BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
At the start of the 2017 season, Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) decided that it was time to say goodbye to Mario Gomez - the coach that has brought to the team Super League titles, FA Cup triumph as well as the magnificent AFC Cup trophy in recent year. Benjamin Mora was promoted from Johor Darul Ta'zim II (JDTII) to take over the hot seat as JDT look to run things a little differently from before.
Since HRH Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) took over in 2013, JDT has gone through a sea of change and has predominantly imbued themselves with star players gathered across the country. A successful attempt to give them the boost from a league participant to the superpower in domestic Malaysian that they are today.
However in 2017, the management at JDT and TMJ himself departed from their usual demeanor and set about on a different path. The Aimars, Figueroas and Guizas of this world were replaced with lesser known imports and the average age of the squad was brought down from 25.7 to 24.5 - not the greatest of differences but huge when you consider the departures of experienced heads like Amri Yahyah and Safee Sali.
So, the big question is - how has the change affected JDT. Did it make them better or worse, stronger or weaker? The Super League campaign hit the halfway mark after the midweek game that just past which saw JDT beating Penang 2-1, and on the evidence of the same stage of the season last year under Gomez - JDT has more or less retained the same high standards which they have set upon themselves.
In terms of results, Mora has got the one blot on his record with that defeat at the hands of Perak but has otherwise matched what Gomez has done the year before. Under Mora, JDT has garnered 26 points thus far, only a point less that what Gomez achieved at the same stage last season.
Taking into consideration that the 2016 was more of a 2-horse race with Felda United, Gomez was tied at the top of the league with then Irfan Bakti's side. Only goal difference meant that Felda held the top spot at the midway point of last season.
This 2017 season has been a more open contest even with Felda dropping out of the challenger role with Pahang and Kedah proving that they are the ones to contend with this season. A more competitive league but JDT still managed to hit almost the same points tally as last season.
As for the action of the pitch, Mora's team averaged approximately 2.5 goals per game while Gomez's team only managed 1.8 goals per game. Conversely, Gomez's team only conceded 0.6 goals per game but Mora's team let in 0.9 goals per game with one fewer clean sheets.
The higher number of goals scored, speaks of the more expansive brand of football that Mora has cultivated in his side while Gomez can sometimes be accused of a more pragmatic approach - one of the reasons why his side tends to be defensively better.
All things considered, in the big picture scheme of things, there isn't much to separate how JDT have done under Mora compared to the time under Gomez. In the finer details, there has been changes done internally and externally that sets the two apart.
On the basis of the numbers game alone, JDT fans can have very little to be unhappy about.