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[FM22] AFC Ajax - Best Youth System In Europe


Draakon
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8 hours ago, Swaban said:

great story so far, I love an Ajax save! Im impressed that you've continued to win the league every year so far, despite losing as many first team players as you have done

It's been sometimes difficult, sometimes easy. In some seasons Feyenoord have had an impressive winning streak as well.

Eredivisie clubs as a whole earn more from selling players than they are spending on new signings, so we're not the only club doing so (although we're taking it to bit extreme). I'm greedy as well - we're willing to let the star player go for £40m-£60m, but other teams tend to settle for around £20-£30m.

For a few seasons we were the only club in the Champions League and the runner-up team usually got stuck in the play-offs and didn't make it to the group stage. Then Eredivisie got the second automatic spot and this year (2027-2028) all three big teams (Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV) are in the Champions League proper.

On one hand Champions League money should increase the spending power of our competitors and they're attracting better players because of it. On the other hand it's a distraction because it's easy to play only domestic games and go from win to win, gaining confidence and keeping morale up, but Champions League fixtures leave your players fatigued and/or injured for the next weekend and inevitable losses to European giants (for example PSV have both Real Madrid and PSG in their September schedule) will hurt morale, so I wonder if it has an impact to their Eredivisie form.

The second thing to change this season (2027) is FC Groningen's and sc Heerenveen's drop to Keuken Kampioen divisie. Three new teams came up and the number of what I call small teams (Excelsior, Almere City, FC Emmen, De Graafschap, Helmond Sport etc.) has increased. They have a lot less quality and games against them should be mandatory wins for big clubs, so it might happen that there is a small number of decisive games between big clubs that will decide the fate of the title.

 

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September 2027

 

For the first time in a while we had most of the players with the club during international break - Jay Gorter was with the Holland national team, Estonians were away too, but most of our 21-22 years old players didn’t earn the call-up and had a chance to train for two weeks.

Champions League will kick off in September, but Eredivisie fixtures offer smaller and/or newly-promoted clubs that we should beat easily, so balancing easy with tough nicely.


 

Fixtures and Results

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Firstly, we hosted newly-promoted Almere City at Johan Cruijff Arena. I expected an easy win and in the end it was, but mainly because Almere players were overly aggressive and their defender Ko Matsubara received his second yellow card just after nine minutes of football. That made our situation a lot easier, but Almere continued to foul in every possible chance and collected yellows with almost every foul, so in the second half their second player was sent off by referee Kevin Blom. Meanwhile, some football was played and we scored four goals - the most spectacular one was Peter Misidjan’s wonderful finish from the edge of the area. Kevin Blom fell under a lot of criticism after the match, because Almere City finished with 27 fouls, 10 bookings and two red cards. On one hand they did foul a lot, but on the other hand I have to agree with the Almere City manager who pointed out questionable refereeing performance, because in the first 10-15 minutes there was a booking for almost every single foul and that looked a bit too harsh. Kevin Blom received a 4.1 rating for his refereeing performance, but at least it was to our favour this time.

Home game against Dynamo Kyiv was probably our easiest Champions League fixture on paper and indeed we were clearly the better team on the pitch as well. We dominated possession in front of the home fans from start to finish, but managed to waste most of our chances in this game. Peter Misidjan moved very well in attack, found all sorts of spaces in the box and got himself into open positions to take a shot and it was he who finally scored from a loose ball after van Axel Dongen’s attempt was parried away by the Dynamo goalkeeper. However, we continued to throw away chances in the second half - both Sebastien Haller and Nikita Tamm blew their ccc-s and I started to think that this is a win that me might somehow blunder away in the end, but we didn’t - substitute Dramane Guehi showed his teammates how to finish and sent a curling strike into the top corner from the edge of area to put this game to bed. Statistics were incredible in the end - 10 chances created (3 clear cut chances) with 4.55 xG, but only one goal scored from all of them. I was very happy with our general performance - we controlled possession and created moments in attack - but our finishing needs to improve.

I chose to rotate the team in the next two matches against Helmond and De Graafschap in order to give game time for the players who have come on as substitutes. I’m glad to say that it didn’t backfire, but it wasn’t as smooth as I anticipated either. We missed penalties in both games (Guehi vs. Helmond and Sebastien Haller vs. De Graafschap) and made things more difficult than they should have been with a rather terrible finishing. However, we scored three goals in both matches and the best one was Rico Speksnijeder’s effort from 23 metres that curled into the top corner. Plenty of chances in both games (xG over 3.00) but finishing left a lot to be desired.

Our trip to Rome was the most difficult match in September and I decided to approach it differently. In our pre-season friendlies we had moderate success with a defensive mentality and I opted for it in the away game against AS Roma. I also lowered our lines a little and switched Davy Klaassen’s role to BWMs. It worked perfectly in the first half - we scored a quick goal and limited AS Roma chances well. Klaassen worked hard in midfield and his interceptions initiated several counter-attacks. We had the initiative and when Olivier Aertssen doubled our lead from a corner before half-time it looked well-deserved. My positive half-time feedback had an impact for the first 15 minutes after the break, but old fox Jose Mourinho had changed the approach and momentum switched to AS Roma - we found ourselves under pressure around 60’ and after the third dangerous set piece situation their tall midfielder Bryan Cristante headed home from a corner. Despite losing momentum we defended well in the remainder of the game and didn’t allow any real chances to our opponents, so we returned from Rome with a very valuable three points.



 

Players

There were both easier and more difficult games in September and almost everybody got their chance to impress. Even David Kalokoh and Stanis Idumbo Muzambo who haven’t started a game yet have at least four appearances from the bench. We managed to remain quite injury-free  - only Mert Alegoz suffered torn wrist ligaments (a rather serious trauma for a goalkeeper) and he had to stay away from the first team action) but everybody else has trained well and match load hasn’t been too high for anyone.

Player of the Month: Amourricho van Axel Dongen - he’s continued to be our best creative player up front and it isn’t his fault that the finishing from teammates has been sometimes below par

Goal of the Month: Rico Speksnijder vs. Helmond Sport - brilliant strike, curled in from 23 metres


 

Another news item confirmed our excellent youth work. Apparently we’re no 2 in top league player development (although some way behind Barcelona in this regard).

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Eredivisie

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We’re leading the table. PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord made a 1:1 draw, so Feyenoord are two points behind us, but PSV and AZ Alkmaar have lost a lot more ground already.


 

Champions League

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Excellent start to our campaign. FC Porto and AS Roma made a draw in the first round and it was a favourable result for us as well. AS Roma are probably disappointed with their first two games, but so is FC Porto who somehow lost to Dynamo Kyiv, so the table after two rounds is very intriguing.

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October 2027

 

Fixtures and Results

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Home game against Go Ahead Eagles was the first one where we dropped points in the league. I rotated the team boldly again - it has worked out on several occasions in September, but this time it backfired. Some of the attacking players were nervous and we lacked creativity up front. Bart Smits curled his free kick against the crossbar in the first half injury time, but it was the closest we got to goal before substitutions in the second half started to have an effect. van Axel Dongen crossed for Nikita Tamm for a simple finish from close range, but in 77’ Helmond had a crack and their winger Gustav Elkjaer scored with a lovely finish - it wasn’t even a proper chance, but the goal was enough to steal a point from Johan Cruijff Arena. I was pretty upset with the result, because I felt we conceded two cheap points to Feyenoord in the title race. Feyenoord caught us in the table as a result and our next match after the international break was a trip to De Kuip.

There was visible tension in both teams in the Klassieker derby, because it looked like a title decider already in October. Both teams were level in the table and a win here was about to give a huge boost for one that could mean more than three points alone. We started a little better and in 14’ we took the lead - Davy Klaassen sent a deep cross to the far post where Nikita Tamm won a header to send the ball into the net. In 29’ Amourricho van Axel Dongen hit the post and it looked like we had a decent control over the match, but in the very next attack Luis Sinisterra equalised with a powerful header. He lifted off near the edge of the area and I can’t even blame Jermoumi for not marking him tighter there, but the header was a real belter that landed in the goal. Questions about Jay Gorter’s positioning, perhaps, but not much we could do about that goal. Decisive moments in the game happened in the second half, though, when Feyenoord’s Fredrik Aursnes was sent off for his late tackle on Jermoumi - that happened in 51’ and we had almost 40 minutes to find a winner. Feyenoord dropped deep and defended well for the most part of this second half and we struggled to create good chances, but in injury time Aning was tripped in the box and Davy Klaassen scored the winner from the spot. That was a sucker punch for Feyenoord and honestly, a goal I didn’t really expect us to score at that point, because we had been rather dull in the first half despite playing 11 vs. 10 for a long period. I felt that we got first lucky with the red card that really hampered Feyenoord’s pressure to our goal and then the late penalty was a little undeserved, so - not happy with the performance, but delighted with the result.

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We managed to continue this momentum into our next Champions League match against FC Porto - we started at home, with a positive mentality and Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson gave us the lead with a curling effort from 20 metres - a brilliant goal from the midfielder that left FC Porto game plan ineffective. We had a narrow 1:0 lead at half-time, but both Hlynsson and Amourricho van Axel Dongen carried a knock from the first half and I had to make early substitutions because of that. However, we raised our game in the second half - Dramane Guehi scored soon after the kick-off, Moha added another goal with a well struck effort and then FC Porto seemed to collapse completely - two more goals from Nikita Tamm and Moha made it 5:0 and it turned to be a true humiliation for the Portuguese side. We celebrated a brilliant result with our fans for some time after the final whistle - that’s three for three in the Champions League and that win gave us a really strong platform to reach the latter stages of the competition.

After two good wins I was optimistic before the Topper derby against PSV Eindhoven - confidence was high and we had scored a lot of goals. In addition it was my 300th game in football management. We started well and had a number of good chances in the first half. Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson hit the post as well, before PSV’s Oliver saw his free kick clip the crossbar. The first half ended goalless, but we were clearly the better team on the pitch and should have been 2:0 up, but the finishing was just terrible - 15/2 shooting in the first 45 minutes, about what my assistant dryly noted that ‘our shooting has been average’. What average? It was a disaster to say the least. Unfortunately we continued in the same manner - Dramane Guehi hit the volley against the post before PSV hit us on a counter in 67’. We reacted well and Nikita Tamm equalised in the very next attack, but in 85’ Fran Villalba scored his second goal of the game after Olivier Aertssen just gifted him the ball near our box and PSV took advantage of that individual error. Terrible result for us, because we didn’t deserve that. We should have won that easily in the first half, but wasted our moments and allowed PSV to steal the win. Our shooting was 23/4, with 3.00 xG - that shows how awful our finishing was in this game. The defeat ended our unbeaten streak that reached 58 games in Eredivisie. Something that’s difficult to repeat.

I hoped to bounce back with a win against Excelsior. Our opponents were just promoted to Eredivisie, but found themselves in 7th place before the match and their manager is none other than Ajax legend Patrick Kluivert, so I guess we need to take them seriously. We had momentum in the first half and a number of good chances, but our finishing was again terrible and we went to half-time without a goal. We finally got a breakthrough in the second half - two quick goals within two minutes. Then Excelsior’s David Sambissa received his second yellow card and was sent off and in the final 20 minutes we played with freedom and confidence, scoring three more goals and finishing the game off in style. I was happy with the second half, but couldn’t forget how cramped we looked before the break, so I can’t be fully satisfied with the football we showed. 


 

Tactics and Players

It’s been a rollercoaster month and things have sometimes worked out for us and sometimes haven’t. We played our best football against FC Porto, had a lot of luck against Feyenoord and no luck at all against PSV Eindhoven, so that evened out a bit, but we failed to dominate against Eagles and Excelsior (at least in the first half) and this is where our performance was clearly below par. In Johan Cruijff Arena I expect us to dominate the game and create chances, especially against smaller teams, and failing to do so leaves question marks about some player’s performances. Mostly our problems lie with poor finishing, and I’m not sure if it’s a technical or mental problem. 

Sebastien Haller has been goalless all month and Dramane Guehi has been very inconsistent. In fact, inconsistency is the keyword in attack. van Axel Dongen is the only reliable attacking player, but I never know what to expect from others - sometimes I get great games and beautiful goals, but in other matches they disappear completely. Peter Misidjan has failed to perform recently and we’re clearly worse in attack when he’s on the pitch. In the beginning of the season he was sharing game time with Hlynsson, but I’ve come to trust the Icelander more and Misidjan needs to work hard to earn his place back in the first team.

Defensively I’ve become painfully aware that Can Tas might be too short for a centre-back. He’s good with the ball and very good in tackling, but his short stature and 9 for a jumping attribute is easily exploited by teams who play long ball. Losing headers in midfield and playing with a high defensive line is a dangerous combination, because it leaves too much space to nod the headers into and we’ve conceded too many chances like that. For next games I need to check what sort of strikers we’re up against and choose my defenders accordingly. 


Player of the Month: Nikita Tamm - played in four games in October and scored in all of them. Not exactly brilliant performances, but did what he could in all games.

Goal of the Month: Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson vs. FC Porto - a beautiful goal from 20 metres that led to a brilliant wn


 

Contracts

Davy Klaassen extended his contract for another season and we’ll have him around until 2029. David Kalokoh also signed a new 5-year deal, although I’m afraid that the £20,000 p/w wages that his agent was able to get is a tad overpaid in our wage structure.



 

Eredivisie

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Top of the table looks pretty tight - our defeat in the Topper derby allowed PSV Eindhoven to close the gap and Feyenoord is also right on our tails. There are some interesting teams in the top half of the table - FC Emmen and Excelsior certainly don’t look like contenders for European places, but here they are. AZ Alkmaar are underachieving and sit in the middle of the table - they’ve got just one point from October games and although that list includes defeats to PSV and Feyenoord, losing against Go Ahead Eagles (0:3 at home!) and Willem II is unacceptable, so Jurgen Streppel was sacked after the Eagles’ result.

Clubs at the bottom also made decisions - Torsten Frings was sacked by Almere City before the international break in October. That was quick! On the other hand - their start to the season was just appalling. Almere appointed Jelle Huijberts as their new head coach and he’s probably the first regen manager in Eredivisie in this save. David Healy was also sacked by SC Cambuur - their 17th position is not good enough, knowing how many smaller teams we have in the league this season.


 

Champions League

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With three wins we’ve put ourselves in the best possible position, especially with FC Porto struggling. A draw against Dynamo Kyiv is enough to secure our qualification.

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November 2027

 

Fixtures and Results

Another six games in November and some tricky away fixtures in the list that also includes two tough Champions League matches against FC Porto and AS Roma.

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We started with a trip to Estadio do Dragao. I didn’t expect FC Porto to roll over after we defeated them 5:0 in Amsterdam and prepared for a difficult match. We opted for a cautious mentality, but our usual 4-2-3-1 wide formation. The first half was a fairly even battle - FC Porto had a few good attempts on target, but chances were rare and neither of the two teams wanted to take too many risks. Draw suited us well, so we continued in this fashion into the second half, but in 49’ FC Porto found a goal from a corner and we needed to change things. I made substitutions, switched back to a balanced and then positive mentality and we had the momentum in the second half, but couldn’t score the equaliser. Sebastien Haller had the best opportunity of the game with a free header on point blank range just a few minutes from the final whistle, but he somehow managed to send it wide - his goalless run extends to more than seven hours of football now and I’m starting to get worried about him. In the end we had to accept a narrow defeat, even though I felt we deserved to get something out of this game - in retrospect cautious mentality was a bit too careful and we lost our creativity in attack. On the other hand we showed our poor finishing again - our xG was slightly better than FC Porto’s, but we couldn’t capitalise on that and left without a goal. That’s something to think about.

FC Utrecht didn’t seem to be an easy opponent either, especially away from home. I made some changes in our line-up to keep players fresh. The game started well for us, because FC Utrecht’s Stefan Lainer was sent off in 11’ for a two-footed tackle on Moha and playing 11 against 10 made our situation a lot easier. However, we couldn’t really capitalise on the situation and failed to put FC Utrecht under real pressure - we had some half-chances and small initiative, but I expected a lot more considering our numerical advantage. We finally managed to take the lead in the second half - Kenneth Taylor scored a wonderful free kick that went in off the bar, but still failed to take all three points, because we allowed FC Utrecht to stun us with a counter-attack in 87’. Late equaliser was seriously frustrating and I let the team know how I felt. Most of the players failed to impress me in this game - not sure if we made something wrong tactically or we just lack leaders on the pitch.

We were favourites against FC Emmen and had home advantage, too, but it was another frustrating game for me as a manager. We couldn’t create anything in attack, Peter Misidjan was again completely ineffectual in the AMCa role and our only good moment in the first half came in 45’ (that Dramane Guehi missed). It was a pretty similar second half and FC Emmen did extremely well to nullify our attacks. van Axel Dongen hit the post once, but Prince Aning finally saved our sorry ***es in 81’ with a great strike. That goal gave us all three points, but I had little positive words about the performance.

It was a different story against AS Roma. Playing big clubs at home is often easier than expected, because they tend to switch their formation too defensive and give away midfield too easily, so I chose to retain our usual positive 4-2-3-1 formation, but just brought our lines back a notch. It worked as a treat in the first half - we created a great moment in 16’ when Haller was getting through on goal, but he was tripped from behind and we got a penalty that he scored himself. Amourricho van Axel Dongen then scored a brace with two well-executed runs behind the lines, both times breaking Mourinho’s offside trap and both times VAR confirmed that he was, in fact, onside before receiving the ball. The first half was just brilliant and our game plan executed to perfection. I switched to a balanced mentality in the second half and we gave away some momentum, but were never under real pressure defensively, avoiding unnecessary risks and keeping our lead intact. Haller hit the post in 74’, but neither of the teams created too many good chances after the break. I was really happy with our mature performance and with a 3:0 win we secured our first place in the group. Great game.

Fortuna Sittard is a club that can always mix it up against any club and at home they were difficult opponents. We had a solid 20 minutes at the start and Amourricho van Axel Dongen had an early attempt from some way out that their goalkeeper failed to stop. It went into the book as an own goal, but we looked really good at the start of the game before Fortuna slowly regained their feet and got back into the match. They equalised from a corner in the second half, but then we switched to another gear - Davy Klassen scored and added another goal from the penalty. Nikita Tamm scored with an outstanding finish and Guehi wrapped things up with our fifth goal. In the second half we showed some really good attacking football and Fortuna had no answers to our quality.

We continued in good rhythm against PEC Zwolle - controlled the game in the first half, scored three goals and could make early substitutions and play a quite relaxed second half with our three goals lead.



 

Players

In the beginning of November I had more criticism than praise to share, as several players failed to perform even when results finally went our way. Peter Misidjan disappointed me once again against FC Emmen and fell out of favour and Sebastien Haller scored only once (a penalty against AS Roma) despite scoring six goals for his national team in just one game. Things improved a little at the end of the month - Davy Klassen and Dramane Guehi led the lines and our finishing stats improved as well.

 

Player of the Month: Rico Speksnijder - he played more after our first two games and his involvement seemed to improve our game a lot.

Goal of the Month: Rico Speksnijder vs. PEC Zwolle - a brilliant strike, curled into the top corner from the edge of area


 

Jasper Vogels earned a new contract and his deal (that was about to run out in 2029) was extended until 2031 with a moderate increase in wages. His performance against AS Roma was really good (incredible that he’s just 18 years old!) and his agent promptly saw a chance for a raise. My intention was to keep him in the club long term and so I didn’t mind it at all.


 

Injuries

We enjoyed relatively injury-free three months, but it wasn’t the case in November. It all started with midfielder Bart Smits who sprained his knee ligaments in training in the beginning of November and was sidelined for around 3-5 weeks. He’s a breakthrough player and wasn’t likely to feature too much for us, but that sort of injury is serious enough and he’s the first player to be away from the pitch for that long this season. But an injury bug continued to bite us - Moha suffered a fractured toe in an international match and he’ll be out for around 4-5 weeks as well. Kenneth Taylor twisted his knee in training and had to miss games against FC Emmen and Prince Aning (who did brilliantly to win the match against FC Emmen for us) suffered abdominal strain soon after and had to skip two weeks of training and matches.


 

Eredivisie

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We have a small lead now. Bottom three start to shape up as well - surprising to see SC Cambuur struggle for so long, but they’ve been really poor so far.

AZ Alkmaar made a decision and appointed Bernd Storck as their new manager and Oliver Neuville took charge of SC Cambuur. Andries Jonker was sacked by FC Twente.



 

Champions League 

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Other news from European football: Jürgen Klopp was sacked from FC Liverpool - their league campaign had started poorly and Liverpool was just 8th in the Premier League table, so Klopp lost his job despite winning the Champions League in 2024 in my save. Despite that triumph Manchester City have dominated the league and won the Premier League title seven years in a row, so other big clubs are trying to change something to challenge for the trophy.

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December 2027

 

Fixtures and Results

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We battled for a difficult 0:0 draw at AFAS Stadion. In the first half we were lucky, because Jay Gorter saved a penalty after Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson handballed in our box, but the rest of the match was pretty much back and forth - both teams tried to go for the winning goal, but failed to create good enough chances, so when it remained goalless it looked like a fair reflection of the proceedings on the pitch.

We went to Kyiv to play the game that didn’t decide anything and that was a fun match of football. Can Tas scored his first goal for the club to get things going for us and after the first 40 minutes we were leading 3:0, but then Tamm committed a foul in our box and Dynamo had a late penalty to make it 3:1 before half-time and they scored right after the second half kick-off and suddenly were very much back in the game. This is where their firepower ended, though - we controlled the game well after the 60’ mark and added two more goals to finish off our group stage with a great result. Travelling fans obviously enjoyed entertaining football, because the weather was as dreadful as expected in Ukraine in December - cold and half-snowy. 

Our 3:0 win over SC Cambuur was a more routine affair. We had good control over the game and looked dangerous from set pieces, but were very unlucky to hit the woodwork three times in this game. Nikita Tamm gave us the lead in the second half, Neal Viereck scored his first goal of the season to secure our result and a late goal from Haller made it 3:0. Last two goals came from set pieces and Kenneth Taylor’s distribution from dead ball situations looked really dangerous, so even if Cambuur managed to somewhat limit us from open play, they struggled against our set pieces. 

I expected an easy game against the Keuken Kampioen Divisie side NAC Breda in the cup, but it was a real struggle. We were perhaps a little bit optimistic and I made nine changes in the starting line-up, so our game was completely out of sync. We started well and scored from the spot to take the lead in the first half, but Breda came out of the gates storming after the break and they had momentum in the first five minutes of the second half, resulting in a foul in our box by Idumbo Muzambo and conceded penalty that made it 1:1. We struggled to create chances in the second half (which is understandable, because too many players were not used to each other or just short of match fitness) so in the end I brought on van Axel Dongen and Haller who combined the winning goal late in the game. Haller found himself in a one-on-one situation against the goalkeeper and just fired it into the top corner - a true striker’s finish that put us over the line. Ugly win and just a few decent performances (rating-wise) in the whole team.

Feyenoord had a serious drop in form in December - perhaps also affected by their 0:5 defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League, but they dropped points in Eredivisie against Helmond and FC Twente and they looked a little bit fragile because of that. And Johan Cruijff Arena is not the place to come to if you’re not confident in your ability to win, so we piled up to their misery with a 2:0 win. The match itself was a fairly drab affair - we had one good chance in the first half when Sebastien Haller’s header was parried by their goalkeeper, but Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson was there to tuck the loose ball in. Amourricho van Axel Dongen doubled our lead in the second half with a lovely chip - very skillful finish from him. The rest of the match was careful and not particularly exciting (some whistles and boos sounded from the crowd to signal that the fans expected more entertainment), but I was very happy with our defensive effort - we didn’t allow Feyenoord to create any real chances in this game and that’s exactly what you want to do if you’re 2:0 up against your rivals. Very good result in my books and fourth clean sheet in a row in Eredivisie. That’s the way.

