29 lis 2011

I. Liga Review

Just four months into new season and I. Liga, Polish second division, goes to winter break after twenty games. Exhausting, full of emotions, controversies, ups and downs, brilliant goals and flops and stories, this wasn’t as boring as fans often think about lower leagues. Let me take you through what happened in last four months and who has the biggest chances to join Ekstraklasa clubs next season.

We start from the top and Pogoń Szczecin is the number one, to no one’s surprise. They have the best squad and have been knocking to the Ekstraklasa doors for some time now and finally look like a settled club. Marcin Sasal has fairly balanced side, although I really think that few of the results were disappointing. Top performers? Janukiewicz is good pick in goal, Ława is experienced playmaker, while attacking threat of Edi Andradina and Donald Djousse gave Pogoń almost half of their goals.

Surprise on the second place and it’s a huge one for someone who looks at the table without much knowledge. But Termalica Bruk-Bet Nieciecza, from a really small town and with a big sponsor, have also very experienced side that under Dusan Radolsky management is one of strongest contenders for promotion spots. Even though I think that third placed Zawisza Bydgoszcz, level on points with Nieciecza, will edge it in next round, having more resources. With Adrian Błąd as their best player, they suffered bad end to the round which cost them second place but looking at quality they already have, fans expect them to gain promotion.

Piast Gliwice is a club not without a problem, despite finally playing on new stadium. Fourth place and just two points behind vice-leaders, they have to play in strange circumstances of conflict between fans and board. Marcin Brosz also has very experienced squad but his biggest problem is defence, as his side defensive record is one of the worst in I.Liga. Fifth place and another surprise – Kolejarz Stróże. Only few thought that they may not struggle in the league but Przemysław Cecherz worked miracles with fairly small squad – playing most of the games with the same starting line-up ‘t often was their advantage but if they won’t make necessary additions, they won’t have such a good second round.

Sixth-placed Flota Świnoujscie lost several players and a manager this summer but made decent replacements in almost every department and is enjoying another safe season in I.Liga. Not punching above their weight, Krzysztof Pawlak continues the job of previous manager and his team is well organized, prepared to the season. They may finish higher… This was fairly mixed round for Bogdanka Łęczna (seventh) as Piotr Rzepka had big problems to name one eleven and stick to it and his squad often under-performed because of constant rotation. Their biggest problem may be the loss of Nildo, top-scorer, who is a target of few Ekstraklasa clubs.

Arka Gdynia went down last season from Ekstraklasa and is now in tough rebuilding stage as this work was given to Petr Nemec, who previously worked at Flota. He didn’t enjoy the best of starts, Arka was bottom for some time, but when his team got together and finally played manager’s way, the results came and they even may be in a position to attack two top spots. Ninth is Ruch Radzionków – club of huge financial issues and a home to two top talents, the Mak twins, Mateusz and Michał. Artur Skowronek did really well with small resources but will he repeat it after some changes in the winter, that are almost inevitable?

Tenth is Warta Poznan and, believe me, a long article only about them could not be enough to describe how awful round they had. After enjoying fantastic spring of 2011, the club’s management decided to take different road and is now paying for that decision – they will enter new round with fifth manager this season and after some revolution, while there is no hope that the promotion may be won this season, as it was hoped at the very start. Next is Sandecja and their season should look better, although what happened at the very end is only a result of club’s poor financial condition. New manager, named only two weeks ago, Robert Moskal will face tough challenge to hold to his squad but if he manages to do that, they will stay up easily.

GKS Katowice, twelve place in I.Liga, is also a club in a constant turmoil, where a month… a week without a controversy is a week lost. Unfortunately, the players failed to deliver despite huge expectations and Rafał Górak, despite having really good squad is not taking everything out of it. Pitry, Zachara and Rakels are among top performers but there will be changes to this side in the winter. Olimpia Grudziądz, next in the table and just two points off the relegation spots, is a fairly solid team that seems already be playing a bit over their level – which is seen in their attacking record, while hard working team is able to perform against better opposition, when they are made to defend. Quarter of their games ended in goalless draws which says a lot as well.

Wisła Płock, just above the relegation zone is another club that is not necessarily poor in terms of football but suffers from typical problems – no money, no future, no solutions. They have really good players on loan but they seem not to click and even experienced manager Libor Pala struggles to glue them together – their poor home record is very surprising. Fifteenth is Dolcan Ząbki and it looks like it will be the last season for small club near Warsaw in the I.Liga for some time. Their squad is a poor one, while manager Robert Podoliński is not experienced enough to keep them up – their biggest loss is that they are not as solid as they were in previous seasons, which is also a reason of changes made in the summer.

KS Polkowice is also a club I expect to go down – even this league is too high for their standards and they are sinking goals this season with manager Janusz Kudyba being unable to resolve this issue when he was signed midway in the round. Despite experienced players up front, they are paying the price for bad summer and with no resources they may fall badly during the spring round. Second from bottom is Polonia Bytom and the fact that they are still playing is some miracle after hell of a summer they had this year. All in all it took them some time to complete the squad and despite having better middle of the round, they are in very tough situation, while there are plans of new investor coming to the club that may save them. Their biggest star was Jakub Świerczok who already is on his move, young striker having nine offers, the most concrete from Wisła Krakow and Kaiserslautern. Last in the table is Olimpia Elbląg, deservedly so. Poor squad, lower number of goals scored, worst defensive record as well, eleven defeats… This is going to end in relegation, surely.

Full table, results and stats can be found HERE

PS. There will be some articles about I. Liga teams, managers and players soon but I wanted to give you an early insight after last game was played this weekend.

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