S.League report card
Sazali Abdul Aziz and Gabriel Tan analyse the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season and what the clubs need to do next year
They won their first S.League title in their 13-year history, and also the TNP League Cup and Community Shield.
If Albirex go on to win the RHB Singapore Cup tomorrow, there is literally not much more they could have achieved in 2016.
Plenty of credit should go to coach Naoki Naruo, in his second stint at Jurong East Stadium - he was also coach in 2009, when they finished seventh out of 12 teams - for surpassing the achievements of his predecessors.
The White Swans paraded some of the best players in the competition, such as striker Atsushi Kawata, wingback Naofumi Tanaka and playmaker Masaya Jitozono, and produced some of the most entertaining football.
What they need: As with every season, the revolving door at the Jurong East Stadium will see plenty of exits and arrivals. After such a dominant year, the club need to maintain their level of quality and fight for honours again in 2017.
What they've done: The White Swans usually announce their re-signings and new arrivals closer to the start of the new season. For now, they are said to be extremely keen on handing Naruo a new deal.
On paper, the Stags did not have a bad season. They finished second in the league and were knocked out by eventual finalists Bengaluru of India in the AFC Cup quarter-finals.
But, with 15 former and current national players, it must be an under-achievement.
They have one last chance for a silverware when they face Albirex in the Singapore Cup final.
Foreign legion: The Stags made the biggest foreign signing in the league's history, bringing in former Liverpool and Arsenal man Jermaine Pennant.
The hype surrounding the former England Under-21 star was the talk of the town. But, injuries meant he started only 15 of 24 league games, and he has been hit-and-miss in his new role as an Andrea Pirlo-style playmaker in the second half of the season.
Striker Billy Mehmet's (Ireland) output of 10 goals isn't enough, and winger Jordan Webb (Canada) has been erratic.
What they need: Add two quality defenders - five clean sheets all season is not good enough for a club like Tampines - but, other than that, the spine of the team is strong.
What they've done: The opposite. There is likely to be a mass exodus, after the announcement of a massive budget cut for next season. Pennant, on a reported $20,000 a month, will leave, as will many national players.
After winning the title in 2015, DPMM failed to return to similar lofty heights. However, they deserve some credit for the way they recovered after winning just one of their opening four matches.
There was disappointment too in the cup competitions, which they normally do well in, after they were beaten by Albirex in the League Cup final and were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup by Philippine invitees Ceres La Salle.
Foreign legion: Their three foreigners since 2015 were among the best. Rafael Ramazotti (Brazil) scored 20 goals to win the Golden Boot for the second year running, while the effective Brian McLean (Northern Ireland) was solid at the back.
Forward Paulo Sergio (Portugal) also provided moments of brilliance but his output of just six goals needed to be better.
What they need: The next wave of local talent to come through. For too long, they've relied on stalwarts Rosmin Kamis, Wardun Yussof and Sairol Sahari, who are all on the wrong side of 30.
What they've done: Expect to see a similar squad, given they are often loyal to their players. Whether coach Steve Kean stays for a fourth season remains to be seen.
The Protectors squeezed into next season's AFC Cup on the last day, thanks to their goal difference.
Things might have been better had winger Faris Ramli not missed long periods with groin and ankle injuries.
The 24-year-old's five goals from 12 starts are testament to his electrifying talent.
A mid-season change of coach from Philippe Aw to Aidil Sharin came as a surprise, but the team collected 62.5 per cent of their points since, compared to 46 per cent previously.
Foreign legion: Ken Ilso (Denmark) has excelled again, and now boasts 30 goals in 50 S.League games over the last two seasons.
Defender Sirina Camara (France) divides opinions - he is dynamic as a fullback but does not instil confidence in the centre - while midfielder Song Ui Yong (South Korea) has been good, but not outstanding.
What they need: A quality central defender to partner Abdil Qaiyyim and guide promising youngster Shahrin Saberin.
Home's front six are as good as any in the S.League on their day.
What they've done: Aidil is in talks with the club to continue as coach next season, although it is not clear yet if he is planning any major changes to the squad if he stays.
Following a late surge, Geylang just came up short in their bid to qualify for the AFC Cup. This, despite a 4-1 win over Home on the final day.
More had been expected of them, given the squad coach Hasrin Jailani had assembled.
But after years of mediocrity, a fifth-placed finish - their highest since 2010 - is a commendable effort.
Foreign legion: Defender Yuki Ichikawa (Japan) established himself as one of the league's best centre backs during his third season at Bedok Stadium, while playmaker Carlos Delgado (Argentina) scored a couple of memorable long-range goals but never really starred.
