Gambrinus Liga midway report: Middle six
After looking at the sides occupying the top four places of the Gambrinus Liga it is time to divert our attention away from those in the upper echelons and towards those in the middle of the pack where everybody is bunched up and places can be won and lost in an instant. It’s sure competitive and tightly bunched from here on down.
5th – Mladá Boleslav (24pts)
Season so far: Injuries have robbed Boleslav of two of their best, and two of their most influential players in Ondřej Zahustel and Jan Chramosta and for long portions it seemed that the side would slide from European challengers to relegation candidates as a threadbare squad battled away. A change of manager followed as Ladislav Minář took charge and he has managed to steady the swaying ship, overseeing a remarkable turnaround that has seen the side shoot up the table.
Ins and outs: Ševinský has returned to bolster the defence, winger Roman Sloboda has arrived after a nightmare spell in Poland and, their big signing of the window, ex-Hamburg and Bayern midfielder David Jarolím has joined on a short term deal. Two strikers have departed, easing their numbers up top somewhat, with Marek Kulič and Kerem Bulut leaving the Městský stadion.
Looking forward: More a case of ‘what if’, than ‘what might be’. The Czech Cup could be a realistic chance to gain some success.
6th – Dukla Praha (22pts)
Season so far: It’s been a bitty beginning, and things just are seamlessly clicking like they did last season when Dukla purred and passed to a surprising top-half finish. They do, however, remain tough to beat and are always a good bet to score. Unable to secure Ivan Lietava to a permanent deal, Zbyněk Pospěch has picked up some of the slack but the goals are thankfully shared around the squad. The defence certainly looks like a brilliant foundation and is filled with healthy competition, noticeably the dual between the Jose Romera and the inconsistent Pavel Hasek.
Ins and outs: The sole departure has been Jan Pázler who, due to leave for Jablonec in the summer, was let go early after some hasty negations from the Northern side once David Lafata headed across to Sparta. A few youth team members have been promoted, but aside from those, another Spaniard has moved to Prague; forward Néstor Albiach joins Dukla’s tiki-taka revolution.
Looking forward: Sixth might be the best they can realistically achieve this season, but that isn’t a bad thing at all.
7th – Zbrojovka Brno (21pts)
Season so far: Zbrojovka look to have put their one season stint in the II.liga completely behind them and have performed remarkably well on their return to the Czech top flight, though an Autumnal wobble showcases that they aren’t out of the woods just yet. A bright start soon gave way as Slavia and Jablonec put nine past the Brno defence in successive games, but Zbrojovka bounced back, losing just one of their next six in the league. Petr Svancara then picked up an injury which has forced him out until Christmas and his absence was definitely felt as the goals, and their form, dried up.
Ins and out: There have been just two permanent arrivals to Brno so far with the young Bosnian defender Muamer Avdić joining from II.liga Znojmo, Tomáš Frejlach moved on loan from Slavia while Zbrojovka’s attacking arsenal was expanded with the signing of Miroslav Marković. The only major departure has been Josef Kaufman who has returned to Teplice after five years away.
Looking forward: They’ll need to be careful as they overachieved in the autumn and any further slip ups could see them battling against a return to the II.liga straight away.
8th – Slovácko (20pts)
Season so far: The Uherské Hradiště outfit became the first side to dispense with the services of their manager as Miroslav Soukup was given the boot as early as August and the delightfully named Svatopluk Habanec took control from there on. A quick upturn in form followed, but Slovácko then fell into an inconsistent rut that is blighting many this season.
Ins and outs: Young goalkeeper Vít Nemrava has made the biggest move of all, going over to London, joining West Ham on loan. First-team transfers have been thin on the ground with squad players coming back and departing on load deals. Sparta’s Jiří Skalák arriving on loan should give some bite and allow the player to get some substantial playing time.
Going forward: In my estimation Slovácko have all the tools to have a solid top-half finish and that’s where they should be aiming to solidify themselves in years to come.
9th – Slovan Liberec (19pts)
Season so far: From champions to also-rans in half a year has been quite the reality check for the club. Two successive victories started their Gambrinus Liga defence off in solid fashion, but then they could only pick up one victory in their next eight as everything slowly unravelled. Jaroslav Silhavy’s decision to bring in quantity over the summer has spectacularly backfired and he is sadly in the firing line, though committed to reverse the side’s fortunes. Jiří Štajner has also dealt with heart problems, but he thankfully appears to have been given the all clear by doctors to resume playing.
Ins and outs: Jan Nezmar retired and has since taken up a directorial role with Liberec whilst the Lukáš Vácha’s move to Prague has already been discussed. There have been two other key departures; Milos Bosančič looks set to complete a deal to relocate to South Korea and David Bičík has joined Turkish side Mersin leaving the goalkeeping gloves up in the air. The Ukrainian trio and Maicon Souza have all left after six months in Liberec also. Plenty have left, but Liberec have welcomed a few through the doors also; Pavelka and Frydek Jr joined as part of the deal taking Vácha away though plenty of grit and determination has been added with the signature of Radoslav Kovac on an 18 month contract. There’s rebuilding ahead and it looks like Silhavy is doing it the right way this time.
Looking forward: Less reflection on what has happened and plenty of time spent on drawing up plans for next season.
10th – Vysočina Jihlava (19pts)
Season so far: Jihlava were the draw masters as they kicked things off with five of them in a row, though they should have triumphed on the opening day given they were on the way to comfortably seeing off Slavia before they fell apart in the second-half. Stanislav Tecl’s goals have been key, considering they have the second-worst defence in the league which has raised a few alarm bells on certain occasions. František Komňacký has got them playing well however, so there remains an air of positive as Vysočina enjoy the high life.
Ins and out: It will be interesting to see how they cope without Tecl, but two highly rated youngsters have come in to try and replace him; David Vaněček (Plzeň) and Václav Vašíček (Sigma) have caused II.liga defences problems whilst on loan, and will try and do the same here in the Gambrinus Liga. Defender Milan Kopic has also arrived in order to hopefully improve the Jihlava back four.
Looking forward: There may be a few hairy without the figure of Stanislav Tecl leading the line, but Jihlava should be able to remain a Gambrinus Liga club without too many problems.