My glass is half empty – Get another round in

So I wrote this review a couple of weeks ago when the 2014/15 Nemzeti Bajnoksag reached the halfway point. I have been a little slow in publishing so two more rounds have passed since I made the conclusions below, but I will stick to them.  Anyone who reads all this is a champ – I have thrown in a few pictures for those of you who are scared by all the words.!

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THE TOP TWO

Videoton – A

After missing out on European football on the last day of last season, Vidi took the step of firing Jose Gomes as manager and replacing him from within by appointing the dour looking Joan Carrillo Milán.  The summer transfer window represented a period of some stability with the only significant transfer being the arrival of Róbert Feczesin (a fringe Hungarian international striker who was previously playing the role of journeyman in Italy’s lower leagues).

This recipe has proved highly successful as Videoton won the first ten games of the season partially thanks to the on-form Nemanja Nikolic who has scored 13 goals in the first half of the season (having been joint top scorer in the previous season).  Videoton have the meanest defence in the league thanks in part to Juhasz Roland looking an incredibly accomplished defender at this level, a free-scoring attack that has also scored the most in the league and dismissed their closest challengers MTK in a 5-0 trouncing that merely highlighted the difference in class between this team and the rest of the league.

2013-08-04 18.15.17

When I was a Vidi fan for the day versus Fradi (2013/14)…

So will anything stop them from winning the league at a canter?  I suspect not, but there are some possible hiccoughs to contend with if Vidi want to close out their 2nd league title.

Nemanja Nikolics is out of contract in the summer and has been heavily linked with a transfer to AEK Athens.  AEK have themselves stated that they would be more than happy to seal the deal during the January transfer window.  How Vidi would cope without the most prolific scorer in the Hungarian league is not known, but you would suspect that they would not struggle for goals and have Feczesin (amongst others to step into the gap).

The renovation of Vidi’s home ground, the Sostoi Stadium, will begin in the new year.  However, MLSZ kindly organised the fixtures so that the first half of the season would be frontloaded with home fixtures for Vidi.  As such, they have played 11 out of their 15 games at home meaning a long stretch on the road in 2015.  This will include visits to all of the current Top 8.  I think it is highly unlikely that Vidi will collect 41 points in the second 15 games as they have done in the first.

That said given the five point gap over MTK and eight point gap back to third and the rest of the chasing pack is probably too big a lead to throw away.

MTK – A

2013-06-01 16.05.19

Home, sweet home

As an MTK fan, I will try to be as objective as possible.  One year ago, there was genuine concern in the MTK ranks that they could be facing a return to Nemzeti Bajnoksag II, a young side was being overrun by opponents and they had little or no goal threat.  The signings of Torghelle Sandor and Vass Adam (both former Hungarian internationals) injected much needed experience and MTK surged up the table and out of harm’s way.  They have continued that form into this season and have been the only team who look like they have a chance of going toe-to-toe with Vidi.

That said there has been a degree of good luck along the way.  Impressive looking 0-4 and 0-3 away wins at Pecs and Haladas did not tell the real story of games that could have had very different outcomes.  Late winners against Debrecen, Fradi and Gyor have also flattered MTK (especially in the last of those when MTK did nothing for 85 minutes).  MTK do have a strong, settled spine and rarely concede (ignoring the hammerings at Paks and Vidi).  Kanta Jozsef continues to pull the strings and looks as classy a player as there is in this division although his form has faded in recent rounds.  Hegedus Lajos is in the form of his life and has won points on his own this season.  Young wide men, Vass Patrick, dr Horvath Zsolt, Bese Barnabas and (at times) Hrepka Adam all offer something different and all have scored goals to cover up for the initially injured and now misfiring Torghelle.

At present, MTK look like the only team that can challenge Vidi and even then that is wishful thinking.  Lots will depend on any departures in January, but if they can hold the squad together, Torghelle can gain his form of the end of last season and MTK can sneak a win when Vidi come to town, then who knows…

Failing to finish in the Top 3 would be a disappointment, but might be a possibility.

THE CHASING PACK

I think that with the exception of Paks, any of the next six teams could feasibly put together an impressive surge a la Gyor last year and force themselves into the reckoning.  All have shown inconsistency and mediocre form at different times of the season to date.

