Ajax coach Maurice Steijn knows that his team played far below par against Ludogorets despite securing a place in the Europa League group stage draw tomorrow, he told Ziggo Sport.
The Eredivisie club secured their spot in the next round despite losing 1-0 to Bulgarian at the Johan Cruyff Arena but meant Steijn’s side progressed through on aggregate.
“I think the only positive thing about tonight is that we’re through. The difference between this and last game was huge, in everything. The beginning was still nice, then it just fell back very far in all facets. It is typical that I don’t think we shot on target once,” said Steijn. The trainer also had to guess at the cause of his team’s much lesser performance.
“No idea why that slips away. We have agreements about how we apply pressure. It seems that a certain fear creeps in when things don’t work out for a while. Especially when Carlos Forbs dropped out, it really got less. It is a pity that Steven Berghuis was ill.
“Luckily I was able to bring him in, but that wasn’t easy either. Although that should not be an excuse for this very mediocre performance,” added Steijn.
The coach was asked if the inexperience of some of his players could be a reason for Ajax’s disappointing performance.
“I don’t think so, many guys are used to this. But we have a young team, yes. You think we are very experienced, but there will still be some tension for these kinds of competitions,” he said.
Steijn has the task of bringing back success to the Amsterdam-club, something that did not happen last season and since Erik ten Hag joined Manchester United. The Dutch coach has acknowledged the recruitment process has been frustrating in parts but hopes work permit issues will be sorted ahead of this weekend’s Eredivisie clash against Fortuna Sittard.
He said: “It’s going to be hard work, that’s for sure. That is one of our tasks as coaches. It’s annoying that we still don’t have three or four players. Fortunately, they will be there on Sunday, I am glad that those work permits have been completed. I hope that we have formed the team quickly, that the guys who will be there on Sunday will add something extra to the team. I have a lot of confidence in that.”
Chuba Akpom, Sivert Mannsverk, Georges Mikautadze and Josip Sutalo are in principle available on Sunday when visiting Fortuna Sittard. For Gaston Ávila, that remains to be seen.
Before the match against Ludogorets it became clear that Ajax is out shopping for this transfer window.
He added: “I am happy with the players who have come, but it remains to be seen whether they have the qualities we ascribe to them. I already know that about some players, but not yet about other players.”