Ajax Mid Season 2018/19

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Apologies for the delay in producing any content whatsoever but with the football season upon us again my writing commitments have become more varied.

We are now at the half way point of the 2018/19 season with Ajax and my overall vision for the team and the club as a whole is starting to take shape. The campaign so far though has been a mixed one as we’ve had to adjust to playing without our Portuguese talisman Goncalo Guedes who moved of course to Schalke. Continue reading “Ajax Mid Season 2018/19”

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Ajax Pre Season 2018/19

exodus

I don’t think that I have ever experienced a save on Football Manager where I fear transfer windows quite as much as this one. We have been raided consistently and without mercy by the AI and after reaching the Champions League final in our last season I feared a repeat scenario.

I also have a series of plans and development pathways that I am looking to build upon so our recruitment in to the club would have to be handled sensitively. The last thing that I want to do going in to our fourth season is bring in a player without thinking it through fully simply because I think it is a good deal.

Transfers out

So, here we go again. Last years player of the season and top scorer Goncalo Guedes is off to Gelsenkirchen for a not unreasonable £40M. Considering he was signed for a relatively low £10.75M and he performed admirably in his one season with us I consider this deal a success.

Finding a comparable replacement for Guedes however proved quite difficult. I originally turned to the club that I signed Guedes from in the first place, Benfica. In a long running save that I had with Rayo Vallecano a little while back I had seen the Portuguese winger Joao Felipe from Benfica B turn in to a world beater. We had a £10M deal agreed and I had offered generous personal terms only for the dafty to turn me down in order to sign a new contract.

Benfica were still willing to negotiate but the price had shot up and I wasn’t willing to match it. Instead I decided to turn to our own club for a replacement player. A few options were considered and experimented with before I settled on promoting the Ivorian winger Ahmed Soro and converting him to a left midfielder.

Andres Cubas was our other big signing from the season before. He was signed for £6.5M so when Milan came in for him and he started to agitate for a move I negotiated a £21.5M deal with generous clauses. His immediate replacement is more straightforward since he rotated with Ayoub last season anyway. Ayoub will get more playing time with one of our plethora of young talents in the DM position filling in as needed.

Hidde Ter Avest also left us for Spurs. In truth he hadn’t quite developed as I had expected and the bid came at a time when I was looking to free up some space in our defensive unit for a potential new signing.

All of the other outgoing transfers went through with 50% of next transfer and buy back clauses inserted in them just to safeguard us from a Man Utd/Paul Pogba situation.

Transfers In

Two deals from that list really stand out. I was delighted to be able to sign Mateo Kovacic for under £10M. Unfortunately I fully expect this to be another Guedes scenario when I am selling him for a considerable profit shortly. The signing of Anthonio Rudiger is also a considerable upgrade on Ter Avest at a great price.

Mateo Kovacic

(Screenshots have been captured at an advanced point of the game and may give an idea of performance and development)

Kovacic is one of my favourite players and comes in with the attributes to fill any one of a number of advanced roles in the midfield. Normally I would designate him as an advanced playmaker but we already have Abdelhak Nouri in that role. Instead Kovacic will play as a CM-a with the hope that he will move in to advanced positions and break the oppositions defensive lines either with his passing or dribbling.

Antonio Rudiger

The German international is a physically prodigious defensive player who should be perfect for me on the right side of my back three.

17 pace and 18 strength should allow him to defend from the central areas or from the touchline on the right as needed and he will rarely get caught out of position. For £5.5M from Dortmund I couldn’t turn him down.

How long can we keep him at the club though?

Masahiro Miyakawa

The Japanese midfielder arrived at the club along with a message from our commercial director stating that his signing would greatly improve our stature on the Far East. Whether this would lead to any commercial based tours in the upcoming seasons remains to be seen.

His base attributes and personality are promising and in the next twelve months I hope to have taught him the PPM’s ‘dictates tempo’ and ‘tries killer balls often’ to add to his profile as a progressive midfielder from the deep areas.

Bartlomiej Dymek

The £3M fee that I ended up paying for Dymek is certainly at the high end of what I am comfortable paying for a newgen from another club.

