Ajax’ nightmare season

In typical Dutch form, people will immediately say: “Who is to blame?”. The answer is not very straightforward. Lets first look at the problem.

Ajax was having a decent run in the past seasons. Frank de Boer did ever so well winning titles and turning the poor Ajax into a cash rich club, with some amazing outgoing transfers putting some fat on the bone. Peter Bosz came in and turned De Boer’s boring Ajax into a free-flowing attacking machine, but Bosz ended his 1 season spell with Ajax when Van der Sar refused to work with Bosz on a reshuffling of the backroom staff.

Marc Overmars was acting as technical director, but mainly with a focus on contracts and signing and selling players. The Ajax Technical Triangle was supposed to take care of the football (De Boer, Bergkamp, Ouaali).

The two friends, Dirty Marc and “I haven’t seen anything untoward” Van der Sar

Overmars was kept out of the decision to block Bosz’ plans and allowed Bergkamp his spot in the sun.

Bosz left and not much later, Dennis Bergkamp – Bosz antagonist – also had to leave.

But Bergkamp was fully in control when he was at Ajax and ushered in Marcel Keizer as the replacement for Bosz. Not a bad decision, mind you. Keizer was successful as a coach on the second tier level at Cambuur and as a real Ajax man (his uncle was Piet Keizer), he also coached Ajax 2 and impressed with that team (which had the likes of Van de Beek, De Ligt, Frenkie and Appie Nouri).

Keizer is also a close friend of Bergkamp, so the two set out to lead Ajax. The Nouri situation – the brilliant ballplayer had heart failure in a friendly in the pre-season and due to the late response, he survived the ordeal but that is about it….the poor lad is confined to his bed for the rest of his life – made matters tough for the young coach and the whole team or even club suffered through trauma that season.

Overmars decided to take the reins back from Bergkamp and organised a coup, in which both Keizer and Bergkamp had to make way. Keizer was on title course and would later impress in the Portuguese competition and in the sandpit. Bergkamp never pursued his career elsewhere and became a bit of a football recluse.

Now Overmars was in charge and he quickly lured his friend Erik ten Hag away from FC Utrecht. Ten Hag had had success with Overmars’ first love Go Ahead Eagles and Mark had always planned to get Ten Hag to Amsterdam.

The duo was quite successful, as we know. Overmars dealing with transfers and contracts, Ten Hag dealing with the first team and the results and Van der Sar safely away from the front, dealing with the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the sponsors, the board of directors and any other non-football topic.

At that time, Danny Blind was the football man in the Board and he would be an intrinsic part of Overmars little cabal.

And boy, what was Overmars good at his job. And how horrible did he behave when it wasn’t about football.

Overmars telling inappropriate jokes to Sar?

Despite being married to a former Miss Universe (or Miss Holland, not sure), he couldn’t resist using his powerful position at Ajax to bother and hassle the young ladies working at the social media/marketing department of Ajax. And it went further than texting them invites for dinner. The diminutive former winger enjoyed taking pictures of his …less diminutive mini-me and sent them to the ladies in question, who apparently were to scared to report him to the general manager. One key reason: the general manager (yes Edwin van der Sar) knew this was happening and was part of the sexist cabal at Ajax, enjoying inappropriate humor.

Van der Sar protected his powerful friend but when the news broke in the media, it was clear that the former Arsenal and Barca man had to leave.

So, many things had gone wrong already by that time. But Van der Sar took it a bit further. Instead of trying to replace Overmars with a heavyweight – but with manners – he decided to give newcomer Huntelaar and scout Hamstra the joint role of technical director (not in name though).

Oops. Exposed. But a bit too much exposed.

And obviously, both were too lightweight, inexperienced and unconnected to step into Overmars boots. And what people do forget: he is a very good negotiator. He made money playing football and but multiplied his money by dealing in property and classic cars. Huntelaar and Hamstra are definitely people with expertise and added value but they’re no Overmars.

And it showed, this season. Lisandro Martinez left for Man United. Bassey was brought in. Gravenberch left for Bayern, Austrian midfielder Grillisch is his replacement. And so on.

I believe Sar never replaced Overmars, because he hoped (planned?) to get the speedy ex-winger back after a couple of months of “distance from the club”. But it didn’t happen. And when Alfred Schreuder, assisted by his agent, started to “help” Ajax to more new signings, things turned for the worst.

