Frank de Boer has survived his baptism of fire as Ajax’ head coach. A weakened AC Milan (players like Ibrahimovic, Zambrotta and Nesta were rester alongside four other regular players) were beaten in San Siro: 0-2.

In his pre-match press conference, the former Ajax defender, spoke of bringing the joy back. He only needed 1,5 days to realise that. The way Ajax played was nothing like they have played in the past few weeks. The players had smiles on their faces and they played with joy. They played with flair, with a positive arrogance. De Boer’s an adept of the 4-3-3 system with outside wingers. He shares his vision with Johan Cruyff and his model is Louis van Gaal, who has the same ideas. It’s the Ajax philosophy. It’s the system that made the club famous and it’s the system in which the club has had their glory. It’s like the way Ajax played in the mid-ninties. Frank de Boer was part of that team, which had many success.

Ajax came out with a 4-3-3 like I said.

                                       Stekelenburg

Van der Wiel – Alderweireld – Vertonghen – Emanuelson

                                  De Zeeuw – Enoh

                                           Eriksen

                      Suarez – De Jong – Sulejmani

Remarkable was the fact that Ajax’ topscorer, Mounir El Hamdaoui was on the bench. De Boer preferred a player upfront that’s strong on the ball, someone who could play in the linking role. El Hamdaoui is more a striker that likes to play around someone else instead of being the target man. Siem de Jong, normally a midfielder, was drafted into the striker role. Often with his back to the goal, looking to lay off for his fellow forwards Suarez and Sulejmani or Christian Eriksen.

Ajax started quite aggressive (in a good way) with lots of pressure on AC Milan. Even though the Jol era was only two days behind them, they played totally different. Both wingers played wide. Suarez on the left (instead of the right wing where Jol usually played him) and Sulejmani on the left. Gregory van der Wiel made a lot of runs forward. He could easily do this with the left-footed Sulejmani going inside. About Van der Wiel, Frank de Boer said: ‘this is the Greg we want to see’.

The pressuring and ball possession resulted in a dominance. Chances followed, mainly from distance. Ajax always found the free man, in which the 18 year old Eriksen had a big part. Playing in the traditional no. 10 role, he succeeded in finding space between Milan’s lines. The Dane was strong on the ball, had good runs and you saw more than glimpses of his talent. For me, Eriksen had a key role in the dominance that Ajax had. Enoh and De Zeeuw had with Eriksen and Siem de Jong two target men to pass the ball to. Also with the fast Sulejmani and always dangerous Luis Suarez. It really looked like the way Ajax played in the mid-nineties, their most recent succesful era.

The chances Ajax had were converted in goals in the second half. A blocked shot of De Jong fell to De Zeeuw, who placed the ball in the corner of the goal. Ten minutes later, central defender Toby Alderweireld doubled the lead with a screamer in the left top corner.

Ibrahimovic entered the pitch and his presence created more danger which resulted in a few chances, but not enough to score. A clean sheet for Maarten Stekelenburg and a win for Ajax after 90 minutes.

Even though Milan were a weakened side, who never really tried and preferred to sit down, Ajax played with flair, they pushed forward, not given Milan time to build, had wingers who played out wide and stayed there instead of coming inside a lot, compact defending and sharpness. It was fresh, with joy and with passion. De Boer’s instruction was: ‘dare to play football’ and the players have fulfilled that, in a great way. Dare can be the key word in the upcoming weeks.

Frank de Boer’s debut has been a successful one. He remains unbeaten against AC Milan after winning three times in the 1994/1995 season including the Champions League final. All credits are for him. He changed the playing style and decided for a few positional changes like Christian Eriksen in the traditional no. 10 role, Luis Suarez on the left and Siem de Jong in the striker role. He brought back confidence for the players and he brought back hope in the heart of the Ajax fans. We saw glimpses of what this team is capable of. We saw a team playing in a system that’s the Ajax philosophy and it suits them very well. We all hope Frank de Boer can continue his job to make Ajax a successful team and an attractive team to watch. His start looks promising.

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