The Gaurs are a stronger side than last season and will be aiming to bag their first ever ISL title.

The seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) was an astonishing one for the Gaurs. They have maintained the same setup this time around and will be hoping to grab some silverware, for which they have been waiting since the inaugural season. Needless to say, FC Goa have been perhaps the most consistent side ever since the league started in 2014. They have reached the playoffs six times and failed just once, in 2016. 

The Gaurs recently participated in the 130th edition of the Durand Cup held in Kolkata and were able to grab their first silverware of the season, when they defeated Mohammedan SC in the grand finale. Their performance overall was charming and caught the attention of many. Prior to the tournament, the team played a few matches in the AFC Champions League, where they gave a good account of themselves. 

In a few days, the 2021-22 edition of the ISL will be kicking off. Fans will be hoping that the Goan outfit wins not only the League Winners’ Shield but also the Championship Trophy.

Last Season’s Performance: Fourth

The Gaurs ended their ISL 2021-22 campaign with a defeat against champions Mumbai City in the penalty shootout of the playoffs’ second leg. The journey of the team from the beginning of the season was one to look out for. They played some good football and bagged 31 points to their name. In the process, they won seven matches, drew 10 times and lost just thrice. The team also managed to scored 31 goals and conceded only 23.

Later, in the AFC Champions League, the Gaurs played six matches and drew three of them against Al-Rayyan (twice) and Al Wahda. Their performance, with respect to the stature and reputation of the tournament, was brilliant. 

Pre-Season

The Gaurs started their pre-season way back in the first week of August. The team participated in the historical Durand Cup and managed to win it. Since the completion of the tournament, the Gaurs have played one pre-season friendly against Gokulam Kerala, where the match ended before the final whistle after a fight broke out.

They will be playing two more friendly matches against Bengaluru FC (on November 6) and Chennaiyin FC (on November 12). They had two other friendly matches on their schedule against SC East Bengal, but the latter cancelled them. These friendlies will be of immense help to the Gaurs and their tactician Juan Ferrando, as he will be able to decide the team which he will field and also be able to rectify a few weaknesses which they possess.

Coaching Staff

Juan Ferrando
Juan Ferrando has lived up to the expectations of the fans (Courtesy- ISL Media)

FC Goa had secured the signature of the then 39-year-old Spanish coach Juan Ferrando ahead of the Indian Super League 2020-21 season. Expectations were high, as he was stepping into the shoes of Sergio Lobera. As of this moment, it can be easily said that Juan Ferrando has lived up to the expectations of the fans. He has provided them with the necessary results and will be eyeing for more this season.

Along with Ferrando’s tactical mastermind, FC Goa’s scouting team deserve immense applause as well. They have delivered well, as evident by the performances of most of their signings for quite a few years now. Apart from foreigners, they have also done a fantastic job in bringing in young Indian talents to their squad.

Foreign Assistant Coach: Javi Gonzalez
Indian Assistant Coach: Clifford Miranda
Goalkeeping Coach: Virender Singh
Technical Director: Derrick Pereira

Transfer Dealings

FC Goa have worked strategically in the transfer window and bagged a few players who are expected to strengthen the squad even further. 

Ins

The Gaurs have brought in Spanish centre-forward Airam Cabrera and Australian centre-back Dylan Fox. In their Indian contingent, they have signed players like Anwar Ali and Muhammed Nemil Valiyattil, who will bolster the defensive and attacking thirds respectively. They have also added a few talents from their development team to the senior team.

Outs

The Golden Boot winner of the previous season Igor Angulo parted ways with the Goan outfit after the seventh edition of the ISL and the loan arrival James Donachie returned to his parent club Newcastle Jets. In the Indian contingent, a blow came in the form of Ishan Pandita leaving the club. The club have also sent out two players on loan to SC East Bengal and Mohammedan SC in the form of Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Phrangki Buam.

Tentative Squad

Goalkeepers: Naveen Kumar, Hrithik Tiwari, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem

Defenders: Leander D’Cunha, Saviour Gama, Sanson Pereira, Dylan Fox, Lalmangaihsanga (Papuia), Seriton Fernandes, Ivan Gonzalez, Aibanbha Dohling, Mohamed Ali

Midfielders: Edu Bedia (c), Muhammed Nemil, Alberto Noguera, Princeton Rebello, Danstan Fernandes, Alexander Romario Jesuraj, Redeem Tlang, Nongdamba Naorem, Glan Martins, Brandon Fernandes, Makan Winkle Chote, Christy Davis, Flan Gomes

Forwards: Devendra Murgaonkar, Jorge Ortiz, Airam Cabrera

Tactical Formations

Primary: 4-2-3-1

FC Goa
FC Goa’ expected 4-2-3-1 setup in ISL 2021-22

This is the most ideal formation in which the Gaurs may line-up this season. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem will start under the bar, keeping in mind his performances after he joined the club in January and in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers. The back four will comprise of Seriton Fernandes on the right, Ivan Gonzalez and Aibanbha Dohling as the centre-backs and Saviour Gama as the left-back.

