De Boer: “We need to get it together”

De Boer: “We need to get it together”

Frank de Boer wants Ajax to have its act completely together at Excelsior. The coach wants to avoid that his players unconsciously let their guard down so soon after the match against Celtic. “If we have our act together, we should be able to keep Excelsior under control. But this is two and a half days after a European match. That’s mentally tough, because the match against Celtic required a lot of energy.”

Ajax had a long post-match discussion on Friday morning. The duel with Celtic provided enough discussion material. “We’re an organization that learns, especially with a young team. You go over what went well, as well as the things that could and should have been better.” In the end, De Boer feels fins with the points. “We got to 2-2 and thus saved one point. It would have felt different if it had ended in a tie and we’d been 2-1 ahead.”

On defense, Ajax didn’t look convincing when the goals against were scored. De Boer said that no conclusions should be drawn from this. He’s taking into account that his young team is inevitably going to make mistakes. “I found that we weren’t concentrated enough. You need to know what will be required at certain moments. I wouldn’t just punish someone after 1 or 2 mistakes. If it gets to be a structural situation, then I’d step in. Right now, I don’t have any reason to do that.”

Nice guy

De Boer has considerable choices right now – a luxury problem. “That’s amazing as a trainer, although it’s tough to make choices and to disappoint people. I’m good friends with everyone and would like to give them all playing time. But I need to do what’s best for the team and can’t let emotions rule. I’m not going to give someone playing time because he’s a nice guy.”

Amin Younes got his first official playing minutes of the season against Celtic. The German made a good impression, according to De Boer. “He can look back on a good debut. Amin was involved with the first goal and made several good plays. Everyone wonders: why would you take out such a good player? But I’m looking ahead and I want to be able to use him all season. It’s just a matter of time before he plays ninety minutes.” On Sunday against Excelsior, he won’t be doing that. “It’s just too soon.”

Last season, Ajax had a hard time winning at Woudenstein and this could be the case on Sunday again if the Ajacieds aren’t sharp. “As staff, we’re constantly hammering in that fact and I think the players get it. If you let your guard drop once, you often get into trouble right away.”

Good friend

At Excelsior, Alfons Groenendijk has been at the helm since last summer. De Boer knows him well. “I’ve always gotten along well with him. We’re good friends. I find that he’s a good colleague who truly understands the game. I really hope that it always goes well for him.”

Except on Sunday. De Boer thinks he knows hoe Groenendijk will set up his team. “They’re a team who will defend well and attempt to hand out some jabs.”

Excelsior will need to play without pillars Sander Fischer and Tom van Weert. Groenendijk called them irreplaceable, something that De Boer understands. “It’s not like Excelsior had a very broad selection with several equally-matched players. They now are missing an experienced player and a centre forward who did well for them last season. That’s a blow.”