Erik ten Hag is pleased with the optimistic atmosphere surrounding Ajax. The manager is looking forward to a great season, but is wary of underestimating it. The same goes for Saturday’s match against Vitesse. "The sub top appears to be stronger. That is definitely the case for Vitesse."
"There’s a positive climate ", Ten Hag says about the atmosphere within his squad. "The players aren’t easily satisfied; they want to go to the max. We’re very happy about that." The manager is expecting a two-way-battle between Ajax and PSV in the Eredivisie, with Feyenoord as the 3rd contender for the national title. But prolongation of the title is certainly not going to be easy, he warns. "Ajax would have been champion by the winter break last year, as well. And we all know what happened there."
'The sub top appears stronger. Larger squads, two players for each position; that certainly goes for Vitesse'
Ten Hag sees the Dutch clubs have been busy over the summer. "The sub top appears stronger. Larger squads, two players for each position; that certainly goes for Vitesse." Is it a cliché that Vitesse away is always a tough match? "Yes, it is a cliché. But clichés are always true."
Not Álvarez; probably not Neres either
Not everyone will be ready to play on Saturday. Edson Álvarez, for example, will miss out on the match against Vitesse. Ten Hag: "He has only just returned from Mexico, he has his work permit. He’ll step out onto the training field for the first time today. He’s had a rough week; we’ll have to see how he deals with that. We believe he could become a pivotal player for Ajax. He’s a fighter, an intelligent player with loads of ambition."
For David Neres, who returned from Brazil last week, the match in Arnhem is probably too soon, as well. "But I don’t want to give too much away to our opponent", said Ten Hag, keeping his cards to his chest.
Ten Hag was asked about his nomination by the FIFA for the election of best coach of the year. "It is a great honour, especially considering the other nominees." Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt have been nominated as players for their top season at Ajax. Ten Hag: "The three of us are keeping exquisite company. That’s great motivation and stimulus for the future."
Image: Ajax.nl/Jasper Ruhé