Ocampos was on the wishlist and Ajax would have signed him for 30+ million euros, if the Board of Directors hadn’t intervened. They forced Ajax to take him on a loan basis. And less than 6 months later, the winger was sent back to Spain as he was never able to convince anyone in Amsterdam.

Ocampos failure

But it went further downhill, as Schreuder lost the dressing room due to several bad decisions. His treatment of Daley Blind (who left after the World Cup), his decision to protect Tadic and never sub him, his decision to not use newcomer Wijndal but try Blind, Bassey and Rensch on that spot, the list goes on.

Daley Blind’s exit had another consequence for the club: highly rated Danny Blind – sounding board for coaches and technical management – could not continue his director’s role what with Daley being pushed out unceremoniously. And again, it appeared that Van der Sar and the Board did not have a shadow list waiting in the drawer.

They didn’t have one for Overmars. Not for Danny Blind and when stalwarts like Michael Reiziger and Academy director Said Ouaali announced their exits too, it was quite clear things are a bit fishy in Amsterdam.

John Heitinga was pushed forward when Schreuder was sacked. Much like his old team mate Van Nistelrooy at PSV, Heitinga planned to build up his career with care and consideration. The former Everton defender managed Ajax 2 and was about to start as Schreuder’s assistant but was propelled into the hot seat immediately.

So now, Ajax is re-building. They were able to get former midfielder Jan van Halst in as new football director in the board of directors. They installed Heitinga for this season, with Dwight Lodeweges as he new assistant and they finally signed a technical director – Sven Mislintat –  to replace Overmars, who seems to be enjoying his time at FC Antwerp, with Mark van Bommel. I personally believe Mislintat could well be the right choice, as he has quite a strong resume and clearly adores Ajax.

So, in conclusion, I think its fair to say that after the mismatch of Bosz-Bergkamp-Overmars-Van der Sar, the combination of Ten Hag-Overmars (without Sar) worked amazingly well. There is no need for me to list the achievements of Ten Hag at Ajax.

But when Overmars had to take his leave, Van der Sar needed more than 12 months (!) to replace him. Imagine that, your key guy in the organisation. And it’s not like Van der Sar was ambushed by the dick-pics, he knew about it. So his lack of taking action resulted in a head coach (Schreuder) who was drowning from day 1. And in hindsight, Schreuder also didn’t do himself many favours with his headstrong attitude within the club.

Heitinga with new technical director Sven Mislintat

The combi Ten Hag – Overmars was replaced by Schreuder-Huntelaar-Hamstra and that combination had no chance!

Ajax’ terrible season – in my view – is another nudge of the keepers gloves of Van der Sar. His list of failings is becoming very long.

And if things turn really sour for Ajax this coming weekend – away versus in form Twente – they might end up playing conference league football next season.

The only bonus: last year, when Van der Sar was asked about having to play in the conference league potentially in the future, his answer was: I will not be with the club when that happens. And the fans will now clutch that claim to their chest. The only silver lining in case Ajax finishes 4th this season.

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26 comments

  1. Hi guys, I couldn’t respond to the comments on the Feyenoord post for some reason?

    So I will comment here:

    Kevin, the last time Weghorst scored in Oranje was a brace versus later champs Argentina. 2 goals in 12 minutes or something. You weren’t impressed ?

    You haven’t coached a team before I guess. A NT coach will not use his squad as a pigeonhome (dutch expression). Agree with it or not, but it takes time to get in and then you get quite some loyalty. I’m not saying I agree with it, but this is how most coaches work in Holland. Bert van Marwijk’s success at Oranje in 2010 was partly due to this core team. And his downfall too in 2012.

    Jean, you’re talking to me as if it’s all my fault, hahaha. I’m just giving you some insights on how these things are considered in Holland. I too am not a big fan of Dumfries as he is limited in his skills. But he’s a starter at inter. He did very well for them versus the Milan attackers. He usually delivers in Oranje. A player like him will not be axed until he screws up. Consider this: Koeman drops Dumfries. The other players will see this as a sign and not a good one. Then Frimpong comes in and he breaks his leg. Do you think Koeman will get a motivated Dumfries back? You know what Dumfries can give you and I underatand Koeman’s consideration to keep Denzel in the squad.

    But again, I too would select Frimpong but not at the expense of Dumfries.

    Wilson’s criticism on Geertruida does my head in. I wonder if he watches Feyenoord play.

