Welcome back to Serbia! Last season was weird, although we still retained our hold on Serbia domestically, despite a bizarre epidemic of draws.
This year we’re looking to
draw fewer games increase the gap between us and the rest of Serbia, and continue our slow build towards becoming more relevant in Europe.
Time to take a quick moment to remember a few regulars that have departed this summer.
Centre back and vice captain Nikola Kovacevic leaves us after six years at the club. He was here before me, and I never expected him to stay so long and play so often. He put up 202(8) appearances, scoring 14 goals and averaging 7.06. He was really solid for us, but after an injury this last season, he looked past his best, even at the modest age of 30.
Filip Cermelj, a player that I highlighted in the first post of this series as our best young prospect, finally departs. You haven’t heard much of him recently, as I sent him out on loan for the last two years. He leaves at 26 years of age, so we gave him plenty of time, but he never really developed. He made 66(53) appearances for Mačva, scoring 11, assisting 12 and averaging around 6.9. Maybe if we’d had good facilities early on we could’ve done a better job developing him?
Aldin Adzovic joined us before season two, and was a solid performer. He’s 31 now, and the club has left him behind. 97(38) games, 12 goals, 16 assists and an average of 7.03 for the always reliable box to box midfielder.
Other notable names to leave include Nenad Adzibaba and Stefan Velickovic. The former didn’t develop and started kicking up a fuss about playing time, and the latter did sterling work as a back-up, but is now surplus to requirements. Surprisingly, as the winter break begins, not one of these players has found a new club.
Captain Mile Vujasin will serve out the final year of his contract. About to turn 32, age is catching up to him, but I was unable to find a suitable replacement. Marko Mijailovic (another likely in his final season here) has been trained up to cover at left back if required.
As I mentioned at the end of the last post, we have masses of cash. Much too much to spend really. We have a large group of youngsters too, so we’ll be targeting quality over quantity:
Milutin Vidosavljevic, you know. Two great seasons for us on loan, now he’s ours for real. Dominik György is a 16 year-old Hungarian striker, a five star prospect, who I may talk more on another time, when I fold some young players in for a mention.
The other four all come in to compete straight away. I’ll focus on the two from the former giants of Serbia, that for me, demonstrate the new reality. We are the top dogs.
Firstly, Strahinja Erakovic, who comes in to fill our Kovacevic shaped hole at centre back. Although we have promising youngsters developing in a few positions, centre back is not one of them at the moment. Erakovic is one of, if not the best Serbian centre back in the game right now, and getting him at the age of 24 is a massive boon for us, and a significant blow to Red Star.
Jovan Tasevski is not such an essential buy, although it allows us to loan out a couple of our own very promising wing prospects for first team football elsewhere in the SuperLiga.
He has 31 goals and 22 assists over the last two season’s for Partizan, and was last season’s Young Player of the Year. His £1.1m minimum fee release clause couldn’t be turned down. Man City were among the clubs interested in him, so I’m thrilled to get him in, and we’ve weakened another rival substantially.
In January, we also added a promising German left winger, but I’ll save him for next time.
Tactically, we go into the season using a very slightly tweaked version of the 4123 we changed to last year.
Barcelona. Bayern. Napoli. The group of death.
Being so comprehensively outgunned, I did toy with going full “park the bus” strats, but the thought of doing it six times was a prospect that didn’t fill me with joy, so I stuck to our normal tactic.
In hindsight, perhaps we should’ve parked the bus away from home at least. But that win against Barcelona! Got to be the biggest win in Macva’s history. In both that win, and the draw with Bayern, we went toe to toe with the big boys in even games.
Napoli however, have our number. Teams that play possession football, like Barcelona and Bayern, we don’t look too bad. But when Napoli hit us on the counter with spectacular pace, we can’t cope. We actually had a shot at third in the final game, albeit a long shot.
I’ve got to be happy with four points. Although I’d really love an easier draw next season!
Why Can’t I (Not) Win The Kup?
A friendly dig at FM_Samo’s recent post. Yes, we’ve won it again. Six in a row.
I suppose it is a fairly easy competition to win. You only need to win five ties. Although we haven’t had one in the last three years, our record in penalty shoot-outs in this competition is perfect, with 5 wins from 5. Which is really weird.
Furthermore, although there’s nothing in the rules about it, I’m convinced the draws are seeded. We’ve never drawn Red Star or Partizan before the semi-finals, and the only time we got Stankom earlier than that was in season one, when we were predicted to be relegation fodder. A quick look at the past schedules of the rest of the “big four” show that they’ve never drawn each other before the semis either.
So we don’t tend to face much of a challenge, especially when the other big clubs seem susceptible to the odd giant-killing. The final this year though, was a doozy.
Partizan equalised in the sixth minute of the four minutes of added time at the end of the game to leave me fuming. Our dominance did tell in the end, as we finally converted from one of our 17 corners.
We haven’t lost in the league for quite some time.
Our defence was great this season, really impressive. We didn’t concede more than one goal in a league game all season! Our attack however, has begun to worry me some. Although we scored a goal more than last season, 11 of them were penalties.
Our striker’s were particularly poor, with Damjanovic only managing 6, and Spasic 5. In fact, in all competitions, we only had one player get into double figures for goals (Arabidze), and of his 11, 5 were from the spot.
The coming summer feels like an opportunity to reform the squad somewhat. Many of them, including the two strikers mentioned above, will no longer qualify as under 21, and I think some big names could be on the move.
Speaking of which, in January we agreed to sell Ben Acka to Sassuolo in the summer. He wouldn’t have qualified as U21 next year, and although he’s clearly very good, he hasn’t been contributing a great deal to our attack. A guaranteed £7m, plus another £1m after appearances and yet another 50% sell on clause is too much to turn down. Four days before the transfer goes through, he’ll qualify as HG at Macva, so maybe we’ll bring him back one day.
A great season, although the group of death in Europe and our continuing issues with strikers do mean it feels a bit like we haven’t progressed. There are a lot of decisions ahead for next year. There are some youngsters pushing for inclusion after successful loan spells, whilst many of our first team squad are ageing beyond the 21 year mark, which makes a big difference when you have to have two U21 start every league game, with a further two on the bench. It could be a busy summer ahead…
Thanks for reading, stay safe x