportunity. In 63’ Aschraf Flemming’s header clipped post. It was a true purple patch for us, but we couldn’t take full advantage and, what’s worse, allowed Feyenoord to answer.

Faris Coolen equalized and in 72’ Majeed Waris skillfully turned around Sergio Alleyne and calmly put it next to the post. Marvin Koops, who didn’t have too much to do in the first half, couldn’t help us in those situations and that was it - we lost 1-2 despite having all chances to take a win over Feyenoord in away game. Very disappointing to let it slip away like that. Our finishing was to blame in this game, we should have been better in front of goal.


 

Despite that loss to Feyenoord I extended my contract with Ajax until 2027 (and got a small raise as well, yay).

Before the first Champions League game it’s right time to set goals for continental tournament. We’re in group H with Bayern, SLB and Basel. Not the best possible draw, but not the worst either. Considering our history in this competition I’d set our objectives as following:

minimum: 3rd place in group and 6 points. We should be good enough to beat Basel twice, however badly we’re beaten by bigger clubs

good group stage: 7-9 points, meaning at least one good game against big clubs; it might be good enough to 2nd place, but doesn’t guarantee qualification

anything over 10 points should be considered overachievement


 

20.09.2023 - Ajax - FC Bayern 1:2 (Champions League Group H) - 10. Francesco Antonucci - 52. Robert Lewandowski, 76. Timur Iskhakov

FC Bayern is probably the winner of this group and our aim was not to lose by too many goals. Bayern still have some legendary players in their team - Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski.

We went against them in flexible shape and counter-attacking tactics. Bayern looked a bit off-pace. Dirk van Grinsven got a good shot in, but goalkeeper Denis Filipovic made a good save, but Francesco Antonucci gave us the lead in 10’. Two minutes later Thomas Müller wasted his clear-cut chance, but it was the best opportunity that Bayern got in the first half and we really played good football in all of those 45 minutes.

Bayern was clearly more motivated after half-time and it soon showed in scoreboard. Lewandowski’s unmarked header made it 1-1 and we allowed their central defender Iskhakov to add another goal from corner.

Bayern escaped with a small scare from this game, but we were really disappointed, because our overall performance didn’t deserve that loss and it would have been so much better to start with a draw against Bayern. We weren’t under a lot of pressure defensively, Bayern was just more clinical, and our 15/10 shooting shows how much we actually were in the game.


 

23.09.2023 - VVV Venlo - Ajax 1:1 (ED) - 40. Anderson Lopez - 50. Aschraf Flemming

After two games where we squandered our lead, we continued with disappointing draw against VVV. It should have been easy enough against VVV who are predicted to finish 15th, but few things contributed to poor result. Bob Leeflang and Dejan Meleg were back in training, but didn’t start. Francesco Antonucci looked tired after Bayern game and so Brian Wagener was given a chance, but this midfield didn’t justify the trust.

VVV took the lead in the end of uneventful first half, and although we managed to find equalizer quickly enough after 2nd half kick-off, we weren’t good enough to win this game. Justin Kluivert’s header in 70’ that hit the post was the closest we got to goal.

A lot of things were disappointing in this game. First of all, no good chances whatsoever. That combined with 16/4 shooting is a clear evidence why we were so poor in this game. At the same time we made 23 fouls that helped to disrupt pace of the game and gave VVV chances from set pieces.

Very disappointing, perhaps even more than Feyenoord defeat, because of this atrocious display.



 

26.09.2023 - Ajax - De Graafschap 3:0 (Dutch Cup 2nd round) - 12. Justin Kluivert, 40. Nketsi Matal, 59. Aschraf Flemming

However poor run of form we had in the last games, rotation players and youngsters had to show their skills against De Graafschap and win against Jupiler League side was expected no matter what.

Tarik Gennissen was suspended for this game, but Bob Leeflang was back in line-up and Nketsi Matal made his debut.

For once, it was a good result matched with comfortable performance. We missed a couple of good chances, but scored three goals and kept a clean sheet. Nketsi Matal left a good impression, scoring on his debut and being very difficult to stop for De Graafscap defenders.

Hopefully this win gets our morale a little higher and smiles back on the faces of players.



 

30.09.2023 - Ajax - FC Twente 1:1 (ED) - 17. Aschraf Flemming - 41. Nicky Gaddum

FC Twente was predicted 13th by media in this season and they’d had a lot of new signings in Summer, so I expected to win this home game. Wrong again.

Aschraf Flemming scored after good work by Tom Drost on our right wing, but we again allowed a cheap goal from corner - Sergio Alleyne lost a header against Nicky Gaddum and just before half-time it was 1-1.

We were again poor in the 2nd half and it was a deja vu from VVV game - no creativity, chances were rare and to top it all off, substitute Nketsi Matal missed from clear cut chance in 85’ - that could and should have been a win for us, but again we came short and I was really frustrated with players.

  • again our shooting was poor, only 22/5 accuracy
  • it was our 3rd poor result in Eredivisie in a row, a real slump
  • 5 defensive mistakes by Dragisa Gudelj stood out in uneven performance


 

Win over PSV was a highlight of September, but it has turned downhill since international break really fast. Couple of very poor performances and some of the games where we just couldn’t add this final touch to make it win instead of draw or draw instead of loss. Very disappointing, I probably doesn’t even remember such a poor month from my team.

Player of the month: Francesco Antonucci - it’s clear what he brings to the team and what we miss in attack if he’s not playing (as it was against VVV).


 

Eredivisie

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After two months  of football, things start to clear up. PSV have improved from their poor start, but Feyenoord and FC Utrecht are still really struggling at the bottom of the table. On the other hand FC Groningen and sc Heerenveen have started really well and look strong at the top. We certainly should be better than we are, but that’s not the end of the world, at least not yet.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 7, Justin Kluivert 5, Francesco Antonucci 4

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 7, Tom Drost 3, Dragisa Gudelj 3

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October 2023


03.10.2023 - SLB - Ajax 1:1 (Champions League Group H) - 53. Matheus Pereira - 85. pen. Dejan Meleg

After good display, but defeat against Bayern, it was time to visit Portugal and Sporting Lisbon for our next fixture in Champions League.

First half was fairly uneventful - SLB had most of possession, but they had only one good chance during the first half and Bob Leeflang did well to parry that shot in 16’.

We were in more trouble in 2nd half - SLB got the goal and increased pressure. Bob Leeflang had to make two brilliant saves in 62’ to keep us in the game.

But as the saying goes - every team has at least one good chance in any football match, and ours came in 85’. We had a good counter, Dejan Meleg continued into SLB box and was pushed from behind - penalty! He calmly converted it himself and we held onto that draw in the final minutes.

  • Not the most beautiful game from us, but we got the point and from away game it’s a very good result.
  • Nicolai Boilesen has requested more first team starts from me, but experienced Dane showed that he’s fairly error prone with his 5 mistakes in this game. Not the best form I’ve seen from him.


 

07.10.2023 - Ajax - AZ Alkmaar 2:0 (ED) - 42. and 57. Aschraf Flemming

Back to Eredivisie and Amsterdam Arena. AZ are predicted to be 9th in this season and they’ve had a true rollercoaster seasons recently

Dragisa Gudelj, Tarik Gennissen and Dejan Meleg returned to our line-up.

First half was careful from both teams, although we had more possession and control of the game. Early half-chances from Meleg and Noa Lang didn’t bring a breakthrough and on our half Bob Leeflang had to make a good save to parry AZ half-chance in 25’. Dirk van Grinsven wasted his great opportunity in 38’, but few minutes later Flemming broke the deadlock - he was the first to react to loose ball in AZ box and it was easy finish for him.

Our wonderkid striker added another goal with good header after half-time break and. AZ didn’t have a good scoring opportunity in second half and we settled with our lead. Dejan Meleg shot in 79’ hit crossbar, but it lacked just a little bit of accuracy.

A very good win - perhaps not polished enough, but we kept our clean sheet and got the job done very efficiently. Tom Drost stood out with his performance.


 

International break went without fuss, but we lost a couple of players. Brian Wagener is out with twisted ankle that he suffered in Holland U-21 game. Frank van den Hoek will miss a couple of games with bruised head.

I extended Boilesen’s contract for another couple of seasons (he agreed to small pay-cut in the process).


 

20.10.2023 - ADO Den Haag - Ajax 1:0 (ED) - 4. Serge Diomande

Have I said already that I hate international breaks? Another defeat after long break that we’ve suffered this season and that was when it looked like we got our good form back.

ADO Den Haag is a solid top half team in Eredivisie and they’re difficult to play in away stadium, but we were clear favorites and failed to deliver.

Nicolai Boilesen started in this game (Dragisa Gudelj looked tired after international games), Tarik Gennissen was also rested.