The last game of the year was the away trip to Erve Asito. Heracles is a good side (by Eredivisie standards) and capable of causing problems to any team in their home, so I predicted a tricky game and it was. We had a good first half and were leading 2:0 - David Kalokoh impressed me with an excellent finish from just outside of the area - when a doubtful decision awarded Heracles a penalty and that reduced our lead to 2:1 at half-time. Heracles scored their second goal after the break and were back to level terms. I had to make changes - Moha and Dramane Guehi came on and Guehi scored on a counter soon after his substitution, so that worked out well. Moha wrapped things up with a free header from point blank range minutes before the final whistle. We were much better after substitutions, especially in attack, we managed to create more chances than we did in the first half, but I can’t be happy with how we allowed Heracles to equalise from 2:0. To concede two goals against any Eredivisie side is too much anyway, so I can’t be pleased with that sort of performance.




 

Players

Injury problems that started to mount in November are mostly behind us now and players returned to full fitness. The schedule has been really difficult with not much time between games, and because some of the games mattered more than others, I could rotate more. That in turn led to some inconsistent performances, but generally we did well and some of the players had a good chance to impress.

We’re halfway in the season and from the first 17 league games we collected 42 points - things go as planned here. At the same time our goals were distributed evenly between players and Dramane Guehi was the first one to reach 10 goals. It causes some selection headaches because we don’t have a reliable scorer, but on the other hand the winner can come from anywhere.

 

Player of the Month: Neal Viereck - really difficult choice once again. Viereck didn’t start all of the games, but put in two key performances this month and we kept a clean sheet in all of the three games he started. Has to show something.

Goal of the Month: David Kalokoh vs. Heracles Almelo - great finish from 18 metres


 

Contracts

Kenneth Taylor extended his deal with Ajax until 2032. He’s our highest earner with £60,000 p/w wages, but he’s a quality player in midfield and leads the team forward. Olivier Aertssen also signed a new 5-year deal and Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson earned himself a big raise with his performances in this season. With those deals I tied down three key players for the future and made it more difficult for other clubs to lure them away in Summer.


 

Youth Intake Preview

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Another intake report from our head of youth development that is marked as “excellent”, but I have my reservations about those promises for a while now. At least one good winger is promised, with a decent striker and some OK attacking midfielders. Not much for our defensive line, though.


 

Eredivisie

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We’re slowly increasing our lead in the table. Feyenoord had a pretty awful month and they dropped to fourth place.


 

Champions League

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We finished our group strong. Five wins and 15 points was a lot more than expected, but we’re unlucky to get FC Barcelona in the first knockout round. We’re nowhere at their level and I expect us to exit in February.

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January 2028


 

Fixtures and Results

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We had back to back away games against PEC Zwolle to begin our new year with, prompting journalists to ask me in a press conference how we would approach the week - should we stay in Zwolle between games or travel back and forth. Somehow my assistant manager forgot to book a friendly for us in January (or failed to do so) and we were somewhat lacking in match fitness in the first match because of that. It didn’t matter though, because we won both games comfortably. Zwolle scored a consolation goal late in the first match, but otherwise had no answers. I actually liked the second game more because we were more in control of the match and created better chances in attack, even though we failed to score more than once. Despite that we were never in trouble and took three points to the table and progressed to the next round in KNVB Beker.

Vitesse provided a bigger test for us at Johan Cruijff Arena. It was a competitive first half and our opponents had two good opportunities to score. The best moment came when Luka Štor curled hit the post with a free kick from a promising position. In the second half we looked more in control of the game and created much better chances. It was substitute Sebastien Haller who eventually scored the winner. A narrow win, but well deserved because we were clearly a better team after the break.

We continued with 1:0 wins against Fortuna Sittard. I tried something new tactically and asked Prince Aning to overlap more on the left. It led to some interesting movements and crosses, but didn’t lead to any real chances. Generally we played well, but somehow managed to hit the woodwork three times in the game and Hlynsson’s strong attempt in the first half resulted in the only goal in the game. I expected more goals and we certainly deserved more, but a win is a win.




 

Players 

Not much to report here - only four games after Winter break and a number of mediocre performances as a team. Transfer window caused some fuss and speculation, but it settled down after the deadline day. At least everyone is fit and healthy.

 

Player of the Month: Amourricho van Axel Dongen - played well in attack, scored good goals against PEC Zwolle in both games

Goal of the Month: Amourricho van Axel Dongen vs. PEC Zwolle - a technical volley that he hit perfectly into the net.





 

Transfer Window

There was some interest in several of our players in the Winter transfer window, but most of the bids were around £10m and I’m not so keen to allow our first team players to leave for such a small fee. We currently lack a real star that could attract big clubs and get a fee around £40-50m (perhaps Kenneth Taylor, Jay Gorter or Amourricho van Axel Dongen) and we lack adequate cover in certain positions that prevent us selling unless the fee is really good. 

However, I’ve been certain for a long time that some players’ performances in the Ajax system and formation exceed their actual ability by some margin and it sometimes lures big clubs to make a bid for them. Eintracht Frankfurt offered £6,75m for Neal Viereck this January and this bid was in fact too good to turn down. £6,75m + 20% next transfer fee clause for a 23 years old player who is close to his full potential and who I know is nowhere near Bundesliga standard - thank you very much. Viereck has been a useful squad player in my system - he doesn’t have any real weaknesses as a centre-back, but at the same time lacks any real strengths - no main attribute is higher than 14 and while he’s consistent enough, he doesn’t enjoy big matches and has a balanced personality, so he’s no mentor material and in a long run there’s no point keeping him around for more than necessary. He went off to Germany to disappoint some Frankfurt supporters and I’m pretty sure he won’t cut it in the top leagues. Most likely he’ll be back in Eredivisie in 3-4 seasons.

I also allowed 20 years old Luciano Gladon to join Sparta Rotterdam for free - the youngster featured for Jong Ajax, but couldn’t make it into the first team.

On the transfer deadline day there were bids for Jonathan Koppers, David Kalokoh and Juremy Jansen and I was willing to accept them all, but when the negotiations reached an agreement, it was already too late to make things official and transfers fell through. All of these players have a bit of a doubtful personality, so if anybody could move on it’s them. And if somebody is willing to pay £9,5m for David Kalokoh (as was the bid I received from Belgium) then it’s too good to turn down if the player is worth £5m at most.


 

Eredivisie

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Our wins in January have extended our lead in the table, but FC Utrecht have made a good run in the past months and have challenged PSV and Feyenoord to the runner up place. AZ Alkmaar is still in no man’s land and it leaves  the final European place up for grabs. Vitesse is an obvious candidate, but Go Ahead Eagles and Fortuna Sittard have both had a tremendous season so far and they’re trying to challenge big teams for that. 

Three clubs remain locked at the bottom of the table. SC Cambuur and De Graafschap will fight for the play-off place, but Almere City looks to go down - they don’t have necessary quality to play in Eredivisie and it shows in every single game.

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February 2028

 

Fixtures and Results

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Goalless draw against FC Twente was a drab match. We were never really good enough in attack, despite hitting the woodwork twice. FC Twente defended well and played smartly at home, so a draw was a fair result. The only positive note from that match is that we continued to keep our clean sheet in consecutive games. Defence has been really good lately and I hoped it would continue.

I rotated a lot against De Graafschap - partly because it was a cup game, at home, against a weaker team, but also because of our poor performance in the previous game. We won this game because of a quick brace from Sebastien Haller, although we allowed De Graafschap back into the game later in the first half and even conceded a goal in the second half. Haller completed his hat-trick from the spot. Young Serbian defender Ognjen Rajkovic made his debut in this game and so we were bound to make some defensive errors, but at least we looked much better in attack and it was an improvement from the FC Twente game.

We then travelled to Emmen and boy it was another ugly away game for us. We created almost nothing in the first 80 minutes and while we controlled possession (and somehow even managed to hit the woodwork three times) Emmen created better chances. In the end our substitute Stanis Idumbo Muzambo scored the late winner to give us all three points from this away game, but that was an even uglier performance than we had against FC Twente.

With that rather mediocre run of games behind us we went to Camp Nou and were trashed by FC Barcelona, as expected. I’m not sure if there was something wrong tactically - I guess that not much because we didn’t concede too many chances, but we were under constant pressure and Barcelona players were so good individually that they were almost impossible to stop. The goals came mostly from individual errors - young Can Tas had a miserable game in defence and Jermoumi couldn’t handle Pedri on our right wing. Ex-Ajax player Frenkie de Jong curled in a free kick to make it 4:0 and that’s the end of the road for us in the Champions League. Our average rating was just 6.32 in this match and I felt like we hit the wall at this stage of the competition. I can expect a better performance at home, but not to win by four goals.

Overachieving Go Ahead Eagles pushed us hard in the next match. They started well and in 10’ Guy Mbenza sent a low drive into the bottom corner from 20 metres to make it 0:1 and soon after it was 0:2 after a defensive mistake on our right wing. We started the game with two inexperienced defenders in Can Tas and Rajkovic, but that’s no excuse. We had a real challenge to come back from a two goal deficit and we did well to score in the first half (Haller with a header from Jermoumi’s cross) but in the end of the first period Eagles had another brilliant strike from the edge of area that Jay Gorter couldn’t save and at half-time it was 1:3. A bit harsh and undeserved because we had perhaps been a slightly better team in the first half, but two goals out of nowhere gave Eagles a comfortable lead. My inspirational words at half-time resulted in a quick goal after restart - this time a beautiful strike from Haller who showed that we, too, can finish - and Can Tas headed home a free kick to make it level with still some time to go until the final whistle. We couldn’t find the winner, though, and a dramatic game finished 3:3 - I was proud of the come-back, but that was a much more difficult game than it should have been. Our lead in the table was solid enough at this time, so dropping two points in one game didn’t cost us too much.

The Noord-Hollandse derby was another disappointment this month. We started well and in 16’ AZ’s Nigel Gooijer was sent off for his two-footed tackle on Nikita Tamm, so having a numerical advantage allowed us to take full control of this game. To make things better, Kristian Nökkvi Hlynssons scored with a fabulous strike from 21 metres and gave us the lead, but then continued to miss two clear cut chances in a row. That didn’t change much, or at least that was what I thought at the moment, but we couldn’t score the second goal and secure the result. In the second half AZ Alkmaar equalised pretty much out of nowhere, when Jackson Muleka found the bottom corner from outside of the box and that was it. We couldn’t find the winner in the remaining time and another two points dropped in the match that we seemed to control so effortlessly. 

In conclusion - not too many reasons to celebrate in February - performances have been below par and results have not always come our way. 



 

Players

There’s been an uneasy feeling that something’s not right with the team and it hurts morale (and with that, performances and results). A few players are unhappy that their transfers fell through in January, Can Tas started sulking when his new contract request was denied. Moha was unhappy with his fine after a poor game against FC Barcelona (most of the players accepted the punishment as justified). There’s something in body language as well that shows during games - more anxiousness, frustration and sometimes complacency all mixed together, even from players who should lead by example, like Haller and Taylor. That’s a challenge to sort things out and find a winning formula before our lead in the table melts away.


 

Player of the Month: Sebastien Haller - a really difficult choice once again, but Haller scored five goals in February and in a couple of games showed his old skills and finishing in front of the goal

Goal of the Month: Kristian Nökvvi Hlynsson vs. AZ Alkmaar - a fabulous strike, curled in from 21 metres



 

Contracts

Prince Aning signed a new deal - a two years extension that will run until 2032 and give him £32,000 p/w salary. Debutant Ognjen Rajkovic also extended his contract until 2032. 



 

Tactics

I have experimented more than usual with our tactics in recent weeks. My disappointment started with the poor performances of Nikita Tamm on our left flank (IFs) who disappeared completely in games and his average rating in the last five matches was just around 6.6, so I’ve tried to change something on the left flank to get the best out of him. When looking at his attributes, the obvious choice would be IFa - more direct game, more dribbling with the ball. On the other hand it would leave all four attacking players in ‘attack’ orders and I tried to balance it with changing Haller to CFs - he gets slower anyway with age and can’t dribble away from defenders so easily, but he can still spot a pass and distribute through balls behind the lines. With IFa there’s a question about left-back and I’m switching between FBs and WBs, because I’m afraid that FBa (Aning’s role so far) is just too attacking, combined with IFa. 


 

Eredivisie

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Despite some disappointing results we still have a quite safe six point lead in the table.

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March 2028

 

Fixtures and Results

 

Another five difficult games in March - we start with the cup semi final against FC Twente (who we failed to beat at Grolsch Veste in February), then we host FC Barcelona (the match I want to get over with as soon as possible) and then we need to prepare for a tough Topper Derby in Eindhoven.

 

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We played a good first half against FC Twente and two goals in the last five minutes gave us a deserved 2:0 lead at the break. Dramane Guehi completed his hat-trick from the spot after Kalokoh was tripped in the box and Peter Misidjan headed in a cross from young Pawel Wachowicz to make it 4:0. It was a really confident performance - something I haven’t seen in a while.

I didn’t expect us to turn around our 0:4 deficit against FC Barcelona, but I hoped to give them a battle at Johan Cruijff Arena. Sadly, it didn’t seem to be the case in the first half. Peter Aning’s foul in the box gave them a penalty in 13’ and at half-time it was 0:2 without a single good chance for us. We improved somewhat in the second half and at least Dramane Guehi looked determined to prove a point. His goal brought us back into the game and although Barcelona scored again in 66’ we finished strong - two excellent strikes from Guehi (both scored from the edge of the area) made it 3:3 and restored some honour in the end, but to be fair, winning this second leg was never on the cards.

The De Graafschap match was supposed to be the easiest game in March and indeed, it was - I rotated a lot and most of the midfield and attackers were not our first eleven players, but Rico Speksnijder scored a flyer and we looked very comfortable after that. Olivier Aertssen headed home a corner to make it 3:0 at half-time and Ognjen Rajkovic scored his first ever goal for Ajax in the second half. De Graafschap couldn’t get into the game at all and as it often happens in matches like that, frustration boiled over, so their striker Nesta Zahui lunged into Bart Smits with two feet up and was sent off in 64’. We looked very dangerous from set pieces (scored two goals from corners in that game) and I was happy with the result, performance and overall attitude that the players displayed - very little complacency in the second half, but only after the job was well done.

The Topper derby was a title six-pointer (well, almost - we had an eight point advantage in the table at this point) and a fascinating tactical battle against PSV and their 5-3-2 WB. It was a back and forth game - in the first half PSV had two of the better chances in the game and we managed somehow to hit the woodwork three times, but it ended goalless. In the second half we took the initiative, only to be punished by one counter-attack in 70’. Fine margins decided the result of this game and unfortunately we lost the second league match in this season against PSV (our home game ended 1:2 before Christmas). Very disappointing result, as a draw would have been fair in my opinion. Now we allowed PSV to close the gap and took a hit on our confidence as well.

The PSV defeat didn’t affect our confidence, because we won our next away match against Willem II 3:0 and it was a good win - controlled the game from start to finish, scored two goals before the 30’ mark and created eight half-chances through the game. Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson ran the show in midfield and was at his creative best in this game, scoring a goal as well. Three goals and a clean sheet - I was very happy with the reaction and attitude shown by the players.




 

Players

I’m kind of happy with how things are going at the moment - we have avoided major injuries for a while and even though some players have skipped a game because of suspension (yellow cards are mounting at this stage of the season).

The main issue seems to be contracts - we have all players tied down until at least 2029. That seems OK, considering that the list also includes veterans like Klaassen and Haller, but some of the players have become unsettled and believe that they deserve more money. I’ve tried to dismiss those requests, but in some cases the arguments are valid and so Dramane Guehi earned himself a new £26,500 p/w deal until 2032. He’s scored 17 goals this season so far and his two hat-tricks in March prove that he’s about to become our new first team striker for the coming years, so a raise looks reasonable.

At the same time I’m happy to include youth players into the first team squad - Ognjen Rajkovic has done very well in those couple of months after Neal Viereck left. He has featured in the first team and scored his first ever goal for the club in March. First team exposure has sped up his development as a footballer and his attributes show increase in this short time.

 

Player of the Month: Dramane Guehi - seven goals in five games, including hat-tricks against FC Twente and FC Barcelona

Goal of the Month: Dramane Guehi vs. FC Barcelona - a well struck effort, fired in from the edge of the area.



 

Eredivisie

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PSV Eindhoven are still in the title race with six games to go - we have a good five points lead in the table, but the derby win in March gives them a chance.



 

Youth Intake 2028

 

I expected a decent intake with at least one good winger in it, but instead I got an excellent bunch of players with some unexpected talent in the goal and right-back as well.

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Calvin Francis is one of the best youngsters in this season’s intake, a determined goalkeeper with no glaring weaknesses. I expect that our goalkeeping coaches can make a first team player out of him.

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Giorgio Jongebloet is a talented right-back that fits to our WBs role. He’s very young, just 15 years of age and a consistent performer despite his young age. He’s personality is realistic which will be helpful in his career. Very intelligent player, although technical abilities need more work.

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Mohamed Tahiri has Moroccan roots and he looks like a decent attacking midfielder - makes good decisions, has some flair and professional attitude. He has a nice trait ‘comes deep to get balls’.

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April 2028

 

Fixtures and Results

 

Five more games in April. The strongest opponent in the league is FC Utrecht, but the most important match is obviously the cup final against Feyenoord. The last part of the Eredivisie campaign includes smaller teams and games where we’re clear favourites - we have to keep our concentration up and avoid complacency, but if we play our football the title should be ours.

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The first match against Excelsior was supposed to be easy, but it really wasn’t. No wonder, as Excelsior is one of the small clubs who have punched over their weight repeatedly this season and they even managed to battle to a 4:4 draw with PSV Eindhoven. We started well enough and took the lead from Nikita Tamm’s deflected shot, but it took only three minutes for Excelsior to equalise - their free kick hit the post and was then played into the six yard box where their player was waiting all alone to put it into the net. Excelsior was dangerous from through balls in the first half and one of those chances led to their second goal and they were leading 2:1 before Guehi’s equaliser made it level before the break. We improved a little in the second half and Guehi gave us the lead with a header. Excelsior had a late chance to equalise, but Mert Alegoz made a crucial save to secure all three points for us. In summary it wasn’t our best performance defensively - too many gaps in defence and too many errors. It was clear why Excelsior has been so good - they found a way to play their game and in the end their xG was actually better than ours. What gave us the edge was perhaps a little advantage in individual quality of players - we finished better and our goalkeeper made a couple of important saves, but actually it was a pretty close game - shots, key passes and chances were fairly even. Kudos to Excelsior.

The FC Utrecht win was our best game in April - we controlled the match against a strong opponent from start to finish and didn’t give them any real goal scoring opportunities. Klaassen gave us the lead with a penalty and van Axel Dongen made it 2:0 right before half-time. Kenneth Taylor scored with a great free kick in the second half to decide the game. All around, a great performance and I was really happy with the display.

The cup final was the most important match in April, but sadly, we failed to win. It was an even first half, but Feyenoord took the lead in 24’ - a cross came in from our left and everybody in the box missed it, so it fell to Keita Balde at the far post and it was an easy enough finish for him. It took us only four minutes to equalise and Kenneth Taylor scored with another beautiful free kick, repeating his goal from the FC Utrecht match. Unfortunately we allowed Feyenoord to score another goal in 43’ - Ruslan Litvinov slid himself into the six yard box after Can Tas failed to clear the ball and his tackle put it over the line. We tried hard to equalise in the second half, but to Feyenoord’s credit they defended really well and we struggled to create chances. I changed a few things tactically, but in the end I was all out of ideas and we had to accept the defeat. Our xG that was only 0.93 showed how difficult it was to break them down even if it looked like an even battle in midfield.

After the cup final disappointment we beated Helmond Sport comfortably in the away match - they never looked like a real threat in this game and we wasted a lot of chances, but we always looked dangerous in attack, especially from set pieces and scored three goals. Sebastien Haller scored a brace in his 200th appearance for Ajax - both were headers and one was from a corner - and Olivier Aertssen headed in an indirect free kick, so set pieces led to two out of three goals, while from open play we managed to waste a lot of good opportunities (especially David Kalokoh).

I expected us to secure our title in the home game against Almere City (who were already relegated before the matchday 32), but two hours earlier PSV were beaten by FC Twente at home and so our Eredivisie title was clinched even before the match and home fans could start to celebrate even before the kick-off. The match itself was as easy as expected - we dominated the first half, created six good chances before the break and took a 3:0 lead, but complacency started to creep in after all the goals and in the second half we allowed Almere to score one goal back. That let me be a bit critical towards players in my post-match team talk, but it was still an easy win.




 

Players and Tactics

It’s a bit disappointing to fail in the most important game of the month, but in Eredivisie fixtures we’ve done well enough, especially after the cup final when I started to rotate more and give backup players and youngsters more starts. It’s big matches that sometimes cause us problems and this cup final was probably one of those.

On the positive note - all players are fit again and we don’t have any problems with injuries, so I have a lot of options to pick from (and on the bench as well). Training is excellent lately and younger players develop nicely and that should lay a good foundation to our next season.


 

Player of the Month: Kenneth Taylor - he’s established himself as a set piece specialist in the team and scored two goals from free kicks this month, setting up  two more goals in April. 7.92 average rating in last five games.

Goal of the Month: Kenneth Taylor vs. Feyenoord Rotterdam - a beautiful free kick into the top corner in the cup final


 

Eredivisie

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Two more match days to go, but we have a ten point lead. The runner-up will again be short of 80 points, so the season confirms my estimation that 80 points is usually enough to win the title in Holland.

SC Cambuur are relegated along with Almere City and that I didn’t expect. I believe they’re too good to go down, but some smaller teams like Excelsior, Go Ahead Eagles and Helmond Sport had a great season and stayed away from the relegation fight.

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May 2028


 

Fixtures and Results

 

Two more games to wrap things up in May.

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We rotated in both games and in the match against SC Cambuur our defensive line included both Rajkovic and Wachowicz, which meant that it was supposed to be a little fragile and Cambuur took advantage of that. However, their goal in the first half came because Mert Alegoz was careless in the goal and allowed their striker to score into the near corner. We equalised quickly enough (Hlynsson with a fine strike), but then started to waste a number of chances. Our finishing was just criminally poor in some situations and in the end it was a late penalty that gave us a 2:1 win. So in the end I wasn’t so upset with our defence (we got that in order in the second half, actually), but our attack was just terrible. Four clear cut chances in this match, but only one goal (penalty) out of them. Outrageous. 

It was a very similar story against Heracles - we controlled the game well and scored two goals - the highlight of the match was Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi’s first ever goal for Ajax and Olivier Aertssen headed in from a corner, but we created nine half-chances in the game and couldn’t find the target from any of those. Absolutely criminal finishing.

 

Players

Nothing to report - everybody is fit and we rotated a lot in those two last games.

 

Player of the Month: Olivier Aertssen - played in both games and did well, scoring against Heracles

Goal of the Month: Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi vs. Heracles Almelo - a well struck effort from a narrow angle that landed at the far post.

 

Eredivisie

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We had 84 points in the end. Rest of the top five offered no surprises, except AZ Alkmaar who continued to be mediocre from start to finish of this season. At the bottom of the table Almere City, SC Cambuur and De Graafschap were relegated. I rate Almere City and De Graafschap too weak for Eredivisie, but SC Cambuur supporters are probably extremely disappointed to go down

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Competitions

In retrospect we did well in all competitions - won the Eredivisie, reached the final of the KNVB Beker and knockout stages of the Champions League. In a lot of ways it was a better season than I expected last Summer, especially our continental campaign. On the other hand - we lost both finals that we played (Johan Cruijff Schaal in the last Summer and KNVB Beker final in April) and our rivals got the better of us in those two games. That’s obviously frustrating and when I try to analyse those two defeats what stands out is that some of our first team players have some problems handling pressure. That’s something you can’t really choose when playing youth only and it costs us in important games like these finals.

