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What to do at defensive midfield?

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Dushko Trajchevski and Darko Velkovski; photo: sportmedia.mkDushko Trajchevski and Darko Velkovski; photo: sportmedia.mkWith Arijan Ademi officially ruled out for the upcoming two games, Macedonia is facing many questions about what to do in defensive midfield.

On Monday, the Macedonian federation stated that Arijan Ademi would be evaluated to see whether he could return in time for Friday's game. However, the medical tests by Dinamo Zagreb's doctors showed that was not possible, so he stayed in Croatia to rehab.

With Ademi being a definitive starter when healthy, his absence presents a big blow to the team. The defensive midfield options behind Ademi are underwhelming, to say the least. Uros Matic will not be available since his FIFA clearance has not been settled, while the other natural defensive midfielders on the current roster, Artim Polozhani and Dushko Trajchevski, don't inspire much confidence. Polozhani is over 30 and Shkendija fans are not big on him, while Trajchevski is valued at Rabotnichki but he is the same guy who failed to win a contract during his trial with Lierse this past January. As a reminder, Lierse is the last placed club in Belgium. An international should not be going on trial to a club like that. Even Daniel Mojsov, currently dropped from the national team, signed with Lierse directly.

As of Wednesday morning, there are no plans for manager Boshko Gjurovski to call up an additional defensive midfielder or two. So, he faces a dilemma how to approach that position on Friday?

One possibility is to move Darko Velkovski back to defensive midfield. Prior to this season, Velkovski played there. However, after he experimented in central defense (came while on national team duty last summer), he was switched permanently to CB. Gjurovski had praise for his performance at CB in the two friendlies versus China, so Rabotnichki also moved him there. They actually did it because they were very thin at that position since Dino Najdoski had just moved to Vardar. That came as an unexpected transfer to them, so they had to scramble, leading to the decision to shift Velkovski.

Now, fielding Velkovski at defensive midfield is risky. He hasn't played there in close to a year and he seems settled as a CB. However, of all the central defenders, only Velkovski has the stamina and speed to do the required running for that position. Vanche Shikov and Bojan Markoski are bigger guys who can only play CB.

Another option would be to deploy Stefan Ristovski in defensive midfield. He mostly plays in right midfield for his club team Latina. That's a position that requires a lot of running and both offensive and defensive responsibilities. Also, Stefan is now in-form, something that was not the case at the start of this qualifying cycle since he rarely played at Parma, his former club. If Stefan was to move to defensive midfield, then Daniel Georgievski would go from left-back to right-back (Stefan's position on the national team), while Kire Ristevski would suit up at left-back, the position he plays at KF Tirana.

Blagoja Todorovski can also play there, if needed. However, he is another limited player who recently failed in a trial with Gifu, a team in the Japanese second division. Todorovski plays at right-back for Shkendija, but he is very versatile and can play other positions. He's just not national team quality, something that most readers here would agree. That also can be said about Artim Polozhani and Dushko Trajchevski as well.

As a reminder, under former manager Chedomir Janevski, there were games where he used Darko Tasevski (attacking midfielder) and Ferhan Hasani (winger) in defensive midfield. That failed big time, so hopefully Gjurovski will not go in that direction again. Tasevski has since retired, while Hasani is currently Macedonia's most in-form player. It would be foolish to play him anywhere other than winger. You have to capitalize on his great form while it lasts (think Besart Abdurahimi in that Luxembourg match last year). That's the kind of form that Hasani currently finds himself in.

Lastly, Enis Bardhi is an attacking midfielder, so placing him in a defensive role would not be fair to him. It would be too much to debut a youngster in a position that's foreign to him.

What are your thoughts? How would you address the defensive midfield mess? Also, what would be your starting 11 for Friday's game?


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