We got the early chance in 2’, but Dejan Meleg’s shot was blocked and ADO quickly answered - Serge Diomande sent a great header towards goal from IFK and Leeflang was powerless against it. A goal out of nowhere - we were again stunned by set pieces.

After that goal ADO concentrated on defending. We had possession, but couldn’t create chances and frustration grew in the team

I took Francesco Antonucci off at half-time and sent Pieter Stekelenburg in, and chances started to come. Dirk van Grinsven’s shot went wide in 47’, two minutes later Dejan Meleg wasted his opportunity to equalize, and then we were back to frustrating part - good possession, but nothing more. ADO defended well and didn’t give us much space in their box.

It was a very disappointing defeat for several reasons. First of all - there was nothing wrong with our tactics. We had possession and created chances, but our finishing let us down completely. We defended well, but were undone by one good header.

  • 20/5 shooting shows how poor we were in front of goal
  • we had 12 corners, but didn’t get anything out of them despite our set piece practices before this match


 

24.10.2023 - Basel - Ajax 0:2 (Champions League Group H) - 41. Mike van der Hoorn, 57. Aschraf Flemming

After ADO defeat brought as back to our struggle for results, I wasn’t sure if I should change something in line-up and tactics or not. It wasn’t too much wrong with our game and we just need a better finishing to score goals.

Changes in line-up were made though. Tarik Gennissen started in defense (Sergio Alleyne poor training wasn’t unnoticed), Justin Kluivert replaced Dejan Meleg on our left wing (Meleg’s poor finishing cost us the game against ADO). Frank van den Hoek recovered from his injury and returned to bench for this game.

We started the game well and created better chances than Basel, even if both teams looked fairly careful with tactical approach. We finally scored in the end of first half - Mike van der Hoorn found the net after corner.

Basel had their best chance in 54’ - Bob Leeflang did well to parry a close range header, but then Flemming’ goal made it 2-0 and he had another chance just a minute later, this one saved.

Good win in the end, similar game and result to AZ match in the beginning of the month. It was exactly that we needed from Champions League away game.

  • Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding with his two assists for us
  • 22 fouls were perhaps a bit too much, more conservative approach would be preferred in the future

 

After first round of games have been played we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We have 4 points and a good away result against SLB to show and we’re currently 2nd in the table. But we’ve been in good position after three games before, so it’s up to us to make sure we continue well in November.


 

28.10.2023 - Ajax - sc Heerenveen 4:1 (ED) - 12., 15. and 41. Dirk van Grinsven, 35. Francesco Antonucci - 68. Branco van den Boomen

This was a big game, because sc Heerenveen have done excellently so far and are competing for the title. They’re predicted to be 5th, but occupy 2nd place in the table with games to play and we really needed a win in Amsterdam Arena to show we’re the best team in Eredivisie. sc Heerenveen squad looked solid enough, they have picked a couple of good loan players from bigger leagues, but their goalkeeper is just a 17 years old lad (who, by some miracle, have had 7 clean sheets in this season).

I chose fluid shape and normal defensive line tactically, and replaced Justin Kluivert with Dejan Meleg.

It didn’t take long - we ripped sc Heerenveen completely apart and Dirk van Grinsven played a key role in it. Our right winger had missed all his 5 clear cut chances in this season, but in this game he scored a quick hat-trick in the first half, topped it off with a wonderful chip over sc Heerenveen goalkeeper. Francesco Antonucci added another goal and we went to half-time with 4-0 lead.

sc Heereveen managed to score one goal in 2nd half - Noa Lang lost a header after corner and van den Boomen got a clear cut chance - but that was it. 4:1 was a very convincing result and gave all the fans a huge boost of confidence.

  • we had only 10/6 shots, but scored 4 goals - much more clinical finishing than against ADO
  • Dirk van Grinsven (hat-trick), Aschraf Flemming (3 assists) and Francesco Antonucci were outstanding
  • sc Heerenveen 17 years old goalkeeper had 5 clean sheets in a row before this game, but conceded 4 in this one
  • we had 41 dribbles in the game, 14 dribbles by Dirk van Grinsven stood out individually


 

31.10.2023 - Ajax - PSV Eindhoven 3:0 (Dutch Cup 3rd round) - 6. Francesco Antonucci, 15. Dejan Meleg, 31. Aschraf Flemming

We had a difficult draw to get PSV already in 3rd round, but just as in Eredivisie game in September, we did beat them easily in this cup fixture. Francesco Antonucci scored an early goal and PSV Eindhoven almost equalized, but his shot hit the post in 7’. but after that incident game was well under our control. Dejan Meleg used his chance well to put us 2-0 ahead and Flemming added another goal from header to put the game in bed before half-time.

Second half had less fireworks and no goals. Substitute Andre Pröpper got a great chance to score, but his shot went too high.

We took a good win over rivals, but lost Dirk van Grinsven due to thigh strain - he’ll be out for a couple of weeks.


 

October has been a good month. In fact, a lot better month than September, despite this loss against ADO Den Haag. We’ve done well in Champions League and took big wins in the end of the month to bring ourselves back to the top of Eredivisie. PSV is out of the cup, that’s a cause for the smile alone.

 

Eredivisie

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FC Groningen and sc Heerenveen are still pretty much in contention. PSV have recovered from their poor start in the league and are slightly climbing upwards. FC Utrecht and Feyenoord are still struggling and it’s probably difficult for them to fight for top three places.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 11, Franceco Antonucci 6, Justin Kluivert 5

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 11, Aschraf Flemming 5, Tom Drost 4

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November 2023

 

04.11.2023 - Vitesse Arnhem - Ajax 1:5 (ED) - 36. Kenan Karaman - 14. and 22. Justin Kluivert, 56. Noa Lang, 65. Dejan Meleg, 68. Francesco Antonucci

Vitesse are clearly underachieving, despite being predicted to 7th place by media. They looked a bit tired before this game and we tried to take full advantage of it.

Dirk van Grinsven was injured, so Dejan Meleg started on our right wing and Justin Kluivert on the left. Tom Drost, Tarik Gennissen and Dragisa Gudelj were back in defensive line.

We attacked from the start and after Francesco Antonucci missed his clear cut chance, Justin Kluivert scored two goals in a row. But then Vitesse got one goal back - Tarik Gennissen’s unfortunate tackle played the ball right on the foot to Kenan Karaman and it was easy finish. I was still pleased with our first half.

After half-time break it was evident that Vitesse lacked stamina to compete. We had our purple patch around 55-70 minutes - Noa Lang and Dejan Meleg scored, Meleg missed another open chance and Francesco Antonucci sent the fifth ball to Vitesse goal from IFK. Vitesse had no answers to that. Final score was definitely great moral boost for us.

  • It was my 400th game in football management and a great result to celebrate that landmark
  • there were several key performances - Justin Kluivert, Dejan Meleg, Francesco Antonucci, Tom Drost and Dragisa Gudelj were excellent


 

08.11.2023 - Ajax - Basel 0:0 (Champions League Group H)

I made a tactical change for this game and chose flexible shape. Only one change in line-up - Nicolai Boilesen started in left defense because I had promised him more first team football.

We knew we couldn’t attack carelessly on this level, but we had the first chances - Flemming and Meleg sent their headers just over, but Basel got the first clear cut chance of the game - shot went to side-netting, fortunately.

Considering that, I admit that we were lucky to be at 0-0 in half-time, but we continued to have more initiative in the second half. Boilesen’s header was cleared off the line by Basel defenders and we had more possession and shots overall, but Basel wasn’t sleeping. Their good counter ended with another 1-1 opportunity and forced a brilliant save from Bob Leeflang.

That’s how it ended - a goalless draw. I’m not happy with result, but considering how that game played out I have to be satisfied with a point. Basel is a team that we should be able to beat at home, though.


 

11.11.2023 - Ajax - Sparta Rotterdam 0:2 (ED) - 12. Ramon Loswijk, 90.+2 John Smit

We’ve been doing fairly well recently and seems like we’ve found our rhythm, so home game against Sparta (predicted 12th) looked easy enough between more serious teams, but we failed miserably in front of home fans.

I chose fluid shape and allowed the lad more creative freedom, but choices in line-up probably cost us. Ricardo van Rhijn started in right-back, Tarik Gennissen was rested and Sergio Alleyne partnered Mike van der Hoorn in central defense, and Frank van den Hoek got his chance after training hard during all week.

We were set back by Sparta’s early goal - Ramon Loswijk sent his direct free kick to upper corner from 18 meters. After that it was easy for Sparta to concentrate on defense and we couldn’t create anything against them.

We tried to attack desperately in second half, but the closest we got was in 55’ when Dejan Meleg hit the post. In injury time Sparta even extended their lead - John Smit easily headed in and Mike van der Hoorn was just watching with his feet on the ground.