In the Champions League we tend to hit the wall against big clubs and FC Barcelona had too much quality for us to beat - we can do well in Eredivisie even with a mediocre or unbalanced squad, because I’m good at keeping morale high and players are very familiar with tactics and roles and each other’s movement on the pitch, but against European giants our weaknesses are clear and lack of individual quality is punished by goals we concede.

So, in conclusion, an OK season, I guess. We achieved the minimum targets (winning the league and reaching the KNVB Beker Final), overachieving a little in Europe (but not by much), so we can be happy  with that.

Eredivisie was a bit weaker this year, because the number of small clubs increased, but both FC Groningen and sc Heerenveen bounced back from the Keuken Kampioen Divisie and rejoin top tier in August, so it probably gets a bit more challenging again.

The Champions League Final was held between Liverpool and Juventus - Pep Guardiola’s Juventos won it after the penalty shoot-out.


 

Players

The main reason to be happy is that we had a really good season in avoiding injuries. There were very many months when I had a full team at my disposal and I wasn’t forced to make too many squad selection changes because of traumas. That’s a recognition to our medical staff, physios and sports scientists.

Avoiding injuries helped us to train better and a lot of players made big steps forward - Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi, Amourricho van Axel Dongen, Dramane Guehi, Prince Aning and Nikita Tamm got consistently better through the season and Tamm was eventually labelled as a wonderkid in March, because he’s just 20 years old on already looks too good for the Eredivisie level.

We didn’t introduce too many new faces throughout the season, but Ognjen Rajkovic stepped up after Neal Viereck left in January and I was really happy with what I’ve seen from him so far. We could be looking at our new first team centre-back here.

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Statistics

 

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That was the first eleven for this season. As you can see, no player reached 20 goals this season and goals were actually fairly well distributed within the team. Amourricho van Axel Dongen was the best creator in the team - he managed to set up no less than 39 chances in league games alone (44 if I include penalties that he earned) - no player has created more in one season during my time at Ajax. In the whole league season we created 180 chances and that’s another club record. We also continued to be a threat from set pieces - five goals from corners and seven from free kicks, six from penalties. We were extremely good defensively last season and  this time we reverted back to our regular ~40 conceded chances in a season level. That’s OK, I guess, considering changes in the defensive line.


 

Awards

The only Eredivisie award that came our way was the Golden Boot. Olivier Aertssen won it this time and deservedly so with his 7.65 average rating. I was named as the Eredivisie Manager’s Manager of the Year once again, but none of our goal scorers stood out this season and perhaps surprisingly, none of our youngsters made it into top three in the Young Player of the Season list.

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Summer 2028


 

Players are on holiday and hard work starts now to prepare the team for the next season.


Training Facilities

Our training facilities were downgraded and I had to convince the board to make an investment and upgrade them again. I don’t really understand why they’re so reluctant to invest in our facilities with more than £900m in the bank and club culture to develop youth players. In the end they agreed to spend mere £4m to grant my request, but I wish it wouldn’t be such a haggle each time.

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Staff

Both our chief scout and head physio decided to retire from football in June. I decided to promote within and offered the job to one of our scouts and physios respectively, but now we have two first level positions to fill and I put out job adverts to find new members to our backroom staff. One U-18 coach Simon Tahamata also retires in July and we have an additional slot in our coaching staff since Spring (increasing our number of coaches to 13). I don’t need to fill those roles urgently, but probably need to spend some time to bolster our ranks. I’m quite happy with our coaching staff - our first team session quality is rated 4,5*-5* and that’s really good for a club of our level.

The best signing was Gianni Kamperveen from FC Utrecht who will take charge of our goalkeeper’s handling training from now on.

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We also signed a new sport scientist and improved our medical staff rating to the best of the league (PSV had an advantage over us before).


 

Squad

To be fair, we don’t have a real star in the team at the moment who would attract attention from really big teams. Perhaps only Jay Gorter qualifies as such, being the first choice goalkeeper for the Holland national team. It makes my job easier in the transfer market, because fending off interest from mid-table Bundesliga teams or Premier League bottom half teams is much easier than denying a move to Chelsea or Arsenal, for example.

I feel that we have an adequate cover for almost all of the positions and can actually allow most of the first team players to leave if a hefty bid comes in, with only a few exceptions. We’re a bit thin in defence and I want to hold on to Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi. I’m also not happy to let another centre-back go after Neal Viereck left just in January and we have a solid first team striker in Dramane Guehi who I’d like to keep for a couple of more seasons. But I’m willing to sell our left-back Prince Aning and almost any of the attacking midfielders if a really good bid comes in.

Sebastien Haller came to me in May and asked to leave because he wanted a new challenge. He has just one more year left in his contract and he’s probably sensing that he’s now behind Guehi and starting to fall out of the first team. In principle I granted his request, but we shelved the question until an actual bid came in for him. He turns 34 in June and he’s a decent leader, but not really a future coach material, so I don’t necessarily need to keep him until the end of his career. He had  minor problems with homesickness a couple of seasons ago, so I understand his desire to move to a new challenge.

Davy Klaassen is another veteran in the last year of his contract. He turned 35 years old in February, but he’s starting to show qualities of becoming a decent youth coach. His mental attributes (18 determination) and understanding of youngsters (17 working with youngsters) are really good at the start and I think that it would be wise to send him to coaching courses next season.


 

 

Transfer Window

It didn’t take long before a bid for Sebastien Haller came in - a Saudi club Al-Shabib offered £4,3m for him and he left on good terms with the club. A true legend in Ajax - more than 200 games and 132 goals scored for the club, but it’s time for a new chapter. Youngster Fred Wijker left to ADO Den Haag for free after his unsuccessful loan spell at Almere City and another youngster Carlos Burgzorg was sold to Vitesse for £225k + clauses - he didn’t look like he’s going to make it here and it was a smart to move to get something for him.

I needed to make a decision about Juremy Jansen - the midfielder was touted as the best talent in our 2025 academy class, but I suspect that his unambitious nature doesn’t really allow him to develop into a first team player. His personality has changed from unambitious to low determination, but that’s still not good enough. With just one year left of his contract, RSC Anderlecht came with a £2,7m+clauses bid and off he went.

 

Contracts

With Haller’s relatively high salary off our books, we could afford to give out some raises.

From players who were out on loan this season Ja-Ryong Kim developed really well in Vitoria Guimaraes and earned himself a new £13,000 p/w contract until 2032. Jury is still out on Yoram Boerhout and Bedirhan Celikel, though. Moha also signed a new five-year deal for £17,000 p/w and Can Tas extended his deal until 2033. 

 

 

What did other clubs do?

Well, Feyenoord sold their talented right-back Aaron Guglielmo to Atletico Madrid for £35m and spent some of it to strengthen their midfield and central defence. Their squad is ageing and they need to prepare for inevitable rebuilding in a couple of seasons. PSV Eindhoven have much younger players in their first team and they can avoid spending too much and instead develop their own youngsters. And indeed there were several new kids in their pre-season squad list.

FC Utrecht’s best achievement in the Summer transfer window was the fact that they could keep their best striker Raphael Owusu in the squad for at least one more year. They somehow managed to sign two excellent players for free - right winger Wilfried Gnonto from Tottenham and experienced left-back Cristiano Biraghi from AS Roma who is also an ex-Italy international. Kudos to their manager for attracting such players to FC Utrecht. They seem a much stronger team as a result.

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Squad Update 2028

 

Our squad looks almost unchanged since the last season and I’d like to think that we’re a bit stronger, because younger players have trained well and they’ve had more time to develop. The core of the team is approaching good years for footballers with many talented players turning 23 or 24 years of age and new leaders starting to emerge after Sebastien Haller’s departure.

We have a couple of decent free kick takers in Kenneth Taylor and Amourricho van Axel Dongen, Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson is an excellent at corners, but we don’t have too many good penalty takers after Haller’s departure in Summer and this could be a problem in some games. Davy Klaassen is our go-to guy in league games.


 

Goalkeepers

No changes here. Jay Gorter is our number one and Mert Alegoz provides backup. The half-Turkish youngster probably has to accept that he’ll not make it into the big clubs and a backup role in Ajax is not the worst that can happen. We have a couple of great youngsters coming up from U-18 too, so the future in goal looks pretty solid.

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Defenders

I’m happy with our first choice full-backs. We’re a bit thin in the centre, but Ognjen Rajkovic surprised everybody with good performances in Spring and he’ll battle with Can Tas for a place in the first team. It’s a fairly good line-up - some minor flaws, but overall level of players is excellent for Eredivisie, but not too good so that big teams would want to poach them.

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Midfielders

Kenneth Taylor is one of the leaders in the team and his prime years are starting now. Davy Klaassen is entering the final year of his contract and I’m not planning to offer him another extension. Three other players offer minutes from the bench. Rico Speksnijder should replace Klaassen in the long term, but he wanted out in the last season and only remained in the club because no club was willing to pay for the fee we demanded.

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Attacking Midfield

I hope that Amourricho van Axel Dongen is able to produce the same kind of season he had in the last year and others will be slightly better. Nikita Tamm, for one, has improved a lot in training. Peter Misidjan hasn’t really shown his potential to me and his performances are yet to match his talent. We’ve failed to reach an agreement with Stanis Idumbo Muzambo about his new contract - his agent demands more than £20,000 p/w for a fringe player and that’s way above what I’m willing to pay, so his long term future in Ajax is in doubt.

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Strikers

Dramane Guehi took over from Sebastien Haller as our first team option and after Yoram Boerhout continued his loan in Clermont for another year, I promoted young John Meeuwis into the first team. He looks like a great talent and a good finisher. Needs some work with his physical abilities (mainly speed and acceleration), but I expect him to become a great striker in the future.

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August 2028


 

Fixtures and Results

We will start our season with a Klassieker Derby in a Johan Cruijff Schaal against Feyenoord. Our Eredivisie campaign will kick off with a trip to Enschede.

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The Johan Cruijff Schaal final was held in Amsterdam, so it was a home advantage for us and we used it to full extent. Feyenoord’s Igor Diveev headed against the crossbar from a corner in the first minute after the kick-off, but we soon took the lead and were a slightly better team in the first half. Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson had a great chance in 41’, but he managed to hit the post. I made tactical changes in the second half and after substitutions Hlynsson moved over to AMR and scored soon after after Guehi’s through ball. After our second goal Feyenoord tried to attack and took more risks and for a period momentum really switched to them, but our defence stood firm and Stanis Idumbo Muzambo made it 3:0 in injury time from a counter-attack. 3:0 was an excellent result and showed that we’re in good form after pre-season friendlies. Feyenoord’s Giovanni van Bronckhorst probably wonders what went wrong with that match.

The first Eredivisie game ended with a similar result - it was a bit more quiet in the second half, but David Kalokoh scored with a simple finish to give us the lead and then Kenneth Taylor curled his shot into the top corner from 23 metres to double it. FC Twente didn’t take a single shot in the first half (they had one half-chance after the break) so our win was never really in doubt. Substitute Rico Speksnijder secured all three points from the spot.

FC Utrecht looked fairly strong on paper and it was a fairly difficult home game against them. The first half finished goalless even though we had a penalty in 34’, but Davy Klaassen’s spot kick was saved by their goalkeeper. Most of dangerous moments came from set pieces, so I switched our tempo to normal at half time and in the second half it improved a bit - Amourricho van Axel Dongen hit the post in 54’ and soon Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson broke the deadlock with a good strike into the far post. Rico Speksnijder made it 2:0 with a beautiful goal late in the game - a low drive from 24 metres that was unstoppable for the goalkeeper and ended up in the match day highlight reel. The second half performance earned us a deserved win.

Lastly, we went to Deveter to play against the Eagles and we were well aware that they had beaten PSV Eindhoven 5:2 on the last matchday at the same stadium. We had an early penalty and that helped us to settle things down, but Dramane Guehi wasted two good opportunities in the first half and 1:0 was still just a narrow lead. Amourricho van Axel Dongen finally got off the mark in the second half - his well struck half-volley struck the post before going in and that gave us all three points to the table. Not the best performance (we had just 9 key passes in the game) but a clean sheet and three points from away match - I can’t complain too much, either.


 

Players

As usual, we had to deal with the transfer window shenanigans in our first couple of weeks into the new season, but it didn’t distract us too much.  

Injuries have been more frequent visitors in the squad this season. Peter Misidjan was on the wrong end of a hard tackle in one of our friendlies and he was carried off the pitch with a broken foot. He’ll be out until at least November, so we have one less attacking midfielder for early months of our campaign. Amourricho van Axel Dongen was sidelined for two games in August, Pawel Wachowicz had problems and a groin muscle troubled Moha for a few days.

Goals have distributed nicely among players and we’ve scored from all kinds of different situations, but to my surprise Dramane Guehi hasn’t found his first goal of the season yet. I hope he’ll find his target soon enough before that drought starts to haunt him mentally.

Davy Klaassen had a special moment in August - his penalty against Go Ahead Eagles was the 100th league goal of his career.

 

Player of the Month: Olivier Aertssen - really good in all competitive games in August and pivotal player to our consecutive clean sheets.

Goal of the Month: Kenneth Taylor vs. FC Twente - an absolute belter from 23m into the top corner.


 

Eredivisie

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We started well with three wins in a row, but Feyenoord came out of the gates storming - three wins with 13:0 goal difference and that includes 4:0 trashing of PSV Eindhoven. Very impressive. PSV had a terrible month - they were soundly beaten by Go Ahead Eagles in an away game (2:5) before Feyenoord wiped the floor with them and that must hurt morale.


 

Champions League

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This time our draw has been really favourable. We have Lyon Olympique, Club Brugge and Bologna in our group. Probably the first time when we managed to avoid all big teams. None of the opponents are really easy, but all should be playable and we could do well against them, at least at Johan Cruijff Arena.

Feyenoord and PSV are both in the Champions League proper and that should get Eredivisie a lot of coefficient points for this season. Feyenoord defeated Galatasaray in the play-offs to get to the group stage and they are in group C with Bayern, Atletico Madrid and Astana. Bayern and Atletico are tough to beat, but they should aim for the third place, at least.

PSV is in group D with Juventus, Leicester City and Celtic Glasgow and that’s a fairly good group for them. Juventus is the heavy favourite, but Leicester and Celtic are playable and with some luck PSV could get through into the knockout stages.

 

Vitesse are in Europa League and FC Utrecht with FC Twente play in the Conference League group stages. A lot of continental action for many Eredivisie teams this season.

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September 2028

 

Fixtures and Results

 

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We restarted after the international break with a home game against Willem II. As it has happened already this season, we played a drab first half, but I switched to standard tempo at half-time and that change (along with some criticism in our dressing room) made the difference - Dramane Guehi scored soon after the second half kick-off and then Willem II’s Taichi Hara saw his second yellow card in as many minutes and after that it was easy. Kenneth Taylor added to the lead with a beautiful free kick, van Axel Dongen scored with a simple tap-in and Guehi completed the rout from the spot. Great result and excellent performance in the second half - Willem II didn’t take a single shot and we were just cruising.

Our Champions League campaign started in Brugge this season and it started terribly, because Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi had to come off after just seven minutes with an injury. We wasted some half-chances and then conceded a goal (ex-Ajax player Noa Lang the goal scorer for Brugge). Players looked anxious and nervous on the pitch and I had to change something - I switched Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson to the AMR position where van Axel Dongen usually plays and he scored the equaliser for us in the second half. Couldn’t score the winner, though, but it was a tough game because we weren’t there mentally 100% and it’s always difficult to win games if we play like that. Jasper Vogels played in DR instead of Jermoumi in the second half and he was a real liability in defence, so in the end the draw wasn’t perhaps the worst that could happen. Jermoumi’s injury was indeed a bad one - torn calf muscle and it takes at least 3-4 months to get him back to the pitch. That’s even worse than this one result.

We returned to Amsterdam and I had doubts before our next league game - the players looked tired, morale looked average and we missed several key players - Misidjan, Moha, Jermoumi all injured; Nikita Tamm doubtful with a bruised ankle and I had  to send on Pawel Wachowicz as our right wing-back. Surprisingly, we played a decent first half (although couldn’t score a goal) and again, after switching tempo to normal at half-time, goals started to flow easily in the second half - Kalokoh was the first  to find the net and when Guehi doubled our lead from penalty, I made substitutions and tried to give our key players some rest. Guehi came off and young striker John Meeuwis came on and he was on fire! Meeuwis scored two goals in the remaining 15 minutes and Idumbo Muzambo added another two, with the best goal of the match coming in injury time - a curling shot into the top corner from 19 metres out. ADO Den Haag completely collapsed in this second half and the 6:0 final score marked a really emphatic win. Stanis Idumbo Muzambo walked away with a 10.0 match rating and showed that he can be relied upon in the AMC position.

The Klassieker derby on match day seven happened after Feyenoord had dropped some points already in September - they lost to Heracles and made a draw with FC Twente, so they desperately needed a win to get their title challenge back on track and we could use an away win to deliver a killer blow to them. We started well and took the lead early on - a quick combination of one-touch passes on the right set up Hlynsson for the goal. In the first 10-15 minutes we had momentum and also the lead, but then Prince Aning came off with an injury and I had to send out Pawel Wachowicz and that change derailed us a little, so Feyenoord got back into the match. We held our lead in the first half, but Davy Klaassen made a bad two footed tackle just seconds after the second half kick-off and we had to play 45 minutes with ten men. Obviously we were under a lot of pressure, couldn’t get any chances ourselves and had to fend off Feyenoord attacks. Some players were nervous and it was clear that Wachowicz was a liability in the right defence. Jay Gorter made a couple of great saves to keep our lead, but Georginio Rutter finally equalised for Feyenoord in 86’. Despite that late goal, it almost felt like we won a point there - 1:1 from De Kuip isn’t a terrible result anyway and to cling onto it after the red card was actually a lot better than it could have been for us. Obviously, the board didn’t understand anything about football and rated our match performance with F because of the late goal we conceded and the lack of chances. Prince Aning will be sidelined for 3-4 weeks with a twisted ankle and that adds to our injury problems this Autumn.

My expectations weren’t high before our next Champions League game. Lyon is arguably the strongest team in our group and to go against them with Wachowicz in the right-back wasn’t particularly tempting. The squad looked exhausted after running for the ball in the Feyenoord match and there were just two days between the games. However, we had a miraculous first half - Guehi scored with a fine header early on, van Axel Dongen added  the second goal with a powerful shot and Lyon’s own goal made it 3:0 in 12 minutes. Our opponents looked like a complete mess and although they managed to score a goal in 24’, it didn’t turn this game around. Olivier Aertssen headed in a free kick to give us a 4:1 lead before half-time and in the second half we continued to have more momentum. Stanis Idumbo Muzambo and Nikita Tamm tested the woodwork, but the second half offered no goals, so we took a valuable win. I was thoroughly delighted with the performance - our attacking movement was excellent at times and we managed to make 20 dribbles in the game. What a turnaround after a difficult derby game.


 

Players

Injuries is the key word in September, especially problems with full-backs. Having both Jermoumi and Prince Aning out for such a long time leaves us in serious trouble, especially in the Champions League. Peter Misidjan and Moha have missed the whole of September already and they’re still a couple of weeks away from returning.

We have scored a lot of goals and these have been distributed nicely between players. We don’t have a clear goal scoring forward at the moment, while PSV’s Jason van Duiven has already scored an incredible 10 goals from 7 games and AZ’s Paulos Abraham have got to the target 7 times. 

Because of our good start to the season, interest has been picking up in our star players. Manchester United has been taking a serious look at Kenneth Taylor and Olivier Aertssen has been scouted by Arsenal. 

I made one contract decision in September - Stanis Idumbo Muzambo earned himself a new four year contract and over £30,000 p/w wages. That’s a lot of money and I had to admit that his agent is worth his paycheck, but the Belgian has performed well lately and could be a useful part of the team in the coming years.

 

We concentrate on youth and John Meeuwis’ inclusion to the first team paid dividends in September - he scored his first senior goals against ADO Den Haag and developed nicely in training. Meanwhile, we got news about Ajax still being one of the best developing clubs in Europe - that’s the aim.

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Player of the Month: Olivier Aertssen - attacking players had more shining moments this month (especially Guehi and van Axel Dongen), but Aertssen’s average rating of 7.66 in those games was the highest. The rock in our defence, he helped us to secure those results, also scoring against Lyon.

Goal of the Month: Stanis Idumbo Muzambo vs. ADO Den Haag - a fabulous strike, curled into the top corner from 19 metres.


 

Eredivisie

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In the middle of the weekend we have AZ Alkmaar at the top of the table - still undefeated and leading the race. Both PSV and Feyenoord have lost some ground in the title race. Bottom of the table offers no surprises either - small teams like Helmond and Excelsior can be found in the relegation fight.


 

Champions League 

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A draw and a win put us in first place at the moment, but there’s plenty of football still ahead. Bologna’s poor start is somewhat surprising. Feyenoord have started their campaign well - two wins over Astana (expected) and Atletico Madrid (total surprise!) have given them a good position in their group. PSV Eindhoven have found Champions League more difficult and their 1:6 defeat to Leicester City was a tough reminder that it's not the Eredivisie level football in this stage.

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October 2028

 

Fixtures and Results

We have a really difficult month ahead of us. It will be at least two weeks before we could hope to get Prince Aning back, but so far younger defenders have to get us through those difficult games - we have AZ Alkmaar, PSV Eindhoven and Vitesse in Eredivisie, and a trip to Italy to face Bologna. Away games against PSV and Vitesse look really difficult for us, on paper, but I’m not sure what to think of Bologna - they exceeded all expectations by finishing fourth in Serie A and booked themselves a ticket to the Champions League, but their current season is well below required standard and they’re just 16th in the league, lost also both their Champions League matches so far and so I hope to return with something from this away game.

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The first match against FC Groningen was indeed a tricky one and we didn’t do ourselves any favours by missing a penalty in the first half. Nikita Tamm gave us the lead at the end of the first half, but we allowed FC Groningen back into the game after the break. They scored from a corner to make it 1:1 and in 85’ a terrible mistake from Aertssen allowed them to score their second goal. Fortunately we found a late equaliser to rescue a point from here. Youngster John Meeuwis had a chance to win it in injury time, but his attempt went wide and our two points with it. Very messy in attack, a lot of missed opportunities and I wasn’t happy.

Another draw against AZ Alkmaar came with a different game of football. AZ were still undefeated in the league and we still had a lot of players missing, so I was careful not to make a blunder. We were a slightly better team throughout the match, but couldn’t score the winner. Our shooting wasn’t too accurate either (12/3) but I wasn’t willing to take more risks. Performance was OK, we just couldn’t score that goal.

We did a bit better against Bologna and took advantage of our opponent’s poor form. We had initiative in the first half and Dramane Guehi’s header gave us a deserved lead right before the half-time break, but the second half was even better - Pawel Wachowicz was brought down on the edge of the area and Anthony Taylor awarded us a penalty that Guehi confidently converted. Substitute David Kalokoh scored to make it 3:0. Bologna’s veteran striker Kevin Volland scored a consolation goal from them (and a great strike, curled into the top corner from outside of the area), but it didn’t make any difference to the result. Our shooting was 18/11, we had 3 clear cut chances and 3.10 xG, so a really good game in attack and a remarkable improvement from the AZ match. It was nice to give out some praise in my post match team talk and lift the spirits of the players.

Home win over Heracles was a more routine affair. We wasted a couple of half-chances in the first half before Rico Speksnijder curled it into the top corner from 19 metres. Finding our second goal took more time than I wanted and it was a bit anxious, but Tamm made it 2:0 in the last ten minutes. The performance was good - we had momentum, built good attacks and made 20 dribbles in the game. Second win in a row to get our confidence back.