    Orangutan, how can I know that you came up with a new term “outsider” and what it means. I think it’s ridiculous :-). Ajax has been the Dutch top team/club for decades. Obviously, their coaches and players are considered for the top jobs.

    In the past 30 years, we had a mix of coaches:

    Ajax: Michels, Rijkaard, van Gaal, Van Basten, Blind, De Boer

    PSV: Hiddink, Advocaat, Koeman

    Feyenoord: Koeman, Advocaat, Van Marwijk

    AZ: Advocaat, Van Gaal, Van Basten

  2. Thanks Jan for the response.

    I am very impressed at what Weghorst did versus Argentina. And I was one of the loudest voices here to ask why he was not included during his peak time. At last Euro, I said we lost against Czech because we dropped him for Malen who was not ready at that time.

    But your answer is incorrect, sorry to say. His last goal is against Betis. He has gone 2 months without scoring. He played 16 EPL games this season and did not score a single goal in the league. And this is coming back to why we judged player not on the current form.

    You are right that I haven’t coached a team before. But I watched enough football to know what is a good decision. I don’t think it is fair to group Dutch coaches together and say that they are always slow to change a core group of players. Bad coaches does. Ten Hag took the 0-4 result to put RONALDO and Maguire to the bench. LVG does not give a second thought about who Wijnaldum is if he does not play at his club.

    You’re right that I haven’t coached. If I put there and see that I need to remove those players from the squad and added new ones, I would not be able to do that, the players will not listen to me. But this is not my job. The coach job is to replace out of form players with fresh blood. It is his job and he should be able to do that.

    1. I don’t judge Weghorst in the Man United jersey. He hasn’t scored enough. But he also isn’t playing as a real 9, but as a 10. He is a workhorse, needing to keep Rashford or Martial fresh. I don’t take these games as too serious.

      Weghorst doesn’t need to prove himself as a striker, look at his numbers:

      30 goals for AZ in 60 games.
      60 goals for Wolfsburg in 120 games.
      8 goals for Besiktas in 16 games.

      This is him as a striker: one goal per 2 matches.

      He is on a 1:1 ratio in the U21 Dutch team.

      I don’t have any issue with Koeman selecting him and I also wouldn’t judge him on his Man U stats. He is not good enough for Man U. We all know. Btw, he missed a couple of sitters for them which is probably result of “wanting it too much”. He played 16 games in the EPL for Man U and could have had at least 4 goals. But he failed.

      1. Weghorst was playing as a 9 at the beginning but he was not scoring. With the limited resource ETH was given, he has to find a creative solution and move him into a 10. As a striker, he was very good back then at Wolfsburg, sadly he was not used much by the NT. Now that he is not good anymore, he can stay and that is the issue.

        But this is not about Weghorst. The bigger problem here is that there are many other bad players in the squad. Koeman can find an excuse to call Weghorst and he can find another excuse for not selecting Frimpong. But when there are 10 players that he need to find excuses to explain those decisions then it is so wrong.

        When his choice is so weird then it means only two things. He knows more than a normal person so much and he is making choices that most people cannot see. Or he is bad. Unfortunately, his result call for the second case.

  3. @Jan

    Re: Kevin, the last time Weghorst scored in Oranje was a brace versus later champs Argentina. 2 goals in 12 minutes or something. You weren’t impressed ?

    No we are not impressed. Not if Koeman wants to make him one of the defaults strikers on the back of that kitchen-sink performance. Not if his drought in club football seem to be never-ending.

    Re: You haven’t coached a team before I guess. A NT coach will not use his squad as a pigeonhome (dutch expression). Agree with it or not, but it takes time to get in and then you get quite some loyalty. I’m not saying I agree with it, but this is how most coaches work in Holland. Bert van Marwijk’s success at Oranje in 2010 was partly due to this core team. And his downfall too in 2012.

    Here we go again with the loyalty fallacy. There is nothing in record to have suggested that
    Dumfries or any other player would down tools for been dropped or not selected. It happens all the time in other national teams and even Oranje. We did not see de roon pouting during the WC. Nor did Eredivisie Pele, berghuis. These are excuses just so things remain dormant. And we all know that pigeonhome expression does not apply to Ajax players.

    Re: Orangutan, how can I know that you came up with a new term “outsider” and what it means. I think it’s ridiculous :-). Ajax has been the Dutch top team/club for decades. Obviously, their coaches and players are considered for the top jobs.

