‘NAC is doing well’

Despite last Sunday’s mediocre game, Frank de Boer is full of confidence looking ahead to the match against NAC. “They trained well this week, we’ve tanked up on self-confidence against JOS/Watergraafsmeer. I don’t think we’ll be playing another match like we played against Feyenoord anytime soon.”

During Friday’s press conference, the coach looked back on the win against the Rotterdam team. One thing is certain for De Boer: “We can’t stay at this level for much longer if we want to win the championship.”

It’s hard to say what went wrong against Feyenoord, according to De Boer. “That’s always the hard part. We looked at the match and saw things we need to improve on. The players saw it too, so we need to get to work now.”

The long ball was chosen too often, says De Boer. “That wore the team down, and we should have found easier solutions on a short ball. That didn’t happen enough.” Position play was also sub-par. “Our position play has been our trademard for years. So you shouldn’t start playing the ball back at the first setback. You need to stay stoic, even if you’re playing in front of 50.000 people. Otherwise, you feed the opponent. On Sunday, we didn’t do that very well. We were too restless. That’s also to do with confidence. That determines for 90% what you bring at that moment.”

On Wednesday, Ajax posted a 9-0 win against JOS/Watergraafsmeer to earn a third round spot in the KNVB Cup. Arkadiusz Milik scored six of the goals. Still, De Boer will likely choose Icelander Kolbeinn Sigthórsson at the point of attack. De Boer had lots of praise for his Polish acquisition: “He’s hungry and wants it. He won’t start against NAC, but his time will definitely come.”

The upcoming opponent has impressed De Boer so far. “The team’s doing well. They have a good midfield with several types of players. At this moment, they’re a tough team to beat. They’ve only lost twice, once to PSV, but they played very well. And they rightfully beat FC Twente.”

The question of captain Niklas Moisander’s contract came up during the press conference. The Finn’s contract runs until the end of the season, but so far nothing has been decided for next season. De Boer: “All options are open. He’s a good captain and still the best choice for central defense. But we have three guys who can play there next year. Stefano Denswil will need to play, for example. At any given moment, you need to look at what’s best for the club. If Moisander is still the best choice after the winter break, then we’ll definitely try to continue with him. But that’s always a tough choice. You need to make a balanced decision.”

De Boer also has praise for another Scandinavian player. Lucas Andersen has earned a starting spot in the past weeks at left winger, and De Boer has a lot of faith in the Dane. “He has the attributes to become a great player. It’s only now that he’s starting to show how good he is. We want to build that up to a whole match and after that, he’ll need to prove himself over a longer period of time.”

De Boer is therefore giving Adersen time to adjut to the high expectations and pressure at this level. “A player always needs to be given time to grow. We’re now letting him take steps, and are in the middle of the process. The next step is to continue properly and keep the overview. He’s a guy who can make a great cross pass. I see him as a good attacking midfielder. He is in a position to create an extra man.”