Very embarrassing and one of the worst performances we’ve shown in this season.

  • our shooting was completely crap again, only 14/3 - I can’t believe our attacking play can be so poor at times


 

25.11.2023 - FC Eindhoven - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 17. Dejan Meleg

It was a difficult international break for us, brooding over Sparta result. So, motivation was high at least, but opponents weren’t easy - FC Eindhoven were predicted as relegation candidates, but find themselves 5th in Eredivisie table and in great form.

We had Dirk van Grinsven back from injury, but Sergio Alleyne was suspended. I started Marvin Koops as our goalkeeper and Nicolai Boilesen again in left-back.

Boilesen has tried to prove himself in those recent games and he almost scored, but his shot went just wide from IFK.

Dejan Meleg opened scoring in 17’ after letting his first chance to be saved, but FC Eindhoven defenders were unable to clear the ball and Meleg was first to tap in from the line. We continued to play well for the rest of the game, but couldn’t find another goal and that made us a bit nervous. We had chances in second half - Justin Kluivert wasted his 1-1 opportunity and Aschraf Flemming saw his long shot hit the post in 54’.

Marvin Koops had his moment in 79’ - his great save kept our clean sheet and helped us secure all three point, although it was close in the end.

  • we could and should have scored more - accuracy was 19/11, but we had 3 clear cut chances and 5 half-chances and only one goal from that is not enough
  • we lost too many headers inside our 6 yard box
  • we allowed too many dribbles (22) defensively and Nicolai Boilesen was too error prone with his 5 mistakes
  • Dejan Meleg suffered injury in the first half when he was hacked down by FC Eindhoven defense - broken ankle keeps him out for 2-3 months


 

28.11.2023 - FC Bayern - Ajax 3:1 (Champions League Group H) - 12. and 20. Karim Roy, 68. Julian Draxler - 68. Aschraf Flemming

I didn’t have much hope against Bayern in Allianz Arena. I chose counter-attacking tactics at first , but keeping the score respectable was our main goal and it looked like our situation was helped by Bayern manager who put young Frenchman Karim Roy to single striker role instead of Robert Lewandowski. But that hope was short-lived, as youngster quickly punished us with two goals and things turned sour early in the first half. Sergio Alleyne couldn’t handle him in both goal situations.

We switched back to our usual control tactics and the rest of the half looked better, but at the same time we couldn’t create much in attack.

Aschraf Flemming gave us a glimmer of hope in 68’ with his wonderful long shot goal from 22 meters out - probably the most beautiful goal of the season so far - but in the very next attack our careless defense allowed Julian Draxler to score and so Bayern took control back to their hands.

I’m a bit disappointed, because we had a small chance after Flemming’s goal, but 1:3 was a fair result.

  • we made 26 individual mistakes and Dragisa Gudelj was responsible for 8 of those
  • we allowed Bayern to make 35 dribbles, proving the difference in class between teams


 

November was average month for us - there were ups and downs and we couldn’t always deliver. Sparta defeat was our worst performance in a long time and I feel we should have done better against Basel, too.

But we’re still in position to fight for Champions League qualification and Eredivisie title challenge gives every league game an extra importance before Christmas.

 

Player of the month: Dejan Meleg - it was a difficult choice as there was no standout performers this month, but Dejan Meleg gets that award for his great performance in Vitesse win and winning goal against FC Eindhoven.


 

Eredivisie

 

m4sH1XU.png

 

Battle for the title is in full throttle with sc Heerenveen and FC Groningen playing great football in first half of the season. PSV is trying to climb up too, while FC Eindhoven form dipped down after defeat from us.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 12, Francesco Antonucci 7, Justin Kluivert 7

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 11, Aschraf Flemming 5, Tom Drost 5

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December 2023


02.12.2023 - Ajax - NAC Breda 2:0 (ED) - 31. Pieter Stekelenburg, 69. Tarik Gennissen

Despite how it went against Bayern, we try to concentrate on Eredivisie and pick up our form against newly-promoted NAC Breda. Our opponents are predicted to finish 14th in the table, they’re rich and invested some £7m into new players, so they’re not the usual relegation candidates from Jupiler League.

I chose fluid, more expressive tactics with normal defensive line and put Ricardo van Rhijn and Nicolai Boilesen into line-up to provide crosses from our wings. Tarik Gennissen was also back in the team and Pieter Stekelenburg started in midfield in box-to-box midfielder role.

We got our first chance early on, but Aschraf Flemming missed his opportunity in 15’ and we had to keep trying. Pieter Stekelenburg opened scoring in 31’ after some good work on our right wing and we had another half-chances towards the end of the first half.

I was happy with display and we continued in the same manner after half-time. Tarik Gennissen scored a header from corner to secure three points and the rest of the game was easy for us. We didn’t put NAC Breda under too much pressure, but concentrated on possession and playing it safe. Solid win at home.

  • Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding in this game
  • Pieter Stekelenburg scored his first ever goal for Ajax

 


06.12.2023 - FC Groningen - Ajax 0:1 (ED) - 82. pen. Justin Kluivert

It was incredibly important fixture - away game against FC Groningen who are challenging for the title and in good form. Considering our injury list it was not an easy challenge. It was also nice to see Danny Rutte doing well while on loan at FC Groningen.

I switched back to flexible formation, tuned down creativity and pushed defensive line higher up to limit space in midfield. We practiced defensive set pieces for a couple of days prior the game.

Tom Drost and Dragisa Gudelj were back in line-up, but Mike van der Hoorn sat this match out due to suspension.

We had a fairly good first half - we limited FC Groningen opportunities and gave ourselves several half-chances. Aschraf Flemming had his shot saved in 20’ and Antonucci put his header just wide in 42’, but FC Groningen defended well to keep their clean sheet. In the end of the half Sheraldo Becker had a great opportunity to score from IFK, but Marvin Koops made a great save to keep it 0-0 before half-time.

We continued to play good football in 2nd half, but chances were rare and we failed to take them. Aschraf Flemming wasted his clear cut chance in 70’. Finally, referee came to our help, by awarding a very harsh penalty for high foot in the box. Justin Kluivert calmly converted it and so we got a narrow and dubious win in a very important game.

  • Noa Lang suffered twisted knee late in the game and will be sidelined for 2 weeks


 

Vitesse board finally lost their patience and sacked Gabri after poor start to the season. First managerial casualty in Eredivisie even before Christmas.


 

10.12.2023 - Ajax - SC Cambuur 2:0 (ED) - 9. Dirk van Grinsven, 87. Justin Kluivert

Tight schedule and our lines are becoming thinner with every injury. SC Cambuur are predicted to finish 11th and they’re good mid-table team for the past couple of seasons. It is a game I should perhaps take more easily before very important Champions League match against SLB, to give some players rest.

I went again with fluid and more creative tactics and normal defensive line and sent in Tom Drost and Nicolai Boilesen. Nathan Leyder was also rested and Frank van den Hoek got his chance to impress as DMC. Pieter Stekelenburg replaced injured Noa Lang.

We took the lead after great counter and van Grinsven’s finish was excellent. Justin Kluivert’s header smashed crossbar in 24’ and overall we were better team in the first half.

We concentrated on possession after half-time break and Justin Kluivert’s header gave us two goal lead before the end of the game.

It was a good win and I’m happy with clean sheet, but it was a drab match from both sides.

  • Ricardo van Rhijn and Dirk van Grinsven put in a great performances
  • Francesco Antonucci suffered an injury in the first half and is out for 2-3 months with broken ankle - that’s a serious blow


 

13.12.2023 - Ajax - SLB 2:3 (Champions League Group H) - 29. and 60. Jose Augusto, 68. Tarik Gennissen (og) - 77. Sergio Alleyne, 78. Pieter Stekelenburg

There it was, a decisive game of our Champions League campaign. We needed at least a draw against SLB to keep our 2nd place in the group, but we were missing three first team players and that was not a good sign for us.

I switched to flexible shape and sent Pieter Stekelenburg and Brian Wagener to midfield - a very young and inexperienced combination against a team like SLB.

We started this game very well, but couldn’t convert our good attacks to goals. Justin Kluivert wasted our first clear cut chance in 7’ and Brian Wagener did the same five minutes later. SLB got into the game from set pieces - Marvin Koops saved a very dangerous shot by Jose Augusto after IFK, but the same man scored right after that from corner - careless marking at the far post. It was a goal against the run of play and very disappointing one, but I was still encouraged by good football that we showed and we continued with the same tactics after half-time.

Nevertheless, SLB were much more clinical than we in front of the goal and those chances they got, they also finished. Jose Augusto added another goal to his name in 60’ and unfortunate own goal left us almost hopeless.