His technical and mental attributes need work but like Rudiger he is a superb physical talent. 14 agility, 15 pace and 17 strength should make him a force to be reckoned with should he develop the other core aspects of his game. He is also already a Polish international.

Fabian Cabezas

The Colombian striker first came to my notice when I was monitoring the South American U-20 Championship. He shone at the tournament with seven goals in eight games and despite my scouts not being overly enamoured and the old Moneyball stipulation of not buying players on the basis of tournament performance I still decided that there is something there.

He will start off in the second division with my B side (Jong Ajax) to see how he adapts to Dutch football. He has also already started learning the PPM ‘Places shots’ which is my preference for all of my strikers.

Oh, and for those of you that may have been wondering;

Toulon

Holland managed to win the now infamous Toulon tournament with our players shining. I best they would still have preferred a Champions League winners medal though.

Just saying.

Thanks for reading.

Ajax 2017/18 Review

aj

I am on a bit of a roll at the moment and my third season with Ajax has now come to an end. I’ve found that my own personal expectations of the save have shifted since the beginning as I’ve adapted to the route that the save it taking me. It would have been easy to just quit when my best players were constantly getting picked off by the AI clubs – and in all honesty I nearly did – but sticking with the save and looking inwards for replacements has given this save a real longevity.

As a reminder I started out with a series of short, medium and long term goals for the save. These are;

Three Years

  • Win consecutive league titles
  • Reach the semi final of the Champions League
  • Maintain a core of Ajax graduates coming through to replace any players that are sold

Five Years

  • Consecutive League and Cup wins
  • Reach the final of the Champions League
  • Have at least 10 of the 22 man first team squad come through from the Ajax academy

Ten Years

  • Minimum of 8 league titles and 8 cup wins
  • Win the Champions League at least twice
  • Have at least 16 of the 22 man first team squad come through the Ajax academy

These goals have changes slightly since I first set them, or at least those for five and ten years have. I’ll expand on that in a full structure of the club piece in the near future. Now that we have come to the end of the first three seasons though we can reflect on our progress using these goals.

Win consecutive league titles

Those of you that have read all of the posts up to this point will know that we have been relatively dominant domestically. We won the first two Eredivisie titles fairly comfortably and the third season wasn’t all that different.

double

I actually forgot to capture the image of the final league table this time but you get the message from the above graphic.

We actually made things more difficult than they really needed to be as we dropped quite a few points towards the end of the season before edging over the line just ahead of a resurgent PSV side. I’m still struggling to find an effective balance between promoting young players and keeping an experienced core of the side to see out tight games.

As our young team gains more experience though I am fully expecting them to become consistent.

Reach the Semi Final of the Champions League

We have been close to reaching this goal already during this save having got through to the quarter final stage in our first season before succumbing to Barcelona. Last season we had only reached the first knockout round before again coming undone against Barcelona.

This time around however the narrative was slightly different.

Final

As my esteemed co blogger Shrewnaldo said this was possible the worst Champions League final since 2004 when Porto beat Monaco 3-0. I doubt that anybody would have predicted this final at the start of the season.

In all honesty we scraped through to this stage having won on away goals in the quarter finals and via a penalty shoot out. On the other hand Leverkusen demolished Bayern in the semi finals 6-0. Not exactly making me feel confident.

That said the final is a one off match and I believed that if the likes of Guedes and Nunnely were on form then we would have a chance at the trophy. That was until the day of the match….

I discovered that the Dutch squad for the Toulon tournament had been announced and from my first team squad, Konings, Schilder, Nunnely, Anderson Lopez and Kluivert had all been called up. Unfortunately what I did not realise that this rendered them unavailable for the Champions League final as they were travelling to the tournament. Four of the five players would have definitely started including Konings – my first choice goalkeeper. Thanks SI, thanks a lot.

match

Well, that went well. We were three down by the 43rd minute before we threatened to mount an improbable comeback with goals from Klaassen and Guedes. Unfortunately we weren’t able to sustain this and with no real quality on the bench Leverkusen scored another two goals in the second half to secure their first Champions League trophy. Neverkusen no more.