    It’s hard for me to believe that you do not the meaning of an outsider, especially in the context that the word was used.
    And nobody is against Oranje using Dutch players and coaches if they are deserving. No ex-Feyenoord coach would be appointed NT after been sacked three times on the spin. Nor any player from any other team than Ajax, like Taylor, would be afforded the privilege to start on the biggest game of the year.

    This is all 1+1 stuff. We can try to be wilfully obtuse but the struggle speaks for itself.

  4. @ Jan

    “Wilson’s criticism on Geertruida does my head in. I wonder if he watches Feyenoord play”.

    The EL final last season and the two legs vs Roma was enough to gauage him, his strengths and weakness. he cant over lap for shit. I’m not saying this just from any Eredivisie game where they are sitting in the comfort zone (winning steak) but whenever Feyenoord has played a better team than them. This is where Frimpong comes in proven and I have watched plenty levekusen games and dont need to be coach either to tell that koeman is wrong. I have said this plenty times when it comes to investments the dutch coaches simply cant get it right or want to to defy odds. again this comes proven. Rensch and Timber selection at RB, Talyor in the MF,

    Frimpong aside, even Milan Van Ewijk is better than Geertruida but its the same old story, where you play merits the selection which is a shame tbh coz van ewijk without a doubt has a better ceiling than geertruida but he will only get the recognition unless he moves to a bigger club and the sad part then will the excuses that geertruida is more familiar to NT Settings as he has already been capped.

    this was the same story when Veerman was at heerenveen and the critics were quick to underrate him saying he wont make in a big club. Talyor also broke on to the scene around the same time and has already got the nod, what did it yield? look at them now.

    1. Wilson, you are right, Geertruida is not the rampaging right back, like Pedersen or Frimpong or Dumfries. That is the point. He is more a inverted full back.

      There are different ways to deal with the role. Dumfries can not play the inverted role. I assure you. This gives Koeman options.

  5. back up

    https://www.feanonline.nl/milan-van-ewijk-bewierookt-dan-kan-hij-echt-een-stap-maken/

    “Milan van Ewijk praised: “Then he can really take a step”

    SC Heerenveen seemed to provide a resounding surprise, but still surrendered the 1-3 lead in the final phase. The game against PSV ended in a 3-3 draw and Milan van Ewijk in particular made an impression. That is also the opinion of rapporteur and former football player Martijn Meerdink.

    “Milan van Ewijk of SC Heerenveen showed against PSV that he is really taking steps,” Meerdink writes in De Telegraaf. “He had a hard time against Ajax earlier this season and he was slaughtered with the spaces behind him, but he now seems to be better defensively. Then he can really take a step, because he can certainly attack, you saw with his goal and assist.”

    Opponent Xavi Simons, who deserved a penalty after a foul by Jeffrey Bruma, is also lined up. “He is actually always decisive, because now he saved another point against SC Heerenveen, because he continued and received a penalty kick. Which he also used very coolly. He brings a lot of energy and that is very important for a team He knows how to make good use of the spaces around Luuk de Jong. At Orange he must always be there, of course, I think,” said Meerdink.”

    https://nos.nl/video/2475996-topclubs-hebben-zitten-slapen-van-ewijk-gaat-voor-veel-geld-verkocht-worden

    1. Re: Van Ewijk, PSV doesn’t have the money and Ajax and Feyenoord don’t need him, I suppose. It happens. Van Dijk had the same circumstances…

      1. I never said any thing on whether who should buy who. I was just comparing both their style of play..

        The question that I asked whether having Geertruida has dumfries back up makes sense a player who can make an impact?

        What you explained about being “ inverted” I touched on it in the previous post. Tete being the same and how in the past with him playing affects the teams performance. Fluidity on the flank

        I will also point out here this was often same story with Blind on the left flank and when he would go in protection mode.

  6. We can always have better team with out Dumfries.. as we have quality options there…When koeman wants ultra defense he has Tete and timber for Rb…when koeman wants ultra attack he has rensch and frimpong…so start with Frimpong or rensch then defend it with timber or Tete…or vice versa…Case closed…however i do agree dumfries is not a bad choice ATM..he is not Blind to leave molina for free ,he is athletic guys who can cover every grass of the feild and he is fighter…..
    Our problem are strikers weghorst who scores once in a blue moon,Brobbey he hardly scores,De roon he cannot pass or dribble in midfeild,wijnaldum is becoming grand pa…Blind who is competing with snail..and lost wingerBerjwin ,who has not had an impact since he left spurs…
    Dalinga,Piore are in incredible form…Malen and Lang delivers at their club…Matusiwa and Reinders are incredible at thier club..hartman and Malacia are vital players for their club..they all getting mercilessly dropped for bias /cowardice….thats the scary part..

