With no lessons learnt from past failures history repeats itself for sorry Stallions…

With Season 3 of the Indian Super League heading towards its final leg, the league stage gone by has proved to be an exciting ride, with thrilling score lines, hard fought draws and some late finishes. This season, the top four was not decided until the very last league game, when Kerala Blasters triumphed over 5th place NorthEast United. There were contrasting fortunes for FC Pune City though, as the Stallions faltered towards the finish line, eventually finishing in 6th place, four points off the qualification spots. Their total of 16 points is only a point better than their performance last year and once again it proved to be insufficient. So, what went wrong for the Punekars this season? Was it the tactics or the lack of cohesion in the side?


 Fact Sheet for ISL Season 3

 Season Finished: 6th

 Games Played: 14

Won : 4 

Lost : 6 

Drawn : 4

Win %: 28.57% 

   GF: 13 

GA: 16




Pune started the season afresh, having overhauled their squad almost entirely. This time, they invested in players from within the league. They roped in a player familiar with the city of Pune, in Arata Izumi; two-time champion Edel Bete; and FC Goa’s star player from last season, Jonatan Lucca. Although, their biggest coup was that of manager Antonio Habas, who had so far lead Atletico De Kolkata to victory and a semi-final finish respectively in the two seasons gone by. While they were forced into replacing marquee player Eidur Gudjohnsen only days before the season began, Mohamed Sissoko, the replacement marquee presented Pune with a very decent squad.

The expectations from fans heading into the season were uncertain. Supporters were wary considering an entirely new squad meant they were not certain what to expect from the team.

Pune were slow off the mark at the beginning of the season. They seemed to lack options upfront but their main problem seemed to be the lack of a gameplan when it came to the attack. They seemed lacklustre and bereft of ideas whenever they marched forward, scoring only five goals in the first half of the season. The Stallions’ defence was consistently average, conceding exactly a goal a game during the same period.


Top 3 Players


Mohamed Sissoko Jonathan Lucca Edel Bete

The Malian was brought in at the very last minute as a replacement marquee player for Eidur Gudjohnsen. The AJ Auxerre youth product has played in several top tiers of European football. He has won numerous league titles as well as European trophies. The former Liverpool midfielder made Pune’s midfield much stronger and much more solid. Throughout the season, Sissoko controlled the play for Pune, acting as the link between defence and attack. His crunching tackles were much appreciated by the Pune crowd and his range of passing was generally excellent. He even popped up with a couple of crucial goals. However, despite his steady performances, there were instances when opposition attackers were able to get past him, something that Pune struggled with, conceding 15 goals in 13 games that he played.

The Brazilian formerly played for FC Goa and was one their key players during their run to the Final in ISL 2015. He was roped in during the summer to add some creativity to Pune’s midfield. Lucca largely played in an attacking midfielder’s position, getting into key areas in and around the box. The Stallions often looked to him to provide inspiration going forward. His passing, crossing and long-range shooting all made Lucca a vital cog in Pune’s midfield. The former Roma man provided the assist for five of Pune’s goals and was the instigator for many of their attacks. Despite hitting the most shots on target among any of his teammates, Lucca failed to convert his chances, failing to score any goals. While he was one of Pune’s key players throughout the ISL, his end product was greatly inconsistent, epitomising his side’s struggles. Lucca started all of Pune’s league games.

Considered a lucky charm having won the ISL title twice in two seasons with two different teams, Edel Bete’s signing was met with great anticipation. While he was unable to lead his new side to glory, Bete certainly enhanced his reputation as being the best shot-stopper in the league. His best performance came in the away game against high scoring Delhi Dynamos, stopping shot after shot, he somehow helped his side earn a point. The former Paris Saint Germain keeper was often let down by his defence though, as his team still managed to leak 16 goals. Bete, who became an Armenian international in his teenage years, ended up with the most saves from the league stages, making 7 more than his closest counterpart. Despite the Stallions’ lowly position, he remains one of the league’s best players.

Games: 13
Goals: 2
Tackles: 56 
Successful passes: 596
Games: 14
Goals: 0
Assist: 5
Successful passes: 481

Clean sheets: 1
Goal against: 16 
Saves: 46


Flop of the Season 

Jesus Rodriguez TatoFC Pune City have had a difficult season. They struggled to find goals upfront and at the back were just about not there yet. Pune faltered as a team, failing to find cohesiveness as a unit. Yet, one player whose performances promised a lot, but never quite hit the heights they promised was Jesus Rodriguez Tato. A product of La Masia, FC Barcelona’s famed youth academy, Tato played mostly on the right wing or just behind the striker. In the first game of the season itself, Tato missed two glorious opportunities. They were playing rivals Mumbai City FC and had found themselves trailing by a goal when those chances had presented themselves. Over the course of the season, Tato was unable to finish off chances with the final ball always lacking. The 33-year-old ended the season with more yellow cards (3) than goals scored (1).


Tato’s Performance in ISL 2016 

Matches : 10

Goals :1

Assist: 0

Shots on Target: 6

Successful passes: 161


Top 3 Performances


  1.   FC Pune City 4-3 Delhi Dynamos ( Match Report and Highlights) 

  2. Mumbai City FC 0-1 FC Pune City ( Match Report and Highlights)

  3.  FC Pune City 2-1 Atletico De Kolkata ( Match Report and Highlights)



Manager’s Report Card 


Antonio Lopez Habas came in with a huge reputation for fans of the ISL. The Spaniard had lead Atletico De Kolkata to victory in the first ever season, then finishing in a respectable semi-final spot in the second. The coach’s style is based on solid football, with a focus on building from the back. His teams love pressing from the front. As soon as he came in, he brought a couple of his trusted players, the likes of Arata Izumi and Edel Bete from the first season. He inherited a completely overhauled squad, on and off the pitch and his task was to instil a new identity into a side that had failed to make an impact on the league so far. Habas was suspended from press duties and the touchline for the first four games of the season. That, coupled with the failure to find the right combination and gameplan meant his new team FC Pune City struggled to come to terms initially. Finally, when the side had begun to show glimpses of what Habas wished to incorporate, they struggled with consistency. They won two, then lost another, failing to really get going. Pune, though, looked a better side in the latter half of the season, once Habas returned and his influence grew. As they finally look to settle with one coach and team, Habas could just be the man to lead the Stallions to glory given enough time.


Lessons to be learned


FC Pune City go away from this year’s ISL, having learnt a lot. Attack was their problem as the side lacked firepower upfront. Of course, replacing a marquee striker with a defensive midfielder did not help that cause. Pune’s two biggest shortcomings were a lacklustre attack and a failure to find consistency. They looked very good in patches, with three of their four wins coming against teams who ended up qualifying for the playoffs. They just did not turn up every game, something that Habas shall certainly be looking to correct before next season. Pune fans will be hoping that now the owners will decide to work on the team they already have and make improvements rather than going in for another summer of overhaul.


Fan View


Divij Kulkarni 


FC Pune City promised a lot this year for me, considering they brought in Antonio Habas as head coach. While we seemed short of quality forwards, the squad looked more solid to me than previous seasons. 

Eventually, I think our problem was we started too slow. By the time our season had started to get going, we were already stuck around the bottom of the table. 

I feel Pune will certainly do a lot better next season, considering that we’re planning on steadying the squad for once. So hopefully if Habas stays, we can form an identity for ourselves next season onwards.

Photos © ISL Media

Editorial by Khel Now- correspondent Miqdad. Miqdad is a Liberal Arts student from Pune. A Liverpool fan he’s probably busy watching a sport or writing.