Topper derby against PSV Eindhoven turned out to be a completely different match and a tactical battle as well. I countered their 5-2-1-2 WB formation with a balanced approach. The first half was back and forth - both teams had moments and both managed to hit the woodwork in the first five minutes, but PSV started to gain momentum in the end of the first half, so after the break I made a gamble - Moha (who returned from injury) went in as IFs and I switched Aning to WBs to gave our attacks some more width. It was Moha’s turn to be man of the moment - he fired in a low drive from 19 metres to give us the lead. PSV’s goalkeeper Maarten Paes was booked for handling the ball outside of the box and Taylor doubled our lead with a beautiful free kick. PSV took more risks to save the game and their defence crumbled, so Idumbo Muzambo added another goal in injury time - a solo run with the ball into the box and a calm finish. A sweet win over our rivals, but it was a hard battle until the final ten minutes. Very proud of the team to pull this off. 

Away game against Vitesse didn’t look any easier. Our opponents are challenging for the title this season and doing well in the Europa League, too, so they’re confident and playing good attacking football. We scored a flyer after a smart set piece was played out near Vitesse’s box, but Vitesse equalised in 15’ after Ruben Providence won a close range header against Wachowicz and headed it into the empty net. We struggled to create anything in this game - Vitesse defended extremely well and my tactical tweaks didn’t make any difference. A few players grew nervous, too, and that didn’t help. In the end it remained 1:1, but it was a rather poor display from us - no real chances in attack despite our 64% possession, just a handful of key passes and, as one fan aptly put it in the social media - we had a cutting edge of a blunt spoon. That won’t do.



 

Players

At least some injury problems are behind us. Prince Aning returned to action against AZ Alkmaar and he showed with an assist how much we’ve missed his contributions in attack. Youngster Pawel Wachowicz has filled in for Jermoumi in the DR position and has done superbly, taking his actual attributes into account. Peter Misidjan also returned to full training at the end of the month and I hope to see him play in November.

It has been a tough run of games and some of the players have carried more match load than others. Dramane Guehi is starting to look jaded and his performances have become more inconsistent. I probably need to find another option in attack - John Meeuwis looks too young to make an impact. Perhaps Misidjan in a game or two?


 

Player of the Month: Kenneth Taylor - played in five games in October and was perhaps the only first team player who has been consistently good, average rating 7.60 in those games. Scored twice and gave one assist.

Goal of the Month: Moha vs. PSV Eindhoven - low drive from 19 metres to break the tension and give us a valuable win in a derby match.





 

Eredivisie

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We’re leading the table, but other teams have played less games, so it’s a really close race for the title so far and there’s plenty of teams in the mix. PSV have suffered heavy losses from us and Feyenoord while AZ Alkmaar have stood out with their controlled 0:0 draws against bigger opponents. To see newly-promoted FC Groningen so high in the table is a small surprise.

Alarm bells are ringing for the bottom three and Excelsior, who were still looking for their first win of the season, decided to sack their manager Torsten Frings. To be fair I don’t believe it would make any difference - they just don’t have the quality to stay up.


 

Champions League

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Three games played so far and we’re doing nicely with seven points. I reckon we need to find another win to make sure we’ll qualify from that group.

Both Feyenoord and PSV have suffered heavy losses to bigger teams, but Feyenoord still sticks to the second place in their group and have a chance to reach the knockout stages. PSV is currently third and their realistic aim seems to be Europa League. Both teams struggle to switch tactically from Eredivisie comfortable attacking football to continental level where opponents are equal or better to them.

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November 2028

 

Our November schedule looks slightly easier. The Champions League continues with trips to Italy and France, but at least there are some smaller Eredivisie clubs in the calendar for us and that should give more options to rotate.

 

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I opted for a strange tactics and team selection against Bologna - used Jasper Vogels in right defence as IWBs and Peter Misidjan (who returned from his long term injury) played in attack as DLFa, because Guehi’s match load has been so enormous he’s becoming jaded and needed a rest. It paid off, though - Misidjan found van Axel Dongen with a through ball and the winger scored to set us up for the win. It remained 1:0 until the end, but we had a huge number of chances in the end. Moha managed to hit the post twice from a completely open position, Hlynsson wasted a lot of opportunities and the rest of the bunch wasn’t better at finishing. In the end we had 3.59 xG with 11 chances in the game, but only one goal. It was good that we kept our clean sheet and took the win. That result virtually secured our qualification from the group.

Struggling and manager-less Excelsior should have been easy prey, so I made nine changes to our starting line-up. We controlled the game easily, but struggled to create good chances and only had a handful of decent opportunities. Dramane Guehi scored the winner from a well played counter-attack in the second half and we had no problems in defence, but I expected more creativity in attack and wasn’t entirely happy with the performance.

The next game was a little bit better - we had a poor start and conceded a goal in 12’ (Mert Alegoz unable to stop an ambitious attempt from distance), but reacted well, started to create good chances and at half time we had a 3:1 lead. We killed Helmond in the second half - their defender Dario Van Den Buijs was sent off and we added three more goals to make it six in the end. Finally a good performance I was hoping for.

I thought we could get a good result against Lyon - in an away game, but our key players were well rested before the match and we had a good tactical setup. It was a very close game where both teams defended well, but a corner goal in the first half gave Lyon an edge and they didn’t give up their lead after that. It wasn’t a terrible game, but we fell short and looked unable to break their defence once they had the lead.

And our slump in the end of November was summed up in a defeat against sc Heerenveen. Manager Siem de Jong (ex-Ajax player) has done miracles with Heerenveen after their detour to the Keuken Kampioen Divisie and they’re in European places at the moment. They play park the bus tactics and I have to say that they defended really well. We couldn’t create too many moments in the whole game and finished with 11/3 shooting with just 0.91 xG. Heerenveen didn’t attack too much, either, but they got plenty of corners and set pieces, so one of those resulted in a header that went past Jay Gorter and gave them a win. I was quite frustrated with the team, because whatever I tried, it didn’t work and players’ nervousness didn’t help either. We were very dull in attack and that’s not like Ajax at all.



 

Players

November has allowed us to rotate a lot and all players have earned game time this month and are match fit. That should benefit us in December.

Fitness was good, but form was more than questionable. Attacking players were very inconsistent. Nikita Tamm, Dramane Guehi and Moha earned a lot of scrutiny from pundits because they completely disappeared in some matches and our finishing was often rubbish.

 

Player of the Month: David Kalokoh - started in two games and excelled in both of them. In hindsight, I should have trusted him more in the later two matches.

Goal of the Month: Stanis Idumbo Muzambo vs. Helmond Sport - nice piece of skill from the midfielder, taking the ball past defenders and scoring with a placed shot.



 

Eredivisie

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We had a chance to open up a gap, but the defeat kept it very tight at the top of the table. Surprisingly, PSV is still some way down in the table and Vitesse and Heerenveen are right there in the top three.

Patience was lost in several board rooms in November - FC Utrecht, Willem II and FC Twente all sacked their managers. 



 

Champions League

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A draw against Lyon would have been enough, but at the moment all scenarios are possible ahead of the last match day. We have to perform well against Brugge to make it through.

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December 2028

 

Fixtures and Results

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The schedule looked easy, but we struggled even against smaller teams in the wake of our recent poor form. The home win over FC Emmen was a real battle - after another terrible first half we managed to score the winner, but our performance had little to praise. We also lost Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson, who came off with a calf strain that keeps him out until January.

We needed a draw against Club Brugge at home to secure our qualification from the group, but we had a terrible start to this game - we conceded an early chance and the following corner gave Brugge the goal they needed with less than a minute played after the kickoff. We struggled to create much in attack - some decent headers from set pieces (Rajkovic was close to scoring) but Brugge had a lot of corners in this game and half of them led to threat to our goal - Jay Gorter had to save us several times, Pawel Wachowicz cleared one away from the line and overall we didn’t do well defending their set pieces. Somehow we still managed to turn things around - Prince Aning timed his run behind the lines well, received a pass and fired in a beautiful goal to make it 1:1 before half-time and Brugge’s own goal in the second half gave us the lead that we managed to hold until the end. I was somewhat disappointed with our attack - we started to create proper chances in the final ten minutes when Brugge were already taking more risks, but I gave Dramane Guehi rest for the match and used Peter Misidjan in his position as a DLFa, so perhaps that was the cause of some problems in creativity. Anyway, a good result in the end and we’re through to the next stages of the competition.

I anticipated an easy win in the next match, but instead we had a shaky start against PEC Zwolle. David Kalokoh tested the woodwork with his attempt from some way out, but we conceded again from a corner on 28’ and Zwolle took the lead. Stanis Idumbo Muzambo equalised soon enough and the teams went to half-time with a 1:1 score line. It looked like we played with good confidence, but defending corners was again our achilles’ heel and we really need to improve that in the future. We lacked creativity in the second half, but Rico Speksnijder was our saviour once again - his thunderous strike from 26 metres landed in the top corner and Zwolle was forced to attack and things finally opened up for us. Guehi added one more from the spot after Peter Misidjan was tripped in the box and in the end it looked like a convincing win, but it really wasn’t until Speksnijder’s strike on 66’, so I had a bit mixed feelings about that performance.

Lower division team Almere City was supposed to be an easy prey for us and we did beat them with rotation players in the starting line-up. Moha was the star of the night - he linked up twice with David Kalokoh to give us a 2:0 lead and then completed his hat-trick from a penalty to walk away with the match ball. I’m happy with the result and most of the performances on the pitch.

Fortuna Sittard has proven to be a dangerous opponent to bigger teams with their adventurous style, but this time they were quite flat in their own home against us. We had a very good first fifteen minutes of the match when we created a lot of chances and Can Tas scored his first goal of the season from a corner to put us in front. David Kalokoh headed in from a free kick in the second half, so we scored two set piece goals despite wasting many chances from open play. Amourricho van Axel Dongen also hit the crossbar twice and I felt that we should have decided the game sooner than we did, but Fortuna didn’t pose a real threat in attack, so 2:0 from away game was a solid win. Good number of shots, key passes, dribbles and corners indicate that we were clearly the better team. 

We did so well, five wins so far, but couldn’t complete the perfect month and returned with a disappointing draw from Erve Asito. The first half was less than exciting and the penalty gave us the lead, but we allowed Heracles to equalise in the second half and after that they were pretty good in killing the game off. Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi had a poor game - his mistake led to the goal and he couldn’t contribute to our attack in any way, so he’s still on the way to return to his best form after that serious injury. Two points dropped and so our competitors could close the gap.


 

Players

Firstly, the positives - we’ve reached halfway of the season, some players recovered from injuries and return of Jermoumi was eagerly anticipated in previous months, so I had a good selection of players available and the schedule wasn’t too difficult either.

In addition we have a couple of promising youngsters coming up from the youth ranks - Claidel Muringen made his debut for the club against Almere City and if possible would like to contribute more in midfield.

I’ve experimented somewhat with the left flank and used Prince Aning as a WBa there in certain games - it has worked out well, because it adds width and his crossing is decent enough.

But we’re not without problems either - finishing from chances and scoring has become problematic. Dramane Guehi is our best goal scorer so far with 10 goals, but most of them have come from penalties and we lack a reliable striker up front. We’re also conceding too many goals from set pieces (somewhat expected because we’re one of the shortest teams in Eredivisie) and that has caused us problems in several games.

 

Player of the Month: David Kalokoh - again more than reliable when getting chances on the right wing. Our best in-form player this month.

Goal of the Month: Rico Speksnijder vs. PEC Zwolle - a thunderous strike from 26m

 

Youth Intake Preview

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Well, that’s just rubbish. I can’t understand why my head of youth development promises me a golden generation when there’s actually almost no significant talent coming to the youth team. That’s probably the worst preview I’ve seen in those years in Ajax and my hopes about March plummeted.


 

Eredivisie

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We collected 40 points from the first 17 games of the campaign - good sign that we’re on the right track. Vitesse have scored the most goals and their attack has been really impressive (their winger Yusuf Kabadayi with 21 goals already!) but they’re also conceding a lot. We (along with Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar, for example) are much better defensively.


 

Champions League 

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That’s the final standings with our group. Lyon needed a win in the last round, but were defeated by Bologna in Italy, so Brugge got through with us. In other groups Feyenoord did magnificently to beat Atletico Madrid twice and finish second, so they join us in the last 16 - a great season to Eredivisie football. PSV failed to impress and finished fourth - their season in Europe is over with that.

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January 2028


 

Transfer Window

January arrived and teams started to make moves in the transfer market. I recently (re)discovered that I could delegate loaning youngsters in our development list to our loan manager and he started to close a number of deals, so Jonathan Koppers, Quenten Hose and Claidel Muringen went on loan until the end of the season. Very effective work from my backroom staff.

There weren’t any big teams seriously considering a move for our first team players. Kenneth Taylor picked up an injury right after the squad returned from the Winter break, so he won’t go anywhere this January. There was interest in Jay Gorter, but it faded off after Christmas and Dramane Guehi’s inconsistent form has decreased his value in the market.

The first decision I made in this window was selling David Kalokoh to Eintracht Frankfurt for £8,25m and I consider it a great deal. Kalokoh has been in fine form in November and December, but when looking closely none of his attributes are great (except determination) and he’s 23 years old, so not likely to improve significantly in the future. His performances attracted attention now, but he’s actually behind Amourricho van Axel Dongen in my pecking order and I could cash in, hopefully replacing him with another youngster in a short time without much impact to our first team. Made a lot of sense, actually, and offloaded his £20,000 p/w wages from our book.

The second player to move on was Moha and he, too, went to Bundesliga. Mainz 05 signed him for £10,25m. Thought a lot about this transfer before accepting, but it was somewhat more than his current market value is supposed to be and it was the right time to go.

The last player to leave was Rico Speksnijder and this deal went through on the transfer deadline day. I had promised to let him go when a bid of at least £17.5m was made and Bayer Leverkusen offered £21m - another player going to Bundesliga.

We had lost two wingers in this window, so I recalled Ja-Ryong Kim from FC Porto to fill the gap in our first team.



Fixtures and Results

Four games in January, but we have to get through that fixture list without Dramane Guehi who’s away with the Cote d’Ivoire national team at the African Cup of Nations. That leaves us in a lot of trouble, because we don’t have a decent striker in the squad, apart from 17 years old John Meeuwis, although my coaching staff noted that Peter Misidjan can also play the position, but neither of them is a CFa that Guehi plays in our formation. We also miss Kenneth Taylor for at least a month with sprained knee ligaments he suffered in training. That’s two leaders gone and some quite strong teams coming against us.

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In the Topper Derby I used Peter Misidjan up front as DLFa. To make our problems worse, Davy Klaassen lasted just 14 minutes before he had to come off with a twisted ankle. After a quiet first 15 minutes I switched to standard tempo and it worked out much better - we created a number of chances in the first half, but failed to finish them off and were incredibly unlucky not to score a goal. Olivier Aertssen headed against the post from a corner, Stanis Idumbo Muzambo curled it against the crossbar from some way out and van Axel Dongen missed three good chances. PSV got their defence in order in the second half and although van Axel Dongen tested the woodwork once more, we failed to score a goal. Only a point from a match we should have won. Misidjan didn’t work out as a striker and the result left me with the feeling that we desperately missed Guehi.

The next in line was Keuken Kampioen Divisie outing SC Cambuur. A potentially tricky game in an away stadium, but I was bold and rotated the line-up, because it was a cup game and against a smaller team. We had two penalties in the first half and van Axel Dongen took both of them. The first one was probably the worst penalty I’ve ever seen - soft and to the centre, but the goalkeeper let it go loose and van Axel Dongen finished from rebound. He did better with the second one, though and without needing to take too many risks in attack we had a two goal lead. Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson completed the rout right after the restart and 3:0 marked a good result for us.

I was much more nervous about our away trip to Utrecht. John Meeuwis did OK against Cambuur and because Misidjan had been so poor against PSV I took a calculated risk and started with Meeuwis as a PFa in this match. We had a great start to the game and van Axel Dongen scored a flyer to give us the lead. He then hit the crossbar from a free kick, but we continued to build up good attacks and scored goals as well. Can Tas headed in from a free kick (his second goal of the season) and Prince Aning surprised FC Utrecht’s goalkeeper with a swerving shot from the edge of the area. Their goalkeeper didn’t look up to the task in this match and probably feels that he should have done better in a couple of situations. FC Utrecht had a bit better second half and they managed to hit the woodwork twice, but finished the match without a single shot on target. van Axel Dongen’s second goal of the game put the result beyond doubt for us. Our shooting was just 8/6 and we didn’t create too many chances, but the finishing was just so clinical and most of the attempts landed in the net.

We tried to carry this sort of form to our last game against FC Twente, but it turned out to be almost a copy of the performance we had against PSV - we created good chances in the first half, but failed to finish them off and van Axel Dongen again wasted our best moment when his chip landed against crossbar on 38’. But this time it didn’t remain goalless. Our saviour was the 17 year old John Meeuwis who found himself in a one-on-one situation soon after the game restarted. He kept his composure and finished with a lovely chip to secure all three points in the home game.



 

Players

The team is trying to cope with departures and because we loaned away some talented youngsters in the beginning of January we are looking incredibly thin in some areas, namely midfield and wingers. Dramane Guehi was sorely missed in January - fortunately Cote d’Ivoire was knocked out in the first round of play-offs and he returned at the end of the month, so he’ll be available in February.

I have to say kudos to some of the players who stepped up during this difficult time - Bart Smits filled in for Taylor, John Meeuwis was the hero against FC Twente and Nikita Tamm is starting to play like he should be, considering his attributes and the ‘wonderkid’ label that accompanies him.

At the same time we’re having some problems with morale. I rejected several bids during this window. As a result, Can Tas and Stanis Idumbo Muzambo are slightly unhappy because they wanted to move on to a stronger division and they’re complaining a little to their teammates. I feel that I have the situation under control, but feelings like that certainly affect morale.

 

Player of the Month: Amourricho van Axel Dongen - when Guehi was absent, van Axel Dongen returned to goal scoring and got four goals in his name in January. Average rating above 7.70 this month will give him the award. His goal against SC Cambuur was his 50th for Ajax, so there was another reason to celebrate for him this month.

Goal of the Month: Prince Aning vs. FC Utrecht - a swerving strike from the edge of area


 

Contracts

With some players leaving, I had to plan ahead and extend some other contracts that were about to run out. Veteran Davy Klaassen signed a new extension until 2031 - I’m grooming him to become a coach after his playing years are over, but his leadership could be valuable for another couple of seasons. Goalkeeper Jay Gorter signed a new four-year deal.



 

Eredivisie

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Four teams are chasing the title. We have a small lead, but Feyenoord, Vitesse and Heerenveen are right behind us. Promoted sc Heerenveen has been a real surprise package this season and they’ve been really good in all of the games they’ve played.

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February 2029

 

Fixtures and Results

Short month and six games in February (after we won the quarter final of the KNVB Beker our semi final was scheduled to the end of the month) - looks like a lot, but because there aren’t any international windows, it’s not as difficult a schedule as it looks at first sight.

The Eredivisie schedule balances tricky games with easier fixtures - Helmond Sport and FC Emmen shouldn’t pose much threat, but we want to take revenge for our defeat in Heerenveen and FC Groningen could also be a tricky one.

I believe I’ve forgotten to mention our Champions League draw - we’ve got Leicester City in the knockout round. While the quality of their first eleven is still head and shoulders above ours, it’s a much more favourable draw than Manchester City, Arsenal or Barcelona that we’ve had in the past. A mid-table Premier League side should be playable, at least at home, and our hope is to return from England with a decent result so that we have something to play for.

 

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The game against Helmond Sport should have been an easy win for us and we scored a quick goal in the first half, but failed to add our second, despite having numerous chances. Helmond looked much more dangerous in the second half and I had to admit that we gave away momentum for some periods there, but in the end Ja-Ryong Kim found the target on 78’ and Guehi quickly added our third, so at the final whistle we could pretend that it was easy sailing from start to finish. It wasn’t.

The cup quarter final against Fortuna Sittard was another tricky away fixture, but I rotated boldly. Mert Alegoz, Ognjen Rajkovic, Jasper Vogels started in defence for us and Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson in midfield as a BBMs. Fortuna tried to use long throws and it worked like a treat for them, because Dawid Bugaj received one of those at our near post on 9’, turned around and scored before anyone could react. We responded well and Guehi equalised five minutes later. The first half finished 1:1 and it was a back-and-forth game in the first period. We struggled with headers and our vulnerabilities in defence were exploited by Fortuna attacking players. The second half had a good start and Guehi gave us the lead with a fine strike, but I made substitutions too early, Fortuna started to attack more and an unfortunate own goal from Olivier Aertssen gifted them their second goal. The extra time was goalless, but we kept our nerves calm in the penalty shoot-out. Mert Alegoz made one save out of five and it was enough to win this. Youngsters Peter Misidjan, John Meeuwis and Jasper Vogels converted their penalties calmly and I was really proud of them after that. Difficult match, but win in the end is the one that matters and put us through into the semi final.

sc Heerenveen are true title contenders at the moment, but it has to be said that the foundation of their success was laid in Autumn under Siem de Jong who played an attractive fluid counter-attack with them and got the results and confidence was up. For the disappointment of sc Heerenveen fans, de Jong left the club in December and Jurgen Streppel took charge - his catenaccio mentality is completely different on, but so far it hasn’t backfired, because confidence is still high in the squad and results have come under new manager as well. We had the best possible start to the game - Nikita Tamm found Dramane Guehi with a pass in our very first attack and the forward scored when there was just 15 seconds on the clock! Heerenveen’s catenaccio generally worked out well and they did their best to limit our chances in the game, but the second half penalty secured our lead and Peter Misidjan wrapped things up with a belter from 23 metres (a wonderful goal!). You can’t win games by just sitting deep and defending and Heerenveen got painfully aware of that. We celebrated a good win - I was happy with three goals and defensively we were very strong. For sc Heerenveen, however, it was a reality check - if they could have got a win from Johan Cruijff Arena they had proved themselves as real contenders for the title, but with that dull performance they’ve fallen eight points behind us and should probably shift their focus to securing European football for the next season.

And it was time to return to the Champions League action. Our trip to King Power stadium wasn’t an easy one and after studying the Leicester team I realised they’re actually a lot better than us, so I made a lot of tactical changes and we started with a cautious mentality. Despite that we struggled from early on and our defenders seemed to constantly lose their false nine Martin Satriano, who scored an early goal to give Leicester the lead. Dramane Guehi headed in from Jermoumi’s cross to make it 1:1, but we conceded another goal from a corner on 23’. Again, the response was swift - van Axel Dongen broke the offside trap and equalised just five minutes later and we went to half-time with 2:2 - a much better score than I expected. Leicester City were clearly the better team, but we showed that we were no pushovers and the fairytale continued in the second half when van Axel Dongen’s attempt (although a little bit ambitious) found its way in from underneath their keeper. I was hoping for a win, but Leicester equalised on 65’ and we started to concentrate on defending and gave initiative to Leicester. We almost let it slip away in injury time when Aertssen fouled an opponent in our box and gave away a penalty, but Jay Gorter made a crucial save to deny Youri Tielemans and we held on to that point. Final score of 3:3 marked a very entertaining match for the fans. In reality Leicester should have won it - they had 3 clear cut chances with 3.62xG, but Jay Gorter was tremendous at goal and finished with a 9.5 rating, so you could say that our goalkeeper rescued us, especially with that penalty save in injury time. A draw from away game keeps all hopes up for the second leg at Johan Cruijff Arena.

