‘Going to give three points as a gift’

‘Going to give three points as a gift’

Ajax celebrates its 116th birthday today.  At the weekly press conference, Frank de Boer announced that a present will be given in Eindhoven.  “I’ve said that we’re going to give three points as a gift.”

“It’s not something that the players are actively thinking about”, said De Boer, referring to Ajax’s birthday.  “During the meeting I congratulated Thulani Serero.  ‘That’s right, 116 years old’, he said.  The player all knew.  They were all on the ball.”

Crucial

But something the players are actively thinking about it Sunday’s match against PSV.  De Boer called this a ‘crucial duel’. “We definitely can’t lose on Sunday.  Then the difference will be four points, and it will become very difficult.  I’m not expecting PSV to squander many points, especially now that they’re out of the Champions League.  But the best would be if we can bring three points back to Amsterdam.”

PSV narrowly missed reaching the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday evening.  They lost to Atletico Madrid in penalty kicks.  De Boer was disappointed with the outcome.  “It would have been great for Dutch football if PSV had gone through.  I have nothing but praise for PSV, they executed their strategy very well.”

The fact that PSV will need to give their best and already have already played 120 minutes of football is not something that concerns De Boer.  Although the Ajax coach did say that fatigue would most likely not play a role.  “It could have a small influence, and we are the ones who would benefit.  But the players are so well trained that I honestly don’t expect it to be a problem.”

Losing is fatal

Ajax’s plan of attack in the Philips Stadium will be determined by the developments on field.  “We’re going for the win, one hundred per cent.  Losing would be fatal.  Imagine that we’re in a tie and we feel like they’re exhausted because of the overtime in Madrid.  Obviously, we’re going to go for the win.  But if the game hasn’t been going well for us, then we’d likely be satisfied with a tie.  We’ll have to wait and see.”

De Boer expressed his appreciation for his fellow coach, Philip Cocu.  “He determines what happens at PSV, especially in the first team.  He had a lot to deal with two years ago, but he held strong with his philosophy.  That’s his strength.  In addition to that, he also learned from mistakes and events that happened around him.”

De Boer also appreciates that his good friend’s playing strategy is different that his.  “Ajax is always seeking to play more attacking football.  That’s in our DNA.  Just like it’s in PSV’s DNA to have a good, tight organisation.  When they can, PSV also tries to dominate.  They’re a team that is playing well.”

Rhythm and domination

Both Ajax’s and PSV’s midfields are famous.  De Boer expects that that is where the battle will take place.  “In the end, the most dominant team determines the rhythm of the game, and who will be playing catch-up.  That always starts at midfield.  The difference is almost always made there.”

When asked, De Boer compared the midfields of both teams.  “You have real runners like Van Ginkel and Klaassen, who seek out depth without the ball.  Otherwise, Bazoer is a technical player, just like Propper.  Gudelj is perhaps more of a demolisher than Guardado, who, in addition to being a play-maker, is often the team’s organiser.  But Gudelj’s plays that role, too.”

Amin Younes has been very important for Ajax in previous matches, however the German often isn’t present during the game’s closing phase.  De Boer emphasized that this is a point for improvement.  “The best would be for him to play continuously, and make his mark for five or ten minutes more each time.  In the end, it needs to be ninety minutes.  In the beginning, he could do 45 minutes.  It’s much better now.  But it also depends on the type of muscles you have.  It makes a difference if you like to constantly transition, like Klaassen, or have explosivity, like Younes.”