Ajax ended its pre-season with mixed emotions. On one hand, there was satisfaction at the progress the team has made leading up to the 2015-2016 season. On the other hand, a late 1-0 loss against Saint-Etienne was a disappointment. Frank de Boer and Daley Sinkgraven discuss.
“Saint-Etienne didn’t crowd the ball that much”, said De Boer after the friendly in Valence. “The opponent was mainly just trying to get into the game. It’s a shame to lose. I think that a t 0-0 score would have been better, especially since everyone today gave their best. It was also tough to play against Saint-Etienne’s tight defense. Their playing style (5-4-1) is what it is. It’s a pain in the neck to play against. But you need to find a solution. We were sloppy a few times, at midfield, for example. You need to have people who are running there. We had a few chances, but the ball just wouldn’t go in. Then you keep getting more opportunities, because Saint-Etienne needed to bring more. I think our defense played a decent game. We controlled the match about eighty per cent of the time.”
The Ajax coach was happier to look back on the entire pre-season than just on the match in Valence. “Our pre-season was good. We only had four weeks, when we would normally have had six or seven. Despite the fact that they guys may have fewer games in their legs, I feel like we’re ready.”
Last week, De Boer announced that his ideal team was about forty per cent complete. What is that percentage now, after the last friendly match? “I’m about at seventy per cent now. The guys are all close. As a coach, that’s what you like to see. But it makes it harder to make choices. But you need to be professional about it. Once again: we are ready for Rapid.”
Created too little
Daley Sinkgraven said that his team had a very tough time in France. “We couldn’t get a grip on Saint-Etienne today. We couldn’t get through. We also created too little, myself included.”
“Our first half was alright”, continued the midfielder. Sinkgraven was certainly among the better players on De Boer’s team in the first half. The left midfielder stood out with his plays, but the follow-up wasn’t always good enough. In that respect, Sinkgraven joins his team mates. Ajax missed the refinement and cunning needed to challenge Saint-Etienne. “We got into the duels too much. Considering our qualities, we should have made things easier on ourselves. That’s a shame. Some important matches are coming up, and we definitely need to do better.”
Just like his coach, Sinkgraven has a good overall feeling about the pre-season. “We definitely played some good matches in the past few weeks. The match against Panathinaikos was my best one, personally.” The midfielder has seen Ajax grow in the past few weeks. “We shouldn’t give this last match too much importance”, decided Sinkgraven. “We can look back with a good feeling on our preparation, I think. Everyone worked so hard. We just need to work on the details now, starting with Rapid Wien next week.”