      1. i prefer frimpong and rensch over dumfries,when i want more resolute RB..i will use Timber as Rb as he is in squad…i like work rate of dumfries.and he is 3rd RB/RWB in my choice…but i am not the coach…but i am okay with dumfries selection unlike cillessen,De ronn etc he doesnt detoriate the team performance…

  7. Sam Lammers returning to eredivisie. Heerenveen. I followed him and his biggest downfall was unable to thrive outside of the traditional Dutch system of 4-3-3.

  8. Dutch coaches i mean national team coaches should learn one or 2 lessons from sceloni…saudi arabia as@@ whooped them at Wc….he immediately brought Enzo,Mac alister and Julian alverez for senior players in next game and eventually they won the ultimate price..i know Van gaal can do it…But rest of the duth NT coaches are so coward..they too stubborn and afraid to change…koeman needs to look in mirror..players like De roon,Cillessen detoriates the teams level..players like Berjwin,wijnaldum are not performing in NT for an year…klassen,berghuis has had enough in NT..they are not effeicient enough…Taylor has to go long way to get in NT…Dumfries is not Cafu or roberto carlos..he is a limited player with fighting spirit and lungs..Weghorst scored some goals long time ago…

  9. Let’s me rephrase what you have said. Scoloni came with plan A, Plan B and Plan C. This was primarily because of continuous rotation from as way back as copa America. He rotated the team and built all the possible combo and if any moment he had to change, it was pre planned like they did vs Blind. This is the lesson that koeman should learn.

    What the dutches coaches want do is to go in the history books building reputations as tatical geniuses. They think every time they can pull it out of the bag when in fact it’s just a gamble which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

    Final selection to be announced on Monday. I’m praying 🙏 for injuries.

    1. Waiting to see final 26…lets see how many blunders??blind,Cillessen and De roon might get final cahnce to win a cup with NT i feel…these are most 3 dangerous players to us than the opponent if they get the nod….

  10. Yeah, I don’t know about you but for me, I am ready for some bs that Van den Boomen made a step up in his career, he is “now suddenly good enough” for NT.

  11. Nathan ake,Virgil van dijk,De ligt,Timber,botman ,Frnkie,Frimpong are no1 on their teams sheet and i wwant to know how many will start for NT…Even Malacia plays excellent for Manu whenever he was called..he had some exllect performance vs top players at top league…if Koeman use Ake as LB then deligt virgil as Cb pairs,then Frimpong is the ideal RB he should be starting….
    ———-Gakpo————Malen———–
    —————–simons———————-
    —–Gravenberch———-Frenkie————
    —————-Weiffer———————–
    Ake———virgil——–Deligt——Frimpong
    ——————Bijlow—————————–
    on bench
    ———-Depay———-Lang—————
    —————-Berghuis————————–
    —-koopmeiners————Reinders————–
    ——————-Timber——————-
    Malacia——-Botman—-De vrij——Rensch
    —————Verbruggen————————
    22 nos spot for spot
    Rest for 4 nos
    Flekken
    Dalinga
    Wijnaldum
    joel piroe..
    No blind ,no cillesen,no de roon, they the game killers…then not in form players like klassen,Weghorst,Berjwin

  12. Two very good individual goals by Simons. Joint top scores for the season with Douvikas of Utrecht. Not sure if assists would be accounted for.

    What a debut season for Simons.he will be a gem for NT in the years to come. Debate still going on whether he shud start on the wings or as AM.

    The one thing I would say here and I have said this before. Eredivisie has been a level step down for him given his development at PSG atmost. He makes it look easy in other words and that is also due to the competitiveness of both the eredivisie teams and players. I’m not saying it’s useless but in the sense that how he has been able to dominate just in one season and at that age. Now if you picture him or if he would have in a more competitive league it’s obvious things would have been different ( free flow aspect/ quality defenders) and atmost more clear where he thrives the best on the flanks or inside.

    I can see him feeling sneijder’s shoes but then with lang and Danjuma around who are both crafty wingers as well it would in the best intrest to groom Simon at 10.

    Its would be shame having either of the three not in the team on day when all are in form.

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