Welcome to the second post of The Diamond Inspired By Cruyff, this post will cover our first few games of the season playing with the Cruyff Diamond. I just wanted to get this post out to keep you updated on our progression. If you read my opening post you will know that I have taken full control of our Jong Ajax squad as well which is basically Ajax B team that play in the Jupiler League (2nd tier in Holland) and will have a separate post on their progress. One of the reasons for taking control of the B team was to slow my game play down so I wasn’t thrashing through season after season. So after a very experimental pre season we got our season underway way with a 5-1 win at PEC Zwolle which I covered in my last post so our next game was at home to NEC who we beat 4-1 playing a eye catching style of football that Mr Cruyff would approve. I opted to play on loan Bertrand Traore in the attacking midfield strata along with Vaclav Cerny in the Inside Forward role and Kasper Dolberg leading the line. The 3 combined well throughout the game and all finished with an average rating of 9.0 with both Traore and Cerny getting a goal. Despite Dolberg not getting on the scoresheet his performance was one of quality linking up the play to great effect throughout the 90 minutes. The NEC back line struggled to cope with our movement in the final third not only with our front three but the constant threat of the runs made by both our central midfield pairing of the youthful Donny Van de Beek and the elegant Davy Klaassen.
NEC failed to test us so onwards to our next fixture the visit to our rivals Feyenoord which would be our biggest test so far ahead of our Champions League Playoff game against AS Monaco. I rotated a few players ahead of the trip to Monaco and we seemed to struggle to get our game running with only brief moments of what we achieved against NEC. The side from Rotterdam kicked us off the park in a game that ended 0-0 but for us we lost Dolberg, Klaassen, Traore and Van de Beek all limping off with knocks that could keep them out of the visit to the Principality. On to Monaco and my worst fears came true with only Klaassen making the bench out of the 4 that limped off in Rotterdam. I am now thinking that I made an error in playing them in the league fixture and after just 22 minutes we trailed 0-2 and looked disjointed. The incoming players were not cutting it until Abdelhak Nouri gave us a lifeline on 35 minutes with an away goal which took us in at the break 1-2 down. The second half started with us pushing for an equaliser but to no avail as Frenkie de Jong rattled the post in the 60th minute for Monaco to pick the ball up and turn defence in to attack to win a corner that Falcao scored an header to put the game out of our reach and dent our Champions League aspirations with a 1-3 defeat. Go Ahead Eagles were our next opponents and with a 2nd leg on the horizon against Monaco I rested as many players has I could. The chosen 11 to play played really well despite just a 1-0 win with Danil Dankerlui putting in a man of the match performance grabbing our goal.
The 2nd leg in Amsterdam against Monaco was our next fixture and I decided to risk Hakim Ziyech who was returning from injury along with Klaassen, Dolberg and Van de Beek, it was a big gamble to try and overturn the 1-3 first leg result. It took 25 minutes for Ziyech to make a difference with a sublime finish after a sweeping move that had me punching the air. Then just before the break Falcao riddled free inside our box and silenced the Amsterdam crowd, and against the run of play. Half time 1-1 and playing well I felt we had a chance until we were delt another hammer blow in the 59th minute when Monaco went 1-2 up but we were not beat and 2 goals courtesy of Ziyech and Dolberg put us 3-2 up with 18 minutes left and needing 2 goals to put us in to the group stage. We were dominating and Monaco dropped deeper and deeper then in the 75th minute Ziyech scores his 3rd 4-2 and levels the tie 5-5 on aggregate. We have 15 minutes plus injury time to get another goal, I demand more from the touchline and the boys respond in the 84th minute Sinkgraven breaks down the left side and hits the byline and crosses deep it falls to Van de Beek who thunders a first time shot towards the Monaco goal it crashes against the upright and falls to a Monaco defender who clears the danger as the clock ticks down, we come back again and Dolberg shoots wide it’s over the referee brings the game to and end we win the match 4-2 but go out on away goals with a 5-5 aggregate score as I look back to the game against Feyenoord and my decision not to rest our big game players. I tell the boys I am pleased with their performance. What a game Cruyff once said he would rather win 5-4 than 1-0 and this was one of those games.
Europa League for us then but before we think about that we are back in league action away at FC Twente were we score 2 late goals at the end of each half courtesy of Sinkgraven and Schone to win the game 2-1. We then go on to beat AZ 3-0 in Amsterdam after a a performance that embraces everything that I am trying to achieve with the Cruyff Diamond, our goals are scored by Dolberg, Tete and Neres. The Europa League Draw was made and we were drawn alongside Celta Vigo, St Etienne and AEK. Our first game in the Europa League sent us to Spain to play Celta Vigo and we are exposed for the 2nd time on the road in Europe going down 2-3 in the Balaidos. I analyse the game and realise I need to tweak the system on the road in Europe if we are to have any success but I don’t want to retract from our attacking play so the notebook is out and my thoughts are noted and in a peculiar way and I am sure most FM players will agree this is were I get a lot of enjoyment tinkering with the system. My next post covering the first team will be about Hakim Ziyech and his role within the ever evolving system.
I would like too finish by thanking everyone who got in touch to talk about The Cruyff Diamond after it was released over on FM Scout. I am pleased that the system itself as inspired a good few people to give it a go and tweak it around their club. I am also pleased to see it bringing success to different levels of clubs including Weston-super-Mare, Newport County, Aberdeen, Fiorentina, Montpellier and Tottenham Hotspur. Thanks to all who gave me feedback on how it worked for you.
A look at some of our heat maps and pass maps using the Cruyff Diamond.