Welcome to my opening post of season 2 with Ajax. After our success last year in securing the treble I decided to promote a few players in to our 1st team squad to continue their development by getting some quality game time at this level. The players who have moved up are Richairo Zivkovic a forward who is equally adept at playing in a wide position, Zivkovic was in and around the first team set up last season and will get his chance as we hope to challenge on all fronts. The next player making the transition to the first team is central defender Deyovaisio Zeefuik again I used Zeefuik a few times last season and I was impressed with his performance when stepping up, I have high hopes for the defender and will be watching his development closely. The next two players making the step up are both wide men in Justin Kluivert and Che Nunnely both will be valuable squad players fighting for a regular starting spot. Another wide player / forward coming in to the senior squad is Queensy Menig who returns from a loan spell at PEC Zwolle. Leeroy Owusu is another player returning from loan and will be the back up for Kenny Tete this coming season. Kaj Sierhus last seasons Jupiler League top scorer will be another going in to the first team squad, Sierhus looks like he could become a leading player in the Eredivisie over the next few years and will get his chance to shine this coming season.
I have also made two new additions to the squad the first is the technically gifted 22 year old Austrian playmaker Louis Schaub (pictured above) from Rapid Wien and yes I know people will say we have many talented midfield players but Schaub reinforces our strength in depth has we look to make our mark in the Champions League and he can play in a number of roles including Shadow Striker which is an area I am exploring over the coming months. I am pleased to have got the gifted Austrian on board and I am sure he will fit in to the Ajax model.
My second and last signing of the summer is 23 year old Brazilian left full back Zeca from Santos, the Brazilian will come in to the first team squad has my 1st choice full back with Damil Dankerlui being his understudy. We also have Mitchell Dykes who has returned to the club from a loan spell but will start the season in our B team in the Jupiler League whilst he recovers from injury. Zeca will come in to my system and play in an inverted wing back role making use of his strong right foot.
One player to leave the club is winger David Neres who has been a constant moaner since last Christmas, Neres has suffered a few injuries and as made 17 appearances for the club but he has literally got on my nerves demanding first team football and threatening to poison the dressing room so I took the decision to find him a new club however nobody would meet his £8.5m value so on the final day of the transfer window I accepted a £5m bid from PSG. I know this is a low fee but I could not allow Neres to upset the dressing room.
Johan Cruijff Schaal
After a good showing in Pre-Season it was time for us to attempt to put more honours in the trophy cabinet has we prepared to take on Feyenoord in the Johan Cruijff Schaal. I decided to go with an attacking system that I had experimented with last season with the B team and in Pre-Season. We lined up in a 433 formation and I gave a debut to Zeca at left wing back. I very much wanted this silverware named after the legend that is Cruyff. My starting 11 was Onana, Tete, De Ligt, Sanchez, Zeca, Riedewald,Klaassen,Van de Beek, Ziyech,Cassierra and Dolberg. The game kicked off and we were rewarded for our positive game plan straight away when Cassierra put us 1 up after just 3 minutes. With any pre match nerves settled we put Feyenoord under pressure and doubled our lead just before the half hour mark after Zeca combined well with Ziyech to put Dolberg in on goal which the Dane finished calmly to put us in control. Half time Feyenoord 0-2 Ajax. I told the boys not to become complacent and sent them out to bring the honours home.
The second half continued in much the same vein has the first period with us dominating the play in all areas and on 66 minutes Sanchez put the game beyond the boys from Rotterdam with a back post header to put us 3-0 up. With the game firmly in our hands I made 3 changes bringing on Nunnely, Kluivert and Sierhus for Ziyech, Cassierra and Dolberg to give the young boys a run. We ran the game out and proudly picked up our 4th piece of silverware in the last few months but more importantly we were bringing the Cruijff Schaal back to its namesakes home. A good start to season 2 which will see us playing in the Champions League group stage. I will be looking to be competitive in all competitions I am here to win trophies whilst adearing to the club’s philosophies. I have a good feeling about Ajax and can honestly say it’s rekindled my love for football manager.
