Will The 2022/23 Indonesian Liga 1 Season Be The Best Yet?
The 2022/23 Indonesian Liga 1 season kicks off on July 23, and with a host of new teams, new players, and new managers taking centre stage, it could be the best Liga 1 season yet.
As always in Indonesia, there has been plenty of intrigue during the off-season, as coaches and players joined their rivals, and new teams made statement signings as they look to make a splash.
Let’s look at the contenders and the pretenders for the 2022/23 Indonesian Liga 1 season…
Arema Off To Fast Start
Perennial powerhouse Arema FC got off to a fast start, winning the 2022 Piala President in what is the traditional ‘pre-season tournament’ in Indonesia.
Teams in Indonesia have been known to get off to a slow start before gaining momentum, like a big diesel engine. However, after showing strong form through the group phase and knockout rounds, Arema should look to capitalise on their match fitness and get off to a fast start.
They kick off their season with a cup final rematch against Borneo, then two easy home fixtures against PSIS Semarang and PSS Sleman, meaning the team from Malang should go into their first major showdown of the season, away tom Bali United, on nine points and with bags of confidence.
Runners-Up To Take The Next Step?
During the 2021/22 campaign, at times, Persib Bandung looked and played like champions. However, three draws in their final three fixtures saw them stumble at the final hurdle, leaving a bitter taste in their mouths.
With a settled line-up that sees all three impressive imports return, including Dutch defender Nick Kuipers, Brazilian striker David da Silva, and his fellow countryman the enigmatic winger Ciro, the team from Indonesia’s fourth biggest city could finally be ready to win their first championship in almost a decade.
Persija Jakarta Reloaded
After finishing a disappointing ninth in 2020/21 and eighth in 2021/22, to say Persija Jakarta have loaded up and are desperate to win in their brand-new 81,000-seater stadium would be an understatement!
The Tigers are Indonesia’s most famous – and successful – team and are more accustomed to fighting for top honours rather than mid-table obscurity.
In a show of force, the team hired former Hamburg and Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Doll, then recruited German midfielder Hanno Behrens from Hansa Rostock, as well as Czech internationals Michael Krmenčík (forward) and Ondřej Kúdela (centre-back).
While these additions are obviously a sign of intent from the 11-time champions, will it be enough to see the Liga 1 trophy return to Jakarta?
In the past we have seen high-profile signings such as Michael Essien, Peter Odemwingie, and Mohamed Sissoko fail to come to grips with the conditions in Indonesia and not live up to their billing, if the same happens to the new faces at Persija, the Jakmania fans could be in for another disappointing campaign…
The New Boys
RANS Nusantara is a team with no history, who are looking to make a splash in their first season in Indonesia’s top flight.
The club was established in 2012 and was previously known as Cilegon United, and was then purchased by RANS Entertainment and Prestige Motorcars in 2021.
Known as The Prestige Phoenix, no prizes for working out why, the club finished the last campaign as runners-up in Liga 2, earning automatic promotion to Liga 1.
The upstarts from North Jakarta have since gone on a spending spree, recruiting the superstar Malian attacking midfielder Makan Konaté, as well as the Indonesian national team shot-stopper Wawan Hendrawan amongst others.
A potential wildcard in the pack could be their enigmatic Brazilian striker André Felipe Ribeiro de Souza.
André has had more clubs than Tiger Woods – 16 in a career that has seen him play at Santos, Bordeaux, and Corinthians – but with the name ‘André Nightclub’ one can’t help but wonder if the bright lights of Jakarta will distract striker from the job at hand.
A Three-Peat For Bali United?
At the end of the 2021/22 season, fresh after lifting their second Liga 1 trophy in succession, the future looked bright for the Tridatu Warriors.
Their new international signings Eber Bessa and Privat Mbarga had bedded in well, and they had another AFC Cup campaign to look forward to, with expectations of going on a long cup run high.
However, at the conclusion of the season the classy Indonesian international forward Stefano Lilipaly left for a new challenge in Borneo, with the skilful yet slower Irfan Jaya expected to replace his productivity.
A scheduling disaster from the Indonesian FA (not for the first time) saw the Piala President slated for just before the beginning of the AFC Cup group stage, meaning coach Teco was forced to play a weakened line-up as the club focussed on Asia.
As a result, Bali United crashed out of the domestic cup competition, and things didn’t improve, as they also failed once again to get out of their AFC Cup group, despite having the advantage of playing all three of their group games at home.
So without a ball being kicked, the two-time defending champions are now staring down the barrel of a wasted season if they fail to retain their Liga 1 crown.
The owners who are paying the expensive wage bill, and the passionate Balinese fans, will expect nothing less.
2022/23 Indonesian Liga 1 Season – Our Predictions
So, who will be crowned champions at the conclusion of the 2022/23 Indonesian Liga 1 season? With their outstanding additions, it is hard to look past Persija Jakarta at this stage. If their Czech stars can adjust to the conditions quickly, they will be hard to stop.
Playing in Indonesia isn’t the walk in the park many international players believe it will be, so our tip is that once again Bali United and Persib Bandung will fight it out for the title.
Our top three? Persib Bandung followed by Bali United, with Persija Jakarta third. It will be close, with only a handful of points separating the top three. Look for Arema to start brightly before fading, and PSM Makassar to put the troubles of the last campaign behind them.
And the relegation candidates?
While RANS Nusantara have done enough in the recruiting department to ensure they finish mid-table, it could be a season of struggle for the two other promoted teams Persis and Dewa United. Joining them will, unfortunately, be fan-favourites PSS Sleman, who struggled during the second half of last season, narrowly avoiding relegation. This year could sadly see them slip back into Liga 2, though we hope we are wrong…