Frank de Boer had enough things to talk about two days prior to the competition match against PEC. On Friday at the Toekomst, the discussion ranged from his tough speech to his players, his best before date, and, naturally, PEC.
The last three matches of 2014-2015 are in sight. Ajax needs one point in order to secure second place in the Eredivisie. Cup finalist PEC isn’t the ideal candidate for them to achieve this. Think about it: the Zwolle team has won two of the last four matches between the clubs. PEC was the victor in two important scenarios: the KNVB Cup finals (5-1) and the Johan Cruijff Shield (1-0). The other two (competition matches) ended in draws.
“PEC will want to have a good dress rehearsal for the cup finals against FC Groningen”, said De Boer prior to Sunday’s match. Ajax is PEC’s last hurdle in the Ijsseldelta Stadium leading up to the cup finals. “Zwolle will want to head to the Kuip feeling good.” The Ajax coach prefers to focus on Ajax’s undefeated status against PEC in terms of competition. The Amsterdam team is unbeaten in its last ten Eredivisie matches against the Zwolle team. “I’m counting on achieving a good result on Sunday.”
Ajax’s last game hasn’t exactly inspired confidence. The home game against NAC, a candidate for degradation, ended in 0-0. “But we still had more opportunities in that match than we did in the matches against Excelsior and ADO Den Haag combined”, emphasized De Boer. “But it’s up to you to pull the trigger.”
Viktor Fischer’s return was a highlight in the match against the Breda team. The Danish Ajax player came back after fourteen months of injury. The forward is ready for a starting spot, said De Boer. Arek Milik and Daley Sinkgraven could also play on Sunday, but they were accorded rest. “I told both of them that they won’t play in this match. I don’t want to take any risks in this phase. They can prepare for the match against Cambuur.”
A few days after the home game against NAC, De Boer audibly and visibly blasted into the Ajacieds. That speech was the source of much entertainment last week among fans and reporters. The video from Ajax TV was the most popular film on You Tube. “It was about being sharp”, said De Boer when asked about his harsh motivational speech during Monday’s training. “They didn’t fulfill the agreements we made in the NAC match. I wasn’t happy about it.” The coach said that his blasting (‘that kind of thing needs to come from the heart, it’s a feeling’) yielded some results. “I had a great training on both Thursday and Friday”, said De Boer, talking about sharpness and intensity. “It starts with enthusiasm and hunger”. The coach also put a hand to his own heart. “Perhaps I should have been more present in order to demand that intensity. Then you’re more like a police officer.”
Finally, criticism of the lost season was addressed. After the draw with NAC, there was renewed criticism of – among other things – Ajax’s manner of playing, selection, and coach. De Boer naturally remained calm in the face of criticism. “If you can’t win the championship any more, then you start to look at next season. It’s important that we finalize the selection. Of course there are places where we could bring in reinforcements. But these guys are good and hungry enough to win prizes. We need to find a new impulse.”
De Boer’s best-by date as Ajax’s coach was also discussed. The subject in question answered with tongue in cheek. “Where that is concerned, everything is fine.” On a serious note, he continued: “I already am excited for next season.”