The Uefa Super Cup
Two famous club’s locking horns in Macedonia in the Philips Arena and a chance for us to test ourselves against one of the giants of the game in Real Madrid. I named an unchanged side from the Feyenoord game and told the boys that despite being underdogs go out and do this for the fans. We started well and missed a couple of half chances from Dolberg and Ziyech in the first quarter, the game was end to end but our back line were dealing with anything the Madrid boys threw at us. We then broke the deadlock in the 26th minute thanks to Mateo Cassierra pouncing on a mistake from the Madrid keeper 1-0. Now I don’t know about you but I am always nervous when we score first against one of the big clubs and Ronaldo proved why when from the restart he went close to putting Real back on level terms. Our cultured Moroccan Hakim Ziyech was pulling the strings and in the 39th minute he made it 2-0 from close range sending the Dutch section of the crowd in to hysteria. Half time 2-0 .We held on to our lead at the break now it was time for me to tell the side not to become complacent plus I told my back line that I had faith in them. Famous last words….after only 3 minutes in to the 2nd half Nick Viergever gifted Real with an own goal 2-1. We were then delt another blow in the 50th minute when Cassierra was stretchered off with what looks like a long term injury. I replaced him with Daley Sinkgraven and immediately played him in a defensive winger role. Ziyech was looking majestic and although Real were back in the game we were looking comfortable and went close again when Klaassen crashed an effort off the post. The clock ticked down and apart from a long range Modric effort we were untroubled and the final whistle blew the scoreboard lit up the night sky Real Madrid 1-2 Ajax. This was a big victory for us and Dutch football has Davy Klaassen raised the trophy a loft we had secured our 5th bit of silverware in 4 months.
I am pleased to say a number of our key players have extended their contracts including Riedewald, De Jong, Van de Beek, Klaassen and Tete which is good news for the club. I have decided to let Heiko Westermann join HSV Hamburg in £300,000 deal, Westermanns departure will make way for Zeefuik to get some quality game time.
We got the new season off with with a 3-0 win at home to AZ. My team selection was based around giving a few players a rest after our games in the Johan Cruijff Schaal and the Uefa Super Cup. The lads that come in to the side made an impression on me which is food for thought going forward. My starting XI was Onana, Matusiwa, Dankerlui, Zeefuik, Viergever, Serero, De Jong, Nouri, Younes, Cerny and Sierhus. Our goals came courtesy of Sierhus, Younes and Cerny who all had a top performance. I am excited by the way the players are stepping in for the 1st choice line up which creates healthy competition for place. If a player steps up and performs I won’t have any hesitation in dropping players who are not playing at a level the club expects.
Our next game was against Feyenoord in Rotterdam and I knew they would be looking to avenge our recent success against them so I brought back our big hitters to try and come back with all 3 points and they didn’t disappoint has we turned them over 3-0 on their own patch with the goals coming from Ziyech 2 and Dolberg giving us another win over one of our biggest challengers. We have started the season in good form and hoped to carry it on in to our next game which was on the road again this time at FC Twente however a rotated side saw us drop our first points of the season has we needed a Frenkie de Jong goal to earn a 1-1 draw. The fixture computer had to play 3 away games back to back so we stayed on the road to visit Roda JC and produced our worst performance of the season to date only managing a 0-0 draw but a point is a point and we moved on to our next fixture which was at home to PSV Eindoven who are another big rival to us. I decided to go with a system that I have used in the past (see left) and chose this line up Onana, Sanchez, Riedewald, Viergever, Tete, Zeca, Serero, Klaassen, Ziyech, Dolberg and Sierhus. Over 63,000 fans eagerly awaiting the game to kick off has I tell the chosen 11 to go out and give the fans something to shout about along with a couple of individual I have faith in you. We came flying out of the blocks has we have done in all our games to be fair and went close with efforts from Sierhus and Dolberg before we broke the deadlock in the 7th minute courtesy of the impressive Zeca, I am well pleased I signed him in the window. Zeca went close again just minutes later. We doubled our lead 2 minutes from the break when Dolberg finished, we deserved our 2 goal lead at half time. After the restart we put PSV under pressure and a quick fire double from Kaj Sierhus put the game out of PSV’s reach, but they did get a consolation goal before Louis Schaub got his first goal for the club making it 5-1 and a resounding victory that puts us 1 point behind FC Groningen in top spot.
The draw for the Champions League put us in a group consisting of Manchester City, Zenit St Petersburg and Rapid Wien, it’s an interesting group that I think is tough however I feel it also provides us with a test of were we stand in the European game. I am looking forward to locking horns with Pep Guardiola’s City who are clear favourites to win the group.
Matchday 1 provided a chance for us to get our campaign underway with 3 points when Rapid Wien visited the Amsterdam Arena in a tie that provided a chance for former Rapid player Louis Schaub to go head to head with his former employers. I was confident that we could get off to a winning start after the back to back wins against Feyenoord and Real Madrid. The boys didn’t let me down, I had decided to rest Zeca, Tete, Klaassen, Ziyech, Van de Beek and the injured Cassierra, and brought in Dankerlui, Owusu, Cerny, Nouri, Schaub and Younes. In a controlled performance we ran out 4-0 winners with goals from Cerny, Dolberg, Younes and Nouri to get the Champions League wagon rolling. Next up we visit St Petersburg to face Zenit in what could be a pivotal game so soon in the group stage.
Thank you for taking time to read this post and hope you have enjoyed it, my next post will take us in to the winter break were hopefully we will still be in the Champions League.
17-18 Uefa Super Cup Winners Johan Cruijff Schaal Winners
16-17 Eredivisie Winners Europa Lge Winners Dutch Cup Winners