Coach Karel Jarolím insists SK Slavia Praha's shaky form is "not a crisis" but the Czech champions' listless displays in both domestic and European competition are a cause for concern at Eden Stadium.
Article top media content
Coach Karel Jarolím insists SK Slavia Praha's shaky form is "not a crisis" but the Czech champions' listless displays are a cause for concern at Eden Stadium.
With Slavia seventh in the 1. Liga after 14 games, 12 points off leaders FK Teplice, the critics have been quick to note that at this stage last term Jarolím's men had 13 more points and were six clear at the top. Then they had already scored 34 goals, where now they have just 17. And the new season has also been scarred by Slavia's first home defeat by AC Sparta Praha since the club's return to Eden Stadium in May 2008.
A particular worry is Slavia's reduced goal threat since the departure last December of Tomáš Necid for PFC CSKA Moskva. Necid had scored eleven times in 16 games before Christmas, and Slavia have still not replaced him. Even midfielder Tijani Belaid, who hit nine goals in 2008/09, has struggled for form, being benched in recent weeks.
With Jarolím signing 12 players in the summer, there has been much turbulence in the squad, and barring attacking midfielder Adam Hloušek – awarded a first Czech Republic cap against Northern Ireland in October – none of the new boys have dazzled. In search of a winning formula, Jarolím has fielded 24 players, including three goalkeepers, with captain Marek Suchý the only ever-present.
For some, the story of Slavia's season – which has also seen disappointment in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers and a return of two points from four UEFA Europa League group matches – is as much about absentees as arrivals. Jarolím's decision to allow Erich Brabec to join Ankaraspor AŞ as a free agent robbed the team of a leader, a situation exacerbated by Vladimír Šmicer's sudden retirement this week through injury.
"We have problems as we don't take our chances, but it is not a crisis," maintained Jarolím. "We only need a couple of good results to get our confidence back." The longest-serving coach in the Czech top flight has been in charge since April 2005, yet if he is to reach the end of his contract in 2014, he may need Slavia to raise their game in the closing weeks of the autumn campaign.