Alfred Schreuder impressed in his early coaching days, at FC Twente and PSV and made his way from assistant coach (Ten Hag, Nagelsmann, Koeman) to title winning head coach, at Club Brugge.
He was seen as instrumental in the 2019 success campaign with Ajax and is now back at the club, in the head coach role. His plans and ideas for the new season…
“I can see the team getting sharper and the chemistry is growing really well amongst the new lads. The mainstay players are back and hitting their usual levels and we have some new blood now as well. Last season, we had a couple of set backs to deal with her. The CL loss versus Benfica was a shock to the system, but so was Antony’s injury. Despite the weaker second half last season, I can see the patterns of the first season’s half emerging again. That is our platform.”
“We have some much attacking talent. Let me mention Kudus. He came as a midfielder, a number 8 or 10. We didn’t see much of him due to his injury woes, but I love playing him higher up the pitch. He is such an intuitive player, to play him in midfield means I have to restrict him. He needs to play more tactical. Not his strength. If I play him in a free flowing false 9 role, call it the Tadic role, he shows some real quality. He is unpredictable. I love that in a player. He’s strong, he’s quick and he doesn’t stick to one particular thing. He is one of the players that exceeded my expectations.”
“I love players like Kudus, who can play in different roles. I mean, Tadic…he can play in the 10 role, as a striker and as a left winger. Same with Steven Bergwijn. Berghuis can play the 10 or the right wing or even in a midfield role as an double pivot holding mid. Daley Blind can play in 3 roles, Timber can play in different spots, I can keep on going like this. This way, I don’t have to have a “core eleven”. I can switch it up anywhich way. Depending on the opponent, the form of the day, the specific circumstances of the day. It’s abundance for me as a coach, as if I have 44 first squad players. You don’t win trophies with eleven players…”
“Yes there is competition of course, but also collaboration. We are doing this as a team. We have several players for only a limited number of positions. I can only field 3 midfielders, but I have 6 top options. It’s not a problem for me. It’s just my job. If a player doesn’t play for 6 matches in a row, yes, he’ll get frustrated, I get that. But we will play a match every 4 days so rotation is the name of the game. My job is to make sure all players feel seen and are happy. Playing or not playing.”
“Some people say you can only get these automations and patterns when you play the same eleven. Not true of course. You can work on these with all players so it becomes even easier to rotate and use different players. There will be subtle changes, but the time that a player could only play with one particular team mate or something is over. We have 3 or 4 possible left backs, in Blind, Wijndal, Bassey and Rensch. Tadic will have to be able to play with all of them and knowing what the particular strengths are of the different players.”
“Remko Pasveer, Jurrien Timber and Antony are recovering really well. They’ll be making their first minutes soon. With Antony, we get more options as he is amazing on the wide side, but he can also play in the half spaces, close to Berghuis. We’ll experiment more with those options. Timber might not be ready for the Johan Cruyff Shield. We’ll be careful with him, we envision a long season.”
Level of play
“We are focusing on the way we played in the first half of last season. The level was really high and we know we can touch on that again, as our benchmark. We need to see the positive energy again, the joy of playing. If we can muster that in combination with the quality we have, we should be doing really well again. We will build on what Erik ten Hag did here. Our way of pressing will need to adapt a bit. We need to get more different options. Feyenoord also presses high but they do it differently to us. We used to use our wingers to put pressure on the half spaces and the centre back. Feyenoord uses their #10 to put pressure on the centre back. An interesting option for us to check as well. A lot is also depending on how much space the opponent has between their centre backs. If the space is too wide, our #10 pressing will mean our other midfielders are facing a man more. Which might not be ideal. And all these choices have flow on effects for the wingers and the other players. It’s like conducting a symphony, isn’t it?”
“I studied Bayern Munich’s pressing under Hansi Flick. They were able to press anywhere and in any combination. It looked like chaos but they all joined in and it was glorious to see how they all participated. It requires trust and team work because if one player doesn’t participate, you’re gone. I am working hard with the lads to make sure they can recognise the patterns. What to do when the opponent plays with the centre backs close together, or… when they are more wide. I need players to come up with solutions. I don’t want to pre-chew their food. Take the Red Bull Salzburg game, who started playing long balls. I am keen to see how our team deals with that, without me jumping up from the bench to yell instructions.”
The Key Players
“I spend a lot of time with the players whom I expect to be able to take charge on the pitch. Tadic, Blind, Klaassen, Timber and Berghuis are those guys. I need to them to recognise situations and patterns. These lads are all tactically astute and need to be more pro-active in their football thinking. Yes, it’s called football but it could have been named brainball…”
“I talk a lot with the players. I need to know how they feel about things, what their beliefs are and how they process certain things. I also need to get to know them personally. What motivates or triggers them. Take Mohammed Kudus, I spent time with him also to explain that my choices do not mean I don’t see him as a midfielder. I don’t want players to become anxious when I do something unpredictable. I need them to see my point, just like I want to see their points.”
