This article is part of the overall Ekstraklasa preview I’m doing at Polish Football Scout. Of the several pieces prepared for the readers who wish to gain an insight on what the forthcoming season of football in Poland could bring, the main theme will be numbers. You can find more about planned blog posts here, as well as links to the ones that have already been published.
One: Zagłębie Lubin. Who would have thought, eh? Fans of Miedziowi shared many different opinions over the course of last season, but none of them were proud of how they had coped in the transfer market. Strange deals were made over the last two years, both in and out, and there appeared a complete absence of clear strategy at the Dialog Arena. The arrival of Jan Urban, however, has changed things, as exemplified from their activity in the last five weeks. First and foremost, Zagłębie needed strengthening up front, the kind of finishers that could provide more than ten goals per season – and Darvydas Sernas was brought in from Widzew. How the Lithuanian was convinced to make the switch to another Ekstraklasa club and resist the temptation to go abroad, only he and Urban will know. Few will care in Lubin, with tricky midfielder Maciej Małkowski arriving from GKS Belchatow to replace Dawid Plizga, joined by one of the fastest wingers in Poland, Janusz Gancarczyk. Urban is not only thinking about attack though, appreciating that there is also space to improve in their defensive displays. Michal Hanek, Patryk Rachwał and Błażej Telichowski were brought to add both confidence and competition into the backline. There can now be no excuses for failure to finish in the top six this season.
Two: Śląsk Wroclaw. Perhaps not the biggest spenders in the league, but are they the wisest? Their signings have certainly been conducted quietly, with only a few reporting that anything is even happening at Oporowska. Śląsk had to start pre-season early due to their so far successful European adventure, and necessary signings should ensure that there is competition for each position on the pitch, complemented with the hunger to achieve consistent league success. Orest Lenczyk ended up in quite a fight over his contract at first but when manager's two years extension was granted alongside more power over the club’s transfer policy, he concluded his first few deals - the most important of which were contract extensions for Argentine striker Cristian Diaz and goalkeeper Marián Kelemen. But he also brought in promising rivals for the same positions - Johan Voskamp, a proven scorer in the Dutch 2nd division, has helped Śląsk to victory against Dundee United in the Europa League by scoring two minutes into his debut, while keeper, Krzysztof Żukowski from Flota Świnoujście, is proven in the lower leagues and has been tracked by numerous scouts. Furthermore Dariusz Pietrasiak has come in from Polonia, an experienced centre-back whose solidity was critical in the second leg in Dundee. Most importantly of all, Mateusz Cetnarski has finally signed been signed by Śląsk, which ought to prove a fantastic addition and another creative midfielder for a line-up that ought to illicit envy from other clubs. A large squad will give Lenczyk a somewhat positive headache when it comes to registering players for the league and cups, but some voice the view that this team lacks youth. Others won’t care, so long as results continue in the same vein.
Three: Wisła Krakow. Perhaps an obvious choice, given the earlier Polish Scout citation of Wisla in a recent article. Of course, not signing Erik Cikos will be viewed as a mistake but Michael Lamey, once having regained the match practise he lacked at Leicester City last season, should make fans forget about the Slovakian right-back. Ivica Iliev, signed from Partizan, had a great season and his early performances for Wisła have been very promising. Meanwhile Dudu Biton and Gervasio Nunez, although with the experience from strong leagues in Belgium and Argentina, are yet to prove themselves in Robert Maaskant’s eyes - not to mention Wisła’s fans. The most interesting deal, however, was the loan of Costa Rican Junior Diaz, who, having failed to get a starting place at Club Brugge, has now returned to Krakow. Marko Jovanović provides depth at the back and adds a degree of pressure on Osman Chavez and Kew Jaliens, but his form in pre-season has been poor and few doubt whether he can outmuscle the solid duo. Of course there are still concerns that this squad is becoming even less Polish than last season, but Maaskant and his team, like their contemporaries at Slask, won’t care if the results are right. Such success would highlight how the domestic market is, although not poor, certainly overpriced.
Four: Very Hard Choice, actually! I intended to point to one other club in my last spot, but I fear that could be too controversial, given how well many clubs have strengthened over the summer. For example, look at Legia – they have done everything to clear their squad out of deadwood and, even though manager Maciej Skorża may complain, recent deals have been of a high standard and only a replacement for Alejandro Cabral, now back in Argentina, remains to be completed. But there is also Cracovia who gone for quality over quantity – Andrzej Niedzielan will improve their attack while Mateusz Żytko is good cover in defence. Elsewhere Lechia Gdansk have persuaded Razack Traore to stay at the club, while the signing of Dutch-Ghanaian Fred Benson looks as promising as Śląsk’s signing of Voskamp. Podbeskidzie have brought in some experience, always key for a new side in the Ekstraklasa, in the form of Adrian Sikora, Mateusz Bąk and Ondrej Sourek. Polonia Warszawa, despite losing three of their top scorers, have done well enough to try and cover for positions at the back and in the middle, areas clearly not right in Jacek Zielinski’s squad. Thus there is simply too much competition for the last spot in my short ranking, and I shall leave it up to you to decide who it should be to claim it.