'Increase pressure on PSV by winning at Cambuur'

'Increase pressure on PSV by winning at Cambuur'

The Eredivisie title race has reached the deciding phase.  Ajax is in the pole position, with a two-point lead on PSV.  But Frank de Boer refuses to take anything for granted.  “There is no point in looking ahead”, said Ajax’s coach during Friday’s press conference prior to Saturday’s game at SC Cambuur.  “We need to make sure that we continue to apply pressure to the competitor.  We can do that by winning three points tomorrow in Leeuwarden.”

De Boer said that Ajax was its own greatest obstacle on the road to winning the title, and drew comparisons with his own playing career.  “When I was one hundred per cent focussed, I could play very well against anyone, such as Ronaldo, for example.  But if I wasn’t, then it would definitely be a tough afternoon.” De Boer says that the same is true for the current Ajax team.  “When we can focus, we can handle everyone.  We’ve proven that.  We have more quality than teams like Heerenveen, FC Twente and Utrecht.  If we’re not focussed, it will be very tough.”

Find the way

De Boer emphasized the importance of focus.  “Concentration is very important.  You need to picture yourself in the match beforehand.  It shouldn’t be that you hear the whistle blow and think ‘oh, the match is starting’.  That’s not how top-level sports work.  We have a young group and the players need to learn what they can and can’t do at this level.  The guys need to find their way with that.”

For this reason, Ajax has been using a focus coach this season.  “It was very intensive at first and we all had three sessions.  Now, he comes to the club now and then – he was here this week – to see if some players need some extra attention.  As a technical staff, we’ve also learned some techniques.  For example, if we know that something is going on, we have specific tools to help that player gain concentration, so that he doesn’t get distracted by peripheral events.”

De Boer was also asked why he brought out Viktor Fischer instead of Anwar El Ghazi in last week’s game against PEC 3-0).  “I think that Fischer’s been training well and therefore I rewarded him with that substitution”, explained De Boer.  “He’s neck to neck with Amin right now, but I don’t have any reason to make a change right now.  The same goes for Anwar, who’s also been training well.  I definitely know that they’ll be ready when they are needed.”

Team’s best interest

The coach said that there is no place right not for dissatisfied players.  “Of course there will be disappointment each week for the guys who don’t play.  But that book is closed.  We only need to think of one thing, that that’s the team.  I feel that we’re in good shape right now.”

De Boer says that his team has a relaxed attitude towards being in first place.  “There’s always a healthy tension.  And pressure, of course, we all know that.  Squandering points can be costly in this phase.  But we need to make sure that we win the last five matches.  Then we’ll be the champion.”

The first hurdle is SC Cambuur, a team with many secrets for De Boer.  “We don’t know how they are going to play.  Last week they played 4-3-3, before that it was 5-3-2, but they’ve mostly played 4-4-2.  We will have to wait and see how they will go to battle against us: defensively or with pressure on offense?  We’re playing on a smaller field, on artificial turf.  Those ingredients work to Cambuur’s advantage.  We will need to bring as much to the game as they do.  The difference in quality will be the deciding factor.”