The renowned commentator and analyst expressed his opinion regarding two of the most gifted young Indian talents.
One of the most recognized presenters in football, Joe Morrison, who is known for his work and knowledge of Indian football, got candid while speaking on Khel Now’s new podcast Beyond The Scores. He spoke at length about the football structure, competitions and players and gave some informative insights as well.
Upon being asked about some of the younger talents that have impressed him in recent times, Joe Morrison was quick to express his admiration for Anirudh Thapa.
“In the current Indian setup in midfield, I’ve never seen anyone who has the composure on the ball, on the back foot, defensively as Thapa. He is very cool like a cucumber when he’s under pressure with the ball and that’s important,” he quoted.
“So, if you had Thapa in midfield and you had changed your strategy to offensive, you would’ve had a bit more control of the game. It might’ve made Bahrain (in the AFC Asian Cup 2019) think twice before moving forward,” he added.
Although, Morrison also admitted that the Dehradun-born midfielder needs a bit of grooming himself. “He needs a bit more coaching, a bit more game time and bit more experience and a bit more development.”
On the other hand, he also expressed his unadulterated opinion on Brandon Fernandes. He labelled him as someone who has tremendous ability, but called out his inconsistencies and inability to perform under pressure.
However, he did recall Fernandes’ display against Oman, where Morrison thought he was really impressive and was his choice for Man of the Match. Yet, he went on to add that, “I see him perform fabulous in one game and then next game he goes a little bit quiet and is anonymous.”
“So, I’m not totally convinced about Brandon, yet. He’s got playing ability, but I likened him to a player called Amoory Abdulrahman, who is a big big star here in the United Arab Emirates — now he’s had opportunities to go to France, on loan with Manchester City and he hasn’t done it. When you see him playing for UAE, he’s got loads of time and space on the ball because that’s the nature of the games. Now, when you go to France, it’s intense! You’re going to get kicked or someone is on you,” Joe Morrison explained.
The renowned broadcaster further went on to make the point that Brandon Fernandes needs to play in a situation where he is constantly under pressure. He bluntly asked, “Can Brandon Fernandes deliver if the game is going up and down the field for 90 minutes?”
Joe Morrison gave the example of Jurgen Klopp, whose Liverpool team won the league thanks to intense pressing from the whole side for the entire duration of the game and asked, “Can Brandon Fernandes do that? No, not in my opinion.”
“You want high intensity players who can go up and down and can hit that killer ball, that beautiful little pass, that little piece of magic that Messis, Ronaldos and Neymars of today, can all do. Brandon Fernandes is a question mark for me. It’s about adaptability. There will be certain games where Brandon might have to play wide in a three and there might be other games where he might have to play off the No. 9. You have to be adaptable, which comes back to the inconsistency issue,” he further expressed.
Adding to that analysis, he said that a player who cannot adapt with the changing climate and formations in a game is no good for a coach just because he is talented. This is where Sahal Abdul Samad comes into the picture, as he also exhibits similar traits to that of Brandon.
In reference to Sahal, Joe Morrison stated, “Some people only see his ability at his feet, but you cannot have just ability on feet because, as he develops as a player and becomes a fulcrum of a team, when you go up against an Asian opposition — they just shut him out of the game!”
“So, he has to be smart enough to still contribute to the team when the opposition is focused on him and you can only do that when you have good tactical understanding and awareness. You can’t be a one man team or a one-on-one player, you can’t win anything with that,” Joe Morrison continued.
Morrison also inquired about the next step for Sahal, since no European club is going to take a 21, almost going on to 22-year-old, questioning the future value. He makes a comparison here with Martin Odegaard, who came to Real Madrid from the Norwegian top division as a 16-year-old and was deemed not good enough.
Only after spending five years in development and on loan spells here and there, where he was playing regularly, an exceptional player like Odegaard is now in a place where he can play for Real.
Morrison stated, “Now, you compare him with someone like Sahal who has not been playing in a top league, who is not fit enough, strong enough in comparison to his contemporaries, to another 21-year-old in a European league and you expect him to walk straight into the Real Madrid team? It’s fantasy!”
“Look how long it took Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) to be in a position where he was level with his peers in Norway. It took him the best part of three years to be at that level, for a goalkeeping position. So, imagine an outfield position, you’re talking about 4-5 years. So, if he’s 21-22 and you add five years to that, you’re then talking about 27, which is too late!” Morrison further added in reference to Sahal.
Safe to say, Joe Morrison is looking at India’s two most exceptional young talents with a very realistic point of view, which also lays down the level of expectations Indian football fans should have from these players.