FFT’s 2017 S.League Preview: Hougang United
With new exciting former Home United head coach Philippe Aw at the helm, the pressure is on for Hougang to deliver silverware this season. They have managed to retain the spine of the team, keeping last year’s Young Player of the Year M. Anumanthan Kumar and 2015 Player of the Year Fumiya Kogure.
They have also made astute moves in the transfer market, signing defender Atsushi Shirota from Albirex Niigata (S) and midfielder Fabian Kwok from Tampines Rovers to bolster their defensive third.
It remains to be seen if new signing Pablo Rodriguez Aracil and Fareez Farhan can take over the scoring duties, after the departure of the club’s top goalscorer Stipe Plazibat.
The club has also spent big on installing a state-of-the-art dressing room and announced that it will roll out a new football data analytics software that will help provide coaches with detailed player statistics.
With the active developments on and off the pitch, all eyes will be on the Cheetahs to see if they perform to the level expected of them.
Atsushi Shirota (Albirex Niigata S), Azhar Sairudin (Home United), Antoine Viterale, Fabian Kwok (Tampines Rovers), Zulfahmi Arifin (Home United), Fareez Farhan (Garena Young Lions), Pablo Rodriguez Aracil (Madura United)
Stipe Plazibat (Home United), Jozef Kaplan, Huzaifah Aziz (Balestier Khalsa), Raihan Rahman (Balestier Khalsa)
Coach summary: Philippe Aw
Coach Philippe Aw is relishing the pressure of the upcoming season, with Hougang being billed by many as title contenders.
A strong believer in playing exciting and free-flowing football, the 39-year-old can be seen helping to patch up the playing field during trainings - ensuring that his charges have a good pitch to play on.
Just like during his time with Home, he has promised to blood young players into the team. With Hougang having its sixth coach in five years, the up-and-coming coach, who is on a one-year contract, knows that he will need to prove his worth.
Player to watch: Pablo Rodriguez
Pablo Rodriguez Aracil scored 14 goals in 33 games for Madura United in Indonesia playing in front of packed stadiums in hostile atmospheres.
It will be interesting if the journeyman can replicate the same form and gel quickly with his teammates this season.
His contributions up front will be key to how far Hougang will go this season.
Last year’s Young Player of the Year Anumanthan will also be another player to watch, with many expecting him to continue to build on his stellar performance last year. Finally, ex-Tampines midfielder Fabian Kwok, who can also double up as a defender, could be a useful addition to the squad as they push to fight for silverware.
Expectations: To challenge for the title
Silverware is definitely an expectation with the club’s busy action in the off-season. Many are closely watching Hougang’s moves and this could be the year where they make the jump to challenge for the title. At the very least, they are expected to fight for AFC Cup qualification.