With one draw and one loss in its last two games, the mood at Ajax hasn’t been great in the past week. “And it shouldn’t be”, said Erik ten Hag during the press conference prior to the Heerenveen game. “It would be odd if we were frolicking around the Toekomst.”
The deficit against leader PSV has grown to 10 points, and talk of the national title has ceased (for now). Ten Hag: “If we don’t win, then everybody’s down and things become restless. That’s how it is at Ajax. The norm is to win, to become champion. As a team, it’s fine that we feel some of that restlessness. In the end, we’re the ones responsible for the performance.”
Sombre mood after Vitesse - Ajax
The bitter taste after the costly loss in Arnhem remains. “Normally speaking, you should be able to flip the switch after about 24 hours. But this time, the dark mood remained. That’s OK, because sometimes, that can create energy.”
'Fortunately, the players are self-critical'
What upsets the head coach the most is the way in which things went wrong against Vitesse. “I hadn’t expected that attitude. We just let it happen so easily. The players, fortunately, are very critical of themselves and each other. They recognize that they just weren’t good enough at some points. We need to slam our fist down on the table at times like that, and so do the players. They need to take responsibility, and be resolute.”
'Players in bed by 23:30'
The press conference ended with a question from a member of the Ajax Kids Club. At what time do the players go to bed on the night before a game? Ten Hag: “It depends on the layer. I guess they need 8 to 9 hours of sleep, so that means that they would go to bed around 23:00 or 23:30.”
Ajax - sc Heerenveen on Sunday
Ajax will receive sc Heerenveen in the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday. Ten Hag is counting on achieving a good result. He doesn’t even want to consider a similar scenario to the one at Vitesse, when his team faced a deficit.
“I’m a positive person. Ajax aims to play attacking football: decisive, taking initiative. Being Ajax, we need to take the lead in every game. But should we fail to do that, we need to be resilient. Fortunately, against Vitesse, that’s exactly what we were, because after the 2-0, we scored the 2-1 and could have scored the 2-2 goal a minute later.”