De Boer sees potential

De Boer sees potential

Frank de Boer showed his Cruijffian side in Friday’s weekly press conference.  The coach is annoyed at the physical challenges on defense, but at the same time, sees potential.  “Every downside has an upside as well.  Now the other players will get a chance to show what they can do.  These guys are eager to prove themselves.”

Ajax is currently in a tight spot with its defenders.  “We’re a bit short on manpower”, said De Boer.  The latest victim is Jairo Riedewald, who was injured during Sunday’s Classic.  De Boer called this a big downer.  “It’s very disappointing, especially since Kenny Tete was out earlier.  We know that Jairo has many qualities and we will miss them.  But Nick Viergever is a good alternative.”

No big risks

Riedewald had a small tear in his ankle ligament prior to the match against Feyenoord.  During the match, the left-footed player made a wrong move and broke the joint.  De Boer doesn’t feel that they took too great a risk with Riedewald.  “All of the medical staff was in agreement that – taped and medicated – he was able to play.  But it was maybe already in his head.  When doing a simple exercise during training, he touched the ball the wrong way.  Normally he never kicks into the ground and now he did that twice, in short succession.”

De Boer saw his defense, as well as the entire team, hold its own very well against Feyenoord.  “I think they all did well.  Not only Nick, but Mike van der Hoorn and Joël Veltman as right back.  We looked good.”

De Boer was asked which players could be considered for the first team if any other injuries should occur.  He named two Ajax Reserves players, Leeroy Owusu and Django Warmerdam.  “They’re next in line.”

Taking it slowly

When asked, De Boer commented on Matthijs de Ligt, the under 19’s defender.  “He’s doing well, that’s clear, but we want to take it slowly.  The next step should be the Ajax Reserves.  If he does well there, a step to the first team would make sense.”

The sparks were flying against Feyenoord, just like in the old days.  The match prior to that one wasn’t as strong for the Amsterdam team.  That is why Ajax is at the bottom of the rankings for scoring opportunities created after the winter break.  “I knew that it wasn’t good, but it is just too much that we are in last place”, said De Boer in reference to his team’s performance on offense.  “We need to get to work.  We’re going to do everything we can to get on top of this.”

Lasse Schöne was on field at kick-off of the Classic.  The Dane has been shuttling back and forth between the squad and the bench. De Boer: “I always look at whether a player is in shape and what the team needs.  I felt that we needed Lasse on Sunday.  And he did well.  Sometimes you need a real winger, one who has speed.  I check that for each match.  It also depends on who the opponent is.”

Figuring it out

The same goes for the centre forward position.  Anwar El Ghazi played in that position against Feyenoord and Arek Milik was relegated to the bench.  “We’re still trying to figure it out”, admitted De Boer honestly.  “Sometimes, the team needs more speed.  Anwar provides that.  He did a reasonably good job.  We spoke to Arek a lot about this.  His chance will come again.”

Away matches at FC Groningen have traditionally been difficult for Ajax.  De Boer is also expecting a tough match on Sunday in the Euroborg.  “Groningen is a good team that can play opportunistically and often has good players.  Against Ajax, opponents can often pull out something more.  I expect that the field won’t be a smooth ride either, after the heavy rainfall.  We’ll have to fight hard.  We know that.”

De Boer said that there would not be many changes to the squad.  “Not much will change.” Despite missing several key players, De Boer has faith in a good result.  “The first test against Feyenoord went well.  Hopefully this will give us a positive boost.  We can win the championship with this team.”