With the help of a guest writer, Antti, sports analyst specialized in Finnish football (you can learn more at Akaa89 - Local knows best) gives us a short presentation of FC Lahti, a club that will be 'sparring partner' for both Kalju (today, 19th of February) and Flora (on Saturday the 21st).
THE COACH AND THE PLAYERS
Coach Korkeakunnas arrived in Lahti in 2014 from MyPa.
rior to that I had the chance to follow him making a name at FC Viikingit. He has also experience coaching Finland U-19 and several other clubs. His career has been developing fast and he’s a reasonably young coach (1968).
He has made miracles with MyPA; he was given small resources and managed to top even beyond the wildest expectations. He has been well appreciated in all teams as far as I’m aware of.
Good coach by any standards.
Goalkeeper Moisander recently got national team experience as he featured on a friendly against Yemen on the 22nd of January 2015 (0-0 FT result). He’s several levels up compared to Meronen and Mujunen who are more of Kakkonen level. If Moisander is absent, it will immediately reflect on the defensive line as their trust on the remaining duo is a light-year away from what it is on Moisander.
Defense and goalkeeper are Lahti’s main strength.
Or at least it should be with these names. Ex-national team regular (and also captain) Petri Pasanen (born 1980, 76 caps) transferred to Lahti last summer strengthening their already strong defense (23 goals suffered in 2014 Veikkausaliiga season, the best defence of the top-flight). Since last season there has been no notable transfer in or out in Lahti’s defence. What is notable is that Lahti has been implementing a new 3 central defenders system in which wingbacks are rather offensive and central midfielders provide assistance for the defense.
I’ve personally been really disappointed on Lahti’s defence.
It is really strong on paper but they’ve made a lot of easy mistakes in the previous matches this off-season. Those kinds of that cost directly goals. That is not something I was expecting from the likes of Pasanen, Toivomäki, Joenmäki, Tanska.
Lahti’s midfield line went through the biggest losses as Klinga, Hertsi and Korte left the team.
Klinga (HJK) was the biggest while I wasn’t that fond for Hertsi and Korte. Please don’t get me wrong, as I’m not saying that they lost enormously but taking into consideration that only Paananen was signed to compensate, there are now less options. Currently the first choices for central mf are Lagerblom (very defensive minded midfielder with 12 national team caps under his belt) and playmaker Gela.
Wingers and forward line is Lahti’s weakest department on paper. Ääritalo (forward) came from the relegated TPS.
He’s a decent player, but not that big threat. Mediocre Veikkausliiga quality and currently Lahti’s first choice.
Ristola (winger/forward) was signed from MyPa but he’s not a rainmaker either.
Old Rafael (1978 from Brazil)has seen his best times. He has great game understanding but his pace just isn’t there anymore. Then there are the rest, Drilon Shala (Drilon’s older brother), Köse, Paananen who all are decent.
Along with Mikko Kuningas, also few other youngsters have been promoted to Lahti first team from their second team (FC Lahti Akatemia which plays in Kakkonen). Driton Shala is perhaps the most ready to play in this level. Even for him Veikkausliiga is not currently the right level. Others include Meronen, Mujunen, Kauppinen, Tuominen.
FC LAHTI FACTS SHEET
· Lahti is top3 team after HJK and SJK. Anything below 4th spot would be a huge disappointment
· Last season Lahti operated with 1.143M budget (http://kymppipaikka.fi/Veikkausliiga/HJK-lla-ylivoimainen-budjetti). I haven’t come across what the figures are for these season but I would guess it’s something similar. Most Veikkausliiga clubs have been forced to decrease their budget but Lahti is one of the few clubs with Europa League qualifying games (and money) and thus the same might not apply to them.
· On the 24th of January Lahti played AIK (SWE) in a friendly which was interesting resultwise. Lahti was 0-3 up at 75mins but managed to lose 4-3. No foul play or anything like that, they just managed to mess everything up. Check the highlights in the bottom video
· There’s a joke with youngster Mikko Kuningas. Kuningas translates to “King” and Jari Litmanen has widely been referred as “the King” in Finland. Naturally he has a lot of history with Lahti. I actually got confused, along with many others, when I first time read that “FC Lahti signs Kuningas” and that is going to happen for many less following fans during the season…