Ekstraklasa 2015-6 season autumn round review

It’s several days before Christmas and the Ekstraklasa has just breathed its last breath of the year.  A 7 week break lies ahead of us – but what about what went before?  Which players have made the heart beat a little faster this autumn, which teams have set the league alight, who’s had a real stinker?  Rightbankwarsaw decided to ask several renowned Polish football journalists for their opinion.

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The table as we go into the winter break

Marek Wawrzynowski, journalist wp.pl

1) Team of the season so far
Certainly Piast Gliwice, who are a breath of fresh air with their flair and speed. Sometimes what they do is a bit too simply and predictable, but I like it. After all these changes in the squad I was sure that they would fight against relegation but I love to make these kind of mistakes. Recently I was wondering how many players from the Piast first XI would make it into the starting lineup of Legia or Lech. I don’t think many would. They are however very strong as a unit. Certainly you could try Mráz or Murawski in Lech or Legia’s side but I’m not sure about the others – but they were better than Legia (even if it was 1:1) or Lech in their head to head match-ups. Now I’m worried they won’t be able to sustain this level. How they will play if someone will cut off Mráz from the ball? What about Vacek and Nešpor? The fact these two key players are just on loan may be a problem. On the other hand Piast played Lech without them and it didn’t really hurt their performance.

2) Player of the season so far
Nemanja Nikolić (Legia Warsaw). The best transfer from abroad in recent years. Goal machine. He says: ‘If you know how to score, you can do it anywhere.’Lech Poznań coach Jan Urban said that Nikolić is so good, that they spent about an hour talking about how to stop him. There is an English phrase ‘a player who makes the difference.’ I don’t like to use it, but if you take the starting line up of Legia, it’s almost an average league squad but with Nikolic they are candidate number one to win the title. I think without him, they would be 4-5 places lower.

Nikolic

3) Manager of the season so far
Radoslav Látal (Piast Gliwice). Actually there are other candidates. Jacek Zieliński at Cracovia and Pogoń Szczecin’s Czesław Michniewicz have achieved unbelievable things with their clubs, Waldemar Fornalik at Ruch Chorzów too and the story of Lech under Jan Urban is amazing, but it’s still easier to take Lech from the bottom and start to win than to make a top team from very average one like Látal did.

Latal

4) Team that’s disappointed the most so far
Lechia Gdańsk. Actually I shouldn’t write that because I never believed that they could fight for something more than the top 8. But when you take their line up, you have 4 players from the national team and some other internationals like Miloš Krasić (what a disappointment, but if you follow the Turkish league you could expect this).

5) Predictions
Title winners: Legia Warsaw

European places: Piast Gliwice, Lech Poznań, Cracovia (because Lech will win the Cup)

Relegation: Termalica and Korona Kielce

Polish Cup winners: Lech Poznań

Michał Zachodny, journalist sport.pl

1) Team of the season so far
Piast Gliwice, who else? Easily the most dependable and at the same time quite enjoyable team in the league. I get angry when I hear things like ‘they don’t deserve it, they were lucky’… I think it’s mostly fans of from Legia and Lech who are banging on about it. I don’t agree at all. Getting 45 points from 21 games is an amazing result, similar to what Wisła Kraków achieved in their heyday, and way more than Legia and Lech recently. Perhaps rather than look at cheap explanations they should check how things are done in Gliwice and take note. I just hope it lasts for Piast.

2) Player of the season so far
Kamil Vacek (Piast Gliwice). I’m torn between Nikolić and Kamil Vacek. The first is a great finisher, I don’t think people understand how tough situations he can finish off or how much movement he has to make to get a half-decent chance. After all, he is not a striker that likes to play close to opponent’s defenders, he constantly looks for space, goes wide and back inside… And he has that drive for goals that I haven’t seen in the league for some time.
And then there is Kamil Vacek. The elegant one. The dancing in the mud one – like against Legia in Warsaw, on an awful pitch, where he was the only one capable of controlling the ball. He is not as obvious a choice because he doesn’t score a lot and doesn’t assist that much, but I think that he is even more influential for Piast than Nikolić is for Legia. I will go with him.

Vacek

3) Manager of the season so far
Radoslav Látal. I think that he is the Adam Nawałka of the league. Yeah, it may be a bit absurd, but listen – he did the job similarly to how Nawałka created success with the national team. It started with defeats (last season) and rigorous selection during the summer, before the new season (or, in Nawałka’s case, before the Euro 2016 qualification campaign), he made himself out to be a tough guy, making his players train hard, but at the right moment letting them loose for a party (like Nawałka did in Gdansk after the Lithuania game). Then he proved to be quite flexible in terms of style and tactics, but at the same time pragmatic enough to simply win games. He has a special bond with his players as well, he knows when and to whom give responsibility for the team – to Murawski, Vacek, and in Nawałka’s case: Lewandowski, Krychowiak.

4) Team that’s disappointed the most so far
Śląsk Wrocław. Now listen – I never expected them to be in the top 5 in the league, not after their summer business. But I genuily believed in Tadeusz Pawłowski. He is the type of coach you wish to succeed. He has a great personality, is a wise guy and wants to play the right way… But bad blood in the club destroyed everything he has worked for in previous years. Football is dying in Wrocław and I don’t see any clear plan to maintain the position achieved over the last ten years.

