It’s nearly Christmas time once again and FourFourTwo has taken a close look at the S.League clubs. Here you’ll find what worked in 2015 and what they need Santa Claus to deliver to make sure 2016 is an even better year…
Albirex Niigata (S)
What worked in 2015?
- 2015 S.League finish: 3rd
- Singapore Cup: Champions
- League Cup: Champions
Plenty. In their 12th year in Singapore football, we can safely say it was easily their best one yet.
Chairman Daisuke Korenaga moved away from his usual policy of recruiting only youngsters with the signings of former J-League men Yosuke Nozawa and Fumiya Kogure, moves which worked a treat as they romped to a domestic Cup double.
Nozawa, 36, led a backline which let in just 21 goals in 36 matches, while Kogure’s outstanding playmaking skills and ability on set pieces ensured he picked up the S.League ‘Player of the Year’ gong.
Second-year coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama also played his cards right in the big matches, with his substitutions combining to great effect in the respective Cup finals.
What do they need from Santa for 2016?
One of the most glaring weaknesses from last season was the lack of squad depth, with Okuyama relying on the same 14 or 15 players in the pursuit of multiple trophies.
Thus new coach Naoki Naruo will certainly need to assemble a stronger squad if they want to win the S.League title, which has eluded them so far during their time in Singapore.
While they have managed to keep the likes of Nozawa and marauding right-back Mikiya Yamada, they will certainly hope they can lure the classy Kogure back for another season.
Of course recruiting another couple of players who have J-League experience under their belt will also help.
Last but not least, they need to sign a potent striker. Shotaro Ihata was supposed to be the fulcrum of the attack but only scored one goal all season, leaving them as the team with the fewest goals (27) in the league.