“I like to build up with three players from the back. And I need them to be higher up, so we can create more effective triangles. When we play against a 5-4-1 it won’t really work, there will not be enough space, but I need to make sure we can use our players’ strengths. Antony is very good with his back to the touch line. But Tadic is better in the half spaces. Bergwijn can do both very well. Last week, I trained with three at the back: Blind, Rensch and Timber. And Rensch has got some development to make, to realise his positioning. When we’re in possession, it goes well. He really understands where to be, but when we lose possession, he’s drifting too much. A bit like Mazraoui in the beginning. He had that too. It takes time. We’re also working hard on different options in midfield. When Alvarez is marked, what does Berghuis do and vice versa. I now want to try out Ken Taylor in the Frenkie role. I think he can play that role but I need to work it still. That is for next week. We’re also trying to get some variance in the build up. At times, I want to pivot the full backs. Keeping the right back deep and move Timber into midfield. Or vice versa. Against Salzburg, we were faced with a diamond in midfield. Interesting. Rensch forgot to follow the left midfielder, who at times came into the left winger role. These are the details we are working on now.”
“We almost have a well-balanced squad but I miss a target man. We don’t have one of these and you can really use them in certain situations. Take Luuk de Jong at Barca. Haller can be dangerous from crosses from the wings and he’s not longer here. Brobbey is not that type and I think it will be hard to find a 25 year old to play that role. You’re more looking at a Luuk de Jong or a Klaas Jan Huntelaar in his last phase here at Ajax. We are still looking for a strong header to take that role.”
“I can be brief about this topic: as far as I am concerned, no one leaves now. Tagliafico is the last to go. Antony will stay at Ajax. Not for sale. Martinez went to Man United and we signed Calvin Bassey in his place. A strong player, who can also play left back. Giving us an extra option. Blind and Bassey can both play centrally too. I haven’t used Daley as midfielder yet, and I think I will. I know he’s capable in that role. He is so good tactically. He is one of those players who can easily slot into a new position.”
“What a player! He is young, he has a tremendous dribble one v one. He has a lot of potential. He is leaving Porto and his dad because he can see Ajax is the ideal next step for him. He has a great mentality. We had some good talks with his dad, who used to be a top top player too. He finds it hard that his son is leaving but he also knows Ajax is a great club for his development and next steps. He knows his son will be in good hands. We signed him as a stand in for Antony, and we’ll give him time to get used to the game and our squad.”
“The battle of the goalies is still open. Stekelenburg started so well too, but he got injured. I do think he’ll be back soon. But all three are top. Pasveer has that calm and cool, while Gorter is very lively, a mega talent. Gorter is ready to go but I think we will wait with our decision until all goalies are fit. I am also focusing on the partnership with the central defenders. I think they’re quite equal in their qualities, they all three are great with their feet too.”
“The club is in contact with him. That is all I can say. I focus on the players I have at my disposal and at this stage, Mo is not ready. He’s dealing with some nasty personal business. We have a trainings program for him and I hope we’ll see him soon again.”
The title battle
“I will be between the top 3 again. PSV has done amazing business, and they had to too, due to their CL ambitions. Feyenoord is a bit slow again but they did good business late in the window last season and Slot has demonstrated he doesn’t need a lot of time to gel a good team. But we’ll focus on ourselves. We have a top squad again and we will keep on building on our own strengths.”
Obviously Alfred Schreuder is positive of the team despite losing my key players. Looks like he already has players who will step up to replace those departed. Love the way he described his playing philosophy, intelligent football. Expecting Deyne Rensch, Kenneth Taylor to break-out. And Bergwijn and Berghuis to further improve under the Coach. All these can only mean well for the NT. 😊
Kenneth Taylor!!! Looks promising but what’s his ceiling? Looks like Ajax has been producing a lot of klassens and van de beeks in midfield (with all due respect for both players) but there is no more rijkaard, seedorf and Davids….
Will Kenneth Taylor break that klassen-van de beek ceiling and go higher or is he just the next klassen??? Time will tell….
Quintin Timber moves to Feyenoord. Exciting transfer.
The very little I have seen of him at Utrecht, he plays and looks good in Frenkie’s position. I mean on the left. Between that he is of Davids esque, fast and hasseler (break down). Though this is what NT needs it remains to be seen what is the scenario like with frenkie around. This has being discussed here many times and how well frenkie adpots when playing out of his favoured position which is the LCM. Also what the scenario will be like when he frenkie starts at 6/DM or on the right like at Barcelona. Again the challenge would to have a double pivot with frenkie on the left which is his stronghold and somebody on the right which again begs the question of having Gravenberch starting along side him and frenkie shifting to the right to cater for him or any another midfielder for that matter. This offcourse in point forward.
The only versatile midfielder right now that is out there and can play any position in the mid is Reis at hamburg but it will be a while before he gets a shot in NT and unless he starts playing in top tier league. If he can do this he could be a perfect partner for Frenkie.
Matusiwa is somebody else to look out for in future. He has already set his mark at Remis and his stats speak for itself and the challege for him would to attract bigger suitors and continue what he is doing. He can be the destroyer typo which again is missing in NT at the moment.