Stupid Toulon Tournament!!!

Maintain a core of Ajax youth graduates coming through to replace any players that are sold.

Look a few paragraphs up. Konings, Schilder, Nunnely, Anderson Lopez and Kluivert are all graduates of the De Toekomst academy and they are regular members of our first team squad now. There is also plenty of talent still in the pipeline too.

One of the biggest things that I have learnt from this save is that it is incredibly important to maintain pathways for players to move from the youth team or the B team through to the first team squad. It’s easy to buy players from outwith the club but every time you do so you are blocking the path for a youth player to progress and develop.

I keep a plan in my head of the positions that I am short in throughout the youth and B team and I will tend to recruit to fill those roles, either in the first team squad or with players that can slot in to the youth sides.

So far though our player development is going extremely well.

Talent of the year

This is the award for talent of the year and as you can see we have swept the boards with Guedes, Nunnely and Antonucci giving us all three spots in the voting. As I said we have a lot of talent going forwards.

Soro award

It didn’t stop there though and our young Ivorian winger Ahmed Soro winning the player of the year awards for the second division thanks to his performances for Jong Ajax. Soro is quite frankly trying to kick the door to the first team squad off of its hinges.

keeper

Another award. This time for our newgen goalkeeper Marciano Konings. He was voted the goalkeeper of the year having replaced Cillessen who had transferred before the season started to Benfica in Portugal. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened in the Champions League final had Konings been in the side.

youth

To top it all off our youth team were victorious in the Uefa Youth League defeating Porto in the final. They reached the semi finals of the tournament last season before going out to Wolfsburg and were extremely impressive throughout the tournament this time. We have a lot of talent at youth level.

I think that when I consider all of the above then our three year goals are complete. We’ve done all that we have set out to do and perhaps a little more in some aspects. For clarity I plan to complete ten seasons and then step away from the save to reflect. Will we manage to hit all of our targets over the next seven seasons?

Who knows.

Ajax Prospects Report III

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This is the third instalment in out ‘meet the prospects’ series and it is proving to very much be a fluid process with some of our original prospects (Van De Beek and Cerny) have already moved on for a significant profit.

From our original list of five players I will now be running through some of our better prospects with a brief outline on my plan to develop them further. Once you’ve finished reading these posts please drop me a tweet or a comment below and let me know whether you’re enjoying these prospect reports and whether you would like to see them continue.

Abdelhak Nouri

This will be the last time that Nouri appears on one of these lists. Not because I am planning to sell him or because he isn’t developing but purely because he has now established himself as a key component of our first team.

Since first appearing on the prospects list Nouri has improved on nearly every attribute and certainly every attribute that is necessary for his role. He has become a full Dutch international and he has attracted interest from some of Europe’s top sides. My hope is that I can actually keep hold of Nouri and make him the club captain at some point.

Che Nunnely

Che has been something of an enigma up until the start of this season. He has all the potential in the world and a physical profile (18 acc, 16 agi and 16 pace) that makes it very difficult for the opposition to stop him when he’s running in space.

The rest of his attributes however have not been developing along the same lines. The core attributes for his position are there but these make him very one dimensional.

It’s this season however that has seen his performances start to match his potential and he has been a match winner on several occasions. I have started PPM training now including ‘knocks ball past opponents’ and hopefully this will add to his profile as a winger.

The next step is to see his technical profile start to improve although he is under real pressure from the Ivorian winger Ahmed Soro.

Francesco Antonucci

The Italian midfielder is one of our greatest success stories to this point. He has now gained a fairly determined personality after starting out as balanced and his attributes are rising across the board. Since the sale of Donny Van De Beek he has become an integral part of the first team squad.

He’s still only 18 and has at least another three key development years left. Ideally I would see him becoming the replacement for Nouri when I inevitably have to sell him. Unfortunately at the time of writing there are eight sides interested in Antonucci all of whom are considerably bigger in stature than we are.

In terms of his development he will continue as he is at the moment given the favourable attribute changes.

Anderson Lopez

Lopez is a strange case study. He’s had significant exposure to first team football now and his performances have been encouraging. He’s just not developing at the rate that I would expect.

