Erik ten Hag, celebrating his birthday (48), opened Friday afternoon’s press conference by treating the reporters to cookies. The Ajax coach then discussed the duel against NAC Breda, his substitutions policy, and the right back position.
Earlier this season, Ajax won the ‘NAC evening’ with a score of 0-8. Ten Hag has no idea what consequences the monster score will have for the upcoming game on Sunday. “It’s possible that they will want revenge. But it’s also possible that being destroyed like that on the field will create fear. That hits your self-confidence.”
'I still stand 100 per cent behind my decision.'
When asked why he often chooses to make a late substitution, he answered: “I also make early substitutions. This season, I’ve even done it after only half an hour, so it’s hard to generalize. If you make a substitution too early, it may be because the tactics aren't working, but it can also be because you detect a certain weakness with the opponent. It depends on many things.”
The Ajax coach explains why he didn’t make a substitution against FC Utrecht (0-0): “You can also say that the team was doing fine and it wasn’t necessary. That’s the case when you’ve selected the strongest team with good tactics. Then, there’s no reason to substitute. I still stand 100 per cent behind my decision.”
Good impression of Kristensen
To conclude, Ten Hag had good things to say about Danish acquisition Rasmus Kristensen: “He’s made a good impression on me. He can definitely add some elements to Ajax’s playing style which we don’t have currently. He’s unbelievably dynamic.”
“He’ll need to fight for the spot with Joël Veltman”, continues the trainer. “They’re different types of players. Veltman can play centrally and on the right. Kristensen is more of a wing defender who creates a lot of offensive impulses. They can learn from each other. It’s a sort of cross-pollination. If they can challenge each other and improve, it can be very positive.”
This puts the coach in a luxurious position at right flank: “It all depends on how you want to play, and who the opponent is. In the end, it comes down to the balance. You’re continuously searching for it. The defender’s job is to defend. That’s his priority. But with Ajax, you also need to take initiative in the build-up and make an offensive contribution. Veltman showed that with the 2nd goal against Feyenoord.”