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Prematch Warmups: Hougang United vs Geylang International - SPL 24/25

Submitted by: Vesuvius| 14th June 2024

A cheetah and an eagle share hunting grounds

The cheetahs and the eagles hunt in the same place. That's why our shopping list is always the same. I'm saying this because for some reason, Hougang and Geylang players get transferred between each other frequently.

In our starting lineup are recent ex-Geylang players: Hazzuwan, Zaiful, and most recently, Nazhiim (although he came from Hougang before). Even Shawal and Anders came from there once. In return, we've had a few of our boys trade the orange for the green, like Iqbal or if you look further back, Naufal.

This year brought with it the surprise of another ex-hougang player into the GIFC fold — Tomoyuki Doi.

Doi was the crux of one of Hougang's ascendant season where we ended up third in the Singapore Premier League(SPL). In that same year he smashed in 19 goals to become the league's top scorer. Arguably, his thirst for goals was a blessing for us then. After being beaten the previous years to the golden boot award, Doi took matters in his own hands much to our delight. He ultimately got a move to Japan and then to Albania. But now he's back in the SPL — but in the colors of Geylang.

Will it be the same Doi we had previously, or will Doi be blunt this time? Here are the 3 things we should be wary of when we face off: Hougang United vs Geylang International - SPL 24/25!

1. Doi-ng miracles

The big question that begs questioning among the Hougang crowd is: Can Doi still do it? After enduring less than favorable debuts in the J2 league and Albanian league, Will Doi still be as sharp as before?

While Doi did mention his desire to be with Hougang after his stints overseas, it is no one's fault that the move didn't happen. I guess it is fair to everyone. The miracle of Doi will not happen in Hougang again. That being said, the way that Hougang was set up previously was different as compared to now. Previously, Doi had the luxury of staying upfront without much pressing or defending duties. This changed in recent times with the lone strikers of Hougang; where some form of pressing and defending was needed to add another dimension to Hougang's attacks.

Zoom back to the days of when players like Doi, Stipe or Faris Ramli was in Hougang. The rise of Hougang in those years eventually made teams wary to play a swashbuckling style against us — if you did, you will get countered swiftly and efficiently. We relied on teams underestimating us back then. After awhile, teams started being compact in a lower block against us. That was when we suffered. Hence, that's why the change in shopping for a different type of striker.

Our lone forwards have to now be able to not just play on the shoulders of the last defenders, but have to drop deeper to link up play, press and defend, etc. Doi might not fit in today's Hougang style. Doi thrives on empty spaces.

If we are to get any joy in dealing with Doi, we have to deny the man the space that other teams allowed us when Doi was on our side. Once he's through on-goal, it will be hard to stop him because his finishing is just superb. Conversely, If Doi was the same person we were used to, then he will not press and harry you. Which means if we have a counter from a transition, Doi will be out of the equation. And if he pairs up with Ryoya Taniguchi, that'll make two guys who'll not track back.

2. Ryoya Taniguchi

Which brings this conversation to Ryoya Taniguchi, the enigma. While the man is outstanding with the ball on his feet, his workrate off-the-ball has reportedly been the lacking factor. It will be interesting to see how Taniguchi shapes up for this season considering coach Noor Ali acknowledges the football fraternity insider murmur that Ryoya is "lazy".

Maybe that's why Noor Ali brought in Ryoya when he already has Vincent Bezecourt. Two number 10s can't co-exist on the same field can they? Perhaps that's the plan to get the best out of Ryoya. A little friendly competition can't hurt.

So...Who will come out on top and link up play with a stellar attacking cast of Geylang this year like Iqbal, Sora Tanaka, Naufal, Naqiuddin and Doi?

The answer is a straightforward one. After Huzaifah re-injured his ACL, Geylang has stuck Bezecourt as one of the pivots in midfield. He will partner Tezuka. This means Ryoya and Doi will be upfront. Which also means there'll be at least two of their players who will not track back and defend. Pep Guardiola will be licking his lips at the overloads he can achieve with two players out of the picture. To make up for this, Noor Ali will deploy his wide men to track back for defensive duties.

"If we attack or are in-possession, they'll always be 2-men down"

Funny as it sounds, If we can keep calm and keep possession, we can control Geylang's shape. We just need to wait for a window of opportunity or a mistake. Be calm in possession but aggressive in closing down when out-of posession. The only exception is when there's a counter-attack transition.

3. The crucial midfield pivots

So it seems that the bulk of the hardwork will fall on the shoulders of Tezuka and Bezecourt while Joshua is deployed as a centreback to fill in for Rio Sakuma or Shakir(who are injury doubts). I initially pegged it to be Huzaifah-Tezuka-Joshua to be the midfield that we should be wary of.

But Geylang's misfortune is our opportunity. The demands for Tezuka-Bezecourt are still the same: to provide defensive cover so that the forwards don't need to do defending. Bezecourt will have to adapt quickly in this temporary role.

Personally, I feel this would be our route to disable their midfield engine. If we can control this section of the field, we can put pressure on their defensive line. Also, it seems that they are slow to close down shooting angles from outside the box. Shooting from range is a skill that is not often utilized in the SPL, maybe that's why SPL teams can't handle it well. Geylang couldn't handle it when they went down against Perak. For Hougang, Stuart Wilkins of Sabah scored a goal from outside the box. Let's hope we do more of this — shooting outside the box.

Final Say

Last season saw Geylang International rack up 9 red cards in the SPL and SG cup. In the crunch match against Balestier last year, Geylang was on the receiving end of 2 red cards when it mattered the most — In a battle for fourth. Let's capitalise on their rashness especially when we frustrate them by keeping the ball.

I feel like a broken record but I also believe we can capitalise on our height advantage with crosses and especially with set pieces. We can exploit their lack of height(if Rio Sakuma stays injured) and their keeper's reluctance to collect balls in the 6-yard.

But we must also be wary of the dangers they pose as they have talent in depth in their squad this season. Make a wrong move and we stand to be punished. We could have more joy pulling them wide and attacking their flanks or if we have good shooting range where we can find abit of joy through their pivots. Most importantly, hope we don't allow Doi space in-behind or else he'll take advantage.

So in summary:

  • Keep calm and keep the ball when in possession. Aggressively close down when out-of-possession.

  • Use our height advantage

  • Maintain our superiority in the middle of the park where they are depleted.

All the best you Hougang boys! 🐆1H1H


Geylang Int'l vs Hougang Quick Report:

- 3-2-4-1 formation preferred (Geylang)

- Dangermen: Vincent Bezecourt, Tomoyuki Doi, Ryoya Taniguchi, Iqbal Hussain, Sora Tanaka

- Huzaifah will be out after re-injuring his ACL. Rio Sakuma and Shakir Hamzah will be injury doubts.

- Unlike previous season, Geylang now boasts much stronger firepower, so much so that they can replace anyone of their forward lineup with a sub and still be potent.

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Will Doi be haunting us?

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Will you be at the stadium to watch?

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