Southeast Asia Indonesia

A Nightmare Start – How Persib Went from Title Hopefuls to Banter Club

Former Indonesia national team head coach Luis Milla was unveiled as the new head coach of Liga 1 Indonesia giants Persib Bandung on August 19th. The Spaniard was given an almighty task – reviving an ailing Persib side currently toiling in 13th place on the league table. The Maung Bandung were title favorites at the start of the season but after a nightmare start, Persib found themselves only two points off the relegation zone.

Under former head coach Robert Rene Alberts, Persib finished 2nd in the 2021/22 season, their best finish since winning the Indonesia Super League title back in 2014. The men in blue have also strengthened themselves quite considerably in the off-season, bringing in the likes of Ciro Alves, Daisuke Sato, Rachmat Irianto and Ricky Kambuaya among others as they bid to reclaim the league title that they’ve last won nine years ago.

Excitement went into fever pitch levels when it was announced that Persib will be returning to the Gelora Bandung Lautan Api for the first time since 2018, a stadium located closer to downtown Bandung than their previous “home” of the Si Jalak Harupat Stadium in Bandung Regency.

However, things didn’t go according to plan for Persib. A penalty shootout defeat at the hands of PSS Sleman in the last 16 of the Piala Presiden pre-season tournament was a foreshadowing for what’s to come for the Maung Bandung, and by their very own high standards, Persib started off the season quite horrendously.

Seven games in, Persib have already lost four times, two of which were heavy, humiliating defeats. Both Madura United and Bali United left the Gelora Bandung Lautan Api with all three points, the former winning 3-1 and the latter 3-2. Away from home, Persib were hammered 4-1 by Borneo Samarinda – in a match that costed Robert his job – while last week Milla saw the scale of the task handed to him as Persib succumbed to a humiliating 5-1 defeat away at PSM Makassar.

So how did Persib got to this point?

According to, there are three factors that contributed to Persib’s decline this season. The first one is a frail backline.

Persib’s defense was the leakiest in the Liga 1 after seven games, conceding a whopping 18 goals. The solid quartet of Henhen Herdiana, Nick Kuipers, Victor Igbonefo and Zainaldo were retained after a stellar performance last season, with the defense even further fortified by the presence of Sato – a Thai League veteran with stints at Muangthong United, Suphanburi FC, and Ratchaburi FC to his name – and Rachmat, a defensive lynchpin in a Persebaya Surabaya side that did well last season.

However, Persib’s backline has been shaky this season, with Sato even committing a number of errors that led to the opposition scoring against the Maung Bandung. The Philippines international clearly struggled to fill in the void left by Ardi Idrus, who had moved to Bali United during the off-season.

There’s also a lack of an established starting goalkeeper within Persib, with the likes of Teja Paku Alam, Fitrul Dwi Rustapa, and I Made Wirawan being rotated in and out in Persib’s seven league matches so far. Fitrul, who played two matches, conceded five goals, while Teja conceded four in his only match, the aforementioned 4-1 defeat away at Borneo. Meanwhile, veteran goalie Wirawan conceded nine goals from the four matches that he has played so far, but despite this he did record Persib’s only clean sheet in their opening seven league matches, a 1-0 win away at PSS Sleman.

Another factor that contributed to Persib’s decline this season is their monotonous style of play, which opponents had managed to counter time and time again. Last season, Persib managed to serve up a playing style packed with creativity, but as the new season was ushered in, the Maung Bandung‘s opponents had came up with a number of strategies to cancel them out. High presses were Persib’s weakness this season and the midfield often lost the ball to their opposition thanks to this tactic. This would in turn led to devastating counters that led to goals being scored against the run of play.

Last but not least, cited a lack of cohesion in Persib’s attack as being a contributing factor behind their decline, with both Ciro and David da Silva struggling to build a partnership between them, despite their excellent goal-scoring reputation in the past seasons.

However, there’s one more crucial factor that played a part in Persib’s downfall, and it’s their unfortunate run with injuries. A number of key figures within the Persib squad had suffered injuries throughout pre-season and into the first few weeks of the league. Goalkeeper Teja had his palm broken that left him in the sidelines for four months, while Dutch defender Nick was diagnosed with Singapore flu during pre-season. Henhen was diagnosed with typhoid fever in the buildup towards the new season, while Igbonefo was out for six months after suffering a broken cheekbone during the Piala Presiden.

Most crucially, Ciro suffered a broken collarbone during the Piala Presiden that kept him out for around six weeks. Other players such as Febri Hariyadi, Ezra Walian, Kambuaya and Fitrul also had stints in the sidelines due to injury.

Persib will continue their league campaign this week with a home match against RANS Nusantara FC on September 4th, before traveling away to Arema FC on September 11th. Every Persib fan are hoping that Milla could steer the volatile Maung Bandung ship into calmer waters in the two matches, or they will face an even tougher season ahead of them.