Before the season even kicked off fans believed that the club was doomed. Their squad mostly consisted of NB II players and NB I players who were left redundant by other clubs in the top flight. They struggled to score goals which is shown by the fact that the club’s top scorers – Csanád Novák and Mijuško Bojović (the latter being a centre-back) – were tied at 3 goals. They had a good run early on in the season where they went 5 games without conceding and winning 3 of those matches. However this successful spell was followed by an 8 game losing streak. They struggled to compete with the rest of the league and were rightfully relegated at the end of the season.
Little can be said of MTK’s season. They played poorly throughout their campaign and were not effective in building attacks. On quite a few occasions Myke Ramos – who came back this season after being out for over a year – showed signs of brilliance, but even that was not enough to save the club from relegation. They failed to recognise weaknesses over the winter break, meaning the gaps remained for the duration of the spring as well. In December they decided to change manager internally with Zsolt Tamási replacing Vaszilisz Teodoru in the dugout. Despite beating Videoton, Ferencváros and Vasas once, most of their performances were uninspiring and were deservedly relegated. It is always sad to a historic team leaving the top flight but MTK did little to help themselves to avoid relegation. What MTK will be remembered for mostly this season is the opening of their new peculiar stadium with two concrete walls at either end of the pitch and the use of a Michelle Wild porno to test their new electronic scoreboard.
DVTK were destined to go on to do great things when they won their first two games of the season. However they were unable to muster a win in the next 9 games. They were struggling in all their games and fans accused the players of not being committed to the club. Their situation worsened when their captain Ákos Elek left for Kazakhstan. The board eventually sacked Ferenc Horváth after not seeing enough ambition on the pitch. They hired Tamás Bódog who completely changed the mentality of the team. They approached each game from the first whistle onwards as a cup final – a matter of life and death. While the quality on the pitch did not necessarily improve much, he was able to bring the best out of his players. His work was rewarded by DVTK moving out of the relegation zone when it mattered the most: in the latter stages of the season. If they keep the positive mind-set going at the club, it is unlikely the team will be facing a relegation battle like they did this year next season.
Mezőkövesd had a rollercoaster of a season. After securing promotion manager Attila Pintér was able to attract top players who have played under him in the past including Marek Strestik and Tarmo Kink. These signings greatly improved the club’s chances of survival. Throughout the autumn they played high quality football and you could see that the players were all on the same wavelength. Pintér masterminded the club’s successful run taking them from 6th in NB II to 5th in NB I in less than 12 months. However in the winter break Pintér decided to leave for the lucrative opportunity provided by Puskás Akadémia and soon after Mezőkövesd rapidly declined under the leadership of new head coach Tomiszlav Sivić. He was sacked when the club was facing relegation with 4 games to go. Many predicted that after the 5-1 defeat to Honvéd at home signalled the end of the club’s top-flight membership as despite the sacking of Sivić they kept on losing and shipping goals. However, new coach Miklós Radványi was able to secure safety miraculously with 1 game to spare. What started off as the club’s most successful season became a scramble against relegation.
Debrecen is one of the teams that had a season to forget. Elemér Kondás resigned after 2 league games and a quick exit from Europe. His relationship with the fans started to sour in the previous season. The club hired Leonel Pontes in August and poor performances throughout the whole season meant that the club was battling relegation. Marquee imports like Robert Vittek and Suk Hyun-jun did not show enough on the pitch to justify their signings. Pontes was sacked after the penultimate game and interim coach András Herczeg took over for the final game where they defeated local rivals Diósgyőr and secured safety. The club has failed to have a successful transition from their golden generation that got them so many titles, and a thoughtful rebuild is required to restore their dominance.
Throughout the 2016/2017 season Újpest were unable to register new players due to a transfer ban. For the whole year their squad was weak and had gaping holes in key positions such as a viable striker. Jonathan Heris and Benjámin Cseke both played upfront even though one is a defender and the other is a midfielder respectively and at one point head coach Nebojša Vignjević played two defenders upfront. Újpest players moved to different positions throughout the whole year. Midfielder Balázs Balogh played at right back and winger Souleymane Diarra also played as a deep-lying midfielder similarly to Kanté at Chelsea. A 7th place finish is both relieving and frustrating for Újpest fans. On one hand they can count themselves lucky to have finished without getting relegated; something which was not totally out of picture after the first two games and in the latter stages of the season. However they threw away leads on too many occasions. At one point they drew 8 out of 9 games meaning they missed out on vital points that could have been beneficial for a top 4 finish. A stand out player this year was Enis Bardhi – the Alexis Sanchez of Újpest – who is set to leave the club this summer. This is just another gap that needs to be filled in the future.
