In this edition of the ISL season preview we look at the side from the nation’s capital Delhi Dynamos FC…
Last season’s performance: Semi-finalists
The Lions had a successful season last year in the Indian Super League as they reached the semi-finals, where FC Goa defeated them 3-1 over two legs. With former coach Roberto Carlos bidding adieu to the club and Italian maverick defender Gianluca Zambrotta taking the role, this season could see Delhi Dynamos lifting the crown.
The third edition of the ISL is a new journey for a team that looks strong on paper and has had one of the best pre-seasons in England and Sweden, playing teams such as Skene IF and West Bromwich Albion.
Gianluca Zambrotta needs no introduction whatsoever. The Italian won the World Cup in 2006 and formed one of the most formidable defensive partnerships with Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Marco Materazzi.
Relatively new to coaching, Zambrotta was the Head Coach of Swiss side FC Chiasso before joining Delhi Dynamos.
With defending in his roots, Delhi Dynamos could well see a transition in their playing style. Zambrotta is expected to implement a style which ensures a water-tight defense and swift counter-attacks to ruffle opposition defenders.
His international team-mate Simone Barone, who gained prominence playing for Palermo in Serie A, has joined the Dynamos as Zambrotta’s assistant.
Transfers In: Ruben Gonzalez, the 34 year-old veteran centre-back, joins from Real Zaragoza and has the experience of playing for various Spanish clubs including Real Madrid youth teams. Joining him in defence is David Addy from Waasland-Beveren, an adventurous full-back, who has also plied his trade for Portuguese heavyweights FC Porto.
The midfield takes a completely new look this season for the Lions. Brazilian creative midfielder Bruno Pelissari joins from Chennaiyan FC. Emerson Gomes de Moura , or Memo, has also been brought in for the defensive midfield role. Fighting for the same position is another incoming player, Marcos Tebar , who has signed from UE Llagostera. FC Goa’s midfield hero from last season Denson Devadas has also joined the Lions.
Badara Badji , a Senegalese striker has joined the team from Golden Lions SA. The forward is joined by Brazilian striker Marcelinho , who plied his trade for Anapolis FC in his native, prior to this competition. Kean Lewis , who had a successful I-League campaign with Mohun Bagan is also expected to play a key role.
Transfers Out: Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, one of India’s finest goalkeepers left the Delhi club for FC Goa. Former Norwegian marquee player John Arne Riise and central midfielder Hans Mulder have moved to champions Chennaiyan FC, while forward Robin Singh has also joined FC Goa.
Formation and Tactics
Being part of one of the strongest defensive structures in footballing history, Zambrotta is sure to instill unparalleled defensive discipline in his team. With the squad at his disposal, Zambrotta can be expected to deploy a 4-4-2 diamond formation and tinker with it as the game requires.
The coach hasn’t minced words and clearly said that his priority is to win the league. In his first media interaction as coach of the Lions, Zambrotta had assured the fans that he would create a good defensive system with team co-ordination. The gaffer had also assured the club faithful that the team would play attractive, attacking football.
While Antonio Doblas is expected to start beneath the bars, the central defensive onus would be on Anas Edathodika and Ruben Gonzalez. Souvik Chakraborty and David Addy would be the full-backs, who would have the license to use the flanks.
While Milan Singh and Denson Devadas are expected to man the centre of the midfield, captain and marquee player Florent Malouda might operate from the left wing. Kean Lewis is expected to start on the right, while former Chennaiyin FC star Bruno Pelissari is expected to play as the second striker.
Thus, in the attack,Florent Malouda , Kean Lewis and Bruno Pelissari are expected to create the opportunities for their talismanic striker, Richard Gadze, who can also be switched with Badara Badji, another capable striker in the Delhi line-up. The coach would also expect Bruno to contribute with goals, having enough ability to hit the net.
If the going gets tough on the wings for both the wide players, they can always switch roles and become inverted wingers. While Malouda would love to curl in some balls from the right, Kean has played on the right for Mohun Bagan in the past. Thus, both can be expected to be equally effective from either wing.
It will be interesting to see how Zambrotta tinkers with the line-up during the matches, with players needing to adapt to different roles in different game situations. It is needless to say that as the tournament progresses, opposition coaches would read into the team’s gameplay and Zambrotta would have to keep his Plan B ready for that.
Man to Watch
Florent Malouda : With mazy runs and creative flair, there’s very little this French genius cannot do. Malouda has the ability to take on defenders on his own, to play the final ball and is also capable of making off-the-ball runs.
The Frenchman prefers to play as an inverted winger and has a vicious left foot. The former