I’m also less than enamoured that he seems to be holding on to his ‘sporting’ personality. For those that don’t know a sporting personality for a non newgen player dictates that his determination will be between 1-9. At least Lopez is at 9 which is the top of the spectrum.

I need to see a significant increase in key attributes by the time he hits his 21st birthday for him to remain a part of my plans.

He also suffers from the fact that to this point I have had two strikers come through the youth intakes that have huge potential.

Marciano Konings

I generally have a complete blind spot when it comes to finding and developing newgen goalkeepers. Konings appears to be the exception. He was generated in the first youth intake of the save and immediately stood out.

I have a slight bias towards taller goalkeepers (even though I know that physical height has no bearing) but his performances and development have superseded that bias. For some reason he appears to be completely incapable of passing a ball (1!!) but everything else is going up nicely.

At the time of writing Konings has also been capped a couple of times at senior level. Unfortunately the likes of Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal are continually linked with him.

Ahmed Soro

The Ivorian winger is the jewel in my crown. His output with Jong Ajax (B team) and the U-19 side has been simply sensational as he fulfils the role of Che Nunnely in each side.

I can however foresee a time when there is an overlap between Nunnely and Soro needing gametime in the same position for the first team. My plan in the first instance is to start training Soro to be comfortable playing on the left side. I have an absence of real talent throughout the squad on the left of midfield and we could have Nunnely and Soro in the same team.

My plan is for Soro to be slowly introduced to the first team squad towards the end of this season before he becomes a regular first team player next season.

Robbert Schilder

Schilder is the best defensive newgen at the club. He’s still only eighteen so there is room to develop further. He already has a template of defensive attributes that suggest he may become a world class defender when he is fully developed.

Schilder has become a member of the first team squad already having come through the same youth intake as Konings. He’s generally played as the left sided defender in my back three and this role does require him to use the ball intelligently when we recycle the ball.

He’ll shortly move on to a training schedule as a ball playing defender to get his more technical skill up to a level where I am comfortable. I’m also considering tweaking his PPM’s to get forward if his passing becomes acceptable.

Matthijs De Ligt

De LIgt actually starts at the club and has been slowly developing in the background. His performances in real life this pre season actually prompted me to take a longer look at him. De Ligt actually has an interesting template given his mental attributes and the fact that his passing is already set at 15.

He is currently learning how to ‘get forward whenever possible’ as I look to tweak my tactical system. He is also next in line on my mental depth chart to slot in to the first team should I lose another defensive player.

John Wijnhoven

Wijnhoven is the first of the two strikers that I consider to have serious potential that I’m including in these lists. His talent is there for all to see and I am currently implementing training to teach him a series of PPM’s that I think will compliment the advanced forward role. The first of these will be places shots simply because it’s my favourite PPM for striker.

As with Ahmed Soro he will be slowly introduced in to the first team towards the end of the season before getting more exposure next year.

I am hopeful that he develops in to at least an international class striker.

I’ll update on the progress of these players again shortly but for now the next update will be the 2016/17 end of season review

Ajax 2017/18 Half Season Report

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I seem to be going through phases of being able to produce posts for a few days at a time and then nothing for a week or so. That’s partly because I am still effectively playing ahead of myself so I have all the information that I need to write these posts. In ‘real time’ I am two one game away from the end of Season 3.

So you find me here at the half way point of the third season facing another dreaded transfer window. Surely though my squad wouldn’t be picked apart this time. Would it?

First of all let’s get the boring competition bit out of the way.

League

Right, so I’m top of the league at this point. Why then am I so unhappy with the overall level of performance from my team this season? Well for a start we have managed to lose three games already at this point of the season. That’s not to say that we aren’t dominating the vast majority of games because we are but the AI is still finding ways to shut us down too easily.

This realisation actually led to some tactical tweaking that I will expand on in a later series of blog posts.

We’ve also managed to concede 18 goals over the course of 19 games. Not happy at all.

