As Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey once sang, ‘money makes the world go around’ and last summer Jablonec finally realised that there was some validity to that little ditty. After years of pawning off their silver, Miroslav Pelta and his fellow board members wrote some big cheques to attract a fresh influx of new talent to the Strelnice club. Boy did it work.
The surprising thing is that whilst money has been thrown around, it’s been done so with due diligence. Tomas Jun aside, it’s hard to find one ‘Galactico’ that has failed to deliver and that’s seen Jablonec rise from mid-table underachievers to bona fide title contenders in twelve months.
Last season: 3rd
Odds: 13/2 (Bwin)
Last season Jaroslav Silhavy’s charges were always within touching distance of Viktoria Plzen and Sparta Prague without ever really being seen as true challengers to the established duopoly. Driven on by the likes of Filip Novak, Jan Kopic and Martin Pospisil, Jablonec finished comfortably in third, some eighteen points clear of Mlada Boleslav in fourth. Disappointingly, however, three of Jablonec’s four league defeats came at the hands of the two teams that finished directly above them, those being Sparta Prague and Viktoria Plzen. Emerge from those games with a point and Jablonec could be preparing for a Champions League adventure right now.
Holding their own against Plzen and Sparta is a must for this season, as is finding a number nine who’ll consistently trouble opposition goalkeepers. Jablonec haven’t been blessed with striking options since they sold David Lafata to Sparta two years ago, but it is a damning indictment that Filip Novak, a left-back, was their top scorer last season with eleven goals. After giving chances to Michal Hubnik, Martin Dolezal and Valerijs Sabala, Silhavy has finally placed his hands on two top tier strikers at this level in Stanislav Tecl and Tomas Wagner, both of whom join from champions Viktoria Plzen.
The deal to bring Tecl and Wagner east did see Jan Kopic move in the other direction and whilst Kopic is one of the league’s best right-wingers, Jablonec, with Lukas Masopust, Ruslan Mingazow and Nerman Crnkic, are stocked up on ready-made replacements. It was a good piece of business for all involved.
Other newcomers to Silhavy’s squad include Michal Travnik and Vyacheslav Karavaev and the twenty year-old defender Andrei Yakovlev who joins on a free from Zenit Saint Petersburg. Whilst Yakovlev might be one for the future, Karavaev and Travnik will certainly be pushing for first-team games from the outset.
After a third-placed finish last season, the aim this time around has to be the top two and Champions League qualification. But with Sparta in transition and Plzen picking a fight with Europe’s best, Jablonec could be an outside bet for the title.
Tomas Wagner and Stanislav Tecl – It’s an easy way out to name two players here, but the final piece in the Jablonec jigsaw is a reliable centre-forward and the former Plzen pair have been brought in to do one thing: score goals. With Pospisil, Travnik, Masopust, Mingazow, Romera and Novak capable of providing plenty of chances, there’s no reason why these established Synot Liga forces can’t get into double figures.
One to watch
Lukas Masopust – The departure of Jan Kopic has opened up the way for Lukas Masopust to make his mark at the club. A highly talented individual who has been tracked by Bundesliga clubs before, the versatile winger and number ten has the ability to step up and fill some rather big shoes. Considering we’re big fans of him here, we think he’ll manage that without a problem.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 25th July 2015