But we didn’t give up - Justin Kluivert’s shot did clip the post in 72’ and then we had two good goals in short time - Sergio Alleyne scored from corner and Stekelenburg quickly doubled that and we had our hopes up again. SLB players looked nervous on the pitch and momentum switched, but we weren’t able to build on that and couldn’t create good chances in the last ten minutes.

This defeat was a very bitter pill to swallow. Firstly because we didn’t deserve to concede three goals and secondly because we wasted some good chances early in the game and that did cost us.

With that loss we were back on 3rd place, even though it was the closest we’ve got to qualification from group stage in years. So close…

In addition to our woes, Aschraf Flemming picked up a knock and groin strain keeps him out for 2-3 weeks. That’s the 4th first team player out at the same time and although he’s been in poor form recently, he might be the most difficult one to replace.


 

16.12.2023 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 2:0 (ED) - 14. and 25. pen. Justin Kluivert

Helmond Sport are one of the main relegation candidates and currently sitting at the bottom of the table.

I chose again fluid formation with more creativity allowed and made changes to line-up too - Ricardo van Rhijn, Mike van der Hoorn (Tarik Gennissen was tired) and Nicolai Boilesen started. Frank van den Hoek got a start in midfield and young Andre Pröpper made his first start in Eredivisie to replace injured Flemming. We had only 6 substitutes on the bench.

Dirk van Grinsven had a great chance, but his shot hit the post in 14’, but Kluivert scored from the next attack and that put us in front. Our left winger doubled his tally from penalty and our situation looked secure enough. He had a chance for a hat-trick in 30’, but this time his shot was saved and then we got careless.

Ex-Ajax man Chelton Mühl was the most dangerous man for Helmond Sport and Boilesen missed his runs a couple of times. Mühl got his first opportunity in 42’, but put it well wide and in 63’ he got another clear-cut-chance that was wasted awfully. I then decided to retain possession and see the game out without additional risks.

It looked like easy win despite those two defensive mistakes, but it was a warning sign that we have to keep our concentration against smaller teams as well.


 

20.12.2023 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 2:0 (Dutch Cup 4th round) - 10. and 51. Andre Pröpper

To end our first half of the season before Christmas break, we had a cup game against FC Eindhoven - on paper a lot easier fixture than 3rd round game against PSV, but there was no room for complacency.

Five players out, although Noa Lang is back in training, but not yet fit to start. It’s been a great time for youngsters and rotation players to prove themselves - plenty of chances for them in the first team.

Again we started well - good counter in 2’ gave us our first good chance, but Dirk van Grinsven couldn’t finish it. Ander Pröpper finally found the net in 10’ and that was a good start of the game for him. But FC Eindhoven wasn’t beaten - Pim de Reuver hit the post in 25’ and Bob Leeflang had to make another good save just a minute later. de Reuver got a chance to equalize in 44’, but Leeflang was again showing his skills with a brilliant save. So I might say that despite our lead we weren’t very convincing after our goal and we had to keep concentration in 2nd half.

And that worked out well enough. Pröpper scored his 2nd goal in 51’ (another excellent counter) and then we concentrated to possession and didn’t allow FC Eindhoven any opportunities. Pröpper missed his chance for hat-trick in 87’, but I was pleased with 2-0 win just as well.

  • From stat sheet Nicolai Boilesen’s 18 tackles were noteworthy.



December was a very good month in domestic competition. We’ve finally got our defense in order (well, we’re still giving away chances, but we’ve held clean sheets in several games). SLB defeat shows where we’re lacking skills and attitude yet. Finishing has been a problem most of the time.

Player of the month: Justin Kluivert - has scored important goals, converted penalties and overall kept his head down and nerves calm.

End of the year brought news that Aschraf Flemming has been named as European Golden Boy!



Eredivisie

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Not a bad situation for us. PSV and Feyenoord are climbing upwards while sc Heerenveen have stumbled and lost some points here and there.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 12, Justin Kluivert 11, Francesco Antonucci 7

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 15, Aschraf Flemming 6, Tom Drost 5

Edited by Draakon

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Mid-season summary

 

We’ve got a good position in Eredivisie after bumpy start and our Champions League campaign we were almost there, but not quite. We achieved our minimum goal, so it’s not too bad either.

Goalscoring has been provided by Aschraf Flemming and Justin Kluivert, mostly. Dirk van Grinsven have provided the most assists in the team, but himself he’s missed enormous amount of clear cut chances - 1 out of 8 has been converted to goal. That’s the room of improvement.

Perhaps unexpectedly Marvin Koops have outperformed Bob Leeflang and so far he hasn’t screwed up in the goal. Tarik Gennissen have developed well and now it’s competition between veteran van der Hoorn and Sergio Alleyne for the other place in central defense. Pieter Stekelenburg have shown some skills in midfield.

January means some difficult decisions need to be made. Aschraf Flemming wants to leave to bigger clubs. Brian Wagener hasn't still accepted a new contract offer yet, so his future in the club also hangs into balance. Thulani Serero returns from Rosenborg as his loan period ends, but he has no place in the club at the moment.

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January 2024

 

The month started with Flemming’s transfer row. I declined laughable offer of £6,5m by FC Barcelona and that did upset him a lot. It’s getting evident that I can’t hold him in the club and happy for long. And so I had to accept SLB’s £16,5m + clauses (up to £26,5m) bid and we lost our wonderboy. Shame, but it’s difficult to keep such a talented youngsters with our reputation.

I brought Emil Brown back from Standard Liege to replace him and let’s hope he with Andre Pröpper are able to carry us for the rest of the season.

 

Brian Wagener finally accepted our contract offer (£15,750 p/week) and on-loan right-back Rick Koning also signed a new contract.

Nketsi Matal had a loan offer from VVV Venlo. I was indifferent and let him to make this decision himself and he declined. VVV offered him a key right winger position that would have meant a lot of Eredivisie playing time, so I’m not sure if it was a right decision in the end.


Vitesse appointed John Stegeman from VVV as their new manager and VVV signed John Heitinga to replace Stegeman.


 

19.01.2024 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 2:2 (ED) - 74. Sean Klaiber, 89. pen. Stefano Denswil - 32. and 46. Dirk van Grinsven

Aschraf Flemming is gone and Nketsi Matal injured himself in mid-season friendly (broken ribs). He’ll be out for 3-4 weeks and we’re getting short on attacking options.

At the same time Noa Lang returned to fitness and was back for this game.

FC Utrecht is not the easiest team to face after long mid-season break and we needed to get back into rhythm after Flemming’s departure.

First half was very careful from both teams and we just edged it by one goal. We had one good combination in 32’ and van Grinsven finished it from tight angle.

I replaced goalkeeper at half-time - it’s not my usual move, but Marvin Koops looked too nervous between sticks (although he didn’t have much to do) and Bob Leeflang was sent in.

We were focused after half-time break and quickly scored our second goal. Things looked like we had three points in the bag already, but it wasn’t to be. Sean Klaiber scored from corner, FC Utrecht continued to exploit all possible counter attacks and we prepared to defend until the end, and then Tom Drost made a careless foul in our box and conceded a penalty.

So frustrating, so late in the game and we dropped precious points in the league. In retrospective, I probably should have changed tactics after 2nd goal, but didn’t and that cost us.

  • we had 60% of possession, but FC Utrecht always looked very dangerous on counters
  • Emil Brown made his debut for Ajax in this game

 

28.01.2024 - Ajax - PEC Zwolle 2:0 (ED) - 39. Nathan Leyder, 61. Emil Brown

Ten more days to train before next game and find our form for the second half of the season. I made a few changes in line-up: Tom Drost was suspended for this game, Nicolai Boilesen was recovering from small injury and Pieter Stekelenburg started instead of Noa Lang - I had promised him more first team football and I also hoped he’d bring more creativity to midfield.

I allowed more creative freedom for whole team and we started with good attacks. Andre Pröpper wasted two clear cut chances in the first half - he blasted one shot over and saw the other being saved by Zwolle goalkeeper. Dirk van Grinsven hit the post in 38’, but fortunately we found the net a minute later - Nathan Leyder needed three attempts from corner situation, but the ball finally found its way past goalkeeper.

We continued to create good chances (and waste them in style). Pieter Stekelenburg missed his opportunity in 47’ to frustrate me at the sideline, but Emil Brown saved the day - his first touch after coming on resulted in our second goal. Brown had another chance two minutes later, but he sent this one wide and Justin Kluivert’s header rattled crossbar in 78’.

It was a good win, but we should have scored a lot more goals - we had 5 clear cut chances and hit the framework twice, two goals is not good enough from this kind of game.

  • Emil Brown scored his first ever goal for Ajax
  • young right winger Dave Sinester made his debut from substitution


 

31.01.2024 - Ajax - Feyenoord 0:1 (ED) - 71. Papito Bicintini

Good display against Zwolle gave us confidence before Klassikier Derby. I made some changes in team - Tom Drost, Mike van der Hoorn and Noa Lang returned to first team and Emil Brown started for the first time as CF(s) in attack.

