For Frank de Boer, the outcome is of secondary importance. Most of all right now, Ajax’s coach wants to see improvement in the game. “We need to make sure that we’re playing well”, said De Boer on Wednesday’s press conference before Ajax – AZ. “I believe that the tides can turn.”
“You can only talk about the title if you’re doing well yourself”, continued De Boer. “It’s key that we improve how we’re playing, as quickly as possible. Now is not the time for us to be looking at who’s ahead or who’s behind us. I simply want us to re-gain confidence and start playing our own game again. If that happens, then it doesn’t matter that much if we tie now and then.”
Ajax has started the second half of the season with difficulty. They won four points from home games against FC Groningen (2-0) and Feyenoord (0-0). On Sunday, they lost 1-0 at Vitesse.
The bad taste from the loss in Arhem has lingered, but De Boer also saw one positive. “We played reasonably well on defense, didn’t give much away. That was not the case against Feyenoord.”
At the press conference, De Boer was asked if this was the toughest period of his coaching career. “I don’t know”, answered the former defender. “It’s the least fun, that’s for sure. When you’re winning, everything is great. But sometimes things aren’t going so well, and that’s part of the sport, too. You don’t need to panic about that. Of course we want to continuously play the best football and win the championship every year. We’re going to do everything we can to win that fifth straight title. But other teams out there want it just as badly. We need to want it the most.”
De Boer hopes that his team can straighten itself out on Thursday evening at home, although the coach realizes that it won’t be easy. “AZ can be a tough opponent. They’re doing pretty well, although they had a downer against Twente in the cup match last week. They’re still a bit unsure of their system. One day they’ll play 4-4-2 and then it will be 4-3-3. It will be difficult, but we knew that we’d have a tough schedule after the winter break.”
De Boer is short on midfielders. He will be forced to play AZ without Davy Klaassen and Thulani Serero. “It was a puzzle, but I’ve solved it”, said De Boer.
It’s expected that acquisition Daley Sinkgraven will make his debut for Ajax. The midfielder is ready for it, according to De Boer. “We wouldn’t have brought him over from Heerenveen otherwise. We brought him in because we’re sure he can play immediately if necessary.”
De Boer said that the acquisition of Sinkgraven was a strong wish of his. Ajax’s coach didn’t hide his admiration. “Daley is a player with football sense, both on attack and defense. As a left winger, he played in his own way, but he can play left offense or controlling. At Heerenveen, Joey van den Berg played on 10 and Daley controlled, while you would expect it to be the other way around.”
De Boer thinks that Sinkgraven will find his way in Amsterdam quickly. “He’s been received well. I think he’ll find his place in the selection fast. He’s grounded enough for that.”
Ajax – AZ starts on Thursday at 20:45. Tickets are still available and can be ordered through the link below.