Diosgyor – B

I did have a soft spot for Diosgyor and I have no idea why (that all dissipated when they beat (up) MTK in the last round of the first half of the season).  That small confession aside…

2014-07-24 20.28.27Nothing to do with Diosgyor, but the last competitive game played at Puskas Ferenc – Fradi 0 – 2 Rijeka

A good, if not outstanding, first half of the campaign for Diosgyor leaves them the best placed to break up the Top Two.  Unbeaten apart from defeats at Paks and Vidi (both games were lost in the last five minutes), Diosgyor could possibly be thinking what might have been especially with five draws thus far.  Akos Elek is the running man in the middle of the park and ably assisted by a core Serb contingent of Drazen Okuka, Lazar Marjanovic and the ever impressive Miroslav Grumic.  Georges Griffiths was signed from Papa in the close season to replace the goals and physical presence of Futacs Marko (who moved to Turkey): both men measure in at a shade under 2 metres in height.   GG has only managed one league goal to date, but has played second fiddle to another giant of a forward Takacs Tamas.  Playing both of them is a physically intimidating prospect that can bully sides off the park.

Diosgyor also put up a succesful showing in the UEFA Cup by Hungarian standards knocking out Maltese and Bulgarian opposition before getting trumped by Krasnodar of Russia (8-1 on aggregate).  Being knocked out of the Magyar Cup by Vidi (again with a winner in the last five minutes) means that there will be no repeat of last year’s run to the final, but a repeat League Cup victory cannot be ruled out.

Nailed on for Top 5, I reckon they will finish at least third and probably as runner up to Vidi. Another run in Europe.

Paks – A

This season’s surprise package.  The team has been transformed since they lost 3-1 in a relegation battle with MTK back in April.  The team then look demoralised and well-beaten: a team destined for relegation, potential cut in funding and life in Nemzeti Bajnoksag II and beyond.  But Aurél Csertői (who was appointed in January) was able to turn things around and take Paks well clear of relegation.  That good form has continued with Paks briefly top of the league and Csertoi threatens to follow-up his impressive feat of taking Haladas to third a few seasons past.  This is all without last season’s joint topscorer in the league, Simon Attila, who moved to some unknown Austrian team.

2013-09-21 18.16.25

Paks protesting against Fradi racism

Paks have a very settled team that concedes few, but still offers a threat up top.  This is a team that with possible exception of Fiola Attila has few standout players.  I think Paks will struggle to keep the form going into the second half of the season in all honesty with that the quality that they currently have.  Teamwork can only take you so far even in this league and a defeat at Dunaujvaros may signal the start of a slide as we move into the second half of the season.

Anything above seventh is a real achievement.

Debrecen – C

Like a drunk stumbling home from a night out, you always thought that Debrecen would make it home last season, but there was that nagging doubt that they might just fall asleep on a park bench.  Well that Debrecen turned up to this season with the mother of all hangovers.  Winning two of the first seven league games and being knocked out of the Magyar Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League (albeit very unfortunately after conceding a late, late goal to BATE in Belarus).

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When I was a Loki fan for the day at Honved (2013/2014)…

Debrecen then had their worst start to the season for many years with people scratching their heads to work out what went wrong.  Focusing on Europe probably cost them points in the first two or three rounds and they struggled to regain momentum.  They have won five of their last six though including an impressive (and deserved) victory at Vidi and their only slip-up being an away draw at Fradi.  Two wins in the last two games before Christmas could put Debrecen in a position for a strong finish to the season.  A team full of talent that was not too far away from the Champions League could still make a challenge on the Top 3.  The prospect of them closing down 13 points on Vidi to retain their title seems like a long shot.

Which DVSC will we see in the second half of the season?  Continuing recent form would see them challenge for a place in Europe.

Ferencvaros – C

2013-08-04 18.49.40

Fradi finally appeared to find some form under Thomas Doll at the end of last season.  Only bettered by Gyor in the spring season during Fradi took 30 points from a possible 39 with only one defeat (against MTK ;-)).  With a move to their newly built stadium on Ulloi Ut, it seemed like the start of a new dawn for the biggest club in Hungary.  Significant additions were made in the offseason as well with Doll’s compatriot and ex-German international Benjamin Lauth (Lauth who is the subject of the song Lauth anhören by Sportfreunde Stiller) and Hungarian success story Gera Zoltan and the removal of Fradi’s Dutch contingent who were left over from the previous management’s Dutch recruitment drive.  The only downside was the departure of Bosnian international Muhammed Besic whose talent was on display for all to see at the World Cup and sealed a transfer to Everton.

The good form continued with four wins from the first five placing, Fradi towards the top of the league.  However, since then they have only won three out of eight league games including defeats to MTK and Ujpest.  Serious questions are now being raised about the future of Thomas Doll who seems to be transforming himself into an angry German chipmunk with every passing game.  Two relatively simple home games against Kecskemet and Papa need to be won otherwise Thomas Doll will be following the well-worn path of Fradi managers in recent years in turning right out of the stadium in the direction of the airport.