Both teams were very careful in the first half and there weren’t too many chances to speak about. Noa Lang had one good shot in 27’, that was saved, but otherwise we didn’t offer much. Feyenoord had 6 corners in the first half and that was a bit worrying.

The same continued after half-time break, until Papito Bicintini found the net from DFK and that was a vital goal for Feyenoord. We had a great chance to equalize late in the game, but Justin Kluivert couldn’t finish his chance in 88’.

That was a very disappointing defeat, because we defended well and did deserve at least a point from this game. Instead, we had to accept our defeat from fierce rivals.


 

Feyenoord game was our big test in January and we failed that. Despite good game against PEC Zwolle it feels like we’re not yet ready. True, we’ve got players missing - Antonucci and Meleg are still injured with Nketsi Matal also sidelined. We lack wide options and creative substitutions to change the game by substitutions. Emil Brown is still settling in and Andre Pröpper showed his inexperience, especially against Zwolle.

 

Player of the month: Dirk van Grinsven - two goals against FC Utrecht, good display in a win over Zwolle and it was his cross that found Justin Kluivert in Feyenoord game that should have resulted in a goal. Has been consistently good during these games.

 

Aschraf Flemming transfer was the only big move of this January transfer window. It was a very quiet month in the market. NAC Breda were the most active team using their funds to attract new players, but fees didn’t exceed £2m.


 

Eredivisie

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FC Groningen have dropped some points, but sc Heerenveen are still battling for the title. They’ve been really impressive in this season.

 

Ajax goals: Aschraf Flemming 12, Justin Kluivert 11, Francesco Antonucci 7, Dirk van Grinsven 7

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 15, Aschraf Flemming 6, Dragisa Gudelj 5, Tom Drost 5

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February 2024

 

03.02.2024 - MVV Maastricht - Ajax 1:2 (ED) - 21. pen. Mink Peeters - 3. Emil Brown, 40. Brian Wagener

We had to bounce back from Feyenoord defeat and a win over MVV would be a nice start to February. MVV was missing their best striker Daan Thomassen due to injury. We made two changes in line-up - Nicolai Boilesen and Sergio Alleyne started (Boilesen and Gennisen looked tired before the match).

We started very well and a header by Emil Brown gave us an early goal. Just a minute later there was a clear cut chance for Dirk van Grinsven, but his shot was saved - so his poor finishing from ccc-s continues.

Boilesen was unfortunate to concede a penalty for high foot in our box and that allowed MVV to equalize. That was a very harsh decision and a glaring error by referee. MVV looked encouraged by equalizer, but we cooled them down with a counter-attack goal - great combination between Noa Lang and Brian Wagener.

We held our advantage in the second half and kept the game under our control until the end.

  • Noa Lang was outstanding in midfield
  • Brian Wagener scored his first ever league goal for Ajax


 

  • 06.02.2024 - Ajax - Helmond Sport 5:0 (Dutch Cup Quarter Final) - 4. and 69. Dirk van Grinsven, 18. Emil Brown, 27. Justin Kluivert, 38. Brian Wagener

With a thought of PSV game coming up, rotation players got their chance in this match. I sent the team out with more creative mindset and fluid shape.

It’s fair to say that Helmond Sport didn’t even show up in the game. Perhaps they were concentrated on the league and avoiding relegation so that quarter final against Ajax looked like a lost cause to them, but we battered them from the start the end and finished with comfortable 5:0 score. One of the easiest games in this season.

  • our shooting was 27/13
  • we had 5 clear cut chances and 14 half-chances, two of the shots hit framework
  • Ricardo van Rhijn, Brian Wagener, Dirk van Grinsven and Justin Kluivert were outstanding


 

09.02.2024 - PSV Eindhoven - Ajax 2:2 (ED) - 21. and 80. Joel Campbell - 44. Emil brown, 59. Justin Kluivert

Good new from training ground report that Dejan Meleg and Nketsi Matal are back in training after injuries.

I chose flexible shape, higher defensive line and normal creativity for this away game.

Joel Campbell gave PSV lead with a header that went in off the bar. Our central defenders looked too passive in this situation. We tried to find equalizer, but PSV defended well and Aschraf Flemming’s influence was missed in attacking phase. But we found the goal and we found it just before half time - wonderful through ball by Brian Wagener found Emil Brown on the run and South African converted his half-chance.

That late goal lifted spirits in dressing room at half-time and we looked more optimistic in second half. Another great ball by Wagener gave chance to Justin Kluivert in 59’ and we took the lead.

Unfortunately we couldn’t hold it until the end. Good counter by PSV finished with goal and we had to settle with just one point.

  • that equalizer was manager’s responsibility, at least I feel that way - perhaps substitutions upset our rhythm or we should have changed tactics earlier to protect our lead; either way it wasn’t good enough
  • our shooting was 17/7, but 10 of those shots were from distance
  • Brian Wagener was outstanding in this game with his two assists and creativity from midfield

 

16.02.2024 - AZ Alkmaar - Ajax 0:4 (ED) - 15. Dirk van Grinsven, 41. Justin Kluivert, 56. Tony Nwannukwu (og), 68. Andre Pröpper

After one week’s space between games, we go to Alkmaar for our next league game. It was important to get a win from this away game to get back our rhythm and regain points in the table that we dropped in PSV game.

Good news continued as Francesco Antonucci has returned to light training - some way off from playing, but more creativity and attacking options is what we need at the moment.

I put Nicolai Boilesen and Pieter Stekelenburg in for this game because I promised them more first team football, but the rest of the team was our usual line-up.

The game started with a bad injury to Brian Wagener in 8’, but we controlled the first half and scored two good goals to take 2-0 half-time lead. Pieter Stekelenburg took the role of playmaker and his passes created opportunities for us.

Tony Nwannukwu’s unfortunate own goal added misery to AZ’s poor evening and Andre Pröpper scored his first league goal for Ajax to finish the game off in high notes.

  • I’m extremely happy with our defense - we didn’t give AZ any chances to score
  • 15/10 shooting is very good considering how poor our accuracy has been at times
  • Pieter Stekelenburg was outstanding in midfield and created two goals
  • Brian Wagener was injured badly and he’ll be out for 6-7 weeks with strained knee ligaments
  • Emil Brown also picked up a knock and will be sidelined for 4-5 weeks with sprained ankle

 

22.02.2024 - Ajax - PAOK 1:0 (Europa League 1st knockout round 1st leg) - 43. Justin Kluivert

Some players are back to fitness, but Wagener and Brown are missing with injuries. Well, Emil Brown was ineligible for continental games anyway, so Andre Pröpper was set to start for this game even if Brown were fit.

PAOK is the club that we can hope to win and move forward to the next round, so I chose fluid shape and normal defensive line for the home game. It was also a homecoming for Navajo Bakboord, who left Ajax for PAOK couple of years ago.

Bob Leeflang started in goal (he trained well in this week and deserved it), Noa Lang and Pieter Stekelenburg were our midfield (Antonucci was on the bench, back in full fitness, but not match fit).

We had few half chances in the first half, but just before half-time whistle van Grinsven found Justin Kluivert with his cross and it was an easy finish to take the lead back into dressing room. Andre Pröpper then had a great opportunity in injury time, but his shot from close range was saved by goalkeeper.

We couldn’t break PAOK defense in 2nd half, but clean sheet and one goal is good enough for home game.

  • we had 69% of possession, so we controlled midfield very well
  • we had 16 corners, but couldn’t use them to our advantage
  • 10 offsides was a bit too much - Dejan Meleg and Andre Pröpper being responsible for 4 each
  • Andre Pröpper damaged his foot in 2nd half and he’ll be out for two weeks

 

Injuries in striker department is now a serious issue. Dejan Meleg filled ST position for 30 minutes in 2nd half, but he’s not a natural striker and he’s also just regaining his form after long injury, so we might be in trouble for next couple of weeks.


 

25.02.2024 - Ajax - VVV Venlo 2:0 (ED) - 2. Justin Kluivert, 68. Dirk van Grinsven

We needed to rotate between two physically demanding continental games and VVV looked like an opponents we can win easily.

Because of problems with injuries Stanislas Gonzalez was promoted from U-19 to first team and 17 years old made his debut for Ajax in starting line-up. Frank van den Hoek and Sergio Alleyne also started.

Tactics were more creative and we quickly took the lead - Justin Kluivert scored from corner. VVV had their best chance of the game in 33’, but Anderson Lopes’ shot was saved by Marvin Koops.

