Everyone around him may be talking about the championship. But not Frank de Boer. That was more or less the tone of his words during the press conference leading up to the home game against ADO.
Two days before a potential championship, Ajax’s coach is sticking to his philosophy, meaning he is looking at each game as it comes and is only concerned with his own team. Not with Feyenoord, on whom Ajax is dependent to win. If ADO is defeated and Feyenoord doesn’t take full points, then the fourth straight title is in the bag. “We can only influence our own result”, says De Boer. “I do think that Feyenoord will do everything they can to rain on our parade. Even with an eye on second place.”
According to the coach, Feyenoord, who in theory is still in the running for the title, is on a strong streak right now. “A solid team. When they’re in good shape, they’re hard to beat. Will they make it tough for us? I don’t think they’ll lose many points. The only ones who can make things tough for us are ourselves.” With three matches to go and a six point lead, Ajax’s prospects are good, but De Boer refuses to count his chickens before they’re hatched. When asked if he will inform his players of the PSV-Feyenoord score during halftime, he says: “I’m not concerned with that. We just need to try to win and entertain the crowd. If others are already celebrating, that’s their business.”
On Sunday awaits ADO Den Haag, a team which has been unbeaten since Henk Fräser stepped in for Maurice Stein. The Den Haag team has remained undefeated for no fewer than nine matches in a row, and maintaining this seems to be in the cards. “Very good”, says De Boer. In his opinion, ADO’s success could have something to do with their modified game concept. “They’re now playing with the point out in front, with two controlling midfielders. Before, they were playing with the point towards the back.”
When asked about his raised voice during Friday’s practice, De Boer answers simply that it wasn’t anything more than business as usual. “Sometimes that just happens more. Players need to be woken up sometimes.” These moments come from his desire for his players to always be sharp. Only then can they improve compared to previous seasons. Have they been successful? He says yes. “We’ve become more solid. Our goal was to play better as a team. That’s going to be the guarantee for success.” He’s not bothered that Ajax hasn’t had to make up a lot of lost ground this season. “We need to bring the same thing to each match, whether or not we’re at the top or bottom of the rankings.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s match (16:30), it’s unsure whether Niklas Moisander and Thulani Serero will be able to play. That will be evaluated tomorrow, says the coach. He will also need to do without the suspended Daley Blind and Ricardo van Rhijn. Ruben Ligeon may take Van Rhijn’s place tomorrow. Although he hasn’t had much playing time in the first team, he stood his ground well when we came in against Feyenoord at home. He’s also played a lot with the Ajax Reserves. “Ruben has played enough”, says De Boer. “He’s done well in the important matches. I have faith in him and he knows that. In his debut match against NAC, he passed with flying colours. If he hadn’t been injured this season, he may have played more than he has.”
To close, De Boer had praise for Bojan. The loaned out player from Barcelona seems to have finally found his rhythm. “It took a long time. But he’s doing well and is approaching his level. I’m happy with that, especially in this very important part of the season.”