LionsXII go out on a whimper
1 BETTER PRE-SEASON, BETTER PLANNING
Not just last night, the LionsXII have looked disjointed on the pitch at times throughout the season and you just have to look at their pre-season to understand why.
You cannot underestimate the importance of pre-season and the LionsXII just did not get the best of build-ups before the Malaysian Super League (MSL) and the Malaysia Cup.
Players need time to get back into the groove after a break and to get used to new tactics and teammates.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) appointed Fandi Ahmad as LionsXII coach only on Dec 7 and, by then, most of his players were already in Myanmar for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games which did not end until Dec 22.
As for the Malaysia Cup, players were drafted for an exhibition friendly against Juventus and an international Under-23 friendly against Bahrain, affecting the LionsXII's preparations yet again.
It is understood that the next MSL season could kick off in first week of January, and the AFF Suzuki Cup ends on Dec 20 if the national team go all the way to the final.
The FAS and LionsXII management will have to learn from past lessons regarding the international calendar and National Service to give the team all the help they need to succeed.
2 LET FANDI CHOOSE HIS OWN PLAYERS
Critics who say Fandi inherited a championship-winning team from V Sundramoorthy are missing half the point - he took over a squad stripped of match-winners such as Shahril Ishak and Hariss Harun and had to rely on fringe players, such as Gabriel Quak, Zulfahmi Arifin, Raihan Rahman.
Then there were also some whom Fandi felt were not ready to make the step up. As such, he had to field Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi and Khairul Amri even when they were not fully fit.
In Sundram's first season, he could call upon the likes of Shahril, Amri, Agu Casmir, Shahdan Sulaiman, Juma'at Jantan, Sevki Sha'ban and Baihakki Khaizan in what was a good blend of youth and experience.
These senior players served as mentors who had a great stabilising effect on the team.
Whether as a centre back, midfielder or makeshift striker, Safuwan Baharudin ran his socks the entire season.
The 22-year-old has shown he could be the quiet leader similar to what Shahril was, but more of the players from his age group need to step up in terms of leadership and influence next season.
But, from what we've seen this term, it could still take them some time to fill those boots, so Fandi must be allowed to drop the players who don't make the grade and pick the players, especially forwards, who fit his philosophy.
3 DEVELOPMENT PLAN
What is the plan for the LionsXII? Is it to develop up-and-coming players or to allow national team players to get as much playing time together as possible?
As it stands now, it looks strange that the key attacking trio - Faris Ramli, Shahfiq Ghani and Courts Young Lions' Sahil Suhaimi - who are eligible for next year's SEA Games, are not playing together.
If they are allowed to reunite and play for the LionsXII next season, it would a big boost for Fandi in the attacking third.
If they are all pulled to the Young Lions instead, it could leave the LionsXII with even lesser firepower, which could lead to a poorer season not just in terms of results, but also morale.
4 STRENGTHEN ATTACK
Khairul Nizam, Shahfiq Ghani and Syafiq Zainal are all forwards who failed to score a single goal all season.
Fandi desperately needs to shore up his frontline but who is there to choose from?
Fazrul Nawaz (10 goals in the S.League), Sahil (nine), Qiu Li (six) and Hafiz Rahim (five) are options but, if he can somehow persuade Shahril to return to the LionsXII, he would find someone who can not only score and assist, but also someone who leads from the front.
5 IMPROVE HOME FORM
Going on another 22-match unbeaten run would be a tall order but this season's record of five wins, five draws and six defeats is unacceptable.
Jalan Besar needs to be a fortress in order for the LionsXII to be title challengers next season, but also to keep bums on seats as attendance hover dangerously around the 4,000-mark, the lowest it has been since the club's inception in 2012.
While the die-hards such as the 25 fans who made their way up to Selayang showed their loyalty, the LionsXII will need to go on their charm offensive off the pitch in the off-season and buck up drastically on the field to win back the support.
If anything, it looks like a long off-season for the LionsXII.
Fandi hits out at 'tame' LionsXII
FELDA UNITED 3
(Zah Rahan Krangar 10, Indra Putra Mahayuddin 26, Makeche Ndumba 28)
(Faris Ramli 22)
Maybe they were saving themselves for the Asian Games, maybe they didn't care anymore.
Having already been eliminated from the Malaysia Cup with no chance of progressing from Group A, last night's away game against Felda United was an inconsequential match, and most of the LionsXII players behaved like it was.
Felda United's Zah Rahan Krangar scored from outside the box in the 10th minute, before Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Makeche Ndumba also capitalised on more slack defending to convert from inside the box before the half-hour mark, rendering Faris Ramli's 22nd-minute counter-attack equaliser a mere consolation.
Zulfahmi Arifin also contrived to get himself sent off via two bookable offences.
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad was not a happy man. He said: "It was a very tame performance and I'm very disappointed with some of the players' attitude.
"We conceded two easy goals and it seemed like some of the players are already on holiday mood. They took things for granted and that is not good as professional players even though we were already knocked out.
"We have disappointed our travelling fans and ourselves because we failed to show character and discipline."
One of the few positives Fandi could take from this match were the performances of substitutes Emmeric Ong and Samuel Benjamin, who came on in the second half for their Malaysia Cup debut.
He added: "They tried to get involved, and showed a sense of urgency to put themselves about even though it was not easy for them."
Regarding the team's plans for the future, Fandi said: "We will have a discussion with the national coach to see where we go from here before we plan for the next season."
- DAVID LEE
- FELDA UNITED: Farizal Harun (Fairul Azwan Shahrullai 84), Yaroslav Krushelnitskiy (Nasriq Baharom 76), Adib Aizuddin Abdul Latiff, Khairul Ismail, Shahrulnizam Mustapa, Zah Rahan Krangar, Ahmad Syamim Yahya, Raimi Noor, Qhairul Anuar Roslani, Intra Putra Mahayuddin (Haris Safwan Kamal 89), Makeche Dumba
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 6, Madhu Mohana (Safuwan Baharudin 26) 6.5, Baihakki Khaizan 5.5, Afiq Yunos 6, Hafiz Abu Sujad 6, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari 6, Isa Halim 5.5 (Samuel Benjamin 81), Zulfahmi Arifin 5, Gabriel Quak 5.5 (Emmeric Ong 67), Faris Ramli 6.5, Sufian Anuar 6
- Shots: Felda 5 on target, 4 off target; LionsXII 2 on target, 4 off target
- Corners: Felda 3, LionsXII 4
- Yellow cards: Felda 3, LionsXII 3 (Zulfahmi Arifin, Samuel Benjamin, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari)
- Red cards: Felda 0, LionsXII 1 (Zulfahmi)
- Offsides: Felda 6, LionsXII 2
- Attendance: 300
- Match rating: 6.5/10
- Referee: Jefri Zulkifli 6/10
- TNP Man of the Match: Makeche Ndumba (Felda)
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