A goalless draw against FC Emmen was absolute rubbish. Our opponents were difficult to beat at Johan Cruijff Arena a few months ago, but in their own home they killed the game effectively with their catenaccio and even had more of the momentum in the first half. We couldn’t get anything going and even though we had better control over the game in the second half, our attack lacked the edge until the end. We had just one half chance in the whole game and the only positive news was Kenneth Taylor’s return from injury. Few players were a complete disappointment, especially Dramane Guehi who was completely isolated up front and finished the match with 5.9 rating. I couldn’t find the key to unlock FC Emmen’s defence, but the players were poor as well and the sooner we forget this game the better.

FC Groningen could be a difficult opponent and we left with a 1:1 draw from Euroborg earlier this season, but they were way too defensively minded in this one at Johan Cruijff Arena. Their 4-1-4-1 DM setup indicated that they’re not a real threat in attack and I was fairly confident we’d get the result. Prince Aning came off with an injury soon after the kick-off and that was a bummer. In the first half their plan to defend deep almost worked out, but Peter Misidjan found our first goal in injury time and after I inspired the team in dressing room Guehi quickly scored our second after restart (one of the best assists from Jermoumi I’ve seen - a long searching pass perfectly on the run, so Guehi could finish with his first touch). Nikita Tamm got to the scoreboard as well and Can Tas completed the rout with a header from a free kick. Great result, very solid defensively - we gave FC Groningen no chances and there were no poor performers in the squad. I’m really happy with that game.

The cup semi final against Heracles was a pretty similar game. The first half was slow and Heracles did their best to defend well. I rotated our starting line-up a little - Dramane Guehi was given a rest day and 17 years old John Meeuwis started up front. He wasted his first chance of the game, but on 40’ he opened things up with a goal and in the second successive game we scored late in the first half. And similarly to Groningen, Heracles fairly quickly fell apart after the second half-kick-off. Hlynsson found van Axel Dongen with a through ball for our second and Klaassen scored from the spot to make it 3:0. Heracles showed more attacking intent in the final five minutes - partly because our defenders started to show complacency - but Jay Gorter was there to make some key saves and we kept a clean sheet.

 

In conclusion - very disappointed with our lacklustre display against FC Emmen, but otherwise a good month with some excellent results.



 

Players

I’m really happy with our goal scoring form in February. The FC Emmen game apart, we’re scoring a lot of goals and Dramane Guehi’s return from the African Cup of Nations clearly helped us - he’s now scored 17 goals in all competitions this season. Amourricho van Axel Dongen has added 11 and they are running our attack in most games. Nikita Tamm is finally performing better on the left flank, too. He’s still a little inconsistent, but has found the net a couple of times and created moments for others, so things are improving for him.

At the same time our defence has been a bit shaky, especially in the first games in February. I suggest it’s because we missed Kenneth Taylor due to injury and our midfield wasn’t as strong. We’re also looking nervous or complacent and I’m expecting more focus from the team. On the other hand - young players showed good nerves in the cup quarter final penalty shoot-out, so perhaps I’m a bit harsh there.

 

I made two loan decisions about younger players. Polish right-back Pawel Wachowicz struggled to find game time in Ajax after Jermoumi returned from injury and he moved to Wisla Krakow until the end of the season in February. At the same time young winger Quenten Hose didn’t get enough game time in FC Twente and I recalled him from loan. He made his debut for the first team against Heracles in the cup semi final and actually did well - a foul against him earned us a penalty in the second half. Solid debut.


 

Player of the Month: Dramane Guehi - was really poor against FC Emmen, but scored 7 goals in 6 games and helped the team enormously in February.

Goal of the Month: Peter Misidjan vs. sc Heerenveen - a screamer from 23 metres


 

Contracts

With the January transfer window behind us we have one eye on 2030 already and few of the contracts are expiring then. The most important player of that list is Nikita Tamm - after letting Kalokoh and Moha go, I really need him for the next couple of seasons, but his agent is a trouble, demanding ridiculously low minimum release fee clause (not higher than £37m) which is not acceptable, so negotiations were at halt for two weeks, but we finally settled for £60m release clause and Tamm signed a new deal until 2033.



 

Eredivisie

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Just one point between us and Vitesse. AZ Alkmaar and Heerenveen have dropped behind in the title race. 

The biggest news came early in the month - PSV Eindhoven sacked Alfred Schreuder and our rivals started to look for the new manager. I would say that their season wasn’t a disaster and they were only eight points behind us in the table, so you could say that everything was still possible for them with more than 10 games to go, but with so many teams in excellent form the title seems already a long shot for them. Their Champions League campaign was another disappointment and when it is all summed up you could probably understand why the change was made. They later appointed Peter Bosz as their new manager.

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March 2029


 

Fixtures and Results

 

Just four games in March, but it includes a long international break, so we don’t get too much time to prepare for the games. And there are some difficult matches as well - the away game against AZ Alkmaar will be a big test in Eredivisie, and then we host Leicester City in the second leg of our Champions League tie.

 

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I started against AZ Alkmaar with a balanced mentality - one notch down from our usual positive, but it paid off in the away game. We had good control over the game in the first half - Dramane Guehi wasted our first chance, but on 28’ he took advantage of poor communication between AZ defender and goalkeeper, snatched up the ball and passed it into the empty net. He doubled his tally with a well executed chip six minutes later. I was very happy with our first half up until 40’ when we allowed AZ to score from the very first attempt they had in the game - their towering winger Lev Lenssen was just too tall and Jermoumi lost an aerial duel against him at the far post. So AZ was still in the game. We had less chances in the second half, but on the other hand we contained AZ very well and maintained our lead until the end. Just 8/4 shooting in the game and 7 key passes, but that’s what balanced mentality means - you need to execute on those moments that you create and if you have the lead you don’t need to push that hard, so that’s exactly what we did. Crucial win for us against one of the top teams in an away game.

We managed to win the second leg match against Leicester City 1:0. It wasn’t very exciting football on display, because both teams looked very careful and we switched between positive and balanced mentality, but chances remained rare and finally Hlynsson’s header gave us a narrow win. He had two more chances in the game that were way better, but missed both of them, so despite reaching the quarter finals I heard criticism about our style of play. That’s true - our shooting was just 5/1 and xG no more than 0.86, but on the other hand we didn’t give Leicester any real opportunities in front of our goal and that’s something to be proud of. That’s no Eredivisie here - we’re against big teams with a lot of quality and it demands a different approach.

That led us to a title showdown against Vitesse. Our previous encounter this season had finished 1:1, but I hoped our home advantage was enough to secure all three points and put a dent to Vitesse’s title ambitions. We had possession in the first half, but often overplayed our attack and made things too complicated for ourselves, so Vitesse actually had better chances in the first period. Eren Dinkci headed against the crossbar from close range and Kenneth Taylor arrived late to block Kelvin Ofori’s one-on-one situation. I made tactical changes at half-time, unticked WBIB instruction and our attacks started to finish with more logical decisions. We finally played their defence apart on 59’ and Tamm finished a good attacking move. Dramane Guehi scored a late goal to make it 2:0 - a massive win for us in the title race. We looked much better in the second half and I was happy with the result.

Compared to our previous opponents, Go Ahead Eagles were much easier to beat. They came to Johan Cruijff Arena to park the bus, but failed in that attempt. We had full control of the game and Peter Misidjan’s goal in the first half (helped by strong deflection from a defender) and van Axel Dongen’s in the second half gave us all three points. The Eagles didn’t get any real chances in this game and didn’t pose a threat to our goal. 



 

Players

First, the good news is that most of the players have been fit this month. It hasn’t affected our squad selection. Secondly, I dare to say that we haven’t missed three players who left in January - David Kalokoh, Moha and Rico Speksnijder. Our midfield has been fine, Ja-Ryong Kim has featured on our left flank and young right winger Quenten Hose has made his debut for the club, so we’ll be fine.

On the other hand - there are some positions where we’re thin, especially in attack where we rely overly on Dramane Guehi - the striker reached 20 goals in March, but he’s frequently showing signs of becoming jaded and it’s difficult to rest him when we’re still in three competitions and league standings are so close.

Statistics say that we’re prolific in front of goal and very good in defence - we’ve held a clean sheet in most of the February and March games. That’s good.


Player of the Month: Dramane Guehi - scored four goals this month and led our attack

Goal of the Month: Ja-Ryong Kim vs. ADO Den Haag - a beautiful free kick


 

Youth Intake

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In short words - pretty rubbish. Not much of a talent, some players are average/adequate and might make it into the first team if everything works out well for them.

 

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Finnish left winger. The most talented one from this year’s intake, but has a dreaded unambitious personality and no determination whatsoever. I’ll start mentoring him right away to amend things, but it’s uncertain how he’ll develop.

 

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Decent winger option, able to play on both wings. Some flaws, like poor finishing and creativity, but some strengths as well. Let’s see how he’ll develop.

 

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Promising midfielder, but another unambitious personality. Unlikely to make it in Ajax.

 

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Pretty decent center-back. Fairly professional as well, but on the short side of players and not very good in the air.



 

Eredivisie

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Champions League

We’re in the quarter finals and go against FC Barcelona in April. That’s much more difficult than Leicester City.. Feyenoord were knocked out by Chelsea (1:4 on aggregate), but I think they can be proud of their Champions League campaign.

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April 2029

 

Fixtures and Results

 

Because of our success in all competitions, we have a pretty tough fixture list in April - two games against FC Barcelona and then back to back derbies with Feyenoord. Can’t even say which one is more important - cup final or league game, because Vitesse is still pretty close in the table and are waiting for us to slip up.

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We pulled off a massive upset against FC Barcelona. The home crowd (full stadium, 55,500) were behind us. Dramane Guehi gave us the lead and in the first half we were just superb defensively and didn’t give Barca any real chances to score. They improved in the second half, but needed a wonderful strike from Rodri (24 metres out) to beat Jay Gorter. However, Nikita Tamm made it 2:1 and we held on to that lead despite giving away two easy chances to their regen German striker who probably rued his missed opportunities. I believe that a fair result would have been 2:2, but it was a massive win for us and leaves us hopeful before our trip to Camp Nou.

Because of that win I really had to take some risks with our team selection against Excelsior. Dramane Guehi looked jaded again and could use a day off and I needed our first team players to be fresh during the next stint of games (FC Barcelona away and back-to-back Feyenoord), so I rotated a lot for that away match. I’m happy to say it didn’t backfire at all - instead we scored a quick goal and controlled the game from there. The first half finished 2:0 and after John Meeuwis made it 3:0 early in the second half I could make substitutions and turn down pressing intensity. The 17 years old striker capped his hat-trick in the second half, Peter Misidjan added two goals and only a late consolation goal from Excelsior ruined our clean sheet, but we weren’t downhearted because of that. Great result, a boost for the players who haven’t started too many games so far and our first eleven was rested and ready for our trip to Spain.

I tried a bit of a different tactic for our away game at Camp Nou. It didn’t seem to work out too well because Barcelona seized initiative and on 12’ Ansu Fati scored for them, so we switched to a balanced mentality and slightly higher tempo and that gave our midfield a much better structure and support. We didn’t create too much in this game, but one moment was enough when Davy Klaassen found van Axel Dongen with a pass and the winger equalised. Barcelona tried hard to find the second goal - Cristian Canales hit the post on 73’ and their German striker Ludwig Diroll wasted a late chance, but we survived and held onto that draw to win 3:2 on aggregate. Magnificent success against mighty Barcelona! It wasn’t as good as it sounds, because Barca had 3.05 xG and probably felt that they should have won this, but we took our only good chance and killed the giant to reach the semi final.

Feyenoord had the home advantage for the KNVB Beker final at De Kuip, but the game itself was very even in ninety minutes - we took the lead, but Feyenoord equalised ten minutes later and both teams defended extremely well throughout the match until two goals by Stanis Idumbo Muzambo and John Meeuwis made the difference at half time. First domestic trophy won and at the expense of Feyenoord which makes it even sweeter.

The following league match back in Amsterdam was even better - again we were excellent in defence and managed to crack them open once in both halves. Not the most exciting football to offer, but deadly effective and 2:0 over arch rivals is just what we needed at this stage of the Eredivisie season.

The big test came at Giuseppe Meazza. Our opponents in the semi final were Inter Milan, who had already secured their Serie A title under Jürgen Klopp (that’s right). The match was also a reunion with some ex-Ajax players - Mohamed Daramy, Bas van Lopik and Gabriel Misehouy turn up for Inter’s first team. We tried to play similarly as we did against FC Barcelona. Olivier Aertssen’s mistake gave Itner the first goal, but the first half and game as a whole wasn’t too bad. In the last minute of the match we had a glorious chance to equalise when young John Meeuwis sprinted to a counter-attack, rounded the keeper, but sent his shot wide of the post… and of course, in the next minute Inter found another goal to make it 0:2. That was harsh - we were so close to returning from Italy with a 1:1 result, but two goals deficit makes it more difficult than I’d like.

It turned out that we could secure our Eredivisie title with a win against Fortuna Sittard, because Vitesse lost their match against AZ Alkmaar two hours earlier and we used that chance well. I chose to prioritise our Champions League fixture and rotated a lot, but the team did well - not a flashy performance, but two goals were enough. We were superb defensively in that game and Fortuna couldn’t even get a shot on target. Well deserved win and the players could celebrate the title with a home crowd.


 

Players

The match load in April has been enormous and the fixture list is so difficult that I couldn’t afford to rest my best players, so they had way more minutes than healthy and often got 2-3 rest days between games, just to recover enough for the next effort. Winning the Eredivisie title and KNVB Beker is a massive relief for them and the fact that I could rest them against Fortuna Sittard helped a lot.

At least the players have been healthy and we’re not in trouble for bookings either, so we had all key players available for important games.

To my surprise I discovered that when we extended the contracts of Davy Klaassen and Amourricho van Axel Dongen I’ve promised to play them in positions and roles I didn’t plan to - Klaassen as BWM and van Axel Dongen on AML as IWs. That is a major blunder from my part as manager - how could I click through contract negotiations so that I didn’t notice those clauses?

Klaassen played as BWMs against Fortuna Sittard and I might even say that in certain games it’s not a bad option, solidifying our midfield and with “take more risks” instruction active, he collected five key passes in this game, contributing in both defence and attack. However, we need van Axel Dongen on the right wing and can’t afford to switch him to the left where we already have Nikita Tamm and Ja-Ryong Kim. That might cause troubles in the future.

With Summer nearing and the season about to end, our next campaign outlook doesn’t look so bad at all. We have several younger players who have trained really well, played a lot of games and developed enormously this season - Dramane Guehi, Can Tas and Jasper Vogels, to name a few. Some of the youngsters have emerged into the brink of the first team (Quenten Hose, Aron Darri van Kasteren, John Meeuwis) and few have had a good loan season. Summer departures may change things a bit, but I’m optimistic about our future.


Player of the Month: Amourricho van Axel Dongen - scored crucial goals in the most important games this month

Goal of the Month: Stanis Idumbo Muzambo vs. Feyenoord Rotterdam - extra time goal, the midfielder really banged it into the roof of the goal



 

Eredivisie

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Vitesse gave us the fight so far and finished up in the Champions League places. Disappointing season for PSV and AZ Alkmaar. Excelsior are going down, but the second team to be relegated is still to be determined.

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May 2029

 

Fixtures and Results

 

Three games until the end of the season and our focus is solely on the Champions League. The first team players have had such a heavy match load this Spring that I need just one more push from them against Inter, but rotation players/youngsters will play the remaining two Eredivisie fixtures.

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We played a good home game against Inter at Johan Cruijff Arena. Started with a positive 4-2-3-1 and turned it more attacking through the match, but it ended 0:0. Both teams had one great chance in the first half, but failed to score (Dramane Guehi’s attempt was blocked in front of the goal). Inter didn’t need to attack and they defended really well (again) - our shooting was just 7/1 and while we weren’t under pressure ourselves, it was difficult to create anything in attack and most of our attempts went off target. No shame in that 0:0, but Inter were the better team and won 2:0 on aggregate.

In the next two games we played with our rotation players and youngsters. We did beat Willem II away - a solid result, but less than exciting football on display. I tried out Davy Klaassen as BWMs instead of BBMs and it limited our creativity. Quenten Hose scored in the first half (his first ever league goal for Ajax) and Ja-Ryong Kim added the second goal with a beautiful free kick, but overall we had just 9 attempts in the whole match. On the other hand, our defence looked impenetrable and Willem II failed to create any threat in our box, so tactically the setup could be considered extremely good, but just not what the board (and myself) expect from Ajax.

The last match against PEC Zwolle was a very similar one - a drab match, lack of creativity, key passes and chances up front, but very good defensively. John Meeuwis scored the winner in the first half, but nothing else to report from this game.


 

Players

No news, just here to give out the awards.

 

Player of the Month: Davy Klaassen - very good in all three games, took a man of the match award in the Willem II match.

Goal of the Month: Ja-Ryong Kim vs. Willem II Tilburg - a beautiful free kick


 

Eredivisie

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Final standings. Helmond Sport lost in the play-offs and they will go down with Excelsior and Willem II.

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Competitions

It was a great season, the most successful we’ve had under my time in Ajax. We won all domestic trophies and reached the Champions League semi finals (our best campaigns so far have stopped in the quarter final).

In Eredivisie we had perhaps slightly surprising contenders. In the first half of the season newly-promoted sc Heerenveen showed their teeth, but Vitesse pushed us all the way and because we secured the title only on match day 32 this Spring turned out to be exhausting and stressful for the players.

In KNVB Beker our toughest match was probably the quarter final against Fortuna Sittard - we played poorly, finished 2:2 and almost blundered it, but young players secured us the win in penalty shoot-out.

In the Champions League I’m happy that we’ve finally found some way to secure results against big teams in away games. Beating FC Barcelona in the quarter final was the biggest achievement. Feyenoord also reached the knockout stages and secured valuable coefficient points for Eredivisie clubs. Hopefully Vitesse can do well in the next season, too.




 

Players

 

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We have a solid core to the team (although there are a few positions where we look thin) and several youngsters have proved themselves this season and earned more game time.

Defensively we look fairly good - we concede just a few goals and we’re now able to use tactics that will shut down opposition in games when we need to. Our defensive line has remained the same for a couple of seasons and that has obviously helped, too.

At the start of the season I was a little bit afraid of our thin midfield - only three players are true midfielders in that sense, but we avoided injuries and actually did well. Davy Klaassen is 36 years old now, but still up and running well.

In creative midfield I was afraid that letting several players go in Winter would be a problem, but it wasn’t - Ja Ryong Kim came back from loan and contributed well on the left flank, Quenten Hose came through the youth rank and so departures have given us a chance to rebuild our attack.

One player who has been crucial for us is Dramane Guehi - he’s our best goalscorer with 23 goals (despite missing some games due to the African Cup of Nations), but he’s actually the only good striker in the team. John Meeuwis is really young, just turned 18 this May, but has featured a lot in the first team and has more than 10 goals to his name this year. Excellent debut season from the youngster, but he’s not yet ready to carry us against big teams and/or Champions League, so Guehi is one player we can’t afford to lose in the Summer transfer window. In fact, if I checked who have played the most games this season it’s Guehi and Olivier Aertssen, so this is the pair we’ve been relying heavily on.

 

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Eredivisie

Very interesting campaign. Vitesse were the main contenders for us and I’m not used to seeing them in the top three. They were excellent in the second half of the season, had a good squad and tremendous attack.

The second surprise package were sc Heerenveen and FC Groningen. Both teams dropped to the Keuken Kampioen Divisie two years ago, but bounced back and finished in the top half right away. Heerenveen was even in European places around Christmas, but their form dropped a little in Spring after their manager Siem de Jong left in Winter. Either way, a good return to the top division from two clubs.

PSV was nowhere near the title this season and Feyenoord probably feels that third place is not good enough for them either. However, Feyenoord had to compete in multiple fronts, reaching the KNVB Beker Final and qualifying from their Champions League group, so their season wasn’t a failure in that regard. AZ Alkmaar is another club who hoped to see themselves in the top three, but it didn’t happen this time around.

At the bottom of the table Excelsior were relegated (no surprises there) and in the end the bottom three were quite predictable. It’s a little surprising that FC Twente continue to struggle in the league - they’re way too good to go down, but for some reason or another they’re lingering right above relegation zone for a few seasons now. Willem II and Helmond Sport were also relegated - not very surprised with that outcome. 

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Eredivisie Awards

 

The award season brought our players a lot of silverware. I had been selected as the manager’s manager of the season for several past seasons now, but this year I ended up in third place. Vitesse’s John van den Brom won that award.

 

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Champions League 

Besides our successful campaign, Feyenoord reached the first knockout round (where they were stopped by Chelsea). Jürgen Klopp and Inter went on to beat FC Bayern in the final and celebrated a wonderful season for them with both the Serie A and Champions League titles.

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August 2029


 

Transfer Window

I’m always willing to let my best players go when a really big club comes with a reasonable bid and this Summer Juventus came for Jay Gorter. They offered around £50m that I negotiated up to £53m and the international goalkeeper went to Italy. I’m happy for him - bigger club, bigger league and bigger wages. We lost a key member of the squad, but I have a feeling that Mert Alegoz is ready to make the next step in his development and we also have two talented youngsters in Riswan Sinaga and Calvin Francis, so Gorter’s departure makes sense.

 

We had five players on loan and they all returned.

Youri Boerhout left to Arminia Bielefeld after his loan finished and contract ran out. Decent striker, but not really in the Champions League level and in Ajax he always would have been a backup.

Bedirhan Celikel had a decent season in FC Groningen and we extended his loan there for another season. He’s a solid first team choice for Groningen and gets more playing time than he’d get in Ajax at the moment.

Jonathan Koppers, Pawel Wacwhowicz and Claidel Muringen will remain in Ajax for the next season - I believe that Muringen could get some minutes in easier games and I really like to test him out in midfield (also, our midfield is rather thin with just three players and we could use a backup full-back).

 

The Eredivisie transfer window was fairly busy. Feyenoord was playing the key role on this - they cashed in for their French striker Georginio Rutter (he went to Everton for £41,5m) and they used this money to completely rebuild their squad.





 

Fixtures and Results

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We opened with the Johan Cruijff Schaal final - interesting to play against Vitesse, as I’m used to seeing either Feyenoord or PSV in this match. Our opponents’ squad hasn’t changed much since May, but they had a few capable loanees from Chelsea to bolster their ranks ahead of their Champions League season and one of them - Edimar - scored a beautiful free kick to give Vitesse a lead in the first half. It was a fairly even game and both teams tried to attack, but we couldn’t find a goal until Peter Misidjan finally equalised on 87’. Momentum was shifting to our side and I believe that we would have won in extra time, but there’s no extra time in the Johan Cruijff Schaal final and teams continue with penalties after the score is level. The first five takers from both teams scored, but Olivier Aertssen missed his penalty and Vitesse took the cup. I’m not too concerned with performance - we did well and several players are still getting their match sharpness back, just unlucky I guess.

Our Eredivisie campaign started with a Klassieker derby at Johan Cruijff Arena. I felt that home advantage should have given us an edge and it did - we had a small initiative through the match and had some half-chances to score, but it remained goalless until the end. We were extremely solid defensively and didn’t give Feyenoord any opportunities either, but their formation was probably a bit more defensive and they could be more happy with a point from away match while we were left to rue our missed chances. Slight disappointment, but on the other hand a draw with Feyenoord is not a bad result - it’s much worse to drop points against smaller teams.

We had a much better game against PEC Zwolle on road - we took the lead in the first half after Klaassen found Nikita Tamm with a cross and the left winger scored with a simple tap-in. The first half finished 1:0, but goals started to pour in after the break - van Axel Dongen doubled our lead, Olivier Aertssen nodded in from a point blank range after a free kick and Stanis Idumbo Muzambo completed the rout from a counter-attack after Zwolle’s corner. We finished the game with 3.39 xG while giving Zwolle no real chances in the game, so I was very happy with our display - a convincing win.




