Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.
I have to say that Zico was the problem for TamU yesterday. It was clear to everyone, from the stewards and youth teams to the teenagers selling hot dogs, that Jari Niemi was awful against HJK. He was in midfield when he should have been in the box, he was in the box when he should have been back defending. He did virtually nothing for the team.
Daniel is TamU’s top scorer, and when he is on the pitch the opposition at least has something to think about and defend against. Niemi offers no such threat, being an entity separate from the rest of the team, occasionally having nice touches and deigning to pass to players he thinks are worthy of the honour. As one TamU fan said ‘Daniel busts his balls trying to score, Niemi just scratches his’. I don’t know why he’s playing like this, it could be some kind of mental turmoil, a lack of motivation, maybe he’s carrying an injury. You can’t blame him without knowing the full picture. But you can blame Ari Hjelm for continuing to play him when better alternatives exist.
Apart from a wonder goal, belted in off the bar by Medo, TamU played okay in the first half. Not too much went wrong, and they looked like a match for HJK in most areas. With a tighter attacking focus, provided by Daniel, they could easily have got something out of the game. Unfortunately, Zico over-thought things and completely re-organised the midfield and defence, moving Savolainen back into defence and Kujala forward into midfield, and taking James off for Saarinen. James had played okay up to that point, and it was an incomprehensible switch. Savolainen’s first two contributions in defence were to give away free-kicks, and Tomasz Sajdak filled his boots with some effective finishing.
You can see the effect having several good strikers has on HJK. Parikka, Sajdak, Mäkelä, Roiha and Bah can all play up front, and they all know they have to play well to stay in the team. Bah and Mäkelä missed chances and looked crestfallen – they know that goals get the manager’s attention, and give them more chance of playing where they want to (Bah started on the wing). You can not say the same about Tampere United’s forwards. Their top scorer was on the bench against HJK, and didn’t even feature against Lahti.
Hats off to Antti Muurinen though, his team is playing excellent stuff and will be strong contenders for the title this year.