Albirex coach says they are not yet in top gear
Albirex Niigata coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga can hardly have any complaints with his debut season in Singapore so far.
After the first of three rounds of the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League, the White Swans have the most points from eight matches (16), are the highest scorers (21 goals) and boast the best defensive record (just five conceded).
But, ahead of Albirex's top-of-the-table clash with Tampines Rovers on Sunday, the former Shimizu S-Pulse coach still believes his team have been far from their best.
"We don't think much of the (unbeaten) record," the 48-year-old told The New Paper after a training session yesterday.
"Of course, the results give us confidence, but we still have some weaknesses we have to work on.
"We are not fixated on the results. We want to play better and, when we do that, the results will come naturally."
Under the guidance of Naoki Naruo last season, Albirex swept every piece of silverware on offer, bagging the Great Eastern Community Shield, The New Paper League Cup, the RHB Singapore Cup, and the S.League title.
Naruo has since returned to Japan to lead the parent club's Under-18 team in Niigata.
Yoshinaga has urged his charges to forget their impressive record in the first round of matches, if they want another trophy-laden season.
We are not fixated on the results. We want to play better and, when we do that, the results will come naturally.Albirex Niigata coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga
He even hinted he may make changes to the team's thus-far effective style of play, in order to see an improvement.
"We are trying out a few new things, and, hopefully, they will work out on Sunday," he said.
"The start of the second round presents a good chance for us to press the reset button."
Tampines will be out to avenge a 2-1 defeat in the first fixture between the two teams in February, when they had a penalty goal controversially disallowed, and then had a player sent off, before Albirex came from behind to win the match.
And Yoshinaga is wary of the threat the Stags present.
"I am not surprised they have quietly accumulated points and are now second in the table," he said.
"My recent image of Tampines is that they are very tight defensively - if you look at their defensive record, they have conceded only six goals, only one fewer than us.
"Also, when they get the ball, they are very quick on the counter attack."
- Warriors FC v Balestier Khalsa (7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Geylang International v Hougang United (7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Tampines Rovers v Albirex Niigata (7.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)
- Young Lions v Home United (7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)