‘Conference League semifinals nice, but Ajax first’
AZ is on a rock-solid season. Pascal Jansen’s team will play Ajax Saturday night in a direct duel for third place in the premier league and will play West Ham United next week in the Conference League semifinals.
“These are great times for the club, but on the other hand it is important to keep the focus and focus on the things that are on the program,” Jansen said Friday at the press conference. “It is nice that we are in the semifinals of the Conference League, but that is not on the agenda right now. Ajax first.”
AZ’s other teams are also performing well. Last month, the under-19 team from Alkmaar won the Youth League, beating FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sporting and Hadjuk Split in succession. Against the Croatians in the final it was no less than 5-0.
Several first-team players flew up and down to Switzerland to play with the youth team. Among them Wouter Goes, who has been impressing in AZ’s main squad for weeks, and Mexx Meerdink. “It’s very special for those guys. On the weekend of the game against RKC, Goes left for Geneva on Friday for the semifinals, and Mexx was still there on Sunday. He left the field with problems but played the final on Monday and scored twice.”
Jansen on successful period AZ: ‘Great times for the club’
“Almost a fairy tale you would say, but it is extremely clever of these young guys that they can divide their focus in this way. I don’t notice it at all on the training pitch, they are there when they are with us. They are a fantastic example at the moment when they were at Under-19.”
Still in sight of second spot
The saying that the last games of the season are all finals may be a cliché, but for AZ the comparison holds true. The team is currently fourth, but third place is within reach. Even PSV is still in sight, and second place would mean qualification for the Champions League.
“It’s still four important pots we play in the premier league. We start with Ajax. There is a lot of charge on this match. At this stage of the season, you hope games like this will still be played. We are going to enjoy it and try to beat Ajax with everything we have in us.”
Proud of Slot
Arne Slot can take the national title with Feyenoord this weekend. Jansen worked as an assistant under Slot before taking over the team in early 2020. He looks at his former colleague’s achievements with “due pride.”
“They have performed most consistently and it’s possibly going to happen this weekend. Otherwise after that. They’ve done well. They haven’t got it in yet, but I expect them to get it done. Arne has put in the necessary energy and quality to get it done this way.”
Jansen looks with ‘due pride’ at achievements former colleague Slot