 

Players

I’m happy that all of the players are fit and injury-free at the beginning of the season. Performances have been a little bit inconsistent (partly because match fitness has been an issue for some of the players), but it will improve. I feel that at least in some games I have been able to make Nikita Tamm perform well in a certain wide IFs role and that’s a relief. At the same time Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi could improve as a right wing-back.

Mert Alegoz has done really well in the first matches - two clean sheets in August, although our defence collectively has been really strong and the goalkeeper hasn’t been under pressure a lot. Either way, confidence early in the season should be good for him.


Player of the Month: Olivier Aertssen - very good in two games, scored against PEC Zwolle and was selected to the Eredivisie team of the week twice in August

Goal of the Month: Stanis Idumbo Muzambo vs. PEC Zwolle - a lovely chip over the goalkeeper.


 

Eredivisie

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Still early to say anything. Vitesse and Feyenoord have both started well, while AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven already dropped points. 



 

Champions League

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Groups were drawn and we landed in group D with Arsenal, Besiktas and RB Salzburg. Not the worst draw - Arsenal is tough, but the other two should be playable. Vitesse in their maiden Champions League season landed in group C with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid and Atalanta - I would be really really surprised if they finish higher than 4th place. Feyenoord did very well to climb through the play-offs and ended up in group F  with Juventus, Shakhtar and KRC Genk - their draw is actually very favourable and I believe that they could beat both Shakhtar and Genk and may reach the knockout stages again

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Squad Update 2029



 

Goalkeepers

Mert Alegoz is the new first choice between the sticks. Riswan Sinaga is an up and coming youngster.

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Defenders

Unchanged from the last season. Prince Aning was looking for a way to a better club and bigger division and at one point in Spring it looked like Juventus and Tottenham were interested, but he remained as an Ajax player. Defensive line is still fairly young and players are developing, so that’s a good thing.

 

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Midfield

Davy Klaassen is our own James Milner - a 36 years old, but still one of the best BBMs/BWMs. Kenneth Taylor is on the verge of joining the Holland national team. Bart Smits provides backup and Claidel Muringen will be looking for minutes to aid his development.

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Attacking Midfield

Plenty of choices here - the main three (van Axel Dongen - Hlynsson - Tamm) are the same, but we have plenty of choices for rotation and substitutions.

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Strikers

We rely heavily on Dramane Guehi (still surprised that nobody came to steal him away this Summer). John Meeuwis scored 10 goals last season and is one of the most exciting prospects in the team. Aron Darri van Kastelen and Koen Verlijsdonk are youngsters who will probably get some minutes here or there, but mainly feature for Jong Ajax.

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September 2029


 

Fixtures and Results

We had a newly-promoted RKC Waalwijk before the international break. The Champions League begins with an away game in London (glad to get it out of the way early), but the Eredivisie schedule is a bit easier to balance it out. Smart selection choices and team rotation starts here, as the schedule gets more demanding.

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RKC Waalwijk is a newly-promoted team this season and they’re predicted to struggle against relegation. Their trip to Johan Cruijff Arena was certainly an afternoon they’d like to forget - they sort of stayed in the game for the first 15 minutes, but then we took the lead and when RKC’s Artur Sakarias (that’s right, the same Estonian left-back who came through our youth ranks a few years back) received his second yellow card in the first half, they ended up in big trouble and were hammered in the second half - we had 10 good chances (4 ccc-s among them) with 4.81 xG and hit the woodwork four times, so it could have been much worse for them. A convincing win and a great situation from where to go for the international break. I kind of felt bad for RKC - there are those kinds of nights: on travel, a big team against you, a big stadium, conceding the first goal and then a red card, so you know the game is gone and you just try to survive until the final whistle. 

After the international break we rotated the team a little - partly because a few players (some of them youngsters) got international games and returned fatigued, but partly because my stupid promise to play van Axel Dongen on the left as IWs. So he moved to left, Stanis Idumbo Muzambo featured as a right  winger and John Meeuwis started (preventing Dramane Guehi starting too many games and getting jaded as a result). Despite that we had a good game - van Axel Dongen scored in the first half with a nice half-volley and in the second half we already played with more confidence. It was evident that our attacking players lacked familiarity with each other and we wasted some good chances, but the fluidity improved over the game and in the end we returned with a solid 3:0 win. FC Emmen managed to hit the woodwork twice, but in truth they didn’t create proper chances, so for the fourth game in a row I could be extremely happy with our defensive record - another clean sheet for Mert Alegoz.

It was about to change at Emirates Stadium against Arsenal - a tough game to start our campaign with. I switched to our Champions League tactics, trying to counter Arsenal’s positive, very fluid 4-4-2 setup. We got clearly beaten - we didn’t have enough quality to stand up to Arsenal, but at the same time it was a tactical defeat as well. We tried to force them wide in defence, but they were happy to pump crosses into the box and their tall striker Tammy Abraham headed in two goals. Can Tas particularly struggled in aerial duels and two of his lost headers were converted to goals by Abraham. In attack we couldn’t get anything going - 4/2 shooting with 0.34 xG was never going to be good enough to score or create any decent chances. Our average rating was just 6.39, so while 0:3 isn’t a disastrous result (we started to fall apart in the last ten minutes, conceding on 80’ and 82’ and until that point it was just 0:1), there were no signs that this game could have ended any differently. Disappointment, to say the least.

We didn’t let ourselves be disheartened by that and won our next match against ADO Den Haag easily. Kenneth Taylor had three chances to take a free kick in the first half and he converted one of them into a beautiful goal. The second half was a bit better in terms of chances - Nikita Tamm got himself to the score sheet and van Axel Dongen completed the rout. Excellent response from the team after the Arsenal result.

Heracles were a bit more difficult to break at Erve Asito. They came against us with a defensive 5-3-2 DM WB formation, defending really deep and with numbers. It was extremely difficult to find space in their box despite our 70% possession. We got a penalty in the second half that Klaassen converted and after that managed to find a few more chances, but our finishing was a bit frustrating. In the end it was a 1:0 win thanks to that penalty and not the most entertaining match. In defence we were pretty comfortable and Heracles couldn’t get a single shot on target.


 

Players and Tactics

I can be really proud of our defensive record - we haven’t conceded a single goal in six league games and haven’t given too many chances away for our opponents. I’m not trying to play defensively, but it has just worked out well. On the other hand, we haven’t faced too many stronger teams lately, so that’s part of the reason why. Anyway, Mert Alegoz has had a pretty comfortable time settling in as our new first choice goalkeeper - six clean sheets with 7.45 average rating, despite rarely making any saves.

Attacking part of things - most goals have come from our wingers (even Nikita Tamm has had a decent goal scoring form this season), but Dramane Guehi only has one to his name and that’s a bit low for his standards. Hopefully he’ll improve soon.


 

Player of the Month: Amourricho van Axel Dongen - superb in league games this month - three goals and two assists for him and he also earned a penalty that gave us the win over Heracles.

Goal of the Month: Kenneth Taylor vs. ADO Den Haag - a beautiful free kick, curled over the wall

 

I’ll wrap up this month’s player’s overview with a news item that confirms we’ve produced 33 players to the top leagues in Europe. Not bad.

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Eredivisie

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Three big teams leading the title race - no surprises here so far.

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October 2029


 

Fixtures and Results

 

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In our second Champions League group stage fixture we hosted Besiktas, and as expected, our opponents came to Amsterdam with a little too defensive mentality. We took control of the game early on, scored one goal in the first half and quickly followed it up with a penalty after the break. Nikita Tamm wasted a lot of good moments in the second half, but in the end John Meeuwis completed the rout from the rebound of one of Tamm’s attempts. Very convincing win in the end - our xG was 3.63 while we didn’t concede any chances ourselves. Good performance from start to finish.

We tried to carry this momentum to the weekend. AZ Alkmaar came to town for the Noord-Hollandse derby. Kenneth Taylor scored from a free kick when just four minutes were played, but Junior Sambia equalised in 47’ for AZ and that, too, came from a direct free kick. It was 1:1 for a while, but the second half belonged to us - Stanis Idumbo Izambo restored our lead with a placed shot and Ja-Ryong Kim made it 3:1. Good win for us - AZ didn’t exactly roll over and made us work for that, but home advantage was enough to secure all three points.

SC Cambuur is back in Eredivisie, but they haven’t been too good so far and are on the losing streak and it continued against us at Sandor van der Heide Park. We controlled the game from start to finish, Cambuur concentrated on defending and were quite good at that in some periods, but eventually conceded one goal in the first half, one in the second and then we had a penalty as well to make it 3:0. Cambuur had only one decent chance to score - a second half free kick from a promising position, but Mert Alegoz managed to save it and keep his clean sheet. Another good win - three goals scored, none conceded and made it look fairly comfortable in the process.

We had two home games in the Champions League in October and Red Bull Salzburg was our next victim. We needed some time to really control the game - while we created chances in the first half, our opponents had some good moments as well and their danger man Saša Kalajdžic had a clear cut chance already in 3’ and hit the crossbar later in the first half. We lost Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson to an injury early in the game and it took us until 42’ to finally take the lead. The second half was more convincing - although Peter Misidjan’s fluke goal gave us a 2:0 lead (he was standing in front of the goal and the ball bounced in from his deflection, but I’m not sure he knew much about it himself). Idumbo Muzambo and John Meeuwis added to Salzburg’s misery to make it 4:0. Really good result for us and a great game while Salzburg could rue their missed chances in the first half. We lost Hlynsson for a long time, though - tests after the game indicated he has a fracture in his leg and he’ll be out for around three months. That’s the first serious injury of the season.

We finished October with a trip to Utrecht and returned with another convincing result. To be fair, FC Utrecht have struggled so far this season and find themselves in 16th position of the table. We didn’t really get too good chances, but Klaassen headed in from a corner, Nikita Tamm scored our second goal and in 26’ Klaassen converted a penalty to make it 3:0 and that was it - we didn’t need to push too hard in the second half and FC Utrecht didn’t have enough quality to cut that three goal deficit down.

So, an excellent string of results in October - morale is sky high and confidence as well.



 

Players and Tactics

I managed to upset Amourricho van Axel Dongen by continuing to play him on the right wing, therefore breaking the promise I gave when we extended his contract and obviously the player was angry about it. My dismissive attitude didn’t help at all and in the end he handed in a transfer request. I was a little worried at first (but only little), then Stanis Idumbo Muzambo played a few games as right winger (in IWa role) and did very well and I started to worry much less :)

So if any club wants to come and take van Axel Dongen away from us for his £42m price tag they’re welcome to do so. He’s not being benched as a punishment and I still plan to use him in games, just have to keep an eye on his morale and how it could affect his performances.

Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson’s fractured foot is our first serious injury, but Peter Misidjan have replaced him well enough and Idumbo Mizambo’s versatility means that he can play in both AMR and AMC positions, so I hope we’ll be fine without Hlynsson in this time.

In the attacking side of the game we still miss Dramane Guehi’s goal scoring form - no goals from him this month, while John Meeuwis somehow manages to score regularly when coming on from substitutions and Davy Klaassen found the target four times in October. In fact, Klaassen’s first goal against FC Utrecht was his 100th for Ajax!

One tactical note to share here - I switched Aning’s instructions to dribble more in FBa role and the instruction suits him well - he’s more attacking, his good pace and decent technique give him ability to open up more space for himself when dribbling and he caused some havoc with that against Salzburg. That’s something to exploit further in the coming games.


 

Player of the Month: Davy Klaassen - veteran midfielder has been brilliant in those games, scored four goals, gave an assist and had an average rating of 7.74

Goal of the Month: Kenneth Taylor vs. AZ Alkmaar - a beautiful free kick, curled over the wall



 

Eredivisie

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Nice gap already behind us, PSV and Vitesse have dropped pace, but Feyenoord look like contenders so far. FC Twente is surprisingly in the top three (although all of their wins have come against smaller teams and they’ve yet to beat stronger opponents).

Oliver Neuville was sacked after SC Cambuur dropped into the relegation zone.


 

Champions League

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Three games played and Arsenal have the lead, we’re second and Besiktas third. No surprises in the table after the first round of games.

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November 2029

 

Fixtures and Results

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Only one home game in November - the small Go Ahead Eagles team looked like an easy opponent and I used this chance to rotate the squad and send out almost our second eleven against them. We controlled the game against them, but expected a little more chances than we actually got in the first half, but despite that took a 2:0 lead before half-time. Jasper Vogels and Peter Misidjan combined both goals between them - Vogels crossed from our left flank and Misidjan was at the right place to finish them off. Eagles had a few opportunities of their own in the second half and the best chance was in 71’ when Guy Mbenza was free in front of the goal, but Mert Alegoz made a great save with his feet to parry the attempt. Not an impressive 2:0 win in the end, but good enough. It was our 30th consecutive game in Eredivisie without a defeat - let’s keep that run going.

I opted for a more conservative balanced mentality for the next away matches in the Champions League. We were slight favourites against Red Bull Salzburg, but our careful tactics meant that the game itself wasn’t as entertaining as I’ve used to see (certainly less entertaining than the board expects from us). Neither of the teams were particularly good at creating chances and set pieces were looking to be more decisive than usual and one of those set pieces led to our first goal - Kenneth Taylor delivered a free kick to the box where the Salzburg goalkeeper went for it, but dropped the ball and John Meeuwis was alert enough to head it right into the goal. We managed to create a few half chances in the second half, so you could say that we controlled the game more, but the 1:0 lead was always unsure and our opponents managed to send a header against the crossbar once. However, we scored our second goal in injury time to put this game to bed. Not the most entertaining match, but a solid win and in the end the result mattered the most - a third win in the group stage gave us nine points in the table and made our qualification almost certain.

PSV Eindhoven tried to surprise us with a little unorthodox 5-2-2-1 WB narrow formation, but they, too, couldn’t break our defence down. We had an early penalty after Nikita Tamm was brought down in the box - it didn’t look like a foul at first, but surprisingly, VAR upheld that decision. However, even more surprisingly, Davy Klaassen missed the penalty. We couldn’t create too many chances in the game (as could be expected for a balanced mentality), so the missed penalty and one good attempt from John Meeuwis that curled towards the goal but hit the post instead were key moments from the first half. We switched to positive in the second half, but set pieces proved to be the key factor in this game - Olivier Aertssen headed in from a corner and late in the game we had a second chance from the spot after van Axel Dongen was fouled in the box. This time, Klaassen made no mistakes. 2:0 away win in a derby with a formidable defensive performance - I’m happy with that.

We had some difficulties against sc Heerenveen at first - it seemed that they had the momentum for the first 15 minutes and when Nicolas Madsen headed against the crossbar I made one tactical tweak to press them a little less and keep our lines a bit more organised. That was a good spot and excellent decision - we closed more space with our defensive structure that way and weren’t lured to move away from the formation. As a result, we scored the first goal in 34’, but allowed Heerenveen to equalise in 45’ from a corner. A bit disappointing result at half-time, because we looked like a better team in the last 30 minutes or so. In the second half, however, we destroyed them completely. It all started with a penalty in 62’ and when Kenneth Taylor curled in an excellent free kick in 72’ then Heerenveen’s defence collapsed completely - they conceded two more goals in two minutes and the final result was 5:1 - comprehensive win for us. Koen Verlijsdonk scored his first ever goal for Ajax in this match.

Our trip to Istanbul produced another good win in the Champions League - the first half goal from Stanis Idumbo Muzambo put us in the lead, Taylor scored from another free kick in the second half and after that the result was never in doubt. Dramane Guehi completed the game with a late injury time goal. Besiktas had one half-chance in the match, but they were never really threatening and with 3.16 xG the game was always under our control.

So, a perfect winning streak for a second month in a row, just one goal conceded (and that too from a corner) with more than two goals scored in every single game. Things are working out perfectly for us.



 

Players and Tactics

I didn’t change much in tactics. We played some away games with a balanced mentality, but used our standard 4-2-3-1 formation with the same roles and instructions. It worked out perfectly, so no reason for changes either.

Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson’s injury was a big deal on paper, but actually we coped well - Peter Misidjan started most of the games in AMCa and Stanis Idumbo Muzambo filled in as well (although he played more often in AMR as IWa, rotating with van Axel Dongen). Dramane Guehi suffered a small injury and was absent for a couple of games, but John Meeuwis played well, scoring an important goal against Salzburg. When Guehi returned, he finally found his goal scoring form and found the target three times in the last two games of the month.

Goals have been distributed well in the squad - Stanis Idumbo Muzambo has scored 7 goals in all competitions. Davy Klaassen also has 7 goals (6 of which have come from penalties - we’ve got a lot of penalties this season) and John Meeuwis has 6 to his name. Set pieces have been the case for Kenneth Taylor as well - he’s scored 4 at the moment.

The November international break was eventful for Ognjen Rajkovic and Aron Darri van Kasteren who made their debut for Serbia and Iceland national teams respectively.

 

Finally, a news item about Ajax being the most prolific club in European top league player development and by a considerable margin.

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Player of the Month: Kenneth Taylor - was in fantastic form, scored three goals and gave two assists in those four games he played in, with an average rating of 8.05

Goal of the Month: Kenneth Taylor vs. sc Heerenveen - a beautiful free kick from 20 metres


 

Eredivisie

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Managerial casualties start to mount after one third of the season has been played. Marinus Dijkhuizen was sacked by PEC Zwolle - no surprises there, because they’ve struggled since August and are in relegation threat. Mark van Bommel was also sacked by FC Utrecht (the board had been patient with him, but Utrecht failed to improve their form). Peter Bosz was fired from PSV Eindhoven after the derby defeat at home to us and failing with Utrecht didn’t stop van Bommel from taking charge of PSV.



Champions League

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All seems to be clear here, Arsenal at the top of the table and we’re comfortably second with 12 points.

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December 2029

 

Fixtures and Results

 

Six games in December. At first glance, the most challenging ones are Arsenal (obviously) and an away game with Vitesse, but we’re clear favourites for the rest of the fixtures. The KNVB Beker draw has been rather tough for us in the last few seasons - for some unexplained reason we’ve had an Eredivisie club in the second round while a lot of other clubs in the league will get an amateur club or some small team from lower divisions. This time we’re against ADO Den Haag.

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To begin our month we destroyed Fortuna Sittard at home. We dominated the first half, created chances and scored goals. Ja-Ryong Kim scored a beautiful free kick and added another one with a simple tap-in. We slowed down a little in the second half, but substitute Quenten Hose found the target late in the game to make it 5:0. Fortuna were so clearly beaten that they left the pitch, heads down. Our shooting was 29/16 with 4.58 xG and we created no less than 10 goal scoring chances in the match, also hit the woodwork three times. It could have been much worse for them.

After that show of strength we put on a surprisingly lacklustre display against FC Twente, or was it that Twente just played really well and restricted us from playing our game, but we couldn’t create any real chances in the full 90 minutes and returned from Enschede with a narrow 1:0 win. The winning goal came in the first half, when Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi delivered a cross from the right wing and FC Twente’s goalkeeper Fedde Leysen got his hand to it, but the ball fell to Ja-Ryong Kim who nodded it into the empty goal. At least we were solid defensively and didn’t concede any chances ourselves, although FC Twente tested Mert Alegoz on several occasions. Narrow win with a disappointing performance - just 0.50 xG is not exactly what fans have been used to this season.

Then it was time to prove our quality against Arsenal - to make a difference in the group standings we needed to win at least 3:0 and that always seemed unlikely, but I hoped for a good performance and a win nevertheless. The first ten minutes were crazy and hectic. Chances came on both ends - Bukayo Saka missed the target for Arsenal and we had a few good opportunities to take the lead, but both teams failed to score an early goal and the game settled down after that. Arsenal’s Jarrod Bowen scored in the second half after Prince Aning lost the ball in midfield, but we reacted well and Stanis Idumbo Muzambo equalised two minutes later. Arsenal were left to 10 men in 81’ after Kieran Tierney was sent off with his second yellow card, but we couldn’t take advantage and it remained 1:1. I wasn’t disappointed with the result, but we could have won it if our finishing were a bit more clinical and there’s a lesson in this.

Schedule was difficult and ahead of the Vitesse match Dramane Guehi suffered a small injury in training that forced him out for a couple of games. It’s possible that we missed his finishing in the match against Vitas - we dominated the game from start to finish, creating no less than eight (!) half-chances already in the first half, but failed to find the target despite finishing with 2.72 xG. Unlucky? Perhaps, but finishing should have been better and for that reason it was a disappointing result. John Meeuwis played in the ST position, but his performance was below par in that particular game. On the other hand - at the same time Feyenoord were 0:2 beaten by FC Twente, so we still gained one point in the table.

I rotated a lot for the KNVB Beker match against ADO Den Haag and made six changes in our starting line-up. We still controlled the game in the first half, but Ja-Ryong Kim was forced to come off with an injury and our attack lacked a bit of understanding and cooperation. Despite that we took the lead in the first half and in the second half Peter Misidjan scored two good goals - the first of those was a fabulous strike from 26 metres that was worth the ticket fee alone. Great goal. We continued to be defensively very solid and didn’t give ADO any chances, so 3:0 was a very good result, considering that we played with almost our second eleven.

The home game against NAC Breda was another solid win - we had an early penalty that Davy Klaassen converted (taking his goal tally to 9 goals already) and Dramane Guehi made it sure with a header from point blank range in the second half. Again, a good win and we were clearly the better team, so I was pleased enough with our performance.




 

Players and Tactics

Tactically not much to note. I tried Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi as a CWBs in the second half against NAC Breda, but he failed to impress (in other words, he wasn’t very visible in attack). Most of the time our usual positive 4-2-3-1 has done the job well.

It’s incredible that we’ve still conceded just two goals in 16 league games and both of them came from set pieces - a free kick from AZ Alkmaar and a corner from sc Heerenveen. Our defence looks really impregnable and we can be really proud of that. It’s also the main reason why we have a good lead in the table while Feyenoord has also put together a strong first round of games.

We have had some smaller problems with injuries - Ja-Ryong Kim and Olivier Aertssen suffered traumas in the last couple of games, but it’s not too serious and they should be fine in a couple of weeks. They’re certainly fit after the Winter break.


 

Player of the Month: Prince Aning - played in four games, had 7.88 average rating, was really good against strong opponents like Arsenal and Vitesse.

Goal of the Month: Peter Misidjan vs. ADO Den Haag - what a goal, sent into the top corner from 26 metres.



 

Player Contracts

Peter Misidjan has filled in for Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson in November and December. He’s been great at times and earned a new contract until 2034. He’s still just 21 years old, training well and developing further, so let’s keep him here until a big club comes for him with a huge bid.

It was not so good news for some of the other players. Bedirhan Celikel has had a decent loan spell in FC Groningen for the past two seasons, but I’m unsure about his low determination and he didn’t get the new contract, so he decided to join Arminia Bielefeld. Jonathan Koppers and Pawel Wachowicz won’t remain the Ajax players either - they will be released in Summer and start to look for new clubs in January.


 

Youth Intake Preview

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Finally, an excellent intake is coming up, if you believe this preview. Let’s see if the promise holds until March.


 

Eredivisie

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We have a five point lead with a game in hand and we’re still unbeaten in the league. Wonderful first half to the season. Lots of changes in the relegation fight, as different clubs pick up points on different match days. Interesting to see how it plays out.




 

Champions League

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Very happy with our group stage results. Arsenal was tough to beat, but to get 13 points is excellent and we’re through to the knockout stages.

Feyenoord finished in second place in group F and got through to the knockout stages, but Vitesse didn’t impress in the tough group with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid and Atalanta. They made three draws, but failed to win a single game and that resulted in no better than fourth place.

