“This group needs leadership”

“This group needs leadership”

For the fifth straight year, Frank de Boer is preparing his team for the upcoming season during the summer. He doesn’t have much time. In four weeks his team needs to be ready. But the first signs in Austria are outstanding. Ajax is looking good.

In four weeks, you need to have football players who are in top shape. What are some of the challenges?

“You can’t just build slowly like in previous years. That’s why we selected more challenging, Champions League – worthy opponents for our friendly matches. Our players need to be able to play 90 minutes after four weeks. We understand that they won’t be one hundred per cent yet, but they’ll need to be close.”

How will you manage that so quickly?

“By working very closely with performance coaches, who continuously measure how the guys are doing. Obviously, we don’t want anyone to be out again for four weeks. During the trainings, I often get reigned in. If I have a specific series of training exercised in mind, but the measuring equipment shows that too many guys are ‘in the red’, then we cancel the last exercises. That’s how you use that kind of information. The numbers aren’t decisive, because we don’t just pull the plug every time a few players are having a tough time. In top level sports, the most important part is mental. Sometimes, you’ll just need to go further mentally. Who is on the ball at the moment the numbers go red, and who’s not?”

What’s your impression of the training camp so far? What have some of your best moments been?

“I can look back positively. The hotel is good, so is the atmosphere. The weather conditions in the last few days have not been ideal due to the heat, but I think that we’re better off here in Austria right now than in the Netherlands. In an ideal world, it would be 21 degrees, but we can still do our thing. We need to pay attention to the players’ condition, but that will be fine. The young guys who are here for the first time have been able to acclimatize well and are hungry to learn. That’s the most important thing for them. The fact that Nemanja is standing there, ready, is a real pleasure for me. He’s fit and very strong. You need that type of player. The ones who make a foul now and then. Sometimes, as a player, you need to just let yourself go. That’s actually something I missed on the training field. Before, we used to have Enoh who did that. Then everyone knew that they needed to be on their guard if he came close. Then they’d be forced to take other positions in order to be further away from him. If that happened, then they knew they’d be in trouble. That’s the beauty of football.”