While fans and critics alike have drawn comparison between last year's championship winning team and Fandi's current batch, Goal delves deeper into the numbers for a clearer look
By Bhas Kunju | Chief Editor
Perched in sixth place after 14 games played, the LionsXII are a picture of mid-table security. Seven points off leaders Pahang FA, who they beat 4-1 at home just a few weeks ago, and 10 from the foot of the table.
Understandably, the current run of form has been subject to scrutiny as the defending Malaysia Super League champions struggle to maintain their stride.
Goal Singapore have decided to take a closer look at the numbers behind the LionsXII season, and juxtaposed it with the title-winning side of last year to get a better measure of how the current team stacks up against V.Sundramoorthy's side.
Lack of goalscorers
Let's get the issue that has been brought up the most out of the way - the LionsXII's alleged goalscoring woes.
A closer look at the table very quickly throws doubt into the claims that the lack of goals has been the major factor in LionsXII's poor showing this year.
With 18 goals scored this season, Fandi Ahmad's side are actually the fourth most prolific team in the league. Only tabletoppers Pahang, Johor Darul Takzim and Terengganu have found the net more times.
What's even more interesting is that, the LionsXII class of 2014 have actually scored more goals than the 2013 side. At this stage of the competition last year, Sundram's team had registered 17 goals, of which only four came on the road. Compared to the more even eight goals scored away and 10 at home by the current batch.
But the statistics do show a worrying lack of a proper strikeforce. Safuwan Baharudin who has played a multitude of roles this season is the LionsXII's top scorer with four goals along with Khairul Amri. Sufian Anuar's hat-trick against Pahang aside, there have been seven different goalscorers who have netted just once each, bringing the total number of different goalscorers to 10.
At this stage last year, Shahril Ishak was the leading scorer with five goals, with Fazrul Nawaz and Syafiq Ghani on three each.
Hence, 11 out of the 17 goals were registered by the three strikers, Shahril, Shahfiq and Fazrul with the remaining goals being shared by five different goalscorers; a relatively more modest goalscoring pattern.
Defence and clean sheets
More than goals, one of the biggest contrast that appears in comparing the side of 2013 against 2014, is in defence.
Sundram's more conservative style of play led to the LionsXII being one of the defensively leanest sides of the competition last year.
They conceded just eight times in 14 games last year, with only three coming on home soil. In the process they claimed an impressive seven clean sheets; a record of a shut-out every other game.
Under Fandi's more adventurous style, the tally has ballooned, with the current side having conceded almost twice as many goals from the same number of games, (seven goals conceded at home and eight away).
Unsurprisingly, the one-time fortress that was Jalan Besar Stadium has witnessed just three clean sheets registered by the side this year.
Poor home record
It's no secret that the LionsXII won the league title last year largely off of their home record as they stayed unbeaten throughout their campaign.
Almost every team, including the Lions, had a poor showing on their travels. But the fact that the rest of the league failed to shore up when playing at home meant, Sundramoorthy's side were able to capitalise on the fortress that is Jalan Besar to win the Malaysia Super League.
A close look at the stats proves just that.
In 2013 at this stage of the competition, the LionsXII had a perfect seven wins out of seven. In comparison, that record reads three wins, two draws and two defeats this year.
However, Fandi's side can at least lay claim to consistency as they have managed an almost identical record away from home as well with three wins and three losses, and a draw.
While Sundram lost one fewer game, the 2013 team managed just one win on the road and four stalemates.
So what does this all point to? While the statistics paint a picture of a team that is clearly playing a more open game, the external factors have played a part too.
The most obvious being that nearly every team in the league has now stepped up and look far stronger than they did last season.
With eight games more to go, anything could happen and a late title charge is not out of the running just yet.