Our opponent in the first knockout round is FC Bayern. Group winners were all European giants, so in fact there wasn’t a single ‘easy’ team for us. It is what it is.

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  • 2 weeks later...

January 2030


 

Fixtures and Results

 

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After the Winter break we restarted our season with back to back games against FC Groningen - the first one at Euroborg was our first defeat in the league this season - we took the lead in 9’, but Groningen showed that they were no pushovers and created a couple of good chances in the first half, so it was clear that they intend to attack (at least in the home game) and their fourth place in the Eredivisie table is well merited. Groningen’s striker Emanuel Emegha is currently the top goalscorer in the league and he showed his quality in the second half - creating a little bit of space for himself and equalising in 58’. FC Groningen took the lead in 74 after a free kick was poorly cleared by our defenders and then Emegha won a header in our six yard box against Olivier Aertssen and made it 1:3. Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson scored in the very next attack for us and we were still in the game with ten minutes to go, but both Dramane Guehi and Nikita Tamm missed their late chances and we had to accept the defeat. Very disappointing, but I have to admit that Groningen played to their strengths in this game, the home crowd was also behind them and they probably felt that they deserved that result. The defeat means we have now played half of the games in the league and collected 44 points from 17 match days - a fairly good amount that makes us strong title favourites despite that loss.

The home game three days later was much better in terms of performance, but ended with an equally disappointing result. We played much better and created chances in the first half, taking the lead after a corner, but then allowed FC Groningen to equalise in 44’ after an indirect free kick - their midfielder Daleho Irandust saw his free kick hit the post, but Benjamin Holmgaard was there to finish it off while both our defenders and Mert Alegoz were just too slow to react. We had initiative in the second half  - created a lot of chances and should have scored at least one more goal, but our finishing was extremely poor and to watch that was pure frustration. The attacking players failed to find the winning goal and we dropped another two points, despite having 24 shots and 3.59 xG. 

With two poor results in January already in the books, we needed to improve and did much better against FC Utrecht - a penalty gave us the lead and Nikita Tamm scored our second goal to take us to the break with a 2:0 score line. I would have liked to see more threat from us in attack, but at least we took our chances much better and managed to score goals. Kristian Nökkvy Hlynsson scored a great goal in the second half to make it 3:0 and Wilfried Gnonto’s goal in 77’ was just a consolation for FC Utrecht - we got a bit of complacent and careless in defence in the last 20 minutes, so for FC Utrecht to score seemed inevitable, but that didn’t matter too much.

I rotated the squad a lot for the cup game against Excelsior. Excelsior leads the Keuken Kampioen Divisie by some margin, so they’re fairly strong, but we had the home advantage and I was confident that we’ll get the results, so I made eight changes in the line-up. John Meeuwis scored a fairly early goal in the first half, but that remained the only goal. We lacked fluidity in attack and Excelsior defended in numbers, so we struggled to create chances and finished the game with just 0.99 xG - not very convincing, but on the other hand we controlled the midfield comfortably and didn’t look under pressure at all.

We recorded another 1:0 win over PEC Zwolle and that was very similar to our second encounter with F CGroningen - we scored an early penalty and then created a number of chances in the game, but the finishing was just awful. We hit the woodwork four times (!) and had 3.14 xG, but failed to score the second goal to finish this game off and in the end Zwolle’s Marvin Cuni had a great opportunity to equalise from a free kick in 86’, but fortunately missed the target with his shot from close range. We were a bit lucky to escape from that with all three points and I was quite upset with our attacking players - we can’t continue to be that terrible in front of goal or it will cost us dearly in the coming matches.



 

Players and Tactics

We haven’t changed our formation and it seems to work generally well, but we’ve struggled with our finishing. Not sure if it’s a confidence thing or skills, but we can’t beat goalkeepers from open positions. No wonder that we don’t have a single player with more than 10 goals this season although we’re past the halfway mark.

One of the reasons for our poor performance may be morale. Some of the players are upset about transfer decisions and I had a pretty big row with Mert Alegoz who was frustrated that I didn’t allow him to leave to KRC Genk. Genk came with a modest £3-5m bid for him and obviously I couldn’t let our first choice goalkeeper leave for that sort of fee. At first I didn’t even understand why he wants to leave to Belgium so badly, but I then checked to see that the Belgian Jupiler Pro League is just one place above us in the league reputation rankings and that made some sens, although KRC Genk have already dropped out of the Champions League and are just second in the league, so I’d reckon that Ajax should be more desirable destination for footballers than Genk. Either way, my poor conversation skills made things worse, not better as I couldn’t convince the player to change his heart and his disappointment in me (and the club) has probably reflected in his performances. On the other hand, the 18 years old goalkeeper Riswan Sinaga made his debut for the club against Excelsior (and kept a clean sheet), so if things turn sour I need to look for the future.

We’ve had one injury problem and that’s Davy Klaassen - the veteran midfielder came off from the pitch in the first FC Groningen match with a twisted ankle and was sidelined for the remaining of the month. Bart Smits filled the role of BBMs in midfield with various results and it proved that we’re a bit too thin in midfield - playing continuously with just two players without proper substitutions led to fatigue.

 

Player of the Month: Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson - the month had ups and downs and some players were very inconsistent, but Hlynsson could be depended on attack and in all of his four games he provided above 7.0 rating, scoring two goals in the process.

Goal of the Month: Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson vs. FC Utrecht - a great finish from just outside of the area.


 

Eredivisie

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We dropped some points in January, but still have a good five points lead in the table. AZ Alkmaar and FC Groningen hold the other European places.

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February 2030


 

Fixtures and Results

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The month began with the Klassieker derby at De Kuip and the honest assessment is that we were not ready for that match, especially mentally. Feyenoord acquired three good players in the January window and we were not quite familiar with how their setup changes because of that. Our own transfer window distractions and somewhat lower morale led to a situation where few players were nervous at the kick-off and we conceded the first goal in just 21 seconds after the game started - their new signing Carlos Eduardo got away from Prince Aning and scored from the early chance. We got our foot into the game and equalised fairly soon and held a small initiative in the first half, but conceded two set piece goals after the break - Feyenoord took the lead from a corner in 66’ and then their midfielder Josip Brekalo scored from a wonderful free kick to make it 1:3 and that was game over right there. I was frustrated with the result, because it was statistically an even game, but Feyenoord had the edge in the second half. There were lessons to be learned in both man management and tactical side of things - some of our players were anxious and not really up to the challenge and we missed Davy Klaassen’s determination and experience in midfield. After trailing in the second half I switched to a positive mentality, but that swung momentum entirely to Feyenoord’s side and we failed to change the game, so it was counterproductive at best. Defeat in the derby leaves just two points between us and Feyenoord in the table, so we’ve squandered most of the lead we had at Christmas.

We had now back to back games with sc Heerenveen - both in league and in the cup, and both at home. To follow up our poor match against Feyenoord we lost the next league game as well. We should have won the match easily, but Heerenveen played it smart - they came against us with a defensive 4-1-4-1 DM formation and for the first 30 minutes in the first half virtually nothing happened on the pitch, so they were excellent in killing the game. We did have our number of chances, though - Dramane Guehi missed a few good opportunities and Nikita Tamm definitely should have scored in 42’, but he failed to find the empty net with his header and hit the crossbar instead. And, of course, sc Heerenveen had just one goal scoring chance in the game and they used it to the maximum effect - in 48’ their goalkeeper sent a long kick forward, a header won in midfield, a flick on to the runner and Amin Sarr made it 1:0. I switched to attacking mentality in the second half and we tried to find an equaliser, but failed to score and had to accept the defeat. Poor display from the team - I’m especially furious with our finishing - our xG was above 2.00 so we definitely should have got something from the game. You might say that we were FM-d here, but in truth we should have been a lot better ourselves. It seems that some of the players have low morale and that starts to affect their form and our results, so I need to find the winning line-up soon.

The following cup match quarter final was much better. Perhaps it was due to the fact that sc Heerenveen switched to a 4-3-3 DM formation and were a bit more attacking, but they left more space behind their lines and we used it better this time. Momentum swung back and forth in the first 15 minutes, but Dramane Guehi took his chances well and scored two goals to set us up in the game and completed his hat-trick in the first half. The Ivorian striker added his fourth goal in the second half and the 4:0 result was a comprehensive win for us. The only downside was another injury to Davy Klaassen - our veteran midfielder just returned from his recent trauma, played 1,5 games and came off in 61’ with sprained ankle ligaments that will make him skip the next month of action. That’s a shame. On the other hand - plenty of youngsters had a shot in this game - 18 years old goalkeeper Riswan Sinaga played the full 90 minutes, made some great saves and finished with a clean sheet and 8.2 rating. Claidel Muringen came on for Klaassen and Mohamed Tahiri made his debut in the second half, capping his entrance with an assist to Guehi’s fourth goal. Excellent result in my books. Hopefully this win will improve our morale and turn our form around, because we’ve had enough poor results this Winter.

We continued with good results in our next match against Fortuna Sittard - good first half was capped with a goal (a simple tap-in from Dramane Guehi), but then we allowed Fortuna to equalise when Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi lost possession on the right and the following cross found Jesurun Rak-Sakyi unmarked at the far post. Disappointed to concede in the end of the first half after we’ve been a clearly better team, but the players reacted well to my half-time team talk and we scored right after the kick-off. John Meeuwis completed the match with a good strike in 83’ and it was all over after that. We looked a bit fragile in defence, especially in the second half after substitutions, but generally a good game and I’m happy with all three points.

The big test now was FC Bayern in the Champions League. At least we had a couple of wins under our belt and morale was a lot better, so I was cautiously optimistic before the first home game and retained our positive mentality. Bayern had initiative in the first half and their individual quality was evident in certain situations, but in the second half we took the lead after a good header from Dramane Guehi. We couldn’t keep Bayern at bay for the full ninety minutes, though, and their Portuguese striker Jose Ricardo scored in 60’. Bayern was left with 10 men in 85 after Alphonso Davies came off with an injury, but we couldn’t capitalise on the situation in the last minutes and it remained 1:1. I rate it as a good result - let’s see how we’ll do in Munich.

The last win over FC Twente was in fact very comfortable - we took the lead in 2’ - Dramane Guehi scored with a low drive - and controlled the match from start to finish. Olivier Aertssen doubled our lead from a corner and even though Kenneth Taylor missed the penalty in the second half our win was never in doubt, because FC Twente made their first attempt only in the last minute of the match. Easy win there.

So, a terrible start to February, but we slowly improved in the next games and at the end of the month our team spirit looked much better.




 

Players and Tactics

I didn’t change our tactics much in those games, but poor results obviously led to some scrutiny about some player’s performances. Amourricho van Axel Dongen has been in poor form, Mert Alegoz was still sulking about his transfer and got even more unhappy when I pointed out his poor form and 6.66 average rating after the sc Heerenveen defeat, so young goalkeeper Riswan Sinaga played in the wins against Heerenveen and Fortuna Sittard and did really well.

My squad selection was also affected by injuries - Davy Klaassen missed most of the month because of a sprained ankle (second month in a row he was affected by a knock), van Axel Dongen came off with a twisted ankle against Fortuna Sittard and Nikita Tamm finished the Bayern match with a hamstring strain. Not sure if those injuries were good or bad for the team, because while we miss Klaassen, both van Axel Dongen and Tamm were clearly underperforming anyway and it gave chances to other players to impress. Ja-Ryong Kim got more game time on the left flank and Stanis Idumbo Muzambo started on the right.

One news item about player contracts - John Meeuwis signed a new deal until 2034.


 

Player of the Month: Dramane Guehi - the striker has found his goal scoring form after the Winter break. Eight goals in six games from him in February!

Goal of the Month: Dramane Guehi vs. FC Twente - first time attempt to fire it into the bottom corner.


 

Eredivisie

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Just one point lead in the table after our defeats in February. Relegation battle remains fierce and four teams are still in the mix at the bottom of the table.

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March 2030


 

Fixtures and Results

 

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Our schedule in March was rather difficult - KNVB Beker semi final against PSV Eindhoven Noord-Hollandse derby (away) and the second leg match against Bayern (away) coming up in short time, so I had to rotate the team against SC Cambuur in order to keep our key players as fresh as possible. The game went as anticipated - we weren’t very good in attack, lacked coordination and understanding in the final third, but Jasper Vogels made a smart run into the box and scored his first ever goal for the club. The left-back was clearly delighted with his effort (and I had to explain to stupid journalists after the game that no, I don’t expect our left-back to start banging them in on a regular basis). SC Cambuur played to their strengths, which were height and aerial power and they cracked our defence open once in the first half, but Mert Alegoz made a great save to prevent the goal. The second half was much more comfortable - Peter Misidjan doubled our lead with a towering header and young winger Quenten Hose made it 3:0. Good result and decent display - rotation players and youngsters made it through and I didn’t have to send any additional firepower on the pitch.

However, the Topper Derby in the KNVB Beker semi-final was an utter disappointment. We had some half-chances and had a slight initiative in the first half, but should have been a little bit more clinical. I wasn’t too worried, though, until PSV scored from a free kick in 64’ and the time started to run out and my options to change things with it. We failed to find an equaliser and dropped out of the cup in the semi-final. The performance wasn’t poor and we didn’t deserve to lose this game, but we just weren’t clinical enough - 16/5 shooting, nothing dangerous from 12 corners and lack of effort from the attacking players was the main source of my disappointment. I thought we were over the slump after the recent wins we had, but apparently not.

When I thought that the defeat from PSV was bad, the next game was much worse. We travelled to Alkmaar for a Noord-Hollandse derby and although it was a tricky match on  paper, I thought we should be able to win this one, especially because AZ had three defeats in the last four games and came against us from the 0:4 thrashing by Fortuna Sittard. However, we failed miserably. The drab first half was followed by an even worse second period. AZ took the lead in 54’ when their centre-back Nigel Gooijer headed in from a corner and the same player doubled their lead in 81’ from another set piece goal. That was it - we couldn’t create anything in attack in the second half and AZ controlled things fairly comfortably in defence. Our average rating was just 6.65 in this match - clearly beaten by our rivals.

The 1:0 away defeat from Bayern was something I could accept, because we actually played well - I tried to find a good Champions League away tactics and balance out defence and attack and it almost worked, although Bayern took the early lead after their full-back Tino Livramento curled a shot in from the edge of the area after just two minutes of football. Bayern had initiative in the game, but didn’t get too many good chances and we had a decent chance to equalise in 34, but Stanis Idumbo Muzambo skewed his shot wide from a good position. Didn’t deserve to get much from this game, but at the same time we weren’t embarrassed either.

Three defeats in a row and, what’s worse, three games without a goal, so we desperately needed a win and the home game against Heracles provided a much-needed confidence boost. The first half penalty gave us the lead and we restarted the game with two quick goals in succession - Heracles’ defence looked to crumble and they fell apart completely. Substitute John Meeuwis completed the rout with a simple tap in and made it 4:0. Great result!

But just when I hoped that our form was about to pick up again we lost the easiest match of the month - RKC Waalwijk was 18th in the table, but they embarrassed us 1:0 in front of their home fans. We conceded a clumsy goal in 15’ - Mert Alegoz allowed the strike (that wasn’t even a very good chance) to sneak in from his near post and we couldn’t find an equaliser against RKC! Just two half-chances in the game, both missed, and Olivier Aertssen saw his header clip the crossbar, but we dropped vital three points in a game we should have won easily with almost our first eleven! I couldn’t believe it - just unbelievable how we could be such crap against a small side. I let my frustration loose in the dressing room and gave the team a real hairdryer treatment, but it didn’t help us - Feyenoord took advantage and grabbed the first place from us after two league defeats in March.

 

Needless to say, a pretty terrible month and probably one of the worst of my career as a manager.




Players and Tactics

 

Not sure what has gone wrong in those weeks. It’s probably confidence thing because tactically we haven’t changed much and I feel that I actually made good choices in the setup against Bayern, but the team is clearly underperforming, it shows on the pitch and more than one player has received poor ratings for their performances (and official warnings and/or fines with it). 

Injuries have played their part, but Davy Klaassen, Amourricho van Axel Dongen and Nikita Tamm returned to full fitness and we should have been stronger at the end of the month, not worse. Young midfielder Mohamed Tahiri suffered a broken ankle in training and his season is over, but the rest of the team are fit.

 

The only good news came in the international break: Stanis Idumbo Muzambo made his debut for Belgium while Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi and Prince Aning earned their first cap for Holland in this international window. Not sure why they were selected right now when their form for the club is so terrible, but that’s football.

 

Player of the Month: Olivier Aertssen - the month was laden with poor performances from most of the players, but Aertssen was at least decent in all the games he played in (he didn’t feature the AZ defeat)

Goal of the Month: Peter Misidjan vs. SC Cambuur - not much to choose from, but a towering header from Misidjan gets the award.


 

Youth Intake

Here’s the second good news of the month - our youth intake. For once it looks really promising and includes at least four really talented players. Personalities are not the worst either and I really like that bunch of kids.

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Richard Svec is the best prospect of the bunch - a 15 years old Slovak left-back, determined kid with an excellent work rate, aggression and teamwork. He could go really far.

Jaap Prinsen is a talented midfielder, but he’s the only one with a poor personality and low determination.

Stephen Abbey is a right-winger with Ghanaian roots, very agile, but generally evenly distributed attributes and a fairly ambitious personality.

Joel Comvalius is a decent right-back who is very gifted physically

 

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Eredivisie

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We’ve lost our first place in the table and are two points behind Feyenoord with just six games to go. PEC Zwolle have won four of their last five games and leaped from 18th to 15th position, leaving the relegation battle to SC Cambuur, RKC Waalwijk and FC Emmen.

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April 2030


 

Fixtures and Results

 

We’re out of the Champions League, we’re out of the cup, so only three games in April, but three really important games, because with Feyenoord’s lead in the table we need to win all of our remaining six to have a shot at the title.

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The first one was an away game against Go Ahead Eagles - a potentially tricky match that was over in the first four minutes. Dramane Guehi had two good chances early in the game and he executed both to perfection and gave us a 2:0 lead. That was a massive relief to everyone and boosted confidence, so even though Can Tas made a terrible blunder and gave the Eagles a clear cut chance in 36’ they couldn’t take it. Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson had two good opportunities to score early in the second half, but he failed to finish them off and the remaining second half was a bit more boring - we didn’t need to take too many risks and Eagles couldn’t properly threaten our goal either. A solid 2:0 win from away game and that’s exactly the sort of performance we needed - huge confidence boost with it, ahead of the next one.

The next one was obviously the Topper derby. We had a home advantage, but we lost against PSV at home in the cup semi-final, so nothing was guaranteed, but the home crowd support obviously helped us. Despite that support it was a drab match - both teams defended really well and limited each other’s attacks and through the game we had just one half-chance. PSV had crawled to third place and were just five points behind us, so they probably thought they had a decent shot to the title if they won this one, but at the same time didn’t want to take too many risks either. I can be pleased with defence (and player ratings emphasised that our defenders did an amazing job), but lack of creativity was again evident. I’m not entirely happy with the result, but in the other match Feyenoord were beaten 1:3 by none other than PEC Zwolle, so no real harm was done to our title challenge.

While PSV is a formidable opponent and so a goalless draw somewhat acceptable result, our next match against ADO Den Haag was downright awful - we couldn’t get it going in attack through the whole match and in the end we had just one half-chance in the game - Peter Misidjan hit the post in 80’. The stat sheet proved that we didn’t deserve to win, because we created almost nothing in attack and finished with 11/3 shooting. ADO were in the game most of the time and although our defence did well enough to keep them at bay they had a number of corners in the first half that were potentially dangerous. Very poor display from us, especially van Axel Dongen and Dramane Guehi who were nowhere to be seen on the pitch.

So, a good start to the month, but a poor ending. We gained a few points on Feyenoord, but allowed them to catch us after two draws.


 

Players and Tactics

Not sure what has gone wrong here, because the formation that worked so well in the first half of the season suddenly doesn’t give a lot of chances and goals. I’m a bit confused and out of ideas. We have players fit and ready to play (except young Mohamed Tahiri who is still healing from a broken foot), but whatever selection choices I make doesn’t seem to make much difference anyway. Hopefully we’ll improve in May.

 

Player of the Month: Mert Alegoz - the field players have been very inconsistent and below par in some games, but keeping three clean sheets in April gives our goalkeeper the award.

Goal of the Month: Dramane Guehi vs. Go Ahead Eagles - not much to choose from, is it?



 

Eredivisie

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We gave up our small lead and are level with Feyenoord before the last three match days, but Feyenoord’s manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst offered the biggest surprise by leaving the club and joining Brentford just three weeks before the end of the season and a good possibility to win the title. I wonder how it will affect Feyenoord.

PSV Eindhoven is just three points behind us and still nurturing hopes of the title as well. It’s still very close and the title race goes right to the wire.

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May 2030


 

Fixtures and Results

 

Three games remaining this season and we have to win them all. We’re favourites for the first two matches, but the last game against Vitesse could be a potentially tricky one.

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We really raised our performances in those games and started with an emphatic 5:0 win over NAC Breda. First 20 minutes were quiet, but Nikita Tamm then scored two goals in a row and after Dramane Guehi made it 3:0 with a placed shot it was game over before half-time. Tamm completed his hat-trick with a header from a corner and van Axel Dongen completed the rout with the fifth goal of the afternoon.

FC Emmen failed to put up a serious fight as well - we started quickly and took the lead in 2’, created three clear cut chances in the first half and went to the break with a 4:0 lead. FC Emmen had one good chance in the second half, but Filip Bilbija sent his shot wide from a point blank range and that was it. Very convincing win in front of the home crowd.

We made another great start to the match against Vitesse and Dramane Guehi had a perfect opportunity already in 2’ that he used well, but we then allowed Edimar to equalise just two minutes later. Nikita Tamm came for the rescue - his accurate shot found the far post to restore our lead and when a penalty was awarded after handball in the box Klaassen made it 3:1. The second half was much more relaxed and we controlled the game, even though we couldn’t add more goals.

Good results and performances all the way to secure our title win.


 

Players and Tactics

We didn’t change anything tactically, but the team looked reborn. Goals were flowing freely and defence remained solid. The NAC Breda result gave us a lot of confidence that led us through games.

 

Player of the Month: Nikita Tamm - the Estonian winger scored a wonderful hat-trick against NAC Breda and the crucial goal in the last match.

Goal of the Month: Nikita Tamm vs. Vitesse Arnhem - didn’t have a lot of space, but found the far post with an accurate shot to give us the lead in an important match. 


 

Eredivisie

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The title race went all the way - Feyenoord managed to win all of their games in May as well, so we finished level in points, but our better goal difference gave us the title. It has never been so close, but at the same time I’ve always said that around 80 points are needed to win the title in Eredivisie and we fell short of that in this season, so it’s clear it will be closer than usual.

PSV Eindhoven dropped points in the final games, but finished third. FC Utrecht got the last Europa League place because of their cup win. At the bottom of the table RKC Waalwijk did very well to finish 16th, but were beaten by Sparta Rotterdam in the relegation play-offs. NEC Nijmegen and Excelsior were promoted to Eredivisie along with Sparta.

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Competitions

We won our ninth Eredivisie title in a row, but it wasn’t as good a campaign as we’ve used to. Unbeaten in the first half of the season, we collected five defeats after Winter break and in the end it went all to the final match day between us and Feyenoord. Mid-season slump in January was followed by a terrible March and at times we didn’t look like Ajax at all. Much to improve in next year. On the other hand it’s difficult to criticise the title win.

It was a good Champions League campaign. Our regular “minimum program”, I guess. We played really well in the group stage, qualified without a doubt, but ran against FC Bayern in the first knockout round. It gets really tough in later stages, because there are some 10-11 clubs in Europe that can be called “giants” and it’s almost impossible to avoid them after reaching quarter finals, so from February every win is a really good achievement. We did our best against Bayern and went out with our heads held high. Liverpool won the Champions League, defeating Chelsea in the final.