It wasn’t the most exciting first half and I expected some improvements after the break. But our attacking movement wasn’t good enough and we needed set pieces to score - Dirk van Grinsven extended our lead from IFK and in 72’ we were awarded a penalty after van Grinsven was fouled in the box. Unfortunately Dejan Meleg wasn’t up to the task and his penalty was saved.

It wasn’t the most impressive win, but we did well in set piece situations and took advantage of that. A good penalty and 3-0 would have been nicer, though.

  • VVV Venlo made 23 fouls and one really rough two-footed challenge on Justin Kluivert deserved a red card in my opinion, but only yellow was given, glad that we didn’t add to our injury list in this game


 

29.02.2024 - PAOK - Ajax 2:0 (Europa League 1st knockout round 2nd leg) - 42. Yanos Cardot, 102. Malek Kessassi

After easier VVV game Nathan Leyder and Tom Drost returned to our line-up for 2nd leg match against PAOK. Dejan Meleg was our only option in striker position.

Our task looked easy enough - score one goal and put PAOK under pressure, but we failed to do that, despite having plenty of chances.

Good counter attack gave our first opportunity in 4’, but Dirk van Grinsven’s shot from 1-1 situation was saved very well by PAOK goalkeeper.

First half was pretty tight after that goal, both teams tried to defend well and attack from counters, but PAOK had more success in that - Yanis Cardot managed to score just before half time break. It was bad time to concede a goal and we had to regroup at half-time.

We looked like a different team after the break, dominating possession and creating chances. Justin Kluivert had a great chance, but his shot hit the post, Noa Lang then wasted his opportunity 60’ and his weak shot was easily held by goalkeeper.

Justin Kluivert blasted his shot well wide from open position and after all that domination Tarik Gennissen almost blew it. His poor backwards header was intercepted, but PAOK strikers couldn’t keep composure and the shot was blasted wide.

So, despite having numerous chances to finish this game in the second half, we went on to extra time and there already PAOK had the upper hand. Very good shot by Malek Kessassi in 102’ was unstoppable for Bob Leeflang and so we lost the game that we should have won easily.

I can’t really believe we blew it like that. Europa League wasn’t our main goal in this season, but PAOK was the team I expected us to beat and more UEFA coefficient points would have been nice.

  • Tarik Gennissen’s youth was evident in this game - he was very error-prone (unlikely for him, to be honest) and gave PAOK several good chances during the match.



 

PAOK defeat ends this month with disappointment, but in domestic competitions we were really impressive in February and draw against PSV were perhaps the only game we should have been a little bit better.

European season is over now and with our injury record at the moment I’m even a bit relieved that we can concentrate to Eredivisie now.

 

Player of the month: Dirk van Grinsven - always there to create goals and score some himself. He’s been wonderful provider with his assists and he’s been creating even more clear cut chances that other players haven’t been able to convert. Really the key player with this kind of form


 

Eredivisie

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Title race is now between us and sc Heerenveen. FC Groningen are some way behind, PSV is struggling to find consistency and the rest of the pack are out of competition.


 

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 16, Aschraf Flemming 12, Dirk van Grinsven 11

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 19, Tom Drost 6, Aschraf Flemming 6

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March 2024

 

05.03.2024 - FC Utrecht - Ajax 0:2 (Dutch Cup Semi Final) - 41. Dirk van Grinsven, 53. Justin Kluivert

Again we have to regain our composure after defeat from PAOK. FC Utrecht look like a tough opponents in away game, but they were tired from their last match and that perhaps was our advantage.

I chose flexible shape, higher defensive line and normal creativity for this game.

Francesco Antonucci started in midfield (his first start after long injury break) and Dejan Meleg was selected as ST.

Both teams defended well and looked well organised, but we got two good chances in thisgame and finishing was clinical - Dirk van Grinsven and Justin Kluivert found the net. FC Utrecht looked disenchanted after our second goal and we confidently controlled proceedings until the end.

  • I’m happy what we saw on the pitch - good defensive organisation and discipline. FC Utrecht didn’t get any good chances.
  • Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding in this game, dishing his 20th assist of the season - a new club record!


 

08.03.2024 - Ajax - ADO Den Haag 2:0 (ED) - 28. Andre Pröpper, 57. Mike van der Hoorn

For this home game I change our tactics back to fluid shape, normal DL and allowed more creativity.

For selection there were difficult choices to make. Dejan Meleg looked tired after FC Utrecht game and Andre Pröpper had regained just enough fitness to start the match. Ricardo van Rhijn also started and I chose Sergio Alleyne over Tarik Gennissen to counter aerial threat from tall ADO strikers.

Neither of the teams showed good football in the first half, but we took the lead after Pröpper’s shot behind defenders took a small deflection and surprised goalkeeper a bit.

Mike van der Hoorn added our second goal from corner and that was enough to secure all three points.

  • 82% passing accuracy is what I like to see on the stats sheet
  • another very well controlled game, excellent defense and clean sheet
  • it was Mike van der Hoorn’s 250th game for Ajax and he celebrated that with a goal


 

13.03.2024 - FC Twente Enschede - Ajax 1:4 (ED) - 77. Gavin Vlijter - 6., 8. and 30. Dirk van Grinsven, 90.+1 Dejan Meleg

It’s this time of the season when some teams that have nothing to play for take it easy and FC Twente is one of those teams. Perhaps that’s why we took so easy win in away game.

I started with flexible shape and normal creativity, kept Tarik Gennissen and Sergio Alleyne in central defense and prepared to see how’s our own Simon Janssen is doing for FC Twente.

We took advantage quickly, Dirk van Grinsven scored two goals in quick succession and after Justin Kluivert blew his clear cut chance, van Grinsven finished his thirty minutes with hat-trick.

We showed good football in second half too, but goals didn’t came. Dirk van Grinsven saw his shot being saved. Sergio Alleyne had a chance from IFK, but his shot was also dealt by FC Twente goalkeeper.

Perhaps some harsh words at half time motivated FC Twente players, but they finally showed some football - Niklas Füllkrug headed against post in 58’ and Marvin Koops made a brilliant save in 68’ to keep his clean sheet. But FC Twente got their goal and they got it from corner - missed interception by Justin Kluivert gifted Vlijter a chance and our complacency was punished with a goal.

Foul against Dirk van Grinsven gave us a penalty in injury time and Dejan Meleg converted it to our fourth goal. I hope he gets confidence from that.

  • our shooting was 22/7 - good number of shots and plenty of chances, but accuracy wasn’t so great
  • Dirk van Grinsven was outstanding and his hat-trick was well deserved


 

16.03.2024 - sc Heerenveen - Ajax 3:2 (ED) - 19. Jesper Drost, 56. Mimoun Mahi, 71. Bryan Linssen - 2. Dirk van Grinsven, 64. Tarik Gennissen

This was a true title six-pointer in March. sc Heerenveen are just two points behind us and a win would give us some breathing space. What we’re aware of is sc Heerenveen’s great defensive record - they’ve conceded just 19 goals in 27 games and they’ve scraped so many narrow wins through this season.

I didn’t change our tactics, but sent Ricardo van Rhijn and Mike van der Hoorn to defense. van Rhijn to give us more creative options against this defense and van der Hoorn to add experience.

We quickly took the lead - Dirk van Grinsven on score sheet again - but Jesper Drost equalized for sc Heerenveen in 19’. After that we got just a couple of half-chances, so fairly even half ended 1-1.

Jesper Drost goal showed that we had some troubles with movement and communication in defensive line and sc Heerenveen substitute Mimoun Mahi took advantage of that in 2nd half - again two players went to one opponent and left too much space for unmarked player.

Tarik Gennissen equalized with a good header from IFK, but sc Heerenveen had the last say in this - Linssen’s goal from counter punished us and gave sc Heerenveen a crucial win and place in top of the table. That was one game we couldn’t afford to lose and we lost it. Now we have to rely on other teams to help us out.

  • our tactics weren’t great in this one - we were cut open in defense, choice of Ricardo van Rhijn didn’t justify itself and Robert Maaskant surprised me with good counter attacks
  • sc Heerenveen got perhaps 2-3 good chances and scored 3 goals - Marvin Koops didn’t make an impact in goal
  • our own shooting was only 14/3 - to get two goals out of those 3 shots on target is good enough, but accuracy was poor


 

22.03.2024 - Sparta Rotterdam - Ajax 1:3 (ED) - 69. Jordan Gaspar - 17. and 22. Andre Pröpper, 54. Justin Kluivert

We can’t make any mistakes now, but the next game after sc Heerenveen defeat is against Sparta - the team that beat us 0-2 in autumn and is currently 6th in the table. It’s certainly a revenge match, but not an easy game.

Emil Brown has recovered from injury and is on the bench for us in this game. I sent Tom Drost in as right-back and chose Sergio Alleyne over Mike van der Hoorn in central defense. Pieter Stekelenburg replaced Noa Lang in midfield because of promises of more first team football.

