With the Summer over and the squad kept largely intact, I was feeling fairly good about our chances for this year. Much like Liverpool’s season this year, our competitors would have an extra game most weeks for the first half of the season. Ajax were knocked out of the Champions League after they managed to bag AS Monaco in the playoff, oof. Vitesse flew the Dutch flag high but were knocked out in one of the tougher groups:- Leverkusen (who Vitesse did well to finish above of), Benfica and Zenit.
In the Europa League, Ajax dominated their group. One such game came against Brondby of Demark, and Ajax were able to take revenge for AZ Alkmaar who had been knocked out of the competition by the Danish giants – the tie we would’ve had, should we have beaten AZ in the playoff last year. NAC Brada, Feyernood and Zwolle were all disappointing in European competition, falling at the first hurdle. Vitesse were able to reach the quarter finals of the Europa league to maintain some dignity for Dutch football, but I imagine the league has still taken a reputation hit after a poor collective performance.
However, these poor performances in Europe would serve as a momentum stopper for every other time and I would capitalise. As the season started and I saw the team were playing extremely well and keeping to my instructions as intended, I initially targetted the 65 point mark, then a few games later re-adjusting to 68 points. This would mean two points a game on average and in the previous season would’ve handed me a 1st place finish by a single point. However, that was a particularly poor season and Vitesse, the eventual champions, lost 9 games. So I knew I’d need more to win the league.
And get more I did. Having finished 8th the previous season I thought a top three finish would be fantastic progress but the players had other ideas as we defeated the 33-1 odds to stroll to the league title. In truth, we should’ve won it by more but a disappointing 3-0 defeat to AZ late on in the year meant it was closer than expected.
There’s not much to say that I haven’t already said, tactically. I had to make very few changes throughout the season and stuck entirely with my Plans A & B, dependent on injuries and rotation. Jurgen Locadia, who had been promoted to first choice striker despite only one league goal last year, topped the club’s striking charts with 16 in 28 games. Memphis Depay, who seems to create chances galore with his movement, had 12 from 25(5), and there were a large number of players in the 5-10 range.
Having spent the majority of the season attempting to fend off potential suitors for my new players, Georginio Wijnaldum was the only one who agreed a move. He told Augsburg he’d join them on a free in the Summer after refusing to negotiate a contract with us, despite promising me he’d sign a contract. Bastard. Good riddance.
Topping off a great season with the Dutch Cup signified to me that perhaps it’s time to move on. I’d love to see how far I could take the team in Europe, but I’ve dominated Netherlands with very little effort. Adam Maher, Memphis Depay, and Zakaria Bakkali are three guys I’d love to take with me when I do eventually find a new club. I’ll not resign from PSV as the year’s European campaign will certainly keep me interested, but I’ll be on the look out. No country will be off limits although given I’ll likely have had a bump in reputation from this success at PSV (despite not even being shortlisted for manager of the year?!), I should almost have pick of clubs outside of the true elite. A challenge in a top country would be interesting (see: Schalke, Atletico, Tottenham) although at some point Russia, France, and Portugal are all of interest. Onwards and upwards.