Truth be told, I don’t quite know where to start with Dukla. Naturally, they’ve regressed from their peak two seasons ago as bigger clubs have come in and swiped up their best players and injuries and ageing have taken their toll, but they somehow manage to keep finishing in the top six or seven. To me, it’s a remarkable achievement.
The pessimist in me thinks, nay believes, that the spine of this squad isn’t good enough to sustain a vague attempt at Europa League qualification. In last year’s season preview piece I prophesied that the rebuilding job needed to be undertaken by Lubos Kozel arrived at precisely the wrong time, given that Mlada Boleslav and Jablonec had been spending heavily. But Kozel took on that task and the team is remarkably different now to what it was twelve months ago, yet distinctly familiar in style: Dukla still play 4-3-3, like to utilise creative wingers (and fullbacks) to their advantage and still have a battering ram playing as number nine. The squad has been refreshed but the tactics haven’t.
Last season: 6th
Odds: 66/1 (Bwin)
And that’s the worry: At times Dukla can be a joy to watch and at times they can be utterly lifeless when their opponents are set up to nullify their main threats. For all of Kozel’s virtues as a coach, his lack of a penetrating Plan B is one negative that he hasn’t fully addressed.
Over the summer there have been the usual ins and outs, with Vyacheslav Karavaev’s departure likely to cause Kozel and company the most problems. But it’s not like Dukla to lose a right-back to Jablonec is it?
Further forward Tomas Prikryl has been retained and (hopefully) back to full fitness the Czech Under-21 international will be able to provide the multi-faceted attacking presence we know he can and from their brief appearances Josip Jurendic and Branislav Milosevic look like steady hands to strengthen defensive positions. Oh, and Nestor’s back and fully fit, enter the cliché about the mercurial Spaniard being ‘like a new signing’.
However that doubt still remains. As noted, Dukla were very inconsistent last season and were typically woeful away home: Four wins and eleven goals from fifteen fixtures on the road – including those cross city visits – makes abject reading for a club with top half expectations. Truth be told, last season’s statistics paint a pretty damning picture.
Yet in pre-season the former Army club have dispatched Celtic (5-3, away in Scotland), Olympiakos (1-0), Trencin (2-1) and the Synot Liga pair of Teplice (4-1) and Jihlava (6-1).
It’s all quite positive up until this point and with the shackles loosened somewhat, the goals have been flowing.
Clearly, something is clicking.
But with their opening fixture away at Slovacko, will we see a new gung-ho approach or will Dukla Prague revert to type and put in a limp display away from the Stadion Juliska?
Marek Hanousek – A firm favourite (of mine), Hanousek is a do-it-all midfielder who probably should have a Synot Liga winners medal stored away at home somewhere by now if he hadn’t suffered a serious knee injury whilst at Plzen. But Viktoria’s loss is Dukla’s gain and since returning to Juliska we’ve seen flashes of his bombastic skills in linking defence with attack. An ever diligent runner and capable of breaking beyond opponents’ defensive lines, the Dukla youth product can do it all – and he’ll be expected to.
One to watch
Josip Jurendic – Dukla Prague have a pretty good history of uncovering exceptional right-backs. First there was Jose Romera, who joined from Grandia, and then there was Vyacheslav Karavaev, who moved from CSKA Moscow on loan. Both were brilliant going forwards and resolute when on the back foot; both were signed by Miroslav Pelta’s Jablonec. Enter Jurendic. The versatile Serbian arrives from NK Zagreb on a free transfer after a highly successful 2014-15 season which saw the twenty-eight year-old score nine times in thirty-one appearances. Is he going to be a threat going forwards? Probably.
Disclaimer: I’m a Dukla Prague fan, so this is clearly written though optimistic/pessimistic lenses.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 30th July 2015