Last time you heard from me we had just held our own against a strong Ajax side who seemed destined to take home the Eredivisie title. We were in the 5th place two points behind PSV in 4th place and level on points with Willem II in 6th. Slight gaps opened up both ahead of PSV and below Willem II and it seemed that the league table wouldn’t change much between now and the end of the season.
After the Ajax game, we put our local rivals Heracles to the sword with a 5-0 win. This was before a tricky run of games against our nearest rivals, Feyenoord, AZ and Willem II which ultimately ended in a disappointing fashion. We only picked up one point out of the possible 9 and we found ourselves trailing behind slightly.
Given the league standings at the end of January, it was likely that the teams qualifying for Europe and the European Playoffs had already been sorted with the final position the only thing left to decide. Our form turned itself around and a run of five clean sheets led to a run of five wins and we put ourselves in a good position to either finish 4th or 5th. A slip up against FC Utrecht gave 4th place back to PSV and despite us beating three struggling teams in our final three games, PSV also won their last three games to claim 4th place. We finished in 5th place which meant we were top seeds for the European Playoffs.
Willem II and Utrecht who were 5th and 6th in January stayed in their respective positions whilst ADO Den Haag climbed up from 10th to claim the final European Playoff place. The winner of the European Playoff would enter the Europa League in the Best Placed 2nd Qualifying Round which would mean an early start to the season and 3 ties to make the group stages.
Prior to the season-ending we had our next batch of youngsters enter the club. I showed our intake preview in the last update and it seemed to be positive all round and this is what we had.
I’m going to touch on my youth prospects in a future blog posts which should be out later this week but for now I wanted to focus on Khalid Messaoudi, the player with the highest potential according to the above image. Here he is.
He looks pretty tasty, doesn’t he? The first thing I noticed about him is his good mental attributes. His determination sticks out to me straight away, along with his Resolute personality. I think there’s a future captain in him. Next up I spotted his Decisions and Teamwork attributes, I think his technicals need work but he could be the long term option in my attacking advanced playmaker role. I’m excited to see how he develops!
Back to the season finale and I thought I’d show you how we prepared for the big matches. You’ll see in week two that I’ve focused on my favourite technical sessions and nearer the matches shadow play sessions to really focus the players on tactical and mental sides of the attacking and defensive phases. Then a right up to the matches lots of match preparation, more than normal. No idea if this made by difference but we did win 2-0 and 3-0 against ADO Den Haag to reach the final against FC Utrecht. The schedule looked similar in the build-up to the finals but I did add in some set-piece practice. Away in the first leg against Utrecht we were poor, struggled to get going and went 1-0 down. I decided to tweak things to go after an away goal and they scored on the break to make it a 2-0. In the second leg, we went for it, starting the match on an attacking mentality. An early goal gave me hope and then a second-half goal levelled the tie. It was a nervy finish but ultimately we went to penalties, something that I didn’t practice in the week before (mental note for next time) and the boys finished the job. We would play in Europe next season!
Overall, I’m delighted with that season, having been predicted to finish 14th and finishing in 4th place is a great overachievement. Over the summer we have some work to do to replace the four loanees we have in our squad and we will have to live up to some new, raised expectations next season. My personal aim for season two is to be in the running for the European Playoffs again, in the top 8. I’ll be back soon to run you over our summer transfer business.
Bye for now!