We started well and although we had some luck on our side (huge deflection helped Pröpper’s first goal past goalkeeper) we were in control of the match in 22 minutes. Andre Pröpper who hasn’t exactly been a goalscorer this season found the net twice and had a chance for his first hat-trick in 37’, but his penalty was well saved.

We looked very well in first half and scored two good goals. Goalkeeper Menno Heus was the hero for Sparta - his good saves, including saved penalty, kept score respectable for them.

Sparta was left with 10 men in 51’, after Daniel Breedijk received straight red card for his two-footed tackle on Andre Pröpper and we instantly reacted. Dirk van Grinsven’s shot was just saved, but a minute later Kluivert made it 3-0.

We couldn’t keep our clean sheet until the end - Gennissen’s missed interception gave Jordan Gaspar a chance to score, so his consolation goal made it 1-3.

I’m happy with away win, it was a proper revenge and gave us confidence back after sc Heerenveen game.

  • 61% of possession and 18/10 shooting are good numbers
  • Tom Drost, Francesco Antonucci and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding for us


 

It’s difficult to rate our month in March. We’ve played some really good football, got good results and reached to the final of Dutch Cup, but we lost the most important game of the month against sc Heerenveen and so find ourselves one point behind in the league table.

Nothing’s lost yet, five more games to go and we’ve determined to fight for the title.

 

Player of the month: Dirk van Grinsven - our right winger continued to carry the load in attack. Five goals and three assists in those five games with average rating 8.30.

 

March ended with international break and Tarik Gennissen earned his first cap for Holland in a friendly against USA.


 

Eredivisie

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Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 18, Dirk van Grinsven 16, Aschraf Flemming 12

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 22, Tom Drost 8, Dragisa Gudelj 7, Justin Kluivert 7

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Youth Intake 2024

 

This year’s youth intake can be rated as average. We got two talented strikers and two good defensive midfielders. Both strikers are more of poacher or advanced forward type of players, not CF or F9 as we’re used to play with. Nothing exciting in defense and no wingers, which is a worry.

One player (Ousmane Diop) came through our affiliated club in France.

 

Youth candidates 2024

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Tarik de Wit

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Best striker of the bunch. Physically good, with good movement and aerial ability. Anticipation also works for his favor, but he’s very one-footed and lacks work ethics and vision.

 

Mario de Groot

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Young defensive midfielder. He doesn’t look like much at first, but when you look closely you see that he doesn’t have any significant weaknesses either. Good vision and decision making help with playmaking duties

 

Jeroen Capobianco

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Has some very good qualities (finishing, heading, flair), but he’s average physically, small in stature, has no vision what so ever and hardly helps in defense. Talent is definitely there, but needs to work hard on those weaknesses to do well in single striker formation

 

Marco Oomen

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He doesn’t have so much potential in talent, but he’s professional by nature and I hope it helps him to get most out of it. Good teamwork, work ethics and first touch.

 

Engin Ari

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Another defensive midfielder. His bravery, work rate and tackling make him a good ball winning midfielder.



 

By position, our situation looks like that:

 

GK: both first team keepers are very young, so nothing to worry about for the next years. 18 years old Joel Drommel in Jong Ajax is decent option and can be backup for first team.

DR: Ricardo van Rhijn is experienced, but we have plenty of options, most noteworthy is Peter Mulder - 18 years old very talented player, part of Holland U-19 team.

DC: so-so. Mike van der Hoorn is in veteran status and although Tarik Gennissen is very young, we don’t have a 18-20 years old options from Jong Ajax. Edward Schans is the 17 years old next one coming up from U-19. Danny Rutte is doing OK for FC Groningen, but not good enough to earn new contract in Ajax and he’ll be most probably released this Summer.

DL: Dragisa Gudelj is there for several more years, but Nicolai Boilesen needs to be replaced in two season’s time. We have a decent player in Michel de Boer, but only decent. No bright talents.

DMC: 20 years old Frank van den Hoek is eager to push Nathan Leyder away to get more first team football.

MC: plenty of young players in the team, with very talented Pieter van der Wal coming up from Jong Ajax. Not to forget Simon Janssen and Cengizhan Caliskan on loan.

AMR: Nketsi Matal is a solid backup for Dirk van Grinsven, but younger players in Jong Ajax haven’t lived up to their hype.

AML: Justin Kluivert has a great season so far, Dejan Meleg is still good for a couple of seasons. We have Ludovic Roy in Jong Ajax, but I’m afraid he’s only good enough for backup status.

ST: Plenty of options in all levels - Andre Pröpper is just 18 years old. We have several players out on loan and 2-4 very good options coming from U-19. Not bad.

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April 2024

 

06.04.2024 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 0:0 (ED)

After long time our team was fully fit and I was able to choose between all players. We went against Vitesse with fluid shape, but rest of the tactics were the same.

We tried to attack and had initiative most of the first half, but without much success. In second half we had two good chances, but Andre Pröpper and Justin Kluivert wasted their opportunities and after those two mistakes Vitesse defense recovered well.

Not the worst performance, but finishing let us down and we should have been more clinical in front of goal.


 

13.04.2024 - Ajax - FC Eindhoven 2:0 (ED) - 31. Justin Kluivert, 74. Tarik Gennissen

I allowed more creativity in this home game and made a few changes in line-up - Bob Leeflang got his chance to impress in goal (he trained well this week), Noa Lang was back in midfield and Dirk van Grinsven was rested in this match - Dejan Meleg took his place on our right wing.

We were very shaky in the first fifteen minutes and Curly Alberto had two great chances to score. Luckily for us, both of his shots hit post.

I reacted by tuning down creativity and in 31’ Justin Kluivert opened scoring after good cross from our right wing.

I felt like we’ve escaped defeat in this first half, but the match was far from over. FC Eindhoven composed themselves and got a great chance to equalize in 70’, but Bob Leeflang made a brilliant save. Then Tarik Gennissen scored from corner to make situation more relaxed for us, but Eindhoven didn’t give up - they god another 1-1 opportunity in injury time, but Leeflang again showed his skills to parry it expertly. Emil Brown headed just wide in injury time from wide open position. In the end it was 2-0 for us, but both teams had plenty of chances to score more.

  • I’m not so happy about defense - to give away 3 clear cut chances is unacceptable
  • we allowed 29 dribbles for FC Eindhoven and it was the start of most of our troubles defensively
  • our shooting was only 14/2 and those two shots on target ended in a goal
  • selection of Bob Leeflang justified itself completely - he made three brilliant saves, ended with 8.3 rating and man of the match award

 

20.04.2024 - NAC Breda - Ajax 1:5 (ED) - 24. Dellatorre - 7. Mike van der Hoorn, 64. Dirk van Grinsven, 71. Emil Brown, 83. pen. and 87. Francesco Antonucci

NAC Breda are underachieving, considering how much money they’ve spent on players. Of course, all those transfers do not make sense to me and melting some 15 new players into one team takes time, so NAC is pretty much work in progress at the moment.

I chose flexible shape (away from home) and made changes in line-up. Mike van der Hoorn replaced Sergio Alleyne in defense. Dirk van Grinsven was back on our right wing and Meleg moved to left flank. Justin Kluivert was benched after poor training performance.

We started well  and Mike van der Hoorn headed it in from corner. NAC Breda equalized after wonderful long ball that surprised our defensive line, Dellatorre timed his run perfectly and van der Hoorn couldn’t catch him on time. Well stunned.

We were a little shaken after equalizer and didn’t look so good mentally, but composed ourselves at half-time. Justin Kluivert replaced Dejan Meleg and in 2nd half we were more in control of things.

We found the goal in 64’and substitute Emil Brown extended our lead to 3-1. NAC Breda collapsed in the last ten minutes - Kluivert earned a penalty and Antonucci scored from the spot. Italian added another goal from corner to make it 5-1 in the end.

  • I’m happy with 18/10 shooting
  • Francesco Antonucci and Dirk van Grinsven were outstanding in this game


 

28.04.2024 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 0:1 (Dutch Cup Final) - 7. Renato Ibarra

I made two changes in line-up for the cup final. Team captain Ricardo van Rhijn started and Justin Kluivert returned to left wing (Dejan Meleg didn’t impress in Breda win).

Vitesse can defend well - they proved it in goalless draw against us a few weeks back. But this time they were helped by early goal - Renato Ibarra got a half chance and his shot went in off the bar. We had two half-chances in the first half, both to Justin Kluivert, but his first shot went just wide and second was brilliantly saved by Vitesse goalkeeper.

We tried our best in second half to equalize, but Vitesse really defended well and we had not enough good chances and we had to accept our defeat. Very disappointing, because we’ve been good in this month so far, but couldn’t deliver our best in the final.

