Do look again at the provisional standings after 10 games from the second half of the season! The team in second place, proudly representing a village with just over 8.000 souls, had 10 points after 17 rounds and was looking destined to get back to the second division. Not a lot of people was going to miss Concordia Chiajna, but a few months later now a lot of people would like to come across what has become one of the most effective teams in Liga I…
The club that runs on the Local Council’s money and under the direct command of the village’s mayor Mircea Minea made the right call last December, when Laurentiu Dinita was replaced by Laurentiu Reghecampf, who came along with his wife, Anamaria Prodan, who works as a FIFA agent. The squad suffered massive changes, with 13 players released and 15 brought to try and help the club avoid relegation, 7 of them coming from the second division outfit FC Snagov – one of the clubs Reghecampf had worked for as a coach in the past.
Among them was a certain Idan Baruch, a goalkeeper that offered a terrible and very dubious display versus FC Vaslui, in the second official game of the year, a match that made everyone think that Concordia’s players will only try to make some money before they leave the top flight.
That match was followed though by an excellent run of 4 wins and 1 draw in 5 games, including another incredible result (4-3 away at Petrolul, after being 1-3 down, with three goals scored in the final six minutes!), before the green and white outfit suffered the second defeat of the year against Dinamo. Immediately, they were back among the “relegation favorites”, but six days later another huge result came along and lifted them above the line: a 4-2 away win against now former league leaders CFR Cluj! Before Steaua’s visit to the small stadium just outside Bucharest, Concordia can collect 6 other vital points, versus Vointa Sibiu and CS Mioveni, and Reghecampf could welcome the team he’s already been linked with from an excellent and totally unexpected position…
Reghe, the coach
With a career that saw him leave Steaua after three years and move to Germany, where he played for Energie Cottbus, Alemannia Aachen and FC Kaiserslautern, Reghecampf had two spells as a coach with both FC Snagov and Universitatea Craiova (which he helped once avoid relegation) and a short one with Gloria Bistrita, but for some reason he always failed to stay put in one place, in spite of some promising results. He’s now linked with Steaua Bucharest, but it would be a mistake to pay too much attention to Gigi Becali’s daily TV appearances, although the 37 years old is definitely aiming higher and, if he ends this season above the line, it would be a small miracle that could get him either a good move in the near future or at least buy him a lot more time at his next club.
Who are the new stars?
With eight goals between them, Brazilian forwards Alex (21 years old) and Adi Rocha (26 years old) have impressed in their first matches in Liga I, adding pace and the skill that’s still missing among the rest of the team lead by Vlad Munteanu, a wide midfielder (now 31 years old), who spent the past six seasons in the Bundesliga (with a short spell to Auxerre, in 2008), playing for the likes of Energie Cottbus (just like his coach), Wolfsburg, Arminia Bielefeld and FSV Frankfurt. The team’s captain is Iulian Mamele, a 27 years old central defender playing his first season in the top flight, but one of the nicest surprises comes from 24 years old right winger Adrian Popa, who under Reghecampf scored 2 goals and offered 4 assists, drawing quickly the interest of title-chasing clubs like FC Vaslui.
Last weekend, we’ve reached the halfway mark in Liga I, but, with a schedule that makes absolutely no sense to me – two more rounds will be played before the winter break – it’s time to take a quick look back at the 17 rounds gone.
The title race
With Otelul Galati ahead of everyone else, you can imagine that things didn’t really go as planned for the usual title contenders. The Bucharest clubs failed to do better than in the past couple of years and they’re quite a long way back, with Steaua, the only Romanian club still involved in an European competition, sitting in 7th place! Reigning champions CFR Cluj are even in a worse position and, with so many clubs eager to do better in the second half, it’s hard to see them fighting for more than a place in Europe.
Although both made the same call as CFR and changed the coaches that had prepared and started this season, FC Timisoara and FC Vaslui have definitely been more inspired and successful. Timisoara remained the only undefeated club in the league, while Vaslui suffered only one defeat in the last 11 rounds (against Timisoara!), winning eight times thanks to the team’s offensive quality and a bigger dose of luck than the rest of the pack.
Basically, Otelul‘s excellent run and Gaz Metan‘s fifth place repay the clubs that had a long term project, were satisfied with a slow, but steady growth in recent years and faith in their coaches, even when things weren’t looking bright, showing that it’s not all about the money spent on an over-priced Romanian market, the foreign players offered for free and the buys from abroad based on highlights presented on DVD, usually by the respective players’ agents!
