Monday, August 29, 2016


Arema's Struggles On And Off The Pitch

They may be second in the Indonesia Soccer Championship and have lifted the Bhayangkara Cup in recent months but things ain't going well for Arema. One of Indonesia's biggest clubs, the fans have been staying away for most of the season and now the team that led the ISC for so long has been suffering on the field as a poor run of results have seen them usurped by Madura United.

Think Arema and you think of their fantastic support base with crowds regularly exceeding 20,000 but it's not happening this campaign. Recent attendances have hovered around the 5-6,000 mark with the club desperately trying to work out just why the fans have been staying away. Reasons cited include kick off times and too many home games but I'm not sure. They haven't stopped people going in the past.

Then there is the reemergence of the 'other' Arema. The original Arema. The Arema that won the Indonesia Super League back in 2009/2010 before we had the years of plenty when Arema, like Persebaya, had a second team formed and use the same name. But this other Arema are the original Arema, much like the 'other' Persebaya are the original Persebaya and remember one reason why the ISL was stopped last season was because of ownership concerns over these two football clubs.

Of more pressing concern to Arema coach Milomir Seslija will be the alarming dip in results in recent weeks. On paper a 0-0 draw away to Persib is no mean achievement but looked at in terms of recent performances and worries arise. 

Results wise Arema started the season well with one loss in their first 11 games even though the performances were not always convincing. Experienced players like Goran Gancev, Cristian Gonzales and Srdan Lopcic had enough about them to grind out the results and early doors skipper Hamkah Hamza was in sensational form at both ends of the field, frequently chipping in with vital goals. 

Gonzales as ever has been Mr Reliable in front of goal, six is a healthy return for a 40 year old who missed the start of the season through injury but support has been lacking. Gustavo Giron has failed to contribute significantly while Sunarto has contributed three but he isn't really considered a regular starter.

Latterly the performances have not improved and the side appear to have lost that knack of grinding out results. Recent weeks have seen them lose to PS TNI and Pusamania while Barito Putera, a team with a leaky defence, were able to enter the lions den at Kanjuruhan Stadium and leave with a point after earning a 0-0 draw. 

In short Arema have earned just one win from their last six games and that came via a narrow 1-0 win over Bali United,

The club aren't happy and are doing the dreaded evaluation thing. The football club's general manager feels things have fallen away since being held 0-0 by Persipura at the end of June. 'After (that game) our play has fallen away' said Ruddy Widodo. 'It could be down to a difficult fixture list or because of injuries...there have been games where we targeted three points but we went on to lose'.

Ironically Arema must play Madura United next weekend and the team from the island off Java's east coast have been setting the pace on and off the field They have been making astute signings in recent weeks to add to an already formidable squad while the likes of Slamet Nurcahyo and Bayu Gatra have been showing a level of consistency the Arema players can only dream of.

But while Madura have been moving quickly to add new recruits Arema have been more hesitant. Brazilian duo Rafael Tardini and Mauro Lucas were let go after failing to impress while other big names who have moved clubs recently like Greg nwokolo and Edward Wilson Junior seemed to attract little interest from this part of East Java. 

Earlier in the season Arema were held 0-0 by Madura United in the Bangkalan Stadium in a physical encounter where goalkeeper Meiga Kurnia saved the point single handedly with a superb performance between the sticks. But despite the home advantage it is the visitors who will go into the game as favourites and were they to leave Malang with a victory, and an eight point gap over Arema, the alarm bells will be ringing for the Crazy Lions.

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