That said we are still four points clear of PSV Eindhoven in second place. Having already won the first two titles in this save I have to be favourites to go on and make it three in a row. I also have to take in to account the level of squad turnover that we’ve seen over the course of two seasons. Our first team now has an extremely low average age and they should mature nicely as a unit.

Cup

We’re actually still in the domestic cup post Christmas for the first time this save. This is despite the fact that I’m still pursuing the policy of playing a team of youth products in cup matches.

Cup Team

As you can see the cup side mirrors the tactical setup that we are using with the first team. A total of six of the players are from the clubs youth academy with another five having been picked up from other academies cheaply. Only Erkan Kaya represents any significant outlay costing £2M.

These outings with genuine first team football seem to be having a genuine effect on their developments.

Champions League

Having managed to qualify from a difficult group with a second place finish we have been ‘rewarded’ with a tie with Italian champions Juventus. Unfortunately for me Juventus tend to be my nemesis on this game and it’s not a tie that I’m looking forward to.

new

A trio of new signings have joined the club with the only significant outlay coming on Benoit Lemmens who arrived from Anderlecht. As you can see all three are highly rated and two of them will go straight in to the youth team.

Benoit Lemmens

The Belgian midfielder cost me far more than I was originally willing to pay but given his potential and attributes I judged that it would be worth the significant outlay.

For an eighteen year old his attributes are already well developed and he will get game time immediately in the first team as a rotation option for either of the three central midfielders (DM, MCL, MCR) with the hope that these competitive minutes will aid his development.

In the long term I can see me looking to implement a Regista in the DM slot and Lemmens could go on to fit that role perfectly.

Motoo Mihara

The Japanese youth product was more expensive that I would have liked and he is definitely a development project rather than someone that can slot in to the first team.

Mihara will eventually play either as the MCL (advanced playmaker) or the AMC (shadow striker/attacking midfielder) and his training regime will be tailored appropriately.

His mental and physical attributes are already really good for a player of his age.

Ayanda Tshangbangu

Part of me almost hopes that Tshangbangu doesn’t make it. Purely because I can’t face spelling out his name over and over.

Again physical and mental attributes are excellent but his technical attributes need improvement. Tshangbangu is natural suited to playing on the right but I plan on having him more often on the left. Our overall squad depth is actually really poor in that area with only Guedes and Gino Dekker really suitable.

Another short, sharp update for you. I’ll be back shortly with a new prospects update – with the list growing to ten players – and then the end of season review.

Thanks for reading

Ajax 2017/18 Pre Season

exodus

We have reached beginning of my third season with Ajax (in truth I’m actually far beyond that point but I’m a little slow in updating the blog) and I wanted to update you all on the transfer business that has seen my reshape the club yet again, for good and for bad.

When I started this save my intention was to use a very specific transfer policy. I was told once whilst at university to never quote myself in this case however I will quote myself “This time though things are going to be slightly different, I am only going to recruit from within Holland, madness!”

Well as it turns out it was madness. Maybe not quite madness actually because you could certainly have a save where you only recruited from the domestic market and you could even enjoy it. I wasn’t enjoying it though and as much as I am sharing this save will all of you it is still my save and I’m the one that has to want to play it. I’ve relaxed the restrictions although this doesn’t mean that I will be extravagantly spending. I’ll still be handling my finances and transfers responsibly.

First though let’s look at those that have left the club this offseason and at one who left last season with my forgetting to actually tell you.

Bazoer

So, yeah. My star player and one of the main reasons for me wanting to start this save is gone. Bazoer was the driving force for us in midfield and was on his way to becoming the best young player in the World. Now though he is off to become just another cog in the Juventus machine. At least though it will allow more game time for Donny Van De Beek, right?

Transfers Out

Bastards. Well now I’ve lost Van De Beek as well although for £22M I would have driven him to Merseyside myself. It’s difficult to continually lose promising young players as they are still developing but I guess this is what it means to manage a team like Ajax. This sale means that Francesco Antenucci who has accepted an invitation to represent Italy at international level will now get an opportunity to play more first team minutes. He isn’t ideally suited to the box to box midfielder role but he should still receive a bump in his development.

