SINGAPORE - While his intentions are geared towards entertaining the Jalan Besar faithful with attacking football, Fandi Ahmad's cavalier approach has not paid off so far.
Instead of defending their Malaysian Super League (MSL) title in style, the LionsXII are eighth in the 12-team table with 21 points, with six games left and 13 points behind leaders Selangor.
But Fandi, who turns 52 next Thursday, believes he has no choice but to go on the offensive.
He explained: "Our team is different from last year's, and we just don't have the quality to defend as a unit like in the past.
"So the only way is to attack, which is the best form of defence for me personally and I won't change that.
"I'd rather die fighting than standing."
The former Singapore captain was referring to the fact that after the LionsXII had won the MSL last year under V. Sundramoorthy, the core of the team - captain Shahril Ishak, centre-back Baihakki Khaizan and midfielder Hariss Harun all signed lucrative deals with Johor teams.
A frustrated Fandi said: "If anyone thinks he can do a better job, come up and be my guest."
The LionsXII have yet to clinch two victories in a row but have surrendered the lead four times so far, with three games - against Kelantan (1-2), Terengganu (1-2) and Johor Darul Takzim (2-3) - ending in defeats.
At this stage last season, the team had thrown away the lead just once, against JDT, drawing that game 2-2.
But some fans, like Hafiz Jalil, feel the poor results are due to the coach's philosophy.
Said the 32-year-old shipping operations assistant: "Fandi's stubbornly faithful to his belief in attacking football, going in search of more goals when it's sometimes better to just defend a lead." This was echoed by another fan, Heng Yong Jin, a 29-year-old army serviceman who added: "Fandi doesn't seem to have a Plan B. His tactics are all the same whether his side are losing 1-0 or winning 2-0 - and that is to just attack.
"His football may be more attractive than Sundramoorthy's but at the end of the day, results are all that matters and he hasn't been getting them."
Although pleasing to the eye, the swashbuckling system of pushing men forward and pressing high up has left the backline exposed, as 20 goals have now been conceded, five more than the whole of last season.
But Fandi has the support of Selangor coach Mehmet Durakovic, who said: "When we played them earlier in the season (losing 2-1), their constant attacks created chances for them and led to their winner in the last minute, which showed why he was right in attacking us constantly."
Syed Faris, the 26-year-old leader of the LionsXII's ExcluSinga fan group, added: "This new brand of football takes time to grow on the players and we should stick with it because the results will eventually come."
The LionsXII face 10th-placed Malaysian military side ATM at Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow.
This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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