‘Continue the same way as that great first half’

‘Continue the same way as that great first half’

On paper, Go Ahead Eagles seem like the ideal opponent for Ajax to redeem itself against, but Frank de Boer refuses to approach the away match in Deventer that way.

“Go Ahead has a small field, and it’s never easy to win there. PSV has had a hard time there in the past few years, and so has Feyenoord”, says Ajax’s coach. “We’ll have to give everything we’ve got and ensure that we continue in the same way as that great first half against AZ. And we need to do it for the entire match, not just 45 or 60 minutes.”

Ajax didn’t manage to score or win against AZ (0-1), just as it hasn’t managed to do in its past three matches. But De Boer sees improvement. “Of course we can’t forget that the most important thing is to get the points, but I’m also looking at the way we played. We didn’t get into our game even once against Vitesse. But against AZ, we managed to do it for 45 minutes. I felt like the opponent didn’t have anything on us. Considering the make-up of the team and the fact that they haven’t played together very much, I was pretty satisfied with the first half. Now we need to expand on that.”

De Boer experimented with Lasse Schöne as centre forward against AZ. “He did a reasonably satisfactory job”, said his coach. “But I think I can expect more from Lasse. His strength is his possession, and that’s why I put him in centre forward. But I thought that he sometimes lost possession too easily. Of ten balls, he should be able to do well with nine of them. Now, it was about five out of ten. That’s not enough, but Lasse understands that.”

De Boer was pleased with Daley Sinkgraven’s debut. “He did pretty well. He was in control of the ball, only the final pass didn’t always work out. But the point is that he does see the spaces, and that’s the most important part.” Jairo Riedewald left the AZ game with an injury. “That didn’t feel like a cramp”, said De Boer. “It looks like an injury. I think it’s the inside of his hamstring or another muscle, but I don’t know, exactly.”

There was good news from the injury roster. De Boer will most likely be able to call on a pair of pillars in Adelaarshorst. “I think that Joël (Veltman) and Davy (Klaassen) will be back on Sunday. Thulani (Serero) may not be ready yet.”

The team desperately needs for Veltman to return, considering that Ajax will need to make do without Niklas Moisander in Deventer. But it’s still risky to play the Ijmuiden native, considering that the defender is still unable to play ninety minutes. De Boer would have preferred to let Veltman build up some match rhythm with the Ajax Reserves first. “That’s the disadvantage of KNVB rules. He’s already played sixteen matches in Ajax 1, so he can’t play with the Ajax Reserves anymore.”

De Boer is pleased that Ajax can try to wash away the bitter aftertaste of the loss to AZ on Sunday at Go Ahead Eagles. At the same time, playing a second game within four days has its disadvantages. “Right now we have several guys who are on the edge. If we had had a week to recover, more guys might have been able to come back. As staff, we would have had more choice.”

Currently trailing PSV by twelve points, it seems that Ajax can forget about winning the title. In addition to that, the Amsterdam team has the competition breathing down their neck for second place. De Boer refuses to concern himself with the rankings right now. “We need to play better if we don’t want to end up battling for the play-offs. We need to look at ourselves. That’s the only thing we can control. If we play our game like we can, then I think we have a shot at second place. And maybe even more.”