It is not possible to comment on Fradi this season without talking about what is going on behind the scenes.  While fans of the rest of the league’s teams are in uproar about the fan card system put in place by the MLSZ (this is not the place to discuss this matter further), Fradi’s fans have been treated even worse.  They are now required to provide hand scans to enter their new stadium.  This huge invasion of personal liberties has been condemned by Fradi’s most significant fan groups who have boycotted the stadium causing the new stadium to not only be 80% empty at times, but also carry the atmosphere of a morgue.  The club’s leadership seems unwilling to discuss the position with the fan groups.  For as long as this fracture exists, this cannot be good for Fradi and potentially for the rest of Hungarian football.  (I know fans of other clubs are concerned that like the fan card system which was pioneered with Fradi, all stadiums may soon require hand scans.)

2014-03-08 15.55.32

MTK 3 – 2 Fradi (2013/14)

I think Doll will survive until the spring, but Fradi will struggle to finish higher than fifth with the turmoil surrounding the ownership and fans.

Ujpest – B

With only 14 goals in 15 games, you would not really expect Ujpest to be featuring particularly highly up the table having scored the same amount of goals as third bottom Pecs.  But Ujpest do not concede many and on their day are a very difficult team to beat.  Those days have been becoming more and more frequent as the summer turned to autumn and Ujpest have been gradually hauling themselves up the table.

2014-05-03 17.48.04

Ujpest 0 – 4 MTK (2013/14) – please, please history repeat itself…

Last season was very much a cloud with a silver lining.  Faced with bankruptcy and revocation of their MLSZ licence for much of the spring, Ujpest finally put that behind them and closed out the season with a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Diosgyor in the Magyar Cup final.  Those financial irregularities meant they were denied a place in Europe alas, but the start of the 2014/2015 promised renewed stability for the lilak.  Seven goals in their first ten games hardly lit up the opening stages of the league.  Recent form and goal scoring has improved and Ujpest find themselves in the chasing pack.  If Simon Krisztian can keep his good form going in the new year and they can find a striker good for another half dozen goals (Kabat Peter are you still alive?), then they could mount a serious challenge for the top 3.  I also have enjoyed the play of Loic Nego at right back and he looks a cut above this level although persuading his team mates not to score quickfire own goals would held out the lilak no end.

Whatever happens expect a fiery (likely to be figuratively and literally) derby day when Ujpest pay their first visit to Fradi’s shiny new stadium.

Gyor – E

If Debrecen finished last season like a drunk, then Gyor went on an amphetamine laced dash to the finish line falling short at the last hurdle when it seems like they went on the mother of all benders because they have hardly turned up this season.  After winning ten of the thirteen games after Christmas last season, they have only won five of the first fifteen this and all five wins came against the bottom five teams in the league.  Gyor have even contrived to lose twice to local rivals from the second division, Gyirmot: the latter defeat sending them of the Magyar Cup.

2013-10-05 17.48.54

Escape over this to glory?

What has gone wrong?  To be honest, having only watched Gyor on the one occasion this season it is hard to know although a tendency to have a porous defence with clean sheets against Szombathely, Pecs and Papa only (hardly teams with the most prolific of strikeforces) may provide a good indication.  Again this seems hard to explain with Liptak Zoltan and fairly highly rated new kid on the block, Lang Adam making up two of the back four.  Fellow Hungarian internationals Priskin Tamas and Rudolf Gergely should provide enough of a focal point and width respectively to always mean Gyor are likely to score goals.  Whatever has gone wrong it cost manager Horvath Ferenc his job to be replaced by a decision making pentoika (real word?) headed by Tokody Tibor whose playing positions are listed as defender/striker.  Hardly a tried and trusted recipe for future success.

Gyor has too much ability in their squad to slip much further down the table (especially with the lack of quality in the lower part of the league).  No idea what to expect from this team in the second half of the season.  A similar surge to the end of last season (which is theoretically possible given the similar squad available) could see them challenge a European place, but continued mediocrity and an inability to beat anyone with any quality could see them treading water until the summer months.  This is a club in desperate need of some direction and leadership which may have arrived with the appointment of Vasile Miriuță who knows the club even if he does not come with the best of managerial pedigree (Energie Cottbuss U-19 and an ill-fated spell at Cluj).

