Tanjong Pagar United go on the attack with two new imports
Wooden spoonists sign SPL title-winning pair, declare attacking intentions
Singapore Premier League (SPL) side Tanjong Pagar United have wasted no time in the transfer market, snapping up two players from SPL title-winning teams, about a week after the 2020 season ended.
On Monday, the Jaguars announced the capture of Japanese forward Reo Nishiguchi from recently crowned SPL champions Albirex Niigata.
Two days earlier, they secured the services of midfielder Blake Ricciuto, who helped Brunei DPMM win last year's championship.
Nishiguchi contributed five goals, including the injury-time winner in the 3-2 triumph over Lion City Sailors in October, and an assist in 11 appearances for the White Swans.
Ricciuto provided nine goals and an assist in 23 games for DPMM, earning the Australian a spot in the SPL Team of the Year for 2019.
Both signings have been made ahead of the club's two objectives for next season - to transition into an attacking team and to better this year's last place.
The Jaguars propped up the eight-team table, conceding 33 goals and scoring 14 in as many matches. Only the Young Lions fared worse (38 conceded, 12 scored).
To achieve their targets, Tanjong Pagar coach Hasrin Jailani has opted for a versatile forward in Nishiguchi, 23, as he is able to provide a different dimension to Brazilian striker Luiz Junior.
Hasrin also moved in for the 28-year-old Ricciuto as he feels the Jaguars need more bite in midfield. He believes that the dynamic Australian has the leadership and character to dominate games.
"Both signings are good on paper and will help us greatly as we look to become an all-out attacking side," Hasrin told The New Paper.
"In Reo, we have a different kind of attacker to Junior. He is a mobile, nippy forward who can also play on either flank, while Junior is a strong target man who holds up the ball very well.
"So we are hoping they can link up and provide a headache for opposition defences.
"Behind them, our local players in midfield are not strong enough. In Blake, we have an energetic, experienced leader, a strong character to control the midfield."
The arrival of Nishiguchi and Ricciuto has spelt the end for Brazilian defender Yann Motta and the Japanese pair of Takahiro Tanaka (defender) and Shodai Nishikawa (midfielder).
With the trio gone, Tanjong Pagar can now sign another foreign import, but Hasrin remained coy on any possible developments.
On the home front, the 45-year-old said more than half of his local players have been retained and that deals are being finalised.
The raft of changes comes as no surprise, given Tanjong Pagar's league finish and the hasty manner in which their squad was assembled in January - when their participation in the SPL was confirmed, just a month before the league kicked off.
The Jaguars returned to the SPL only this year, after sitting out the league following the 2014 season due to financial problems.
This time, the club have adopted a more strategic approach to wheeling and dealing, with long-term scouting and swift decision-making key.
"We had more time to analyse players like Reo, but we also had to be quick to lock down our targets," Hasrin said.
"We are still on the lookout for local players who can bolster our defensive line."