In front of them, Edu Bedia and Glan Martins will do the screening. The attacking midfielder and wingers will be Alberto Noguera, Brandon Fernandes and Muhammed Nemil Valiyattil. The automatic choice upfront would be the new arrival Airam Cabrera.

Alternate: 4-3-3

FC Goa
FC Goa’ expected 4-3-3 setup in ISL 2021-22

Juan Ferrando may also try this formation according to the squad he possesses. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem will be playing under the bar with Seriton Fernandes as the right-back, Aibanbha Dohling (or Anwar Ali) and Ivan Gonzalez (or Dylan Fox) as the centre-backs and Saviour Gama as the left-back. The midfield trio would consist of Brandon Fernandes, Edu Bedia and Alberto Noguera, where Bedia would guard the defensive fortress and Fernandes and Noguera will do the playmaking.

The front three would comprise two wing-forwards and one centre-forward. Devendra Murgaonkar and Redeem Tlang will operate on the left and right flanks, respectively and Airam Cabrera would be keeping the opposition defence alert as a No. 9.

Strengths

The FC Goa contingent has an immense squad depth and there are capable players in every position. They have recently added Anwar Ali to their squad, who will be joining the team in January and thus their defensive weaknesses will be rectified. The Gaurs also possess a strong midfield, where they have players like Brandon Fernandes, Glan Martins, Edu Bedia, Alberto Noguera and Muhammed Nemil.

Their attacking third showed signs of concern after the departure of Ishan Pandita – but the way in which Devendra Murgaonkar performed in the Durand Cup, it is expected that Juan Ferrando will be thinking of fielding the youngster in the ISL as well. As it is, he can also use Jorge Ortiz, who is currently recovering from an injury. Apart from these, their beautiful brand of possession-based football is also another strength.

Weaknesses

The Gaurs have very few weaknesses. The only major weakness till now can be the signing of Airam Cabrera. His record in the last two seasons is not up to the mark, keeping in mind the legacy which FC Goa hold for having prolific goalscorers in their side. But, it is hard to predict a foreigner’s performance on Indian soil, so if he gets his scoring boots on, FC Goa will surely benefit. 

Players to Watch

FC Goa have several stars like Brandon Fernandes, Dheeraj Singh, Seriton Fernandes, Glan Martins, Edu Bedia and Jorge Ortiz who have proved their abilities time and again. Hence, let’s take a look at some other players who can be expected to impress in ISL 2021-22.

Anwar Ali

Anwar Ali is the latest arrival at FC Goa and will be donning their shirt from January. He is a sensational talent who has won many hearts ever since his appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. Unfortunately, due to problems related to health, he had to stay away from football for a certain period.

But, his performance at Delhi FC since last year was commendable. He’s played quite a number of matches ever since his return to the game and will be adding to FC Goa’s defensive third this season. A stout customer, Ali is also a leader at the back.

Muhammed Nemil

Muhammed Nemil
Nemil scored four goals in Durand Cup 2021 (Courtesy- FC Goa)

The 19-year-old from Kozhikode has already won hearts, courtesy his skillful and brilliant performances in the Durand Cup. Muhammed Nemil Valiyattil went on to score four goals in six appearances for the Gaurs in the tournament.

He was scouted by the Reliance Foundation Young Champs in 2015. He got injured in a friendly against Gokulam Kerala on 22nd October, but is expected to recover in a few weeks.

Devendra Murgaonkar

Devendra Murgaonkar will add strength to the attacking third of the Gaurs. His performances in the Durand Cup will surely let him get more game-time in the Indian Super League.

The 23-year-old appeared 12 times in the previous edition of the ISL and his solitary goal came in the form of an equalizer against SC East Bengal. He went on to score five goals in six appearances in the Durand Cup for the Gaurs.

Fixtures

FC Goa’s ISL 2021-22 fixtures till Round 11 (via ISL Media)
FC Goa’s ISL 2021-22 fixtures till Round 11 (via ISL Media)

What to Expect

FC Goa have a brilliant scouting team and hence fans have little to worry about the quality of the club’s signings. Apart from this, they are also expected to play a beautiful brand of possession football.

Needless to say, after their Durand Cup triumph, FC Goa will be considered as one of the favourites to emerge glorious in the ISL as well this season. They’ve probably had enough of qualifying for the playoffs and second-place finishes. Two seasons back, they successfully lifted the League Winners’ Shield and now it’s time to get their hands on the Trophy.  

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