It’s winter break on the Dutch football pitches which means we can look back to the first half of the 2010/11 season. A first half that has everything in it.

After the second place last season, only one point behind FC Twente, the new season started for Ajax on July 27 against PAOK Saloniki. A match in the 3rd qualification round for the UEFA Champions League. The Dutchmen Maarten Stekelenburg, Demy de Zeeuw and Gregory van der Wiel and captain Luis Suarez only have had 7 days off after the World Cup before they had to join the squad. A 1-1 draw in the Amsterdam ArenA was a disappointed result for the ‘Amsterdammers’. When they lost against FC Twente 4 days later for the Johan Cruyff shield, the season hasn’t started really well for Ajax.  The return match against PAOK ended in a 3-3 draw, Ajax went through the 4th qualification round on away goals. The draw linked the red and whites to Dynamo Kiev. A tough opponent.

The first game in the Eredivisie didn’t start much better, a 2-2 against FC Groningen in the Oosterpark stadium, giving away a 0-2 lead.  Both goals came from the new buy Mounir El Hamdaoui, who had to replace Marko Pantelic in the striker role. On August 17, Ajax drew 1-1 against Dynamo Kiev in Kiev. In theory a good result, but Ajax had the chances to win it. The return a week later in Amsterdam led Ajax to the Champions League after 4 years not being there. A 2-1 win over Kiev, goals from Suarez and El Hamdaoui and superb saves from Stekelenburg did the job. The players celebrated it like they won the league. It was for most players better than winning the Cup last May. Ajax weren’t very lucky in the draw and the fate linked them with Real Madrid, AC Milan and AJ Auxerre. The first  game in the Bernabeu was a humiliation. Ajax were totally outclassed and were lucky Real Madrid only scored twice by sloppiness and again, a superb Maarten Stekelenburg.  Their first top game against FC Twente ended in a 2-2 draw. Both Ajax and Twente played great football and it was a game on which Ajax could build for the next few games. This didn’t happen even though a 1-1 draw in the ArenA against AC Milan. Two weeks later, Ajax lost their first game after being unbeaten for 27 games at the Amsterdam ArenA against FC Utrecht.

It was the start of a bad period with losses against ADO Den Haag, AZ Alkmaar and Auxerre and draws against Excelsior Rotterdam and NEC Nijmegen. All games that Ajax normally should’ve won. Ajax played really bad football. There wasn’t any passion, Ajax weren’t a team. The only clue they had was giving long balls on Luis Suarez or Mounir El Hamdaoui and expecting them to do the job. It was Johan Cruyff who called up for change already after Real Madrid – Ajax in his weekly column in De Telegraaf. Ajax should go back to their principles, reorganize the academy and give people who know the club and it’s ideals the important jobs. It was the start of a sort of revolution at Ajax that’s still going on. In the meantime, Martin Jol isn’t any longer the head coach and 7 former players have been chosen in the Members Council, which gives advise to the board. It’s important that people who know much about football and Ajax could advise the board. A good thing is that general manager Rik van den Boog wants this himself too. At least, that’s what he’s saying. He wants to take Ajax back to where they belong, just like every single person that loves the club. One of the things Cruyff said is that Ajax should have a manager that knows the club backwards. And Ajax have that manager right now in the name of Frank de Boer.

So far, Frank de Boer has the perfect result. Three played, three won and no goals conceded. And this victories against AC Milan, Vitesse and AZ Alkmaar have come about impressive football. Football that’s typical for Ajax. 4-3-3 with wide wingers and lots of pressure on the opponent. Playing with flair and passion. Frank de Boer also gives chances to the youth, instead of Martin Jol who preferred experienced players. Christian Eriksen have been one of the best players since De Boer, Ebecilio has been great in his first two games for Ajax 1. The defence looks strong and solid. Everything piece seems to be right in midfield and with Siem de Jong in the striker role, Ajax have an target man who can hold the ball and lay it off to the wingers or midfielders. Even without Suarez and El Hamdaoui, Ajax can win.

After a good start and a bad period after that, Ajax have had a great end of the first half of the 2010/11 season. A month ago, there were already supporters giving up on the league title. The gap with PSV and Twente was 6 points and the future didn’t look bright. Look at them now. Everybody believes again. Under Frank de Boer, Ajax are playing great football. The football that belongs to Ajax. De Boer hasn’t sign a contract yet to become officially the manager of Ajax but that’s only a matter of time. He’s the perfect man right now. The players love him and his method. They recognize what they’ve learnt at the academy. It’s natural for them to play like this.

In football it’s all about silverware and Ajax are still contenders for three trophies: the league title, the KNVB Cup and the Europa Leauge. It could become a great season.

In May 2011, Luis Suarez will held up the shield and Ajax will have their 3rd star on the chest after winning the 30th league title. You’ve heard it here first.

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