Fandi aims to shake up LionsXII

Fandi aims to shake up LionsXII

Already knocked out of the Malaysia Cup and facing an inconsequential Group A game at Felda United, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad is looking further ahead and has resolved to rebuild the team.

The priority for the tactician is to find a new prolific striker and midfield general.

Fandi told The Straits Times yesterday: "We have had problems scoring goals this season so I will be looking to strengthen that department next year.

"I would like to have a striker as well as an instrumental midfielder who can control the game like (former vice-captain) Hariss Harun or (Singapore international) Shahdan Sulaiman.

"I will sit down with the national coach (Bernd Stange) to discuss the targets for next year in terms of playing personnel, results and player development."

Although Fandi, 52, declined to reveal his list of potential signings, the LionsXII's weaknesses were laid bare in a disappointing season where the last season's champions finished eighth in the 12-team Malaysian Super League (MSL) and were dumped out of the Malaysia Cup at the group stage.

With the exception of seven-goal top scorer Khairul Amri, the only other striker who has netted this season is Sufian Anuar, who bagged four.

The three other forwards - Shahfiq Ghani, Khairul Nizam and Syafiq Zainal - all failed to open their accounts this year.

Fandi's options in midfield have been limited too. Captain Isa Halim missed three months owing to a heel injury while Zulfahmi Arifin and Firdaus Kasman have the skill but lack the steel to dominate the middle of the park.

The coach's mention of Shahdan could provide a vital clue to who is on his wanted list.

When he was appointed last December, he made the signing of the Tampines Rovers playmaker a priority but the Stags had already registered the midfielder for the upcoming season.

Up front, it is believed that Courts Young Lions' Sahil Suhaimi could provide a cutting edge but it remains to be seen if the 22-year-old finisher will be allowed to leave the S-League team, who are essentially Singapore's developmental squad preparing for next year's SEA Games on home soil.

And the stark truth is that the LionsXII will not have a vast talent pool to tap on.

In a memorandum of understanding signed by both the Football Association of Singapore and Football Association of Malaysia, the LionsXII are listed as a solely-Singaporean side, meaning Fandi can pick only Singaporean players.

In the S-League, only three Singaporeans are among the top 10 scorers - Home United's Fazrul Nawaz (10 goals), Sahil (nine) and Home's 33-year-old Qiu Li (six).

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