5) Predictions:
Title winners – C’mon, just to teach the big clubs a lesson, let it be Piast Gliwice.

European places: Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznań behind Piast Gliwice, just to rub salt in an open wound.  Cracovia to get the other place.

Relegation: Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biała and Górnik Zabrze. They are just woeful.

Polish Cup winners: It will be a close final as it was last year, but Legia Warsaw will win it again.

Piotr Żelazny, journalist Rzeczospolita

1. Team of the season so far

That’s the easiest question ever, and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t say Piast Gliwice. 10 points against Legia and Lech, four against Cracovia, which is the second revelation of the season so far. And they achieved all of that playing attractive, attacking football. Watching them is – most of the times – a great pleasure. Tactically Radoslav Látal outplayed everyone, especially in the beginning of the season. Now others have learned a bit how to deal with Piast.

At first everyone was looking at them, as a sort of curiosity. Waiting till they start losing. But they just went from strength to strength. And now they are serious pretenders to become, for the first time in their history, champions. The only thing that can stop them is the unfair points’ division at the end of the regular season.

Runner-up in this category goes to Cracovia. Even more entertaing than Piast, but lacked their killer instinct. They lost some precious points with Górnik Łęczna and Termalica. But their performance against Lech (5:2) was the most impressive team performances in the last few years.  They outclassed them and sacked Skorża.

2. Player of the season so far

I am a huge fan of Kamil Vacek.  The Czech midfielder is one of the most intelligent players I have ever seen in Polish league. His numbers are not that impressive – four goals, three assists (according to ekstrastats.pl) – but what makes him the best player of the season for me, is more the way he controls the tempo, how he moves between the lines, how he finds space on the field.

Mateusz Cetnarski has to be number two. His statistics are much more impressive – seven goals, eight assists – but as I see it, Cetnarski has less influence on Cracovia’s performance, then Vacek has on Piast’s. Cetnarski began last season with Cracovia’s reserve team, and everyone thought that he is another wasted talent. His rebirth is an amazing story – his close friend Pablopavo should write a song about this. Should get a chance from Nawałka.

3. Manager of the season so far

Radoslav Látal. Everything  your favourite team does, Piast can do – just better. They played possession football, but were brilliant on the counter. They scored from set pieces, and from open play. When Vacek was out Badia covered for him. Same thing with Nešpor and Barisić. Látal had like 16 people he could play with, and they made it through that damn long, so called, autumn, because they where so well prepared physically. They could play with three in the back, and with four in the midfield line. With two strikers, and with one. With classic wingers, and without them, to have more options in the midfield. Chapeau bas Mr. Látal.

4) Team that’s disappointed the most so far

Lechia Gdańsk and Śląsk Wrocław. But Lechia even more – look at the players they have in Gdańsk, and check their position in the standings. Lechia should be a title contender – but this is not even a football club.  It’s something between a circus and a players agents’ display window.

Lechia

Lechia have been awful

5) Predictions:

Title winners: Legia Warsaw

European places: Piast Gliwice, Cracovia

Relegation: Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biała and Śląsk Wrocław.

Polish Cup winners: Legia Warsaw will play Lech Poznań in the final, but Lech will lift the silverware

Jacek Staszak, journalist sport.pl

1) Team of the season so far

Piast Gliwice. They have developed throughout the season in almost every aspect: tactically, technically and individually. Látal’s team plays a very unique brand of football in the Ekstraklasa: they press, change their formation in games and move constantly off the ball. That creates an environment for players to progress, especially Marcin Pietrowski – a Lechia Gdańsk reject – who has become one of the most versatile defensive players in the league.

2) Player of the season so far

Kamil Vacek. A technically skilled central midfielder, capable of winning the ball back regularly. He got back into the Czech national team and will be the subject of plenty of transfer talk. Only loaned from Sparta Prague and he has attracted interest from the richest clubs in Poland.

3) Manager of the season so far

Waldemar Fornalik (Ruch Chorzów). I just wanted to acknowledge what a good job Fornalik has done in Chorzów. He saved his team from relegation last season and now, after Filip Starzyński and Grzegorz Kuświk left and Eduards Visnjakovs was sold to Belgium, he created a team in the same mould as the recent Ruch sides that got into the European places. They play a fast, counterattacking football that is a perfect fit for the young playmaker-striker duo: Patryk Lipski and Mariusz Stępiński. I’d also like to mention Cracovia’s Jacek Zieliński, who constantly makes his team play better, more versatile football. If they continue to progress in such a fashion, they might become a team that will make Ekstraklasa’s fans proud.

Fornalik

4) Team that’s disappointed the most so far

Definitely Lechia Gdańsk. They have a squad rich in technical skills and experience but they lack quality in certain positions, especially in attack. Nonetheless, with such a wealth of options they should at least be fighting for the European places as many predicted. Instead they tend to play boringly in attack and recklessly in defense.

5) Predictions:
Title winners: Legia Warsaw

European places: Piast Gliwice, Lech Poznań, Cracovia

Relegation: Wisła Kraków, Śląsk Wrocław

Polish Cup winners: Lech Poznań

Thanks so much to those who responded.  Rightbankwarsaw wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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One thought on “Ekstraklasa 2015-6 season autumn round review

  1. Pingback: Ekstraklasa stuff – How Flair is Punished!

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