Frank de Boer opened his heart during the weekly press conference. Ajax’s coach said that Diederik Boer would be the keeper in the last competition match against FC Dordrecht, and that Kenny Tete would once again get the nod over Ricardo van Rhijn.
Tete got his chance in last week’s game against SC Cambuur (3-0) and made a good impression on his coach. “He made good decisions with the ball and was strong in the duels. Defending with speed is his greatest asset, but Kenny’s also good at build-up. He’s going to get another chance on Sunday. It’s a good signal to Kenny, and also to Ricardo van Rhijn, because I think he needs to bring more to the table.”
Against Cambuur, De Boer played with the point out in front, with an old-fashioned number 10, and saw to his satisfaction that possession in front of the goal was much better. “We’ve analysed that, on average, during a pass, there is only one and half men in the box. That’s very easy for the opponent to defend. There should be at least three. On Sunday, with a 10, that was much better. Somehow, the other system just isn’t working. The deepest midfielders are too busy with the build-up and all seem to want to be one to make the deciding pass.”
With 27 goals against, Ajax has the least passed defense in the Eredivisie. So defense is a strong point. “From that, it seems that we want to do whatever it takes to prevent the other team from scoring. But we should be scoring more goals of our own. In the end phase we still need to gain some ground to win, that’s the most important. The first and second phase are fine as far as I’m concerned. But in the end, it’s about playing beautiful football and creating opportunities.”
Dnipro isn’t known to be a team that plays brilliant football. Still, the Ukraine team that disqualified Ajax in February has reached the Europa League finals. De Boer still has a bitter taste in his mouth. “On one hand, Dnipro deserves it, because they’re there. In terms of their play, there could be some question marks. Perhaps we could have been the ones to be there in their place.”
For the first time under De Boer’s leadership, Ajax ends the season without a single prize. The coach knows what went wrong. “I think that we suffered during the time that Serero, Klaassen and Veltman were injured. Also, some players haven’t been consistent. That’s a tough thing to be at this age. Too many players didn’t have the form for a long battle for the championship. If one player is out of his form, then you can replace him with another. But if there are three, four or five players having an off-period, then you almost can’t recover from that.”
But still, there were positive sides. The breakthrough of youth sensations Anwar El Ghazi and Riechedly Bazoer was one. “Anwar played 42 games. That is a lot for a first year senior. It was also thanks to his outstanding physical condition that he could do it. The same goes for Bazoer, who came in after the winter break and got going without any problems.”
It’s possible that next year, El Ghazi will be supported in the front line by Rafael van der Vaart. Ajax is in discussions with the veteran. De Boer emphasized that if Van der Vaart would return to Ajax, it would be for an offensive position. “We’re looking for a centre forward. Rafael could be a candidate for that. We see a few offensive positions that he could fill, and eventually the ten.” Van der Vaart will make a decision about his future after the German competition ends next week.