Striker Branko Cubrilo (Croatia), with just three goals, was released midway through the season. His replacement, Mark Hartmann (Philippines), scored seven goals in nine matches in all competitions despite being hampered by injury.
What they need: More goals to match their third-best defensive record.
The fact that Delgado and national striker Sahil Suhaimi, with five goals apiece, were their top scorers highlights where the problem lies.
What they've done: With Hasrin and plenty of his players still with a year left on their contracts, Geylang are in a strong position to build on the good work.
The bottom side from 2015 had a blistering start, and at one point, even drew comparisons to Leicester when they topped the table after six games.
Although K Balagumaran's charges could not maintain their early form, a sixth-placed finish was the best in the club's history.
They were also praised for their professional approach off the pitch, putting into action plans to improve their home stadium. Overall, a club that seem on the up.
Foreign legion: Newcomer Stipe Plazibat (Croatia) has impressed with his 13 goals, many from his goal-poaching ability.
Fumiya Kogure (Japan) has shown flashes of brilliance that made him last year's Most Valuable Player, but he and Jozef Kaplan (Slovakia) - who scored 45 goals in 90 S.League games but scored only three in 24 games this season - can do more.
What they need: A couple of centre backs. Of their three natural centre backs - one did not play at all and the other two in only half of the season. But Hougang had a strong spine made up of young players and they could go from strength to strength.
What they've done: Rumour has it that they were trying to woo a few national players while considering an overhaul of their imports.
Hopes that this would be the year Warriors reclaimed their place among the S.League's elite went out of the window when the team won just two of their first 11 games. Coach Jorg Steinebrunner paid the price and was replaced by Razif Onn.
There was a feeling they could - and should - have finished higher than third-from-bottom, with 11 former and current Singapore internationals in their ranks.
Foreign legion: Striker Jonathan Behe (France) may have had his critics for his misses and lack of defensive contribution, but his haul of 19 goals makes it impossible to ignore. Playmaker Nikola Rak (Croatia) had the technical ability to make the difference in games but, curiously, was not always given free rein.
Kento Fukuda (Japan), one of the league's top defenders, also could not repeat his stellar form from past seasons.
What they need: How about some off-field stability? In three of the four years since four-time title winning coach Richard Bok departed in 2012, the Warriors have not ended the season with the same coach they started with.
What they've done: Caretaker coach Razif has been confirmed in his position for next season. But will he still be there come end of 2017?
Marko Kraljevic had such a small squad that he chose to play just one pre-season friendly match to reduce the chances of his players picking up injuries.
The Croatian coach guided Balestier into the AFC Cup in back-to-back seasons on a shoestring budget, but it's no surprise the Tigers found it hard to cope with playing in four competitions again.
They were knocked out of the AFC Cup at the group stage for the second year running, and lost 13 of their 24 league matches while winning only four. And they also had winger Zulkiffli Hassim banned for the final month for making derogatory racial remarks.
Foreign legion: Their three foreign players were hit by injuries. Striker Robert Pericic (Croatia) made only one appearance because of a knee injury. His replacement Niko Tokic (Croatia) looked a real talent but missed games due to injury. Miroslav Kristic (Croatia), their star of 2015 with 16 league goals, could muster just five without a regular partner. Serb defender Emir Lotinac also missed almost half of the season.
What they need: Keep skipper Zaiful Nizam and beef up other departments.
What they've done: Not much yet. The Tigers will play in the third-placing match in the RHB Singapore Cup against Philippine side Ceres la Salle tomorrow.
GARENA YOUNG LIONS
When the announcement was made that the Garena Young Lions would change from being an Under-23 side to a predominantly U-21 team, many predicted the team would struggle. They were right.
They became the first team to be fined $50,000 for finishing the season last and failing to secure at least 20 per cent of the points - they needed 15 but earned only nine.
Their tally meant they were the second worst team since the S.League expanded to more than 20 games per season in 1999. The worst were Paya Lebar Punggol (four points) from 27 games in 2005.
But promising teenagers like Rusyaidi Salime, Hami Syahin and Joshua Pereira were the bright sparks.
Foreign legion: Their only foreigner, goalkeeper Benjamin Bertrand (France), was around for just the first half of the season. A good shot-stopper, he could not provide the confidence an inexperienced team needed. Injury also limited the impact of internationals Khairul Amri and Firdaus Kasman.
What they need: Their focus will be on the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games next year. They must learn from their defensive frailties.
What they've done: Coach Patrick Hesse is in talks to see if he will again lead the team, and Amri is thought to be on a two-year contract.