Ajax coach Erik ten Hag has set his side a tally of points as a target and is confident that if his charges reach the total he has in mind they will pip PSV Eindhoven and be crowned Eredivisie champions.
PSV stormed to the tile last time of asking by accruing a total of 83 points while the Sons of the Gods amassed 79 points.
And the Ajax chief says that even though he is fully prepared for a tough contest to reach the summit, he feels that his players are ready for the challenge. And that a total of more than 80 points is the aim.
As Ten Hag prepared his players for the opening game of the new season tomorrow (Saturday) at the Amsterdam Arena against Heracles Almelo, he said:
“We will have to work hard to become the strong team that we can be based on our wide selection. To become champion, we need points — many points, and we have to convert many duels into winning positions.
“I think we need mid-80 points, of course, the requirement for every race is that we have to win, and that is reality in the Netherlands: we have to win at least 27 or 28 times to become champions.”
Imperative to that ambition is a strong start to the campaign, something with which Ajax have struggled to achieve in recent seasons. And they have, ultimately, paid the price for their indifferent openings and subsequently failed to close the gap between themselves and those who have enjoying flying starts.
Ten Hag says he is fully aware that there is a certain expectation ahead of the new campaign. He added:
“Whether this brings pressure? Yes, but that’s normal. They also feel that pressure in Eindhoven and Rotterdam. We want to become champions, so you have to put that requirement on yourself. We have to deal with that pressure and thanks to that pressure you can also grow, we all want that.”
One of the aspects of that pressure is the belief that a club of the size of Ajax should always challenge for the title. But he argues that other teams also face that level of critique.
“Ajax is always favourite for the title, but that also applies to Feyenoord and PSV. They do not sleep there either.”
Quizzed in a press conference ahead of the opening match on a scale of one to 100, how much belief does he have in the start of the Eredivisie, he replied:
“100, that’s the answer. That answer is sincere, I am convinced and have faith in it. But you have to put this in the answer and do not cut it: A coach of Ajax must always say 100, another answer would be strange. But we know that we have very strong competitors and have to make it happen first.”