Welcome…..so here we are at the winter break again, it only feels like yesterday that I was posting last seasons winter break update. We have 3 trophies behind us this time and a squad of players who are playing with confidence within our system. Lets get down to how we are doing on the pitch.
Win the Eredivisie
Win the Dutch Cup
Not expected to go beyond the group stage Of the Champions League
A solid first half of the season 13 wins 4 draws and 1 defeat gives us a 6 point lead at the top of the table at the winter break. Only our rivals PSV have managed to inflict defeat on us after we opened the season up going 12 games undefeated. We suffered a few injuries in September which seemed to knock us out of our stride but the squad responded and made my team selection very difficult with players coming in and performing well. New signing’s Thiago Maia and Hirving Lozano have looked quality additions whilst Mohammed Elyounoussi and Jerry St.Juste have suffered injuries limiting their game time, however when fit they have looked at home in our system. Overall our title defence is on course.
We have had a pretty easy run to the Quarter Final stage over powering all that we have come up against.
Now this is were I wanted us to improve, last season we finished bottom of our group and went out with a whimper so this time we worked hard and focussed our attention on each of our group games. Last season we played well but lacked something in the way of getting results. If you have read my last post you will have noticed that I changed our formation, the main reason was for this competition. Last season I felt that we got exploited by using a back 3 with wing backs. So with a back 4 in place we started off with a trip away to Shahktar, captain Davy Klaassen gave us a first half lead which we managed to hang on too despite going down to 10 men after we got left back Dykes sent off. Pleased with the opening day win we looked forward to the visit of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United to the Arena. United came with the big guns Higuin,Luan,Martial,Mata and Rooney, but we had the outstanding midfield trio of Sinkgraven,Klaassen and Maia who on the night gave Utd the runaround with both Fisher and Lozano pushing Utd back with attacking runs time after time. Daley Sinkgraven netted what was to be the only goal of the game after a stunning move initiated by the majestic captain Davey Klaassen. A 1-0 win and maximum points with a double header against Sparta Prague next we felt like we could advance to the knockout round before we played the return games against Shahktar and United. Football can be a funny game and the visit of Sparta Prague to Amsterdam was a lesson for us. Last season we beat Sparta here 3-0 in the qualifying rounds but this time Sparta outplayed us and were just 7 minutes away from inflicting a well deserved job on us to then be denied by substitute Zivkovic giving us a point. We then went to Prague and ground out a goalless draw meaning a point against Shahktar would put us through. We entertained Shahktar and threw everything at them and desreved a first half lead via Millik. Shahktar were improved in the 2nd half and grabbed an equalizer giving me a very nervy end to the game which ended 1-1 sending us in to the knockout round with a visit to Manchester still to come. Mourinho played mind games in the build up to the clash at Old Trafford but I wasnt fazed and decided that Utd would throw everything at us but I was to fight fire with fire with nothing to lose I set us up to have a go at them. We gave away a penalty early on which Mata dispatched but were nullifying Utds attack and missing our chances up front. It looked like Utd would old on until Davy Klaassen whipped a ball in to the United box for the oncoming Jairo Riedewald to thunder an 88th minute header in to the goal in front of a stunned Stretford End that gave us a fully deserved 1-1 draw.
Knockout Round Draw
We watched the draw in Zurich with excitement hoping for a favourable draw then we were pulled out of the hat…well bowl, Ajax will play Bayern Munich. A tough draw against last years finalist Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munchen. Two big European nights for us to prepare for and a trip to the tailors for me has I want to look the part alongside the well groomed Italian.
““It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s.”
“The Cruyff Philosophy”