Rumori di Spogliatoio

Season roundup and evaluation club by club - Part 2

Angelo PalmeriComment

We continue our roundup started with the top5 teams analyzed here

One of the expected outputs of the current season was Paide being toppled down from the top5. Several factors contributed as we previewed: a generational change, a lot of new players brought in (Rasmus Tomson from Tammeka was probably the best signing they made) and the unavoidable rise of FC Infonet. Considering all that, Paide's season has to overall be evaluated as a positive one. The Red-Blues could not aspire to anything bigger, however they managed to keep the relegation zone at a safe distance for most of the season. Whether next season will see Paide collecting better results, it will all depend on how the squad will look like in March. 

The reporter's choice:
Deni Delev: 
After the first matchday when they beat Levadia in Tallinn, everyone was shocked, Meelis Rooba was calling for calm approach and was assuring everyone that the result wasn’t accidental as they prepared themselves properly during the pre-season and that everyone should expect more from them. Those results never came and in the end Paide should be happy with the 6th position. Slow attack and unstable defense are definitely not qualities that would grant you good results, but in a league with such quality their life in the top flight isn’t under any jeopardy.

Chris Johns: To say that Paide lost ten matches by at least three goals and still finished comfortably in mid-table is testament to their inconsistency. Two six-match and one ten-match winless streak also shows what Paide were capable of when necessary, as they managed to do enough outside of these periods to never really be in danger of relegation. The opening day victory over Levadia aside, Paide didn't beat any of the teams above them, and managed just three points in total from those games. Paide only secured wins against Tammeka, Johvi and Kalev, the three bottom sides, and when you judge their season in this context it's hard to see many reasons to be positive, other than the fact that they stayed up.

Considering Tammeka was not even a club anymore back in February, we're dealing with an authentic miracle. Rise the hand those who would have bet something on Tammeka avoiding play-offs (if not relegation) a few weeks before the final whistle of the season. We cannot rise either, because the predictions for Tammeka were not rose-tinted. Looking back at what we wrote: 'Tammeka are like the Gallic village of Asterix resisting to the Roman invasion. Their die-hard attitude might be the plus helping them to resist to the umpteenth storm and rise from the dust like the Phoenix.' That's exactly how they did it, since Tammeka has resurrected in full swing and managed to baffle everyone by reaching safety much earlier than expected. They got into season 2014 with basically no preparation. As soon as the squad reached ideal form, they managed to stockpile points and put the distance between themselves and the risky area. They also managed to place a shocking result when they  drew 1-1 at home against Flora after leading throughout the whole game. Compared to what expected, they didn't collect much against Lokomotiv, who were their boogeyman (3 draws and 1 loss, the only side Loko has not lost to). Coach Indrek Koser and Captain Kristian Tiirik have guided the young gang together with other veterans: Martin Hurt, Mikk Valtna and Karel Kiidron. Rasmus Tauts (1997), Martin Miller (1997) and Kevin Rääbis (1994) are some of the names that emerged during the season and might attract in future the interest of Tallinn's top club. With one-year experience under their belt and a proper preparation in 2015, they could seriously challenge Paide for the top place of the bottom 5 next season. 

The reporter's choice
Deni Delev: 
You just have to admire the results this young squad of Tartu achieved. After everything they went through at the beginning of the season and all the players that got a chance to play, the final position is a jack-pot. If they keep the current roster and maybe add an experienced name or two, this team has the potential for many more surprises next season.

Chris Johns: Tammeka have come out of this season with their heads held relatively aloft. The position they found themselves in at the beginning of the competition suggested nothing more than certain relegation come the end of the season. Some promising youngsters appeared in pre-season, but their depleted squad coupled with an exile from home saw them win just one of their opening ten matches. It took a far while to steady the ship, but as the season rumbled on they adapted to the demands of the league and managed to avoid the significant pastings their nearest rivals were being given, and indeed that they themselves were given in the first half of the season. Coach Koser deserves a lot of credit, and towards the end of the season they showed glimpses of things to come. They are likely to have to battle near the bottom again next season, but with a more stable start and a couple of reinforcements they could be looking up rather than down.

"The target is fighting for the title". These were the words released at the pre-season presentation held in FAMA shopping center in Narva in Spring. Needless to say it never happened. Not only were Trans not close to it, but the statement itself now seems deprived of ground and out of touch with reality. Narva Trans have never been ready for the title challenge. The squad ceratinly was not, since the main problem (lack of effective strikers) was unsolved at kick-off. One by one, all the strikers eluded Bondarenko until the veteran coach departed from the club. The situation got out of hand for a while and Trans ran the serious risk of relegation (they have never been relegated since  the Premium Liiga started in the 90's). At the turn of the season, they were just 3 points adrift Kalev. A big role in their slow decline was played by some key-players departing (goalkeeper Sergei Lepmets and midfielder Siim Tenno) or being permanently in the injury list (Tanel Tamberg and Irie). Caretaker Aleksei Jagudin has little by little managed to steer the boat, setting 'increasing the distance from Kalev' as minimum target. From this point of view he was successful, and Narva Trans will play their 25th season in a row in the top-flight. Now it's up to Nikolai Burdakov to basically re-find the squad starting from next year as the anno zero. The first important step will be to bring a new coach and three valid signings for each line of the pitch. Will they manage? If so, safety can be reached earlier without pathos, otherwise, it might be better not to show up at the shopping center this time.

