The battle has been fought, the prizes received. Ajax is the champion, and, while still in holiday mode, is already preparing for the new season. Exclusively for Ajax.nl and the Official Ajax Yearbook, that will appear around the start of the 2013-2014 season, Frank de Boer looks back on the 2013 championship year. The year during which he coached Ajax to a historic trilogy is discussed through the lens of a few specific themes.
Motivational speech during an away game at NEC (with a 0-5 lead):
Ajax’s second match of the season went well in terms of the end result. But when a hopeless NEC scores a goal while 0-5 down, Frank de Boer loses it. In front of the cameras, De Boer clearly gives his team hell. After NEC – Ajax (1-6), several analyses point to De Boer’s perfectionism, fanaticism and winner’s mentality.
“It’s especially in this kind of match, especially at the start of the season, that you need to sense when you can completely destroy an opponent and maybe score ten goals”, says De Boer, explaining his driven nature and intimidating lecture. “That was possible against NEC. It could also have been 1-0. Then we would have had to pull the trigger to get to 2-0 or 3-0. Now, it was a motivational speech while we were in a bigger lead. That doesn’t matter to me. It’s nice for television entertainment. I was just working on Ajax’s process.”
A loss with a perspective: the first CL match at Borussia Dortmund (1-0)
“Borussia Dortmund was better, but we had opportunities. We could have won if we’d had luck on our side. Finally, we were the only team who were consistent in Dortmund. Ajax definitely hurt Borussia at times. Before that, I would have said that they could reach the Champions League semi-finals. It was such a shame that they scored the winning goal in the final minutes. But I can’t be upset about that for very long. I was more concerned with how we played, and I was pretty satisfied with that. It gave confidence for the rest of the season.”
Christian Eriksen’s development
“Christian Eriksen has become more stable and dominant this season. He’s developed very well. Although sometimes, Chris needs to be more aware of where he’s standing, so that he can be even more dangerous in front of the goal with his shooting technique. If he gets hungrier, he’ll be a world class player. I think that he can adapt pretty quickly to anything. It’s time for the next step.”
The season’s downsides
“The first match against Real Madrid (1-4 loss) was a downside of the season. It was disappointing that we were so hopeless. I’m especially disappointed at how we played in the first hour. That was mediocre and not worthy of Ajax, and that’s what I told the players. They were so anxious, while we had nothing to lose. We were sloppy and lost possession a lot. The Real players are masters at transitioning. It’s especially against teams like this that you need to play your own game. We could do much better, but we didn’t show it. You always need to do your own thing, even against Real Madrid. Don’t suddenly start playing differently. As a player, you need to do what you’re out there to do, do the things that made you become a football player. You’re there because you’re good. Don’t start chasing your tail, or doing other odd things. You need to keep doing the same thing.”
“Honestly, it’s still the disqualification by Steaua that remains the biggest disappointment of last season. At home, we should have won 4-1. We could have at least scored a third one. Then away, we’d have needed to score a minimum of two goals. We let ourselves get lulled to sleep in Romania. We left it all on the table in that away match. We should have converted at least one of the six good opportunities we had.”
‘I still can’t believe that we were disqualified by this team. I was satisfied with the way we played. We definitely dominated twice. In our away game, they shot three times on our goal, and scored twice…that’s bad luck. We missed the eagerness to score that night. If we would play against Steaua ten times, we’d win nine times. I’m convinced of that.”
Key win against PSV: 2-3
“We had a great result at PSV, and it wasn’t even our best match. There were times when we really had them by the throat. You need to sense that when you’re on the field. Then you need to finish it, make it 1-3. In the end, we made it difficult for ourselves. After the victory, we had the feeling that we’d taken a big step towards the championship. Our direct competition was 6 points behind us. At that moment, it was all in our own hands. It really was that simple. You can’t be dependent on others.”
The collective title
“We have good individual players, but above all, we’re a team. And as a team, we matured this season. We’re better at dealing with pressure; especially the pressure at the start of important matches. Guys like Christian, Toby, Siem and Kenneth are used to these matches; they don’t panic easily. The focus wasn’t on the championship at the start of the season. No, we were focused on how we want to play. The result of that should be that you’re holding the trophy at the end of the season.”
“I’m incredibly proud of how we’ve done this season. We were really focused on making the team play better, more dominant football than last season. The collective is super important. It’s thanks to that that we performed consistently. The team has many qualities in all positions. The entire team stood was remarkable; all of the players were remarkable.”
Ajax TV followed Frank de Boer closely last season. This resulted in the documentary called “The Architect of the Trilogy”. This unique peek into the life of the Ajax coach was premiered this week on Eredivisie Live. Next week, the documentary can be seen on Ajax TV.