Moments before Terengganu Football Club shattered Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) unbeaten record at its home ground, fans were trying to figure out how could the east coast team stop a dominant force like the Southern Tigers.
And they also wondered if the Johor side could ever be prevented from winning another Super League title.
Following their first draw with Selangor FC this season, pundits pointed out that the possible solution to stopping JDT was by adopting the gegenpressing (German for counter pressing).
The tactical play seemed to be effective against JDT and was attributed to Selangor’s early lead – even though it only lasted for five minutes. The teams drew 1-1 in the March 17 match at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri, Johor.
Terengganu seemed to adopt this game play well by not giving the space and time needed for the JDT footballers to organise themselves. The JDT players were left frustrated, forcing them to lose the ball easily.
The style of play was not very different from JDT’s, but how long will such a tactical approach work?
Perak FC, on the other hand, had a different approach that seemed to work to a certain extent – hiring a naturalised footballer.
Perak’s 2-2 draw against JDT in their March 21 encounter was the result of two goals from Brazilian-born Guilherme de Paula who is now a Malaysian.
Perak took a more defensive approach. They had a sweeper and man-markers.
The attacking phase came down to intelligence and common sense of the individual and the creativity of the naturalised player.
Besides Perak, Sri Pahang FC also intends to naturalise some key players next season. They are said to be naturalising eligible imports like Sergio Fabian Ezequiel Agüero (who is currently on loan to Perak FC II) and Lee Tuck next season.
Having naturalised players is extremely useful, but even then, there are issues. By the time these athletes are eligible to be naturalised and play for their respective clubs as Malaysians, they would already be at the brink of retirement. And there will always be the risk of injuring themselves and that will be the end of their careers.
When JDT faced UiTM FC on March 13, Safawi Rasid – who had just returned from a training stint in Portugal – picked up an injury. Being a key player in JDT, many believed that this would cripple the team to a certain extent. This notion was further reinforced when JDT only managed a draw in the following two matches (against Selangor and Perak).
However, JDT has depth in its squad. And judging from the team’s last five games (JDT 3 Melaka United 0; Sabah 1 JDT 4; JDT 3 PJ City 0; Sri Pahang 0 JDT 2; JDT 0 Terengganu 1), Safawi is not missed.
As such, a salary cap makes plenty of sense in providing a more enduring solution to beat JDT. Except it doesn’t. JDT plays with the big boys at the Asian Champions League and limiting their spending on talents would make no absolute sense.
I’m afraid that the only real ‘solution’ in trying to overcome JDT is to play against them with fingers crossed!
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.