  • our shooting was 25/4 - we had a lot of possession near Vitesse box, but our shots were blocked our just misplaced


 

We’ve had a good month in Eredivisie, but again we’ve lost the single most important game of the month. In March it was title challenge against sc Heerenveen, in April it was the cup final. Still room for improvement.

Second half against NAC Breda was probably our best football in display for a while.

 

Player of the month: Tarik Gennissen - young defender had four solid games in April and he added a goal against FC Eindhoven to that.


 

Eredivisie

bt4PwA0.png

 

We’ve put some distance between us and sc Heerenveen - it looks like they’ve collapsed under pressure a little bit. They lost 1-3 against Sparta Rotterdam and 0-1 against Vitesse and so we’ve 5 points clear in the table. Unless we screw up ourselves, the title should be ours.

 

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 19, Dirk van Grinsven 17, Aschraf Flemming 12

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 23, Justin Kluivert 9, Tom Drost 8

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May 2024


05.05.2024 - Ajax - FC Groningen 3:0 (ED) - 26. Andre Pröpeer, 45.+2 Dragisa Gudelj, 50. Francesco Antonucci

We needed just one win to secure our Eredivisie title and we did it with 3:0 win over FC Groningen.

I chose fluid shape tactically. Mike van der Hoorn and Sergio Alleyne were our central defensive partnership to defend against aerial ability of FC Groningen’s Luc Castaignos.

We started very well and applied good pressure to opponent’s goal from the first minutes and it resulted in a goal in 26’ - Andre Pröpper’s header bounced back from crossbar, but he finished it from the rebound. Our young 18 years old striker was in action again in first half injury time - his long shot smashed crossbar (again), but this time it was Dragisa Gudelj who reacted first and tapped it in from close range.

And in 2nd half Francesco Antonucci added perhaps the most beautiful goal of the season - his bicycle kick was wonderful individual performance and that lifted the spirits in Amsterdam Arena sky high.

FC Groningen got their best chance in 57’, but Castaignos somehow put it wide from open position.

  • Dragisa Gudelj and Francesco Antonucci were outstanding in this game.


 

12.05.2024 - Helmond Sport - Ajax 0:3 (ED) - 14. and 41. Dejan Meleg, 66. Emil Brown

I sent our rotation players for our final game of the season. At the same time, Helmond Sport had literally everything to play for - they’ve finally climbed to 17th position and needed a good result to keep their place of relegation play-off.

But they weren’t good enough and while our team had some players not completely match fit, we did well enough to score a few goals. Dejan Meleg had the best chances in the first half and he found the net twice. We offered good attacking football without pressure.

Emil Brown scored our 3rd goal in second half after good cross by Nketsi Matal. Helmond had given up by that time.

  • our shooting was 20/10, as it should be against smaller club
  • it was Sergio Alleyne’s 100th appearance for Ajax


 

Eredivisie

2hoMUUO.png

 

We had a good end to this season. FC Groningen secured their 3rd place and PSV Eindhoven somehow leaped a few places and finished 4th in the end.

FC Eindhoven were the biggest overachievers in this season, but sc Heerenveen were the most impressive and they gave us the race until the very end.

 

Ajax goals: Justin Kluivert 19, Dirk van Grinsven 17, Aschraf Flemming 12

Ajax assists: Dirk van Grinsven 24, Justin Kluivert 10, Tom Drost 8

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Season Update 2023/2024


Once again, we’ve won Eredivisie title, but this time our season wasn’t so smooth as predicted. In recent years some 80+ points have been needed to secure the title, but this season we didn’t make it to 80. Fortunately the other big clubs are not in their prime and while sc Heerenveen made a great 2nd half of the season, they collapsed in the end under the pressure.

We hoped to defend our cup win, but lost in the final. Undoubtedly it was a disappointment, but while last year our win was aided by very easy draw, in this season we offered some good wins in our run to the final - we defeated PSV Eindhoven, for instance.

In Europe we were again just a little short of progressing from Champions League group, but as before, we lacked skills and experience when we needed it the most. But our biggest disappointment was 0:2 defeat from PAOK - that was the game we were able to win, I believe, but failed to deliver.

Champions League final was Portugal affair this time - Sporting Lisbon defeated FC Porto 3:0.


 

Fans Player of the Season: Dirk van Grinsven - it was our right winger’s true breakthrough season and while he wasn’t most impressive in goalscoring, his 24 assists is the new record and it were his crosses that provided most of Justin Kluivert’s 19 goals.

Goal of the Season: Francesco Antonucci’s bicycle kick against FC Groningen in 05.05.2024

Young Player of the Season: Dirk van Grinsven


 

Golden Boot:

  1. Justin Kluivert - Ajax
  2. Ramon Loswijk - Sparta Rotterdam
  3. Simon Janssen - FC Twente Enschede (on loan from Ajax)

 

Goalkeeper of the Year:

  1. Charl Simonse - sc Heerenveen (just 18 years old!)
  2. Hidde Jurjus - FC Groningen
  3. Rody de Boer - PEC Zwolle

 

Top Goalscorer:

  1. Luc Castaignos - FC Groningen (19)
  2. Ali Messaouid - FC Utrecht (17)
  3. Daan Thomassen - MVV Maastricht

 

Young Player of the Year:

  1. Aschraf Flemming - Ajax
  2. Simon Janssen - FC Twente (on loan from Ajax)
  3. Brian Wagener - Ajax

 

Manager’s Manager of the Year

  1. Me
  2. Mitchell van der Gaag - FC Eindhoven
  3. Robin Maaskant - sc Heerenveen

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June 2024

 

It is European Championship Summer in 2024. Tom Drost and Dirk van Grinsven narrowly missed out from Holland national team, but Nathan Leyder and Dragisa Gudelj were in the competition.

In Amsterdam, we found out that our youth facilities needed upgrading and the board were willing to invest £2,7m for that project.

Meanwhile, I was headhunted by several big clubs. I declined job interviews from Valencia, Dortmund Borussia and Swansea and there were rumors that connected me to AS Monaco and Arsenal jobs.

 

I extended contracts of youngster Peter van der Wal and Dragisa Gudelj, but Danny Rutte didn’t get a new contract after returning from FC Groningen. He had a good season there and there’s a lot of interest in him, so he’ll get a good contract offer for sure.

 

Loans:

Peter Mulder to FC Eindhoven

Peter van Huizen to FC Dordrecht

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July 2024


Transfer window has started and we made two moves in July. First was selling our right back Jelmer Koning to MVV Maastricht for £675k+ clauses. He’s old enough now and is surplus for our needs, with talented Peter Mulder coming from U-19.

Second deal was more unexpected. Swansea City circled around Brian Wagener for a long time and made all kinds of bids, but finally agreed to match his minimum release fee clause of £16,5m. Enormous bid for a player valued £3m, however talented he is. But I had to accept that and so Wagener is off to Premier League. He was a great player to have, filled in exceptionally well last season when Francesco Antonucci was injured, but now Antonucci is back and Simon Janssen returned from loan and fills the spot in our midfield, so I’m not overly concerned.

 

Loans out:

Peter Mulder to FC Eindhoven

Peter van Huizen to FC Dordrecht

Cengizhan Caliskan to FC Eindhoven

Lamin Abdelhadi to FC Groningen

Andre Pröpper to Evian TG FC (decided to give him a year in French Ligue 1)


 

For some reason big tournaments always come as a surprise to me. This time it’s Olympics. It’s 2024, of course. But that means Tarik Gennissen, Pieter Stekelenburg, Dirk van Grinsven and Emil Brown are all missing the start of the season as they’re participating with their U-23 teams in Olympic tournament. That means my options for selection are significantly thinner despite the fact that all our players are fit. Striker department is really worrying as I hoped Emil Brown would carry the load this year, but instead I have to go with 20 years old Sieme Plat.


 

27.07.2024 - Ajax - Vitesse Arnhem 2:1 (Dutch Super Cup) - 4. Sergio Alleyne, 14. Noa Lang - 90.+2 pen. Wesley Hoedt

It was a revenge match against Vitesse and we started with real hunger and determination to win. We had a corner in 4’ - Francesco Antonucci saw his shot hit the post, but Sergio Alleye was first to get to rebound and put it in. Noa Lang added another goal in 14’ (wonderful long pass by Nathan Leyder gave his 1-1 chance against keeper).

Vitesse then started to pick up their game - they got their best chance in 16’, but the shot went wide. Sieme Plat wasted his opportunity in 34’.

Could have been 3-1, but I was happy with our performance in the first half. Second half offered less action until injury time when Mike van der Hoorn fouled Joel Donald in our box and late penalty gave Vitesse some consolation. Poor error by experienced defender, but if I ever had a chance to pick place and time of these kind of mistakes, it’s there.

  • Sieme Plat made his debut for Ajax in this game

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