The reporter's choice
Deni Delev: 
A lot of changes throughout the season, turbulences in and out of the pitch and ultimately securing their stay in the top flight were not on their list of aims at the beginning of the season. The coaching staff will have to fix many things before the next season starts if they are about to climb a position or two on the table.

Chris Johns: Narva had probably the most turbulent season of all the Premium Liiga teams, having to deal with injuries, a manager departure and a mid-season player exodus. Their solid enough start to the season (1 win and 4 draws) set off a run of ten matches without a win. A couple of sporadic wins were sandwiched in between further defeats, a couple of which were particularly heavy. Jagudin came in and managed to stop the rot, eventually guiding them away from the drop zone with a couple of weeks to spare. This was obviously not how Narva had planned the season, and with a bit more stability and a couple of attacking signings they should be more comfortable next one, but they have certainly taken a couple of steps back from where they were 9 months ago.

We honestly expected more from a side that was promoted to Premium Liiga as second two points adrift Levadia double team. Therefore Lokomotiv, initially, has disappointed the expectations over the quality and results we thought they could bring along. However, the achievement they reached (a play-off game against Viljandi Tulevik) it was an extraordinary one if we consider that they had collected just 3 points at the Summer turning point. No one would have bet 1€ on Loko being able to collect almost 20 points and grab the play-off spot.
It was probably more to do with Kalev being terrible from matchday 19 till the end (18 games, 18 losses) than else. However, Loko never gave up believing and they played the direct clashes (Tammeka and Kalev) proudly, collecting the vital points they needed. The games against the top-teams were a no go for most of the times leaving embarassing scoreboards behind. It will be hard to improve on this side. If they fail to retain the tier in favour of Viljandi Tulevik, it might get even worse.

The reporter's choice
Deni Delev: 
A very spirited team always willing to compete. They did record the biggest defeats of the season, but the situation they found themselves into wouldn’t allow for anything better. Attractive attacking football and not being afraid to get into challenges are the main strengths of the team and they will just get better.

Chris Johns: For two-thirds of the season Johvi were the league's whipping boys and nothing more. Player availability issues, coach changes and pitch issues added to the woes of the Premium Liiga's punchbag, with the league record defeat against Infonet (1-10) being their lowest ebb. A spirited 2-1 defeat against Sillamae followed that annihilation before their first win of the season came in the next match against Kalev. A further point in the next match away to Narva continued their attempt at restoring some pride, and three wins in five games towards the end of the season raised not only many eyebrows, but the club above Kalev in the table into 9th place. 9-0 defeats on matchdays 29 and 35 aside, the strength of character Jõhvi showed towards the end of the season was admirable considering the situation they found themselves in. The club certainly was not ready for the big league, and their season was an unfortunate reminder of the disparity between the top and bottom of the Premium Liiga.

In order to describe Kalev's season, we prefer to rely on the pure numbers:

- 30 losses (18 all in the second part of the season, 18 losses in a row!)
- Over 130 goals suffered
- Over 120 goal difference

Kalev managed to do worse than FC Kuressaare last season (only points and wins look slightly better). Initially expected to be above Tammeka, they soon lost ground with the Tartu club. They managed to keep their distance from Lokomotiv until the latter rose from the doldrums and took 9th place at Kalev's expense. Little by little it was evident that Kalev were the ones to jump on the first train going down to the Esiliiga station. 
No agonism whatsoever (the list of suspended players is much shorter than Loko's, Tammeka's and Trans') and no affection towards the club and the jersey. But what club are we talking about? Esiliiga football will help to re-find the squad and away from the embarrassment of the easy thrashings suffered this season. The double team won the II.Liiga regular season and defeated Paide Linnameeskond double in the tier's final. Time to give the club's youth a chance in the same fashion as Tammeka did.

The reporter's choice
Deni Delev: 
No one expected Kalev to fight for the title or even for the mid-table positions, but what happened to Zamogilnõi’s team was a complete disaster and something that marked the players for a lifetime. A season in Esiliiga without being in the spotlight might serve them right as they will be able to start everything from the beginning and create a stable team that can compete first of all in the second tier, and then maybe think about more.

Chris Johns: There's very little to say about Kalev's season beyond quoting the statistics above. Their last win came way back in June, one of just three all season. Player departures and a number of strange, unexplained absences further contributed to the joke that their season inevitably became. When the dust of this season settles and their few decent players leave the sinking ship it's going to be difficult to see this downward spiral reversing itself any time soon. Having said that, Kalev's second team appear capable of doing some damage, so maybe it's time for a re-shuffle and to use the Esiliiga as a breeding ground for players who actually care about the club.