My first choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen has also left the club. Benfica had made a few enquiries and each time I rebuffed their interest although it did turn Cillessen’s head. When the Portuguese side came back in though with a firm offer I let him leave via the back door. Thankfully we already have a ready made replacement that I think is going to go on to become World Class. Our homegrown newgen Marciano Konings will become first choice at just 17 years old. I freely admit that this is taking a risk.

The last significant outgoing in this window is the Czech winger and erstwhile member of my ‘prospects list’ Vaclav Cerny. He was one of the real successes of my development focus and had just been labelled a wonderkid when those shady Neopolitans came waving their ill gotten cash in his direction. He agitated for a move and therefore was allowed to leave. His direct replacement though would be one of our key pre season signings.

Transfers in

Goncalo Guedes

As an aside I am at an advanced point in the save and the screenshots give a sense of development and performance.

The Portuguese winger was the catalyst behind my decision to change the recruitment strategy for the club when I was alerted to his availability at a very reasonable price. I hadn’t managed Guedes on this version so far but I have seen his development on other saves and other blogs and he will be a great replacement for Cerny on the left.

I fully expect to be selling him for a profit a couple of seasons down the line.

Andres Cubas

Another player that I have admired from a far but not managed on this version of the game. The Argentinian midfielder has a great personality and the scope to develop further from his current level. His signing gives me flexibility in terms of role and position with Ayoub and Cambiasso also able to play in the DM slot one can step forward In to the MC positions where needed.

I’m hoping to be able to keep Cubas at the club long term as he should become a fantastic tutor for my younger players.

Alexis Messidoro

Alexis was signed after he lit up a couple of International youth tournaments and he became available at a bargain £950K.

He was very much an impulse signing although he has the skillset to fill in either the playmaker role in midfield or the advanced attacking midfielder role. I’ve been using him sparingly so far but he has been excellent.

The rest of the signings are all newgens that have been signed with one eye on the future or even to develop and sell on but I’ve picked out a couple to expand upon further.

Ahmed Soro

The Ivorian winger was a cheap signing from ASEC and he is already banging on the door of the first team. He has to this point in the season played an astonishing 45 games this season with 13 goals and 17 assists from the right of midfield. It’s the four first team games that have most caught the eye though. He has played twice in the Eredivisie and twice in the cup scoring four goals and two assists. An outrageous return.

I plan on giving him more first team action towards the end of the season before introducing him full time in to the first team next season.

Nicholas Motaung

The South African midfielder is already part of our first team rotation having joined for £575K from Kaiser Chiefs. He’s only 18 but performances to this point have been excellent and he has already generated interest from Italy and Germany.

I’m not sure if I see Motaung becoming a first choice midfield player but he definitely deserves a slot in the midfield rotation.

That’s it for this update. The squad has been pillaged again bit not quite as savagely as in our last pre season. I’ll be back shortly with a mid season update to give you an insight in to our progress.

Thanks for reading.

Ajax Season Review 2016/17

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I have now reached the end of my second season with Ajax and everything appears to be going as expected. We are still in the first phase of our ten year plan. It’s probably best to revisit the aims that I had set out for my first three years in charge.

  • Win consecutive league titles
  • Reach the semi final of the champions league
  • Maintain a core of Ajax graduates coming through to replace any that are sold on.

I have decided to alter the format of this update slightly and we will look at each of these three aims in turn.

Win consecutive League Titles

The first and perhaps most straightforward of our aims. In all honesty domestic dominance with Ajax in the Eredivisie is never all that difficult. The AI tends to mismanage the likes of PSV and Feyenoord and the others never quite have the quality or the squad depth to mount any significant challenge. There should never really be any doubt that we will be there or thereabouts at the end of each season.

League

So, this time the AI did actually manage to come somewhere close. We left it late to finally tie up the league title and PSV only finished four points behind us. More surprising perhaps is the fact that we finished on an identical goal difference with us scoring two more than they did and PSV conceding two less than we did.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I was concerned at any point during the run in as we were in front for a long period. I would however say that I definitely wasn’t happy with our attacking output as the season progressed. We need to find a way to stretch our leads in games with too many matches being settled by the odd goal.

