We put the numbers together and bring you the 2018 Singapore Premier League Team of the Season. Agree or disagree? Tell us who were your favourite XI this year.
After an incredible unbeaten campaign, champions Albirex Niigata FC (S) naturally dominate our Team of the Season. However there are still room for players from the other SPL teams. Without further ado, let’s see who’s in…
Goalkeeper: Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa)
Balestier have enjoyed a much improved season as compared to 2017 and a large part of it was down to the unwavering efforts of Zaiful in goal. Despite playing in front of an unsettled backline for much of the season, the 31-year-old retained his status as the best local stopper in the SPL with a series of solid displays in between the sticks. The fans have grown accustomed to the sight of him either producing flying saves or throwing his body at the feet of opposition strikers to deny clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities.
Right-back: Riku Moriyasu (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
With the plaudits usually going to his other teammates, Moriyasu’s contributions to this magnificent Albirex side have been criminally understated. The 23-year-old possesses the traits of a modern full-back, with the ability to bomb up and down the flank without much fuss. Defensively astute, he is also super effective in the attacking third with his accurate deliveries into the box. His 10 assists rank him the joint-top assist maker alongside Brunei DPMM’S Adi Said.
Centre-back: Shuhei Sasahara (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
Sasahara started the season on the bench for the first three games, but an injury to Shun Kumagai saw him slotting seamlessly into the heart of defence in a 6-1 thrashing of Home United thereafter and there was no looking back since. The 23-year-old’s superb reading of the game meant the other SPL teams struggled to break down their backline all year and he is a major reason why the White Swans kept 10 shutouts all season.
Centre-back: Shakir Hamzah (Home United)
With the Home defence initially leaking goals, coach Aidil Sharin’s decision to switch Shakir into central defence to partner Abdil Qaiyyim thereafter proved to be a masterstroke. The tough-tackling 25-year-old rarely allowed opposition attackers an inch in their attacking third and often put his body on the line with last-ditch blocks to save certain goals. A key reason why Home ended with the third-best defensive record after a poor start to the campaign.
Left-back: Kenya Takahashi (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
Credit has to go to Albirex’s scouting department that they somehow managed to replace an outstanding member of last season with arguably an even better version of the original one. Naofumi Tanaka was a splendid left-back for the White Swans in 2016 and 2017, but Takahashi came in and ensured they did not miss the services of the former. Always looking to get down the byline to whip in a cross, the ultra-attacking 23-year-old not only delivered seven assists but also scored six goals in the process – with three coming through his masterful free-kicks.
Central Midfielder: Izzdin Shafiq (Home United)
After years of promise, we have finally seen the coming of age for this smooth operator. A surprise choice to succeed Hassan Sunny for Home’s captaincy, Izzdin thrived on the extra responsibilities of leading the team and put up a series of domineering displays in the middle of the park. The 27-year-old not only sweeps everything up in the central areas, but can also turn defence into attack in a flash with his visionary diagonal balls. He is certainly putting up a strong case to be Hariss Harun’s midfield partner for the upcoming Suzuki Cup.
Central Midfielder: Wataru Murofushi (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
As we mentioned earlier, Albirex must be doing something right in their recruitment process for they filled the big void left behind by Kento Nagasaki with this absolute midfield general. With a playing style not dissimilar to Steven Gerrard, Murofushi has been the White Swans’ talisman this season. The 23-year-old leads by example on the pitch with his all-action displays and has particularly stood out with his ability to shoot from range – netting 11 goals this season (including two in the Singapore Cup). It’s hard to see anyone but him winning the Player of the Year gong.
Right Winger: Adi Said (Brunei DPMM)
It has been a pretty good year for DPMM after a dismal 2017 campaign where they finished second bottom, with huge credit going to the on-song Adi. Playing on the right side of a front three, the effervescent 27-year-old has contributed 10 goals and as many assists – that accounts for almost half of their 43 goals in the league this season. Certainly his best season at DPMM after so many years at the club.
Attacking Midfielder: Yasir Hanapi (Tampines Rovers)
Returning to the club after a half-season spell at PDRM FA, Yasir showed Tampines what they were missing out in the latter stages of 2017. The 29-year-old may not be the most creative of players, but guarantees 100% commitment whenever he is on the pitch. He put up several workhorse-like displays to support the attackers, contributing nine assists along the way as they narrowly missed out on AFC Champions League (ACL) qualification on the final day.
Left Winger: Shahril Ishak (Home United)
Who says he can’t cut it anymore at the highest level? Shahril has his doubters over the years, but he has showed this season why he is still one of the best, if not the best, in the business. The 34-year-old has enjoyed a dream return to Home United, with 20 goals and 17 assists across three competitions – a key reason why Home will participate in the ACL for the first time in 2019. We shall see what kind of role he plays for Singapore in the upcoming Suzuki Cup.
Striker: Shuhei Hoshino (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
Last year it was Tsubasa Sano, this year it is Hoshino. The burly 22-year-old has led the line with excellence for the White Swans this season and it looks like he has done enough to win the Golden Boot this season with 19 goals. It is not just about finding the net, but also his all-round play to bring others into play and his smart movement in the area to drag defenders away for his teammates to cause damage. The perfect choice for the centre-forward for our Team of the Season.
Yohsuke Nozawa (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
The 38-year-old can count himself unlucky to miss out on a place in the starting lineup, having kept 10 clean sheets and made two penalty saves on the way to the White Swan’s sterling campaign.
Kento Fukuda (Warriors FC)
Handed the Warriors’ captaincy this season, the 28-year-old Japanese has developed into one of the best centre-backs in the country and even netted five times this season.
Daiki Asaoka (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
One of the reasons why Murofushi has shined in midfield is because of the water-carrying efforts of Asaoka alongside him. The 23-year-old has also accumulated good numbers, with three goals and six assists.
Amirul Adli (Tampines Rovers)
The 22-year-old has enjoyed a great transformation from a centre-back to a box-to-box midfielder in 2018, with four goals and two assists.
Adam Swandi (Albirex Niigata FC (S))
The 2011 Lion City Cup star has undoubtedly brought his game up another notch since joining the White Swans this term, with three goals and eight assists.
Song Ui-young (Home United)
Another player who is unlucky to miss out, the 28-year-old South Korean attacker started in just 11 league games but still scored 10 goals and made two assists.
Khairul Amri (Tampines Rovers)
The veteran forward enjoyed one of his most consistent seasons in a while, collecting 15 goals to finish the season as the top local scorer.