Peter Bosz elicited a few laughs at the end of Friday’s press conference prior to the game at FC Utrecht. The coach was asked if he had some encouraging words for Ajax fans, given the team’s poor track record in the Galgenwaard. “Well, I’ve never lost there", answered Bosz to the reporters’ great amusement.
The joke closed a convincing conference during which Bosz emphasized that they would play to their own strengths. The fact that Ajax has, historically, had a difficult time in Utrecht didn’t faze Bosz much. He mainly wanted to focus on his own team.
“I can’t prevent Utrecht from coming out flying. I need to prepare the team for that and for what awaits us. But I’ve been in several games this season, especially international ones, where the worst outcomes were predicted. Look at the games at PAOK and Panathinaikos, with their fervent home crowds. And in those matches, we were able to arm ourselves very well. We’re going to try to do that again.”
Following Bosz’s philosophy, Ajax will try to play to its own strength. Host FC Utrecht will undoubtedly play with a 4-4-2 system. “We’re not going to adjust, let Utrecht adjust. So many teams adjust themselves because Utrecht sets it up differently. If you do that, you’re actually already 1-0 behind.” Bosz emphatically excluded the possibility of playing with three defenders.
In any case, Bosz will not have Abdelhah Nouri, Pelle Clement or Vaclav Cerny at his disposal on Sunday. Amin Younes is a question mark. “Younes trained with us today and did everything. It was his first full training. We need to see how he reacts tomorrow”, said Bosz, without disclosing more.
During the weekly press conference, Bosz was also asked if he expects to have Anwar El Ghazi at his disposal. “That question was asked last week as well. There is a chance that he will be leaving. He’s been in serious discussions with another club. I’ve been talking to him about it and he’s keeping me updated. But as long as I have Anwar available, and he’s an Ajax player, I’m going to use him. I did that last week against PEC, and I think he played a good game.”
If El Ghazi should leave, there may be a need for a new winger. Ajax is working on this behind the scenes. Bosz is pleased with the club’s precise and measured approach. “Quality always needs to come first. I think it’s a good thing that the club is looking carefully. It’s not a matter of pushing a button and a new player appears. There is so much more to it than that.”
“I would also add that I think it’s great that Ajax always looks at its own academy first. Last season, for example, Vaclav was outstanding. Unfortunately he’s injured right now, but if he had continued to develop that way, it would have been amazing. But otherwise, you need to look at alternatives.” Another option for Bosz is Justin Kluivert, who just made his debut. “I thought he played an outstanding game last week. But we need to take it easy. He’s not yet a certainty in the long-term.”
Bosz also gave a sneak peak into a new development during the press conference. He’s been asked by Marco van Basten to experiment with shoot-outs during trainings, and to share his experiences. Former Ajacied Van Basten is FIFA’s Chief Officer for Technical Development. In this role, he’s working on updates in football. “Marco called me to ask if we could look at this during our trainings. If it works out, we will definitely do that.”
Bosz applauds the World football federation’s interest in new approaches. “I think it’s good that we all put our minds to this. Football is a conservative sport. The rules have been in place for a long time and not much has changed. I don’t think that we should make random changes to our great sport, but we should move with the times. I was at a hockey match recently. I was surprised to see how fast the sport has become. The intensity of the play and the energy are enormous.
FC Utrecht - Ajax begins on Sunday at 12:30.