Since FK Cukaricki’s promotion back to the top flight in the 2013-2014 season, they have been nothing short of spectacular. Unlike many of the teams in the Serbian league, Cukaricki plays wide open football. They do not sit back against the best teams and wait for their chance to score; they attack from the opening to the last minute and try to expose weaknesses.
This season has been a much different story for the team from Belgrade. They sit dead last in the league and have managed to score only seven goals in 10 matches played.
Where has it all gone wrong?
Past stars no longer with club
Vladan Milojevic was Cukaricki’s manager from 2012-2015. He was the man responsible for bringing the club up back to the top flight and establishing great results along the way. Milojevic left late in 2015 and Cukaricki has not been the same team since.
Nikola Stojiljkovic, Andrija Pavlovic, Filip Stojkovic and Nemanja Stevanovic were all big parts of this squad in the past two or three years, but now they have moved on to new clubs, where they will look to achieve even more success.
Stojiljkovic was a serviceable player for two years with Cukaricki. He ended up tallying 25 goals in 74 matches, which was enough for Portuguese side, Braga to buy him. Stojiljkovic has showcased his talent in Portugal as well, but has fallen a bit out of favour this season.
Andrija Pavlovic took the SuperLiga by storm last season, as he notched 18 goals in 36 matches played and eight of those 18 were against the three best clubs-Red Star, Partizan and Vojvodina respectively. Pavlovic possesses great speed and finishing for a big man. He signed with Danish giants Copenhagen where he has yet to really adjust to the new club.
Filip Stojkovic came up through the Red Star youth system and when the club did not sign him, he signed with Cukaricki where he had four excellent seasons. As a right-back, Stojkovic was one of the best two way defenders in the Serbian league for the past two seasons. He showed the ability to attack, but also to get back and defend against some of the best wingers in the league. This past summer Stojkovic was sold to German club 1860 Munich, where he has not been given much playing time.
Nemanja Stevanovic is a top three goalkeeper in the league, in my opinion and he is one of the main reasons as to why Cukaricki has achieved the success that it has since coming back up to the top flight. Stevanovic signed for Partizan this past summer.
The four players outlined above were the most talented the team has had in the past two years and the club has not done a great job in replacing them as of yet.
Time to step up in a big way
Obeng Regan was bought in 2014. The purchase opened some eyes because Regan was targeted by both Red Star and Partizan, but instead he signed with Cukaricki. In his first season, Regan looked like a great purchase, but he has really hit the wall recently and has seen his playing time diminish.
Srnic’s career has been a carbon copy of Stojkovic’s. Both were youth players of Red Star and then both signed for Cukaricki. Srnic is an energetic defensive midfielder, whose responsibility is to try and shut down the oppositions best play maker, something the 24 year old does very well. Srnic has established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, although he has had a tough start to this season, as many of his club mates have as well.
Nemanja Radonjic and Filip Knezevic were both supposed to be players who would make a huge difference in the attacking part of Cukaricki’s game, sadly for them; it has not worked out like that at all. Radonjic has not been used properly, in my opinion. He is a player who has outstanding speed and play making ability. Last season Radonjic was mostly used off the bench, while this year they have utilized him much better, letting him start the majority of their matches. Knezevic, on the other hand, has already left the club and signed with FK Vojvodina.
2016 signings not living up to hype
Cukaricki made a number of signings to try and improve their team this summer, but most of them have flopped.
Marko Docic was brought in to replace Srnic or Regan as the defensive midfielder, but he has had a rough start to the season.
Alen Masovic was supposed to provide creativity and goal scoring, but he was failed to do either of the two.
The latest signing, Ognjen Ozegovic, has shown that he can score in this league in the past and I feel that he will do just that, as soon as he is in match form once again.
Marko Tomic and Asmir Kajevic have also done very little to impress since signing with the club.
How to fix the club?
The club did a great job in bringing in solid players for the past three years; maybe their luck is simply up.
FK Cukaricki has a great youth system, so giving Erhan Masovic, Sava Radic and Zehrudin Mehmedovic a chance to prove themselves would not be a bad idea. Rushing young players is not the answer, but providing them with playing time is never a bad idea. Cukaricki has already started doing that with Masovic.
Lastly, the club needs to get back to doing what they do best-pressure teams from the start, compact the midfield, burn defenders with their speed and stretch teams out with their superb passing. Even though almost all of their summer signings have flopped, to a certain extent, they have shown in the past that they do have quality. All it takes is to string a few wins together and the morale and attitude of the team changes drastically.
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.