Part of this lack of attacking efficiency is a result of our squad turnover with experienced players leaving and young players coming in to the first team picture. This is part of the reason that I have decided to relax my recruitment policy to allow for the signing of players from outside of Holland. To clarify this I will still have some restrictions in place and I will exercise self control where needed.

Feyenoord somehow managed to miss our on European football completely and despite winning the Dutch Cup and therefore qualifying for the Europa League Twente parted company with Jaap Stam after finishing in 14th place.

Reach the semi final of the Champions League

Image Two

Just a quick reminder from the mid season update that we managed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League by squeezing in to second place in a tight group. Despite finishing with a negative goal difference after being hammered by Manchester City we still finished level with City on 10 points.

Unfortunately the draw for the next round was not kind and we would have to face Barcelona, our conquerors in the quarter final stage last season.

If we are being realistic we have no chance of standing up to Barcelona at this point in my tenure but at least it should aid the development of some of our younger players.

In the first leg at home we were at our best tactically with all of the players doing what I expected of them. French forward Sebastien Haller in particular terrorised the Barcelona defence in the advanced forward role and he scored both of our goals in a remarkable 2-0 win.

In the away leg however we were FM’d. We dominated large periods of possession in the Nou Camp but couldn’t find a way past their suddenly superhuman defence. Three goals for the home side – with the third coming in the 93rd minute – put an end to our European hopes for another season.

It’s a painful way to lose but if nothing else it reinforced in my mind that we had to find a way to improve the quality of our squad in two or three key positions before next season.

On the plus side our youth team made it all the way to the semi finals of their version of the competition before eventually succumbing to Wolfsburg. I can count that as a completed goal, right?

Maintain a core of Ajax graduates coming through to replace any that are sold on

As with the domestic campaign this is an aim that should prove relatively easy to fulfil. Our youth team are filling up nicely with two sets of youth products having been generated – the best of which will be included in the next prospect report – and the media are constantly praising me for ‘giving youth a chance’ little did they know that I really had no choice.

youth

This is one of my favourite images from the save so far. I don’t think I have ever had so many players called up to a single international squad.

Of the fourteen players that were called up for the Dutch U-19 squad we have six that have already been involved with the first team on more than one occasion (Anderson Lopez, Robbert Schilder, Zian Flemming, Justin Kluivert, Che Nunnely and Carel Eiting) and another two are on the verges of getting playing time at that level (Marciano Konings and John Wijnhoven).

For me this is a clear sign that we are moving in the right direction with the players that are coming through the youth academy.

Players of the Season

1.) Davy Klaassen43 games 15 goals 15 assists 7.63 

Mr versatile and Mr dependable all rolled in to one. Klaassen has the ability to play in a variety of roles from the centre of midfield to the lone striker position but I have been using him predominantly as a shadow striker in the AM strata. I have so far rejected at least three persistent bidders for his services and apart from wanting a new contract with a slight increase in wages he has yet to throw a tantrum. He is and will remain the club captain.

player stats

Player of the year

2.) Donny Van De Beek33 games 0 goals 3 assists 7.31 

His immediate stat line may not seem all that impressive but I love the role that Van De Beek plays for the team. He makes the runs in the opposition half that open space for his teammates and he is solid in the defensive phase. Van De Beek is one of the most quietly effective players that I have ever seen in the game. I have a feeling though that I may struggle to keep him at the club for much longer.

3.) Vaclav Cerny27 games 9 goals 3 assists 7.10 

Cerny is the first of my ‘prospects’ to make it on to this list and he is there in no small part due to his performances in the final stretch of the season. Seven goals in five games as we tied up the league title were a huge contribution and he finally seems to have developed to a point where he is able to make a significant contribution to the game.

Another league title coupled with failure in the cup and in Europe. It’s difficult to see that as a successful season but I guess that all depends on where my expectations were when I came in to the season. Barcelona will continue to be a huge test for me in Europe with our younger players really needing to step up quickly and my own rotation and selection policy will always make it hard for us to progress in the cup.

I’ll be back shortly with a pre season roundup to show all the comings and goings from the club.

Thanks for reading.