Nemanja ‘nexa’ Isaković spoke to Dexerto about the recent rebuild of OG’s CS:GO team after a disappointing start to the year.
nexa knew that changes were necessary when he joined OG’s CS:GO team, in January. Signed in a trade deal between OG and G2 Esports that saw Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen move in the other direction, nexa was tasked with revitalizing a roster that had shown flashes of being capable of making noise in the scene but that had ultimately become stale under the Finnish tactician.
nexa’s arrival provided the energy the team had been craving as they qualified for the BLAST Premier Spring Final by beating Astralis (twice), MIBR and NIP. But the euphoria quickly fizzled out: After bowing out of IEM Katowice in 13th-16th place, OG failed to qualify for PGL Major Antwerp as they lost to NAVI, forZe and Eternal Fire in the RMR tournament in Bucharest.
It was a disappointing (although not entirely unexpected) outcome as it meant that OG’s wait for a Major appearance continued. But at the same time, it gave nexa the opportunity to clean house and start over.
“I wouldn’t say the lineup was doomed from the start, but I think that when Aleksib left, there were other players who also wanted to leave but didn’t have the chance,” nexa told Dexerto.
“When I came into the team, I thought that we would need to change more players, but the coaching staff and the organization convinced me to give the roster a try and sold me on the players. So I was like, ‘Okay, I will give it a shot.’”
nexa believes he could have made it work with the lineup he was given before motivation issues took their toll on the team. Weeks after the RMR event, OG announced that Valdemar ‘valde’ Bjørn Vangså and Nikolaj ‘niko’ Kristensen had been given permission to explore their options.
Their replacements, Maciej ’F1KU’ Miklas and Adam ‘NEOFRAG’ Zouhar, should give OG’s team a jolt. The pair, aged 19 and 21 respectively, are eager to showcase their talent in a big environment after shining in Europe’s tier-two for AGO and SINNERS.
“We just needed to add some grinders, people who play CS 24/7 and live the game,” he explained. “People who want to prove themselves and show they are the best in CS, who are willing to put in more work and basically just want to win.
“I’m really happy to have them because when you bring in younger players they can motivate everyone around them. You see how much effort they’re putting in and how they’re bringing new ideas and perspectives.”
The arrival of two new faces signals the start of a new chapter for OG’s CS:GO team, which now has in Mateusz ‘mantuu’ Wilczewski the only remaining player of the original lineup when the famed Dota 2 organization entered the game in December 2019.
Over time, OG have gone from being a team made up mostly of tried-and-tested players to one that offers a platform for young talent to prove their mettle. In a May 11 interview with Dexerto, valde said that he did not agree with this change in direction and that OG’s ambitions had stopped matching his own.
Such comments present quite a contrast to the optimism that nexa exudes about the new lineup. But even though he outlined the need to bring in hungry players, nexa stressed that he has no criticism for the departing duo.
“It’s definitely not something directed at them,” nexa said of valde and niko. “I just think the motivation in general was really low. It really didn’t feel like we wanted to win. It just felt like we were there along for the ride.”
There was a sense of disappointment in the CS:GO scene when OG announced F1KU and NEOFRAG as their new players. Days earlier, rumors had been swirling about the team’s alleged interest in Virtus.pro’s Mareks ‘YEKINDAR’ Gaļinskis and Complexity’s Justin ‘jks’ Savage — two far more experienced players and with much stronger pedigree.
“If we could bring YEKINDAR, we would have done it,” nexa said. “There would be no reason not to do it. But it was not on the cards. It was not really an option.
“We did consider jks, but it really didn’t feel like he was that much into joining us. I think he was waiting for better offers, so it didn’t work out with him.”
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This interview took place during the esports convention hosted by Teleperformance in Lisbon on May 27 to celebrate the launch of the company’s €1.2 million esports arena. OG attended the event to take part in a showmatch with MIBR that had over $50,000 on the line.
Fifty Shades of Manager 😄 ⠀and our first victory with the updated roster in sunny Lisbon 😎 pic.twitter.com/iLGAGz9zFD
— Vladyslava 💃🏻🌻 (@Vladyslava_Z) June 1, 2022
There could hardly be a stranger setting for nexa, who not too long ago was a regular in the biggest tournaments in the world. Six months earlier, he was part of the G2 Esports team that played the grand final of PGL Major Stockholm in front of a rapturous crowd (and for over 2.5 million viewers online). Now, he was playing a showmatch with barely any spectators on site (or at home), trying to work his way back to the top alongside four players who have never even been to a Major.
“I don’t really think too much about it,” nexa said. “I feel like I’m way more relaxed and with less pressure. When I was with G2 playing all these events, it felt like I didn’t see my apartment for three or four months at a time.
“It was just playing tournament after tournament. I could not get my head straight. Something was happening all the time. I could not remember how many days we had been on the road, how many practice days we had had. Everything was a blur.
“With OG, I have been able to find a breather and recollect my thoughts. This is where my journey has led me and this is what I have to work with. I’ll do my best to make it work.”
For nexa, leading a young, hungry team represents a golden opportunity to bring his stock back to its old positioning and prove his critics wrong.
A May 1 article from HLTV.org titled “What is wrong with OG?” assigned much of the blame for the team’s poor results to nexa’s “loose, simplistic style”, which, it argued, wasn’t setting some players, like niko and Shahar ‘flameZ’ Shushan, up for success. valde appeared to suggest as much himself when he said that, after the team went past the honeymoon period, “it didn’t work”.
nexa is implementing some role changes to better fit the skills of his players, with NEOFRAG set to become the focal point of the team while flameZ takes a backseat. However, he stressed that he will stay true to his convictions and his philosophy as an in-game leader.
“It is my style, my identity as a caller,” he said. “It really relies on my players performing. If they’re not putting in numbers, no matter what style you play, you’re going to lose.
“I will stick to doing what I know. I will not try to change myself or play a style that doesn’t suit me or make me comfortable. I will keep doing things the way I’ve been doing them. Hopefully it will work out. The coaching staff and OG believe in me.”
After defeating MIBR 2-0 in their first match with hardly any preparation time, OG will now turn their attention to the BLAST Premier Spring Final, which will also be held in Lisbon. The team will have little over two weeks to form chemistry, but they have proven in the past that they can defy the odds during honeymoon periods. “Maybe it will take us some time to be competitive, maybe we will be competitive instantly,” nexa said.
No matter how things turn out, nexa says he will have no regrets about pulling the trigger on these changes.
Now begins a new cycle for OG, one that he hopes will lead to a maiden appearance at a Major after the Stockholm and Antwerp heartbreaks.
“I guess for OG third time will be the charm, right?” he said. “Let’s hope so.
“On paper, it looked like our previous lineup was stronger, but I feel that we have a better chance of getting to a Major with this lineup.”