After brilliant half-season result-wise, Partizan boss Aleksandar Stanojevic spoke to journalists before taking a well-deserved winter break.
“Result forms opinion. One draw can turn everything upside down. We were all as one, showed that each and every player matters, which was clear for everyone to see lately when we had five regulars sidelined. I`m really pleased with our goal-difference (56-7). We scored 2,7 goals average per game. We can argue about our game style but I`m pleased to see we scored the most and conceded the least number of goals. This team can do without any individual but this team needs every single player”, said Stanojevic at the beginning of final half-season presser.
Stanojevic hinted his team will play different football game once the season restarts.
“There`s always space for improvements and we know exactly what we need for the rest of the season. We had a 19-game winning streak last season but you cannot be pleased with such feat when you don`t win a trophy. Of course, back then I was thinking about leaving. I don`t like to improvise, to play Ricardo and Milovanovic upfront without defining in advance how they look on the field together. Therefore, we will try to force some other form of play in regard to the opponents and we will try to change it during the winter pre-season”.
Partizan boss underlined Milovanovic`s progress as well.
“Milovanovic is a revelation. He had great pre-season and deserves to play. But, we didn`t work with him on individual basis at the time, he dropped in form and trained with youths as a result. But, he remained focused, picked up his form and progressed in a fantastic fashion”.
Did anyone disappoint Stanojevic?
“No one regressed but Holender had a lots of troubles with injuries. As soon as he would pick up, he would suffer a setback. Holender had a great last season, he was expected to play on the wing now but injuries kicked him out of contention. You expect more from Nemanja Jovic as he received his first national team call-up. He keeps high level of play but everyone expects him to pick up the ball on the left flank, beat three players and score”.
Partizan was expected to progress through Conference League group stage. It`s only that last two games didn`t live up to the expectations.
“Football game has changed a lot. When I was a player we beat Flora 6-1 and now we suffered a 2-0 defeat away. It`d hard to dominate, everyone closes in with their quality. I`m pleased we achieved our target and the final group standings come as no surprise. Group was sort of even with Gent deserving to top the group with their individual and team quality. Our aim was to progress through and we did it, although we played the final group game short of four regulars”.
After that final ECL group stage game against Anorthosis, Stanojevic was ready to step down as a result of negative mood coming from the stands.
“I`m emotional and I show it, what can I do? I got a support from the club on a meeting after the game. We work together and I`m in the media every other day, people are sick of me. Some will say I`m not supposed to talk about off-field matters but I gave support from the club. Yes, I was disappointed with negative energy on the stands against Anorthosis, asked myself what is the purpose of my job. My first ambition is sports related, that`s why I`m here. But, I also do this for the fans. Therefore, it makes no sense to me when is see no return information from the stands when we are top of the league and through to the next round of ECL. I wouldn`t mind getting booed if we were third in the standings and out of European competition. If there`s no emotion, I don`t need to be here. We would all love to be part of our favorite club for 10 years but that hardly ever happens”.
Stanojevic was close to depart at the end of the last season.
“I wanted to leave after the cup final as we didn`t win a trophy. Just for you to know – I never make calculations and I would never leave Partizan for another offer. It can only happen due to a failure or too many emotions involved. But , you need to know everything is fine within the club, everything is running smoothly. We are all as one, we agree and make decisions on everything together”.
Although Partizan was achieving great results over the course of this season, attendance was quite low.
“Some of it is down to the weather conditions. If we have good results come springtime, there`ll be 20 thousand fans on the stands. We eliminated Sochi and Santa Clara on the back of fans support. I say all these things as fans mean a lot to us”.
Former Partizan players and coaches praise team`s a results.
“It means a lot to me, it`s a satisfaction when people very close to you praise you, people who feel what Partizan is and people who had a success with the club. But, we are only 60% finished”.
Stanojevic also talked about transfer targets.
“You have interesting young and older players here, Serbian league is 11th placed in Europe, with all the problems that we have. Infrastructure is the main trouble. It`s not easy to get a young player from our league but we have our own talents anyway. Yes, we need a winger but only if Lazar Markovic is to depart”.
Referee`s decisions are always one of the main topics in Serbian football.
“We believe in regularity and VAR. Partizan fans are in distress for years, lots of things happened in the past but VAR reduced the number of mistakes significantly, I`m very pleased with it so far. As a result, we have two clubs progressing to the next round of their respective European competitions and our national team qualified for the World Cup. But, we still have infrastructure as the main problem. We want to be like Slovakia or Hungary but our fans cannot park their car outside the ground and once they are in they cannot hide from rain showers. Cinemas were different 20 years ago not to mention football. We lack amenities. On the other hand, Serbian referee was out there for CL Juventus v Chelsea game and I have to be positive. We had promises everything will be fine regarding regularity and we want to believe it will be”.
There`s a big gap between the big two and the rest of the league.
“It`s natural with the budgets we have, it`s similar in Portugal or Germany actually. My opinion is that we need a 10-team league, that`s what we can afford here tops”.
Finally, can Partizan allow itself, given the point margin, to look for a draw once the Eternal derby is played?
“You can never go for a draw unless you are so much below par compared to your opponent. If you want the title, you need to win great rivals too. As for the point margin..Well, we are away to Radnicki Nis to start with, Kragujevac away with their new coach Milinkovic, derby away, Surdulica and Subotica…Our bitter rivals have it tough away too though. We could have easily dropped the points against Cukaricki or Kolubara. But, I think we won last Saturday due to such a positive mood around. It`s still an open title race, five points is a great margin and motivation for us to do our best. I know what kind of pressure is when you trail five or six points, I`ve been there. You simply cannot afford to lose”.