- 3 – Number of Negri pre-season 2020 friendly games I’ve gone to.
- 2 – Number of losses.
- 1 – Number of draw.
- 0 – Number of goals I’ve witnessed Negri scored.
Not great numbers. In fact, looks more like countdown to another poor season. One more season of struggle.
So, do the results truly reflect Negri’s performance?
Too predictable and easily anticipated. Me, a tactically non-trained fan sitting on the terraces did not find it hard to read Negri’s intent. What more an opponent’s coach who eats and sleeps tactics plus getting paid to do that for a living. Negri tried building up play from the back but was typically slow, uncertain and littered with mistakes. It lacked key ingredients. Speed, creativity and movements. If slow build-up is the gameplay, then infusion of those key elements at some point of the flow is a must.
Off-the-ball movements. Or more accurately, the positioning of players without the ball. Time and time again we’re reminded of its importance. Either moving to or away from the ball and taking up positions in creating the next motion. I kept hoping for players to make runs into certain areas but it rarely happened. Multiple times making me question why and leaving me gasping for answers. It’s as if players thinking mode was “Let’s first watch what he does with the ball, then I move”. Effective movements don’t necessarily come with players’ individual brilliance. Brilliant players only enhanced gameplay and improvised when necessary. More often than not, they come from hours spent drilling the motions and formations during training. So why aren’t those movements visible during these friendlies? I would have to assume because it’s just not part of training.
‘Our style is to win back the ball as soon as possible – we move our lines forward and play upfield. It may seem like we are running more, but really we are just running in a more organised way.’ – Mauricio Pochettino.
So do we? Have brilliant players? Based on the games I saw, sadly I have to admit that none of the players were able to make me go “Wow!”. Initially, I was surprised yet happy when Negri announced that they re-signed all 4 imports from last season. Thought this could be a masterstroke by Negri since it’s never been done before. At least not for the last couple of years. But now I’m beginning to seriously have doubts. Last season the imports weren’t outstanding but they did fairly well. Now they seem to look more and more…. average. Really hope this is only a rough patch they’re going through.
But imports only make up a third of the team. The other two thirds are completed by local players and this is actually the vital component. Imports can make the team tick but local players make it work. More than half of the team are new players and they look to have the skills and characters. My early assessment puts this team being more technically complete compared to last year. For one, this team definitely has outright wingers on both flanks. Something Negri sorely needed last season. So Negri should not be short on technically capable players. It’s just that over the last 5 years, Negri’s local players tend to blow hot and cold. More often cold. And this is where Negri was hit hardest, the inability of the local players to consistently perform.
Does the lack of goals (zero if I was counting) due to our players or our gameplay? Best answer is both. But if I need to put one above the other, then I’d have to say gameplay. The current gameplay will, at best, work and enable Negri to give a good fight when playing mediocre teams. Against better organised teams, Negri will struggle as shown against Melaka and TFCII. Last season, we had Ferris Daniel who probably produced his best performance with Negri. His contribution to the game was understated. Not only creating havoc to defenders but linking up well with forwards. He was the speed for Igor. Unless Negri finds someone that can replicate his output, then Igor will find the goals hard to come by.
Okay, so earlier I said none of the players provided the wow factor. Not true. One player did make me straighten my backbone when he’s on the ball. A young player by the name of Selvan. A breath of fresh air and much needed injection of zest and energy. And I know that it was not only me who gets a buzz since the whole stadium usually lets out a collective sound of interest whenever he steps onto the pitch. He does impact games. Still a whole lot of sculpting needed before he’s fully shaped but it looks promising. He’s the spark in this Negri team. Whether he remains only as a spark or lights up like fireworks remains to be seen. I believe Negri’s gameplay will be a major factor on that.
These games are only friendlies. Games intended to create cohesion, understanding, for building up momentum, for testing tactic and results are not priority. That I understand and in full agreement. Thus, it is not the results that worries me. What concerns me are the dull gameplay, the missing of creativity, the lack of goals, the low number of shots on goals and the absence of progression after each game. Those are my concern.
One recent night while driving back from a Malaysia match, my daughter said “Ayah, Aidil main power.”
“Aidil tu dulu main Negri” I replied.
“Ish, ye ke?”
“Betuulllll. Dulu Farizal, Kunalan dengan Zaquan pun main Negri.”
At that moment, I paused, took a really deep breath and thought to myself “Power ah Negri masa tu, power. Lamanya pulak rasa masa tu dah lepas.”
And as I released my breath, I felt like Negri’s power also went away with it.
Penulis : Faizal Jabar