De Boer looking forward to October

De Boer looking forward to October

Ajax plays its last game of September on Saturday against FC Groningen. During Friday’s press conference, Frank de Boer looked ahead to October, which features some great games. “There are really nice games, in competition, cup tournament and Europa League. October will be a serious test, let’s be honest.”

Ajax’s games include top matches against PSV and Heracles Almelo, European duels against Fenerbahçe and Molde, and a cup match at Feyenoord. “I think there’s a good chance that it will turn out well, because we’re doing well” according to De Boer. “I’m pleased that we have a good, broad selection. That enables us to give players a break.”

On Wednesday, Ajax defeated De Graafschap 2-0 in a KNVB cup match. One day later, Feyenoord was drawn as their next opponent. The always-charged Classic will take place in the third round. De Boer remained calm. “It doesn’t matter to me. If you want to win the cup, you need to be able to beat everyone. I think we can defeat Feyenoord. On the other hand, I’m sure they think the same about us.”

De Boer says that Ajax is a team in development. “As a team, we’re learning, especially because of our age. It’s important that the things that we, the technical staff, hammer on, gets picked up by the guys, and that you see your agreements put into practice during matches. That gives the players something concrete to hold on to. But I think we’re looking good, and solid.”

Under pressure

Ajax has several new players in its selection. De Boer was specifically asked about the development of Gudelj and Sinkgraven, and what it is that newcomers need to adjust to when arriving at Ajax. “They definitely need to get accustomed to the environment and the pressure on Ajax players. Ajax is so big, and there is a lot more pressure than with any other club. You need to learn to cope with that, as well as with the playing style. It’s not a problem that there are ups and downs. I’m satisfied with how Daley and Nemanja are developing, although they both know that it needs to get better.”

Another side of Ajax is playing fresh and attacking football, as is the team’s house style. De Boer says: “If PSV defeats Manchester United with a lot of determination and a few good transitions, that’s fantastic. But if we win by playing a bit less beautifully, then it wasn’t lively enough. I know how it works because it was the same when I was playing, too. Our intention is to play beautiful, attacking football, but it’s not easy.”

On Friday, it was announced that Anwar El Ghazi has been included in the Dutch national team’s pre-selection. The forward had definitely chosen the Dutch team over the Moroccan one. De Boer is pleased with El Ghazi’s choice. “It sounds a bit strange, but normally the Dutch team should have a much better chance of making it to the World Cup. If he can become a steady asset for the Dutch team, that would be amazing for his development. I’m completely supportive of him, whatever he would have decided. He feels Dutch, he’s completely at home here, so why should he have to choose Morocco?”

Africa Cup

Another advantage is that Ajax doesn’t need to worry about El Ghazi participating in the Africa Cup during the winter break. Once every two years, the Africa Cup is organized in January and February. “I would hate to lose him for two months to the Africa Cup. But as I said, I would have respected his decision either way. But if I would have had anything to say about it, then obviously I’m pleased he chose the Netherlands.”

De Boer had been informed beforehand by national team coach Danny Blind, his former team mate. “He always calls me and tells me which players he’s going to select, and asks me how I see that.” And with a grin: “I think he listens to what I have to say.”

On Saturday, Ajax plays against FC Groningen, a team that has never won in the ArenA. It was 2-0 last January. Groningen coach Erwin van der Looi said at the time that Ajax had played counter-football. “It’s never out intention to counter. Ideally, we’d be playing 65 per cent of the match in the opponent’s half. That often happens, and the opponent can counter. Sometimes we’re forced back into defensive mode and the roles flip. But that’s not our intention.”