It was a beautiful fall in Lubin, but not so much at the city’s one and only football club, Zagłębie. The team that had previously won two championships sat in the eighth spot. It wasn’t the biggest problem as this position would have guaranteed a place in Group A after 30 games.
But people didn’t like the style which Zagłębie were playing. Unconvincing wins, disappointing losses, and many players far from the form that was expected of them. Pavel Hapal got the sack after just two games and Adam Buczek never really had a chance to become a full-time manager. So the board of directors decided to appoint the coach that had secured their promotion to Ekstraklasa back in 2009, Orest Lenczyk. He was supposed to put out the fire and then push on to the top eight.
He tried to do so, but instead ended up pouring more gasoline onto the raging inferno. Unable to win even one game on the road, the Miedziowi managed to grab only 5 victories in Lenczyk’s 23 Ekstraklasa games – rooting them in the relegation zone. The mindset that had once helped Lenczyk lead Śląsk Wrocław to the championship turned out to be ineffective and highly frustrating at Śląsk’s local rivals, Zagłębie. A tight defense and quick counterattacks were supposed to be the means to go on a winning streak, but the overall goal difference was 25 scored to 33 conceded – far from expectations to say the least.
So nothing went according to plan in Ekstraklasa, but the season could have been salvaged. Zagłębie were surprised by the favourites being knocked out from the Puchar Polski one after another. The Miedziowi could have played Lech Poznań in the semi-final, and possibly Legia Warszawa in the final; but instead they squared-off against three teams from lower divisions – GKS Tychy, Sandecja Nowy Sącz and Arka Gdynia. Lenczyk and his squad proved that they are in fact better than lower league sides and cruised to the final game, where they faced Zawisza Bydgoszcz. After a nervous 90 minutes and extra time the scoreboard still remained goalless, and the dreaded penalties followed. Though Sebastian Dudek missed thefirst spot-kick, Zawisza won as Wojciech Kaczmarek saved the efforts from Dorde Čotra and Sebastian Bonecki.
Unable to bounce back from the cup loss and with time to avoid relegation quickly running out, Lenczyk was dismissed hastily. Though he made some good calls such as shifting Jiri Bilek from defensive midfielder to centre-back, and Lubomir Guldan in the opposite direction; or signing Silvio Rodic, Manuel Curto and Elvedin Dzinic; his second spell in Lubin has to be considered a failure. His stubbornness was never going to work – Zagłębie needed to push forward in some games and instead kept focus on defence and quick breaks. When their dynamic duo of Arkadiusz Piech and David Abwo played good football, all was well. But the tRouble began when they were underperforming. Lenczyk didn’t have a back-up plan and therefore made Zagłębie run their heads against a brick wall in games which they could have won.
In Lenczyk’s place another fireman was signed. Ex-Jagiellonia Białystok and Polonia Warszawa coach Piotr Stokowiec now faces the increasingly difficult challenge of keeping Zagłębie up.
He only has four games to do it, and every single one of them is crucial. The first one is what you can call make or break: If Zagłębie fails to win against Cracovia on their home turf, the fight might be all but over. A four point gap may be narrowed to one or expanded to seven.
Stokowiec was appointed because he preaches an offensive style of football which hasn’t been seen in Lubin for a long time. Has he been signed in the nick of time, or far too late? Can he live up to the expectations or will his tenure be only slightly longer than Hapal’s? We’ll get the answers in just over two weeks time.