Haladás had a very average season. They got 7 points less than last year and did not pose a major threat to the European places. In their first half of the season János Hegedűs became a stand out player and was identified as one for the next generation. However his sale to Puskás Akadémia shocked both fans of Haladás and the rest of the domestic league alike. Later on András Jancsó proved to be a hot prospect around whom they can build a team in the future. They have established themselves as solid mid-table NB I team since their near relegation in 2015. They need to make a few top signings in order to move on and pose a real challenge for the European places.
When considering Paks’ budget and policy of only signing Hungarian players you could be forgiven for assuming them to be relegation candidates. However, once again they defied expectations and not only moved out of the relegation zone where they found themselves at one point, but also went on a 9 game unbeaten run. It could be argued that their success could be down to making their ground a fortress, where other teams struggle to play due to its poor conditions. Nevertheless we shouldn’t take anything away from what Aurél Csertői and his team have achieved. It is difficult to predict how they will do next season as they can jump abruptly from inform to out of form in a relatively short space of time. Only time will tell what the future holds for them.
Ferencváros hugely underperformed this season with their 4th place finish. Even though they won the Hungarian Cup, they were expected to defend their title or at least challenge for it when taking into account they finished top 21 points clear of 2nd placed Videoton last season. Their failure can be put down to signing players in both transfer windows who did not fulfil expectations. Marco Djuricin was very wasteful infront of goal and Oliver Hüsing did not become the defensive rock he was predicted to be. László Kleinheisler’s arrival in January from Werder Bremen along with Ryu Seung-woo and István Bognár from Porto and DVTK respectively were meant to act as a boost to their title challenge, but they all struggled for minutes and failed to establish themselves as key players to the team. On the other hand the signing of Amadou Moutari paid off as he became a key figure in Ferencváros’ attacks. He will be an important player next season.
Vasas shocked fans around the country when they won 5 of their 6 first matches; an impressive turnaround considering the fact that they avoided relegation on the final match day of last season. A Leicester-esque season was anticipated as they led the table for long periods of time and even as late as mid-spring they were still in serious contention for the title. Initially they relied heavily on goals from centre back Tamás Vaskó – a 32 year old Hungarian veteran who they signed from relegated Békéscsaba – who demonstrated his heading ability from set pieces. Their success could be put down to the expertise of head coach Michael Oenning and the squad he put together which included lots of young Hungarians, similarly to Honvéd.
Alongside Honvéd, Videoton played the most attractive football this season. Their performances were fluid and it was a joy to watch their attackers from the Balkans – Danko Lazović, Mirko Marić, Marko Šćepović, Anel Hadžić and Asmir Suljić – linking up and showcasing spectacular plays. They scored more and conceded less than any other team in the league and often were able to win against bigger teams such as Ferencváros and Újpest very comfortably. However, too often they fell short by their inability to beat smaller teams like Mezőkövesd and strugglers including MTK and DVTK. It could be argued that dropping crucial points against these minor sides cost them the title. At the end of the season they decided to part ways with manager Henning Berg. Personally, I believe this was the wrong decision as Berg was able to challenge Honvéd all the way unlike other teams despite arriving less than a year ago in a new football environment and culture. He has already proved his managerial capabilities in Poland by winning the Polish League and Cup. Giving him one more season would have put him in a better position in terms of challenging for the title. Even this year conceding one or two less or scoring one or two more in critical close games could have seen them lift the trophy instead of Honvéd.
Honvéd deservedly won the league. They not only beat runners-up Videoton in the game described as ‘the final’ on the last match day, but also put in convincing performances throughout the whole season. The striker partnership of Márton Eppel and Davide Lanzafame proved to be effective as they had 27 goals and 15 assists between them. They played off each other well and were deadly on the counter. Many doubted Honvéd’s march to victory would be achievable when they sold right back Endre Botka and winger Dániel Prosser to Ferencváros and Puskás Akadémia respectively, key players who came though their youth academy who were labelled by the fans as traitors. Despite this, the rest of the squad showed resilience, which gave them confidence to march on. Even in the latter stages of the season – when often teams may crack under pressure – Honvéd were able to put 5 past both Mezőkövesd and Debrecen. There were many outstanding performers in the team other than Eppel and Lanzafame; for example the heroics in goal by Dávid Gróf, the spirit of Botond Baráth and the great crosses by Ikenne-King. Overall, all credit has to go to head coach Marco Rossi who developed this winning squad over 5 years.