The Hajduk team I helped create has been a bit hit and miss so far. Our European campaign has fared incredibly well, yet our league campaign can best be described as somewhat lacklustre. In this post, I look at how Beppe has done managing the team and I look at how I can help him and Hajduk perform better after the winter-break.
During pre-season, we brought in Armenian goalkeeper Apoula Edel to solve our goalkeeper problems. Edel has been solid so far, while Stipica has been a reliable backup option. Our main problem so far this season has not been the goalkeeper though, as Hajduk has been anything but solid in defence this season. This seems to be more or less due to individual lapses in concentration. Experienced hand Mensur Mujdza has so far been underwhelming at right back, to say the least, having been driven from the team by youngster Tudor, who brings more energy to the fore.
In the central defence, Zoran Nizic has been a let-down. His lapses in concentration have cost us a fair few goals. Similarly, his partner in defence, the Spaniard Borja appears to be struggling to find his feet in the Croatian league. A lack of communication between the pair a lack of proper backup options has turned our defence into a house of cards. It looks sturdy initially but the slightest bit of pressure can turn the entire defensive line into a shaky mess. The one exception is our left-back, where Fomitschow has been driven from the team by Mujdza, who seems to perform quite well at left-back.
Our midfield seems fairly sturdy. Our wingers David Targamadze and Ezequiel have been on fire so far, whereas the central pairing of Murtaz Daushvili and Hamza Barry seem to be able to hold their own. The two extra wingers have been our main offensive threats so far, contributing both in terms of assists and goals. Daushvili is more of a pivot between offence and defence, whereas Barry is more of a box-to-box type of player. Youngster Toma Basic rotates in and out of the squad, as well as returned former prodigy Josip Radosevic. The amount of games played so far has guaranteed all players of equal chances to see some first-team action.
Upfront, we are not doing too bad. Ukranian shadow striker Roman Bezus adds some much-needed flair and skill to the team, his dribbling skills often help set up his team-mates, though his goalscoring record needs improving. In the targetman role, Dominik Glavina has been underwhelming so far, whereas the youngster Franko Kovacevic and the more seasoned Ivan Pesic have looked on par with Glavina when given the chance.
Strengths and weaknesses
Offensively, our team is pretty strong. Targamadze and Ezequiel have been electrifying at times with their performances out wide. Their crossing and goal-scoring have been stellar so far. Pesic and Erceg have proven to be capable backups as well. Our central midfield looks fairly balanced as well, so the team seems strong going forward. 42 goals scored during our league campaign so far underline that.
Upfront, Glavina has been underwhelming as a targetman and youngster Kovacevic cannot be relied upon to carry the entire team. We need someone up front to bully defenders and help keep possession so the wingers and midfielders can link up. Our offensive game needs revitalising.
There still lies a sense of insecurity in the Hajduk back line. It might it be their keeper, ever-changing defensive setup or individual errors, but Hajduk rarely manages to keep a clean sheet. We need to tighten up the defence a lot if we are to win the league this year or at the very least secure European football for next season.
What to do next
First of all, I tried to address the specific weaknesses of our squad. We needed additional players able to play as central defenders as well as someone to properly play in the targetman role. With limited funds available, I also tried to shift some of the unhappy players and some of the deadwood floating around our inflated squad.
Experienced central defenders Milan Stepanov and Kaja Rogulj joined on short-term contract deals to help shore up the defensive area of the team. Meanwhile, backup central defender Gustavo Rosa was shipped off on loan to Austrian side Sankt-Pölten to free up wage budget. Both newcomers are not the fastest players but their sense of positional awareness should compensate for that and help us shore up the wobbly defence.
We got one extra player in for the forward-line, as well as promoting a player from the reserves. Sheffield Wednesday loaned their Kosovarian targetman Atdhe Nuhiu to us. The towering forward had not been very effective for the Owls but I have high hopes for him. With Targamadze and Ezequiel providing support, he could be just what the doctor ordered. Michele Sego meanwhile was promoted from within our own ranks because the coaches advised me to give him a shot.
The only luxury player we brought in was Petar Brlek, on a loan deal from Genoa. He could provide some additional depth to our central midfield. Once touted as a top Croatian youngster, this could be a chance for the 24-year-old to revive his stalling career and show people he still knows how to play football.
In terms of shifting deadwood, we sold backup winger Edin Sehic to Chinese Changchun Yatai for 250k, while selling Hysen Memolla to FK Sarajevo for 165k. I also negotiated a future transfer for Radosevic to Augsburg for a whopping 2.9 million. Radosevic was becoming unhappy at the club and 2.9 million goes a long way to securing decent replacements.
While I am quite happy with our European achievements, our league form has been nothing but abysmal. We shouldn’t be trailing to teams such as Osijek and Rijeka. We should be competing with Dinamo Zagreb for the national title and European football, not languishing in fourth place.
Our European campaign, as impressive as it has been, will be worthless if we do not qualify for Europe next season. The league seems our most realistic chance of achieving that goal, since winning the UEFA Cup is rather unlikely at this stage.