For whatever reason do Ekstraklasa fans think that this season was and is poor, the league looks settled for a decent finish. Out of previous five seasons, it happened only once that the difference between first and fifth team in the table was lower than current seven after twenty five games. Yes – it wouldn’t be good for the country if the likes of Ruch or Korona or even Śląsk have won the title on sixth of May. But out of the battle that looks exciting in forthcoming weeks, the championship will go to the hands in which it will be the safest. To Legia Warsaw.
Maciej Skorża jumped around the VIP box in delight after Ljuboja found the net and settled the win for his team. He couldn’t join his team on the byline for his comments and actions during Legia’s struggle at Wisła Krakow, yet his absence wasn’t a trouble – a small walkie-talkie in his right hand was often used as he contacted his assistants over ninety minutes. His tactics were right, in the wake of several suspensions he turned to 4-1-4-1 instead of usual 4-2-3-1, but the play didn’t glue exactly the way he wanted.
This wasn’t the best of performances but the key for Legia in this spring is consistency and stability. They are not the best side in 2012 – surprisingly, it’s Górnik and Korona Kielce – but they allowed only three goals and theirs only defeat came in Zabrze. Skorża quickly learned from this lesson and even after going down to nine men at Wisła, his team kept composure and clean sheet.
Their win over Ruch Chorzow wasn’t spectacular in even one bit, yet crucial. The advantage over league rivals is not impressive, yet Legia’s ability to extend their lead is obvious – much more than when Śląsk was top of the Ekstraklasa. Interestingly, Skorża’s strength comes from coping with critique and putting pressure on young players to perform by letting them know how their form is appreciated.
Last season, it was Michał Kucharczyk’s star that was shining but as he said himself, he lost the form because of believe that it all came so easy. So Skorża put him on hold, sent to the backstage, showed that there is much more quality in the squad and if he wants one for himself, he needs to up his work during each and every training session. When Kucharczyk saw how Wolski, Żyro and others are leading Legia to triumphs, he did just that, and his goal against Ruch is another confirmation of the right process he was put through by Skorża.
Ljuboja is another example, yet quite different. He scored his tenth goal of the season, isn’t impressive assistant, though his team work remains unnoticed for many critics. As much they seem to look disappointed of his recent performances, that few have demanded that his contract should not be renovated this summer. ‘He gives this team less and less’, ‘his frustration is now affecting others’ and ‘at 33 there is nothing he can give Legia more next season’ were the arguments over leaving him in the cold when June ends.
But any of this statements is not true, simple as that. Yes, he gets frustrated at some of his teammates, over their positioning, poor passing, ease with which they loose the ball. But every fan sees it the same way and even Skorża knows that there are problems and a lot of space for improvement in his plan to make Legia as fluent as it is possible.
Ljuboja is an experienced footballer, one that knows his qualities and, more importantly, how to use them for the team, not himself as few thinks. He opens up the space, he wants the ball and is eager to share it, not win it on his own. Smart runs, wise passes, good deliveries and even defensive work of which he wasn’t known too well is his contribution in what seems to be Legia’s most successful season in years. Maybe even decades.
There are flaws in Skorża’s team that need to be taken care of, and winter transfers of Novo and Blanco have not solved any of them, but in a season that supposed to be a successful one with a team in constant construction, Legia’s manager delivers both. There might not be enough credit because of low confidence that this road to the championship is as good as it should be, but after all, there is a certain saying which can be used – the winners should not be judged.