MIDTABLE MEDIOCRITY

Kecskemet – B

A recent draw against Vidi whilst down to ten men and battling own-goal assisted victory against Ujpest show that this team has too much about it to be relegated, but that must have been the concern when they sat on one point after five games.  Kecskemet must be a frustratingly erratic team for the fans. Just as likely to pick up a win on the road to high-flying Paks as they are to lose at home to lowly Haladas.  With 19 points in the pot already though, another four wins should be enough to see them safe.  They will be wanting to hit that mark sooner rather than later as the last five games will all be away from the Alfold including trips to MTK, Vidi and Ujpest.

2014-07-24 20.25.09

A billiard bar in Puskas Ferenc – Probably shut in 1984

Young Senegalese striker Bara Mamadou Lamine Ndiaye (aka Bebeto) brings a bit of pace to the strike force and should fire enough goals to win Kecskemet enough points to finish comfortably in mid-table.  I know that Kecskement are currently below Gyor, but I can see Kecskemet going no higher than mid-table mediorcrity (partially due to the genuine five man defence they employ) whereas Gyor have the quality to move up to the higher echelons of the table if they can sort themselves out.

Puskas Akademia – C

2014-07-26 19.26.52

Puskas Akademia (and the whole football world) were hard hit by the sudden loss of one of the great hopes of Hungarian football, Orban Gaspar, so even scoring a goal this season must be viewed as a huge success…

Ok, let me start that again.  I will start by saying I do not really understand this team.  Ignoring the politics behind the whole club, stadium etc., I understand that the idea of the club is to give young Hungarian players the opportunity to play regular football in the highest league that the country has to offer.  This in itself is a very noble cause, but I do not understand why  the team regularly plays 26 year old Serbian goalkeeper, a 23 year old Croatian defender and 27 year old Brazilian defender.  This surely defeats the very purpose behind the club.  What is more the spine of the club is made up by Hungarian players the wrongside of 30, Szelesei Zoltan, Polonkai Attila and Czvitokovics Peter.  I understand that some experience running through the team is required to guide the youngsters, but this seems to be a team dominated by journeymen with a sprinkling of Hungarian youngsters thrown in.

I never really expect Puskas Akademia to achieve anything in particular.  If any of the players really shine, then they will soon be moved up the road to Vidi (which is effectively its parent club) and if the team is performing terribly, I am fairly sure that some dubious penalty decisions will come their way and/or a relegation exemption from MLSZ.

With a front two of Lence Laszlo and Tischler Patrick, the team will always have goals in them.  Much like Kecskemet, I expect Puskas to finish in that middle table mediocrity position where they lie at the moment.

RELEGATION FODDER

Nyiregyhaza Spartacus – B

The first of the new boys.  Champions of Nemzeti Bajnoksag II and a return to the big time after a four year absence.   Nemzeti Bajnoksag is not a particularly difficult league to stay in with an average of 26 (in the last ten seasons) enough to keep you safe.  That equates to something like seven wins, five draws and eighteen defeats.

This season none of the bottom five have more than 14 points at the halfway stage, which suggests that:

  1. a) 26 points might not be enough; and
  2. b) the games between the bottom six teams will take on ever more significance (as proverbial six pointers).

Apart from an opening day draw at local rivals Debrecen, Nyiregyhaza have taken thirteen of their points in the games against the other teams at the bottom.   Their form in the reverse fixtures (all away except for Honved) will decide their fate in the league.  Points picked up against the other teams in the league will determine if they can breathe safely a little earlier.  Final round fixture away at Pecs is looking like a potential do or die for both teams if they do not get their act together before Easter, but a 4-0 home victory in the weekend just past will give Szpari hope that they have turned a corner.

Survival was always going to be the target for Szpari.    I think that they will scrape home at the very least.  A few confidence boosting wins against teams further up the table may see them avoid relegation comfortably.

Papa – D (with merit for beating Fradi)

Always want to make me start singing a certain Madonna song.

Papa is a small town between Gyor and Szombathely with a population of 30,000, which along with Paks is the smallest town to host a Nemzeti Bajnoksag I team.  It has more or less been clinging to its place in the top flight since it was promoted in 2008/09 with league finishes of 11th, 13th, 14th 14th and 12th thereafter.  Expectations were similarly low going into the season and the club might be seen to be overachieving currently sitting in 12th and with a memorable home wine against Fradi under their belts.  Less than a month later, manager Matyus Janos (who had only taken the helm in the summer) declared that for various (unclear) reasons, he was no longer able to continue I in the position with Papa sitting 8th after seven rounds.  Six points from a possible 27 has followed and Papa have slipped to where they are now.

Papa are in danger of becoming this season’s Mezokovesd and slipping out of the division altogether despite having a beyond respectable start to the season.  If their form does not improve somehow, then they will be nervously looking over their shoulder, but on the whole this is about where we would expect to see Papa.  I think that they will be safe.