It was a different story with domestic cups. Defeat from rivals PSV Eindhoven in the KNVB Beker semi-final was below our season expectations and we also lost to Vitesse in the Johan Cruijff Schaal final back in August, so the Eredivisie title remains our only silverware from this season. FC Utrecht went on to win the KNVB Beker and that was a highlight of their otherwise below-par season.

 

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Jong Ajax had a mediocre season with mid-table finish in Keuken Kampioen Divisie, but at least our academy proved out to be the best in Holland and won the title by some margin.

 

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Players

 

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The main question before the season was our goalkeeper and how Mert Alegoz will do between the sticks. In truth it was an up-and-down season for him, impacted by transfer row and his desire to join KRC Genk in January. His low morale certainly contributed to our poor results in Winter before he finally settled down and was content to stay in Ajax. At the same time he was able to keep 23 clean sheets in the league and that’s a new Eredivisie record (and it also helped him to secure the Goalkeeper of the Year award)

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Our defence looked solid enough, but started to crack in Winter, too. During the season Can Tas was dropped to the bench and I started to favour Ognjen Rajkovic as the left centre-back. Can Tas is a good defender, but his short height limits his ability to win headers against taller strikers, so I need to adjust my line-up according to what sort or strikers we’re facing. 20 years old Rajkovic developed really well this year, also making his debut for Serbia and probably has a pole position to the starting eleven ahead of the next season. Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi and Prince Aning fought their way into the Holland national team and it has to be said that especially Jermoumi was one of our most creative players - his crosses and passes from the right wing led to 20 chances in Eredivisie games alone (and it’s not his fault that his teammates tend to waste a lot of those opportunities)

Midfield duo Taylor-Klaassen were quite consistent, but third man Bart Smits covered both DLPd and BBMs roles, depending on where he was needed. And did it well enough. Davy Klaassen had a curious season - he scored 11 goals (but almost all of them came from penalties) and ended up as one of the top goalscorers in the club.

Attacking midfield remained the same - Nikita Tamm struggled to perform well consistently, but his attributes developed nicely and in May he was really good, so I hope he improves further. Stanis Idumbo Muzambo switched between AMCa and AMR IWa roles and offered versatility both when some of the players were injured or needed to change the game.

Dramane Guehi was our best goalscorer this season and although his 22 goals  weren’t too impressive, his attributes and training performances were. He’s now valued between £70-90m ahead of the Summer transfer window and it’s just a matter of time when some of the Premier League clubs will make a bid for him I can’t refuse.

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Eredivisie Awards

We had a good award season (although I was just third in the manager’s manager of the year vote). Olivier Aertssen recorded 32 games in Eredivisie and won the Golden Boot again (ahead of FC Groningen’s Emanuel Emegha who scored 27 goals in the league). Dramane Guehi’s 15 goals were enough to be a runner-up in the top goalscorer table.

Mert Alegoz won the Goalkeeper of the Year award and Ognjen Rajkovic was named as the Young Player of the Year.

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Two of the players received plaudits after the Keuken Kampioen Divisie season ended. Koen Verlijsdonk was named as the top goalscorer of the season (most of his goals came for Jong Ajax, but he featured for Almere City after January and continued to find the net there. Jong Ajax’s defender Rik Vos put in consistent performances for Jong Ajax and was named into the top three for Young Player of the Year award.

 

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Summer 2030


 

Transfer Window

We had a few players leaving this Summer and we knew that beforehand. Right-back Pawel Wachowicz will return to native Poland and Bedirhan Celikel (who has spent a couple of seasons on loan at FC Groningen) will join Arminia Bielefeld. I also chose to release the young goalkeeper Jonathan Koppers who doesn’t seem to be good enough for the first team. 

What was unknown was Davy Klaassen’s decision to retire this Summer. The legendary midfielder is 37 years old now and although he has one more year left of his contract, he chose to hang up his boots. That leaves a big gap to our midfield and I look for younger players to fill it in the coming seasons.

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Klaassen has been taking coaching courses in the last couple of seasons and he was quickly appointed as our U-18 coach, so the club legend will join our backroom staff.

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We had some high-profile interest in some of our players (Kenneth Taylor, Dramane Guehi and Prince Aning) but no real bids from big clubs and so they stayed put. However, on the transfer deadline day FC Barcelona came in and offered £10m for Mert Alegoz and I had to accept, because I couldn’t deny any player a move to Barcelona. Marc-Andre ter Stegen had retired this Summer and that left Barcelona in need of a goalkeeper. I’m not sure if Mert Alegoz will be their number one choice for the upcoming season or just a backup, but the move will leave us without a solid goalkeeper at the end of August and it could significantly worsen our chances to get decent results this season. Young Riswan Sinaga has to show what kind of talent he has and step into the first team goalkeeper role, although I know he won’t be ready for that at least for two more seasons.



 

Eredivisie Transfers

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PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam were selling and buying. My general estimation is that the league and clubs in top third (PSV, Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar, FC Utrecht, FC Groningen, Vitesse) have become stronger, partly because good additions to their squad that increase depth and selection availability, but also because they have some good youngsters coming through to the first team to increase competition making them better without the need to spend too much money.


 

Player Contracts

We have most of the key players tied down for longer periods, but some youngsters will enter the last year of their contracts, so Jasper Vogels, Koen Verlijsdonk and Quenten Hose signed new deals until 2034 and Mohamed Tahiri extended his contract until 2035. That should also deter interest from other clubs.


 

Finances

Just a picture here that says more than a thousand words. After nine years at charge, selling star players and bringing up young talent we’ve amassed more than £1b in the bank. The board has given me a transfer budget that exceeds £460m and a wage budget around £6m p/w (we’re actually spending less than 10% of it, between £500k-600k p/w).

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Squad Update 2030


 

Goalkeepers

Mert Alegoz starts the season as our first-choice goalkeeper, but his departure to Barcelona leaves a huge challenge to young Riswan Sinaga who has to fill the boots and I’m not sure how well he could handle the pressure. 18 years old talented keeper Calvin Francis moved to Almere City for the season, so we have a fairly young and deep goalkeeping department.

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Defenders

Most of the names remain the same. Ognjen Rajkovic has pushed Can Tas out of the first eleven. Jasper Vogels offers versatility and can cover both full-back positions. Giorgio Jongebloet is the new addition from U-18 - 17 years old right-back is looking for his first team debut. A very intelligent player for his age, but technical skills should improve and I’d prefer him to be a bit quicker as well, but his intelligence could help him as WBs.

Central defence might look a bit thin, but three good players is usually enough there and from Jong Ajax we have young Rik Vos looking forward to the call to first team training.

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Midfielders

Kenneth Taylor and Bart Smits are our first eleven players. Taylor is also the oldest player in the squad with 28 years. Smits has to cope with BBMs role, but young Claidel Muringen has a great chance to earn more minutes than before. Overall we look a little thin in deep midfield, but in case of injury crisis we could drop Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson to midfield.

Sadly we don’t have any emerging talents coming up from youth ranks. There are some 15-18 years old players with decent potential, but none above 1,5* CA that is nowhere near the level that is needed in the first team, so we have to be patient for at least a couple of seasons and try to keep hold of our current players.

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Attacking Midfielders

Attacking midfield has largely remained the same, partly because none of the players had a very shining season in 2029-2030 and didn’t attract enough interest from big clubs. My first choice is still the van Axel Dongen-Hlynsson-Tamm trio, but we have capable substitutions to all positions and even four different options in AMCa.

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Strikers

Our best player in the attack (or perhaps in the whole squad) is Dramane Guehi. John Meeuwis is a really promising talent and Koen Verlijsdonk continues this season in Ajax and hopes to earn some playing time here.

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August 2030

 

Four games in August, two of them against FC Utrecht and to be honest - all of them seem a bit more difficult than average. FC Utrecht looks strong on paper (although they added just one right-back to their first team squad this Summer) and I still can’t understand how they could finish just 11th in the last season.

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The Johan Cruijff Schaal final was again held in Amsterdam and we lost it for the second year in a row. Both times against smaller teams, not our usual rivals that we’d expect to see in that match. Last Summer it was Vitesse, this time FC Utrecht. We had a small initiative in the game, wasted a few half-chances, but couldn’t find a goal. FC Utrecht defended well and in the second half they switched from a 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1 DM formation and finally scored with a header from IFK to scrape it 1:0. A tactical win to Robert Maaskant over me - they played to their strengths (almost all teams are taller and better in the air than us) and were well organised. We should have been more clinical in front of goal and were punished for it.

Because of that defeat we were a little bit under pressure before our Eredivisie opener against FC Twente, but we recorded a good win at home to start our league campaign. We had an initiative in the first half - again wasting some chances, but scored from a penalty after van Axel Dongen was tripped in the box and in truth it looked like a deserved lead. Peter Misidjan doubled our lead in 61’ and at that point it was difficult to see us losing. We switched to a balanced mentality for the final 15 minutes and that led to another two goals - a simple tap-in from Nikita Tamm and a low drive from Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi (a rare goal from the right-back - he found that far post with his attempt in the box). FC Twente could have felt that the 0:4 defeat was harsh and they perhaps didn’t deserve to concede so many goals, but their shooting was 5/0 and with no shots on target they couldn’t get near to scoring and defeat was inevitable.

Our trip to Utrecht might be considered as a revenge match after our defeat in the Johan Cruijff Schaal final. On the other hand I was well aware that our opponents are formidable and spurred on by the home crowd, so we started with a balanced mentality. Although the game itself was fairly even in the first half, we were more clinical with our moments in the box and Dramane Guehi took the lead in 14’. Unfortunately we conceded an equaliser right before the half-time whistle and the advantage slipped away. I was constantly trying to tweak tactics, height of our lines or individual instructions, but it didn’t seem to help much and FC Utrecht clearly had momentum in the second half and we were a bit under pressure. Bart Smits looked especially nervous (and came off soon) and we couldn’t find a player from the bench to make a difference. Ja-Ryong Kim came on, but was then forced off with an injury around 79’ and at that point I was just hoping to cling on to that one point from an away game. At the same time FC Utrecht went perhaps too attacking, trying to find the winning goal and our late counter-attack in injury time led to the winner instead. Somehow miraculous escape from that game for us - to play that poorly against a strong opponent but then score an injury time winner with 10 men. I was delighted with the result, but concerned about our performance at the same time.

While we struggled against FC Utrecht in both games, the next match against FC Groningen offered reassurance that we’re still a good team and on the right track. Amourricho van Axel Dongen scored two goals in quick succession. His second one was a brilliant solo strike - he took the ball past defenders and hit it in from a narrow angle. van Axel Dongen then continued by giving a cross to Nikita Tamm who scored with a cheeky backheel from the six yard box to make it 3:0 and with that the game was pretty much over. The second half offered a few half-chances and Kenneth Taylor saw his free kick clipping the crossbar, but we didn’t need to pressure their defence too much and we didn’t take any unnecessary risks. In conclusion I was really happy with the result and performance.



 

Players and Tactics

The key words from August were our problems against FC Utrecht and switching mentality between positive and balanced. Sometimes it worked, other times not so much. FC Utrecht seems like a bogey team to us at this point because they were impossible to play against, even though the late winner was the highlight of the month for us.

Tweaking tactics obviously resulted in some inconsistent performances. Some players like Bart Smits and Prince Aning seemed to be more nervous when score was level and it shows the insight to their character. However, winning breeds confidence and we’re in much better shape at the end of August than we were after the Johan Cruijff Schaal final.

Tactically the one tweak to exploit (once again) could be switching our right-back to IWBs. Jasper Vogels did well in that role against FC Groningen and we seemed to close spaces in midfield more this way.

 

Player of the Month: Dramane Guehi - scored three goals, including the winner

Goal of the Month: Dramane Guehi vs. FC Utrecht - Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi’s goal against FC Twente was probably a better strike, but for the injury time winner with 10 men that goal from Guehi was the special one.



 

Eredivisie

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I have to say it’s a fairly good start for us. Three wins from potentially tricky games while both Feyenoord and PSV have lost points in their first games. If we could maintain that momentum we might turn it into our advantage in the title race.


 

Champions League 

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We’re up against Barcelona, Atalanta and Qarabaq. I can’t say I’m too happy about that draw. Atalanta is a tough opponent and a challenge for the qualification for us and nobody wants to travel as far as Azerbaijan for an away game with Qarabaq. Feyenoord reached the group stage through play-offs (kudos!), but landed in Group A with Real Madrid, PSG and Saloniki Aris. Their realistic aim is third place.

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September 2030


 

Fixtures and Results

Just four games in September (and international window, of course). We start with a tricky away derby against AZ Alkmaar, host FC Barcelona and then our league schedule will get easier with smaller clubs in the list.

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The Noord-Hollandse derby was a tricky one, and even more so because we had inexperienced Riswan Sinaga in goal. We started with a balanced mentality and again chose to use Jasper Vogels in right-back as IWBs to bolster our midfield. It seemed to work out well, as we took charge of the match in the first half - van Axel Dongen created a chance for Nikita Tamm that he used expertly, Kenneth Taylor scored with a lovely free kick from inside of the half-circle and Dramane Guehi scored two goals right before the end of the first half to send us to half-time with a comprehensive 4:0 lead. AZ Alkmaar had just one half-chance from a free kick (that Sinaga managed to tip over the crossbar), but our attacking quality was just too much for AZ Alkmaar. We protected our lead well in the second half. Guehi completed his hat-trick from the spot after he was pushed in the box - a complete game from the striker. 5:0 was a fantastic result for us and it was a really impressive performance as well.

The big test against FC Barcelona came next. We had almost the full crowd at Johan Cruijff Arena - 61,379 supporters attended the game - and after the match our accounting department concluded that this was the highest gate receipt we’ve ever collected.

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On the pitch I was the most concerned about what Riswan Sinaga would do in goal. We didn’t start well and Rodri opened the scoring with an unmarked header from a free kick with just three minutes after kick-off. His header landed in the top right corner and Sinaga could only watch it go in. Not a proper chance, just a very accurate header and difficult to save. Our heads didn’t drop and we reacted really well. In 9’ Prince Aning’s cross caused some mess in the box for Barcelona’s defence and Nikita Tamm finished from a point blank range. Olivier Aertssen headed in from a free kick five minutes later and in 24’ Dramane Guehi extended our lead with a powerful header from another free kick - two set piece goals and we were leading 3:1. But just like that we conceded another goal and again it came from a set piece. Clever combination to play a free kick open to Calvin Stengs who was standing next to our wall and fired it in just four minutes after Guehi’s goal. I suspect that both managers were unhappy with set piece defending at half-time. The second half offered little chances and we did an excellent job in defence to keep Barcelona attacking players away from our goal, despite losing the possession battle 43/57 this match. We won it 3:2 and after the game the stat sheet showed that Barcelona had no real chances in this game (despite scoring twice) and we had managed to make 21 dribbles (a sign of confidence in attack) - a really great win to get our Champions League campaign going and perhaps a little bit unexpected three points to the table.

NAC Breda had lost their first four games in Eredivisie and we piled on to that poor start by beating them 5:0 at Rat Verlegh Park. We controlled the game from start to finish, scored two goals in the first half and when NAC’s Leon Dajaku was sent off for a bad tackle on Jasper Vogels in 60’ it was game over for them. Nikita Tamm scored two goals and had a chance to complete his hat-trick from the spot in 72’, but sent his penalty over the crossbar. Peter Misidjan had a quiet game otherwise, but scored with a beautiful free kick from 20 metres and substitute John Meeuwis completed the rout with a late strike. Very confident win this one.

We struggled a bit more against Go Ahead Eagles - another small team we should have beaten easily, but they parked the bus well in the first half and we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal, so in the first half injury time we took the lead from a penalty after van Axel Dongen was  tripped in the box. The second half continued in the same fashion - we controlled midfield, but didn’t create too many chances. Peter Misidjan finally headed in a free kick to secure the result and John Meeuwis again scored the last goal to make it 3:0. We had no problems in defence and Eagles couldn’t get a single shot in, so our win was never really in doubt. A good result.



 

Players and Tactics

Switched between two setups in September - against AZ (away) and Barcelona we started with a balanced 4-2-3-1 with Jasper Vogels in right defence as IWBs and that seemed to work out perfectly. I’m especially proud of limiting Barcelona’s chances to zero at Johan Cruijff Arena. 

Against smaller teams our regular positive 4-2-3-1 did the job and Diyae-Eddine Jermoumi joined the attack from the right wing as WBs.

Riswan Sinaga has done fairly well in goal so far - he conceded two goals against Barcelona and the critics claimed that he couldn’t make an impact there, but three clean sheets in Eredivisie is a good statistic and his average rating in league games looks good. However, our defensive unit has protected him well - Go Ahead Eagles couldn’t get a single shot in, NAC didn’t get any proper chances either and so he had to face just one half-chance from AZ Alkmaar. Perhaps that’s the key with playing inexperienced goalkeeper - do not allow any chances 😛

In attack Peter Misidjan had a curious month - he started in two games, was not spectacular in either of them but towards the end he scored both times in the final 15 minutes to get his stats and rating up. Not sure how to evaluate this - I certainly prefer Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson for his technical ability and mobility in attack, but Misidjan hasn’t really failed us either.

Nikita Tamm carried his good form to September, had a fantastic (10.0 rating) match against NAC Breda, scored four goals in three games, but then disappeared against bus-parking Eagles. We had relied on him a lot this season and I need him to continue to score and create goals (although Ja-Ryong Kim gets concerned about his lack of game time).

 

In September I received a news item about Ajax being number eight in top league player development. That’s the aim 🙂

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Player of the Month: Dramane Guehi - scored six goals in those four games and found the target in every single game. Consistently good in leading our attack and reliable in front of goal.

Goal of the Month: Peter Misidjan vs. NAC Breda - a lovely free kick from 20 metres that curled into the top corner.


 

Eredivisie

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We’re leading the table with a 100% start, but the other two teams in the top three are very surprising. Feyenoord, PSV, Vitesse and AZ Alkmaar all have struggled at some point and are well behind us. At the bottom of the table we find NAC Breda with six defeats - their manager Marinus Dijkhuisen was sacked in September after 0-5 trashing from us in front of their home fans and they might be really struggling this season.


 

Champions League 

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Atalanta managed to return with just one point from Azerbaijan and so our win over Barcelona gives us the lead in the group.

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  • 3 weeks later...

October 2030

 

Five games in October and our focus is on the Champions League. The Eredivisie fixture list starts to ease up - we have smaller teams coming up until the middle of November and also three games at home after our travels to Italy and Zwolle. I expect to rotate the team somewhat in those games and if we could maintain our momentum in October we could be in a really good position in the title race.

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We started with a trip to Bergamo and faced Atalanta - one point from away match would have been good enough and we started well when Nikita Tamm fired in his attempt to give us the lead with just six minutes into the match, but Atalanta got back into the game soon enough - Tamm’s mistake allowed their tall striker Beto to send his header past Riswan Sinaga and then Olivier Aertssen couldn’t stop Beto turning away from him and scoring again. Atalanta scored their third goal in 47’ after both of our centre-backs (Rajkovic and Aertssen) made a mess of their tackles in the box and gave their striker another opportunity. We were still in the game in the second half - Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson hit the crossbar from the edge of the area and we had a penalty in 72’ after Tamm was tripped in the box, but Taylor’s spot kick was saved and although substitute John Meeuwis scored from the following corner and made it 2:3, we couldn’t find the equaliser in the remaining minutes. In conclusion - it looked like an even game, but we made costly mistakes in both defence and attack, so individual errors cost us the result.

In the following game against Zwolle we rotated the squad a little to give some players a rest after the midweek game. Kenneth Taylor was to sit this one out, so Bart Smits and Kristian Nökkvi Hlynsson partnered up in midfield. Perhaps that rotation was the reason, but we couldn’t create anything dangerous in the first half and a questionable foul by Jermoumi gave PEC Zwolle a penalty in 47’ (a decision that was surprisingly upheld by VAR), so we had a tough challenge to find an equaliser in a game where we had created so little opportunities so far. Substitute Ja-Ryong Kim was close, but hit the post in 64’ before another substitute John Meeuwis finally found the net with his late goal. At least we avoided defeat, but we have no reason to be happy with the performance - our average rating was just 6.76 in this match and we lost a lot of duels against very motivated Zwolle players.

We certainly reacted well in our next match against Fortuna Sittard. Fortuna have played fairly well and find themselves in the top three so they might be considered contenders to the title, but I know they don’t possess the quality and consistency to actually present a serious threat to us. We scored three goals in the first 15 minutes (two of them from set pieces) before conceding a goal ourselves, but Olivier Aertssen made it 4:1 with a powerful header from another free kick to send us to half-time break with a solid lead. We enjoyed the second half and controlled the game, created good chances (but our finishing quality dropped compared to the first half), so no more goals. Despite that, a very good result.

Qarabaq also offered little resistance to us at Johan Cruijff Arena - we pretty much controlled the game and gave them just one half chance at the end of the first half, but two first half goals from Nikita Tamm gave us a solid win. We also hit the woodwork twice in the game. Confident win and three points in the table. I never felt that we were under any real pressure, so I’m happy with the performance.

Excelsior didn’t offer much of a challenge for us at home - we controlled midfield and Amourricho van Axel Dongen opened things up with a lovely goal from outside of the box. Jasper Vogels scored his first goal of the season to make it 2:0 before we lost all concentration in the very next attack and allowed Excelsior to score one back, but Taylor scored from a free kick just two minutes later and Peter Misidjan chipped in over the goalkeeper before the half-time whistle. 4:1 in the first half put the result beyond doubt, so I made early substitutions and the second half was fairly quiet.

So, the defeat at Bergamo, dropped two points against PEC Zwolle, but our performances against smaller teams have been convincing after that and our form is picking up again.


 

Players and Tactics

No tactical testing in October - we’ve played as we’ve used to and players are familiar with instructions. Also, no serious injuries (Mohamed Tahiri continued to be sidelined in October, but he, too, joined training at the end of the month) and I have been able to rotate the squad when necessary.

Defensively we’ve been a bit fragile and as expected, Riswan Sinaga hasn’t been able to save all the shots that came his way (he especially struggled against Atalanta in Champions League level), but at least we’ve managed to score consistently and find chances in attack. Four goals against Fortuna and Excelsior is a good sign that we can score if we play at our usual level.

Nikita Tamm has continued to find goals and he scored three in October. Dramane Guehi added two goals in the match against Fortuna (one of them was his 10th goal in the season and 100th goal for Ajax), but you can’t overestimate John Meeuwis’ influence, who came from the bench and scored in two games (rescuing us a point in the match against Zwolle).

 

Player of the Month: Kenneth Taylor - has been good in all of the games he played in October and also got one goal and two assists to his name with 7.75 average rating in four games. I rested him against PEC Zwolle and his absence was felt in midfield, so we also lost points in that match. That shows how important Taylor is to the way we play from midfield.

Goal of the Month: Amourricho van Axel Dongen vs. Excelsior - really well struck effort from outside of the area that landed in the top left corner



 

Eredivisie

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We have a really good lead in the table (it’s a bit of a mess, because some clubs have more games to play), and have extended our lead despite dropping points in Zwolle. Feyenoord is trying to get their way up into the top three, but PSV are down in the relegation zone (sic!), so we have less competition than we used to in the previous seasons.


 

Champions League

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Three games played and we’re second, thanks to Atalanta’s inability to beat Qarabaq and our points against Barcelona. All three clubs still have a good chance and our home game against Atalanta is the key fixture in November.

In other groups Feyenoord have been really good in their first games - they fought out 1:1 draws against both PSG and Real Madrid and are still in competition for qualification places in a really difficult group. Well done for them (and Dutch football in general).

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