Having the wind in your back, and enjoying the ride. That’s how the past few matches must have felt for Ajax. The Ajacieds are back in contention to win the title, and are on course to earn a semi-final spot in the UEFA Europa League. With little to worry about, and active on two fronts, life is good right now. “It’s all about winning. If you can do that in a good way, like yesterday, then it’s great to be a coach”, said Peter Bosz on the day following the 2-0 win against Schalke 04.
Against the German team, Bosz once again received confirmation that his team is on the right track. “We’re not only been winning in the past few weeks, but we’ve been playing good football. That was the case against Feyenoord, and against FC Copenhagen before that. Only that bad match against Excelsior is in there, too. But after that, we played well against Feyenoord, in the first half hour against AZ, at NEC, and against Schalke. Considering our busy schedule and the fact that the matches are all in rapid succession, we’re really having a strong streak right now.”
“It’s mid-April and we’re still active on two fronts. That’s great."
At times, Ajax sent Schalke 04 running to every corner of the field, something that Bosz hadn’t expected. “In the Dutch competition, you can generally evaluate what the balance of power will be. Against an opponent that you’re just meeting for a one-off, it’s much more difficult. Beforehand, I was very curious if we could hold our own against a good opponent like Schalke, especially without an important player like Lasse. But Donny did a fantastic job. It was just a very strong game from our side.”
The match against the Bundesliga’s number ten team showed that Ajax is in great shape, physically. “The guys are rising up to the challenge every week. At first, we were criticized a lot – often, it was rightfully so – that we were only performing well at times, sometimes only for one half. After that we played very well against Copenhagen, but the next match against Excelsior was bad. Then we got criticized that we couldn’t do it twice in three days. But now, I think we’ve shown for several weeks that we’re in good shape, physically. Our way of playing demands a lot of strength. Fortunately, now we’re in a position to perform well match after match.”
Sinkgraven absent against Heerenveen
A downside of the amazing win was Daley Sinkgraven’s injury. The left back was hurt early on, played out the first half, but was substituted at halftime by Matthijs de Ligt. Examinations have shown that Sinkgraven has pulled a tendon in his left knee. He will therefore miss the home game against his former club, Heerenveen. All other players remained healthy. “Players usually feel it the most on the second day after the game. But in principle, everyone was outside for the training today.”
Upcoming opponent Heerenveen is eighth in the rankings, and is coached by Jurgen Streppel, who has a similar background to Bosz. “We both come from Apeldoorn. And we have the same hairdresser”, grins Ajax’s coach. “Well, I think that he played good football with Willem II, and now again with Heerenveen.”
Going for the prizes
The fact that the Fries team, after a good start to the season, has dropped the ball somewhat, surprises Bosz. “I thought they performed very well in the beginning, but I knew it would be hard for them to keep it up for the whole season. I know that from experience, in my time at Heracles and Vitesse. But I had expected them to be competing for fourth place.”
But the situation is very different in Amsterdam. The Ajacieds just keep getting better. “It’s mid-April, and we’re active on two fronts. That’s great.”