FINLAND: The Veikkausliiga season so far

Finland

In association with Escape To Suomi

 

With one third of the Veikkausliiga season gone (most sides have played 11 of their 33 matches), it’s a good time to see how each team has performed. I’ll use school grades to assess, and each side is listed in the order which they are in the table as of the 4th of June.

HJK – 1st

As expected, the champions head the table having played every other team. But that is where predictions stop, and the truth sets in. They’ve lost three matches at home, looked laboured and predictable up front, and appear a bit too complacent. Teemu Tainio started well (before a red card against TPS), but the other big signing Mikael Forssell has scored four goals but otherwise contributed little.

Mark: C

VPS – 2nd

Tipped by most (including me) to struggle, the men from Vaasa have surprised all. Famous wins at TPS and HJK, a solid defence conceding less than a goal a game, and a more teamwork-oriented approach. The goals are much more spread out than 2012, but someone may need to take on the burden. The tepid 3-0 defeat at MYPA is the only real negative so far.

Mark: A-

Honka – 3rd

After a winter wrecked by financial problems, the Cup holders started with 1 points from four games, and all was looking grim. But the numerous new signings started to click, in particular defender Gideon Baah and forward Kastriot Kastrati. A manager of the month award for Mika Lehkosuo was well earned after five consecutive wins. Hopefully Europe won’t be a distraction.

Mark: B (A+ for the last five games!)

MYPA – 4th

It wouldn’t be harsh to refer to Sihvola + ten. Striker Pekka Sihvola has scored six goals in ten games, won the May player of the month award, and yet couldn’t find a club in the winter. But the team are too inconsistent otherwise, a good win in Mariehamn followed a home defeat to Jaro. No-one was expecting medals, but four points behind the leaders ain’t a bad start.

Mark: B+

TPS – 5th

The team most likely to challenge for the title are lucky to still be within four points. Home defeats, poor discipline and a lack of goals are worrying. No-one has scored more than two goals, yet they too have won at HJK and last year’s runners-up Inter. Personnel wise they are strong, but not enough of them have woken up yet.

Mark: C+

KuPS – 6th

Another rotten start, flashes of brilliance, another win at HJK, and calls for the coach to quit. A couple of Gambians (Colley and Bah) have looked good, but they’re prone to mistakes and a severe lack of options to replace a decent first eleven. Ilja Venäläinen’s five goals have kept them in contention – but they’ll need to settle down and fight.

Mark: B-

Inter Turku – 7th

An awful pre-season, and have only recently seen some goals from last year’s top scorer. They lost key players in the winter (Ojala, Kauko) and lack creativity, and were feeble in defeat to Honka on Sunday. Tamas Gruborovics has looked pretty smooth in midfield, but he seems a luxury. They were second last year, but this start could damage any chance of Europe next time.

Mark: C-

RoPS – 8th

The coldest club in Europe, the worst away record in Finland. They’ve lost 18 of their last 19 away league matches, and it’s only their home form keeping them above water – and that can be put down to weary guests. Aleksandr Kokko has scored five goals, not a goal a game as promised. They’ll settle for survival, but they won’t threaten the top half.

Mark: B

IFK Mariehamn – 9th

They looked good to start, with golden boy Petteri Forsell returning on loan from Turkey. But his three goals in six matches will be all he’ll provide, a nasty injury means he’s unlikely to feature again. A couple of shrewd signings, Brazilian Assis and Jamaican Orgill have stepped up – but there is little else to cheer about, ahead of a maiden Europa League campaign.

Mark: C-

Jaro – 10th

Most people’s tip for 12th. They’ve played pretty well, they’ve got a young promise in Simon Skrabb, while Trinidad striker Shahdon Winchester is looking powerful. But they have a soft centre, and seem intent on trying to out-play and out-score opponents. They’re not solid, and will have to rely on JJK and Lahti lagging behind – a dangerous plan.

Mark: C+

JJK – 11th

It took them ten matches for their first win – and then comes an international break to halt momentum. They’re into the semi-finals of the Cup, Tunde Wusu is scoring again, things actually could be ok. But they’re already eight points behind tenth, and are only off the bottom because Lahti lost a point. They’ll do well to survive.

Mark: D

Lahti – 12th

They bought plenty, and they signed potential. The Liigacup triumph promised a lot, but they just can’t catch a break. One win, against a then-bad KuPS, and that’s it. They lost a point for fielding an ineligible player for 1 minute at RoPS, and have (officially) scored four goals in ten games. Coach Kautonen has been sacked – but will a new man motivate good players to play better? They finished strongly last year, they’ll need the same to survive.

Mark D-

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RichNelson

Click name above to follow Rich on Twitter and have a read of Rich’s Finnish football website at www.escapetosuomi.com

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