Honved – E

Honved are one of those frustrating teams that you kind of feel would be better off being relegated for a while and they would bounce back as a much stronger club.  Like Aston Villa.  Having seemingly invested heavily in an academy to match that of MTK, there seems to be a reluctance to put any faith in those youngsters.  In no doubt, this is partially driven by the American owners who seem reluctant to go back to basics in getting the club moving in the right direction.  A failed (and well publicised) bid to bring aging Alessandro del Piero to the club merely reinforced this belief.  Marco Rossi was sacked towards the end of last season as the club fell into free fall losing something like eight games on the spin.  Ex-Sampdoria legend Pietro Vierchwood was brought in, but failed to bring any sign of progress losing his job in early October.  The caretaker bosses have presided over five games picking up two points on the way.

2014-11-15 17.29.28

NBII would welcome Honved

If they do survive the season without relegation, then the club should undertake an internal upheaval.  The current business model is not working and instead of opting for overpaid managers and players from foreign shores with no experience, they should select an experienced Hungarian coach who plays good progressive football and has a reputation for bringing through youth.  Not sure if these grow on trees, but Egervari is available and could just about fit the bill.  This season should be about survival.  Throwing the youngsters into this mess now may be a bit too do or die for my liking and may destroy their confidence as they scrap for points against fellow strugglers.  What do I know though?

Like the other strugglers, much will come down to their games with the bottom six.  Like Nyiregyhaza, these are mainly away from home and like Nyiregyhaza, the last game of the season (with Papa) looks like it could be a bit tasty.

Dunaujvaros – C

The other newly promoted team have been the exact reverse of Vidi in more ways than one. Forced to play the majority of their games away from Dunaujvaros, they have found it as difficult as Vidi have found it easy to pick up points in the first half of the league.  Deducted a point for fielding an ineligible player, it seems the club’s administrative staff are struggling as much as the players.

2014-05-16 18.34.06

Dreaming of Sztalinvaros…

Have started to find some form in the last five rounds (defeating Paks, Pecs and Haladas and drawing with Diosgyor) meaning they have secured ten points in the last five versus 3 (minus 1) in the previous ten.  They will be wishing they could play teams with four letter names beginning with P every week.  They start the second round at home to Honved and a win would enable them to enjoy their Christmas Fish Soup (I so want to say turkey) a little more easily.

They will stay up for me and I hope that point will not prove crucial when it boils down to it.

Pecs – D

The team has been unable to recover from their opening day hammering at home at the hands of MTK and finish the first half of the season with an equally uninspiring defeat away to Nyiregyhaza.  Veber Gyorgy has gone with rumour being that WC 98 legend Robert Jarni being targetted to replace him.  Pecs does feel a bit like the Balkans 😉

2014-09-04 11.33.19

A photo I like – nothing to do with Pecs

Pecs need to start picking up points quickly and at least arresting their slide which started at the tail end of last year.  No better place to start than taking revenge on MTK before Puskas Akademia come to town at the beginning of December.  Already two points adrift: failure to start winning could leave them cut perilously adrift and cuddling up to Hali in the lonely place at the bottom of Nemzeti Bajnoksag I.   Either way when the two meet at the beginning of March, you cannot helping thinking it will be a must win for both of them.

Haladas – F

Haladas have struggled to score goals this season and are currently on a run of 456 minutes without putting the ball into the opposition net.  They have scored five goals all season.   This is not helped by a terrible pitch at home that plays like a cross between a beach and a cow field.  The crowd have also been getting on the players back and it seems like local old-boy Halmosi is starting to lose his legs.  Rado Andras has potential but needs the opportunity to flourish.  He might be wise to try and resurrect his transfer to Fradi that was much touted over the summer.

2014-11-29 15.54.32

Hali are in the need of something of a miracle at the moment.  They are already four points adrift of safety and it is hard to see where the points or goals are coming from.

To give them hope though, they probably need some eighteen or nineteen points more to be safe, but with only Pecs of the bottom 6 to come in the next 6 games they are going to need to start beating the big boys or they will be praying for an almighty outburst of form in the last ten games.

Going down.

PREDICTIONS

If you have made it to the bottom, then congratulations.  You have reached prediction time where I horribly attempt to apply my limited knowledge to forecast what is going to happen in the next few months.

Top 3 – Vidi, Debrecen, Diosgyor

Relegated – Haladas and Honved

Magyar Kupa – Fradi (beating Ujpest in the final)

Liga Kupa – MTK

Promoted – Vasas and Mezokovesd (although please please Bekescsaba)

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