The relegation battle
The reunited “mad bunch” from Sportul Studentesc failed to deliver more than a few entertaining matches and the bottom placed club wil probably go down mainly because the owner is satisfied to see good individual performances from the players he is hoping to sell. Unlike the rest of the struggling teams, Sportul’s players will never be desperate to get a result, an attitude easy to find in clubs like Victoria Branesti or FCM Targu Mures.
If Victoria keep faith in the young coach that won promotion last year, Ilie Stan, who doesn’t look at all out of his depth in Liga I!, Targu Mures and Pandurii are in good hands, after a poor start. In fact, Targu Mures could struggle to start 2011 with Ioan Ovidiu Sabau still in charge, as he’s considered one of the best choices by CFR’s board, as the champions are looking for the right guy to take over the team, during the winter break.
As expected, FC Brasov and Unirea Urziceni, who had suffered massive losses in terms of quality players, are down there, but they’ll put up a fight until the very end, even if top players like Chipciu (Brasov) or Maftei (Unirea) are likely to leave, as well.
What to expect
As you can see, we have no mid-table clubs, with CFR secretly dreaming of a spectacular come-back in the title race and Universitatea Craiova, who, right after Piturca’s appointment, dared even to speak of the title!, only three points away from the danger zone. With everyone still very much in it, it’s impossible to predict what is going to happen in 2011, but here’s what I think it’s pretty vital to change and what’s important to stay the same at the clubs fighting to win the league.
- Do: sell the players in demand! Rapa’s market price has rocketed and will only go down from there. The title isn’t a realistic goal for Otelul and a place in Europe could be achieved without one or two of the current regular starters. Plus, Marius Stan can buy a whole new team with a million Euros!
- Don’t: dare to think of the title. The other clubs have the money and means to make sure this won’t happen!
- Do: make a call regarding the coach, as Contra should either hang up his boots and focus on the new job or leave it to someone else. It’s been going well until now, but enthusiasm and good fortune don’t last forever.
- Don’t: keep on buying from Dinamo! It has become a
suspectstrange habit in recent years…
- Do: get back the injured defenders or buy new ones – it’s vital to find some balance within the team
- Don’t: keep on playing Wesley as a central midfielder and keep on using Burdujan
as a winger.
- Do: decide if you want the title or not; offer Lazar and Bozovic new deals; buy a new striker
- Don’t: act like amateurs; allow Rui Duarte or anyone else to skip training and leave the country without severe punishment; act like amateurs!
Gaz Metan Medias
- Do: offer the excellent coach Cristi Pustai a new deal; buy another striker; go for the chance to play in Europe next season
- Don’t: further unsettle Eric de Oliveira, you’re going to lose him anyway!
- Do: sell Torje, Adrian Cristea, Alexe – they’ll bring a lot of cash; get rid of Niculae, N’Doye, Scarlatache, Bordeanu, Moti – they’ll save you a lot of money and spare further embarassment; respect Danciulescu.
- Don’t: keep on using the old methods! You’re doing serious damage to this league and will continue to play in front of just a few hundred fans!
- Do: try and keep as many of the current players
- Don’t: act upon Becali’s mood and “knowledge”; lose the fans once again
- Do: sell all those that have spent too much time in Cluj and consider themselves more than just players; decide the club’s strategy before choosing the coach
- Don’t: think about the chance to win the league
- Following the sacking of Gigi Multescu, Ceahlaul’s owner started to look around for a foreign coach interested in taking up such a difficult job. Apparently, he immediately found one, as Zoran Filipovic – the former coach of Montenegro’snational team – is expected in Romania to hold talks with Gheorghe Stefan and to follow live the team’s next official game, away at Dinamo. After 19 rounds, Ceahlaul is at the bottom of the standings, with only 13 points, five less than Gloria Bistrita, who closes the safety zone.
- With speculation rising that he might be thenext coach sacked in LigaI, Ioan Ovidiu Sabau should feel slightly more secure, after the public backing received from club owner Marian Iancu. But only slightly more secure :-).
- Although the start of 2010 might look perfect, with six points out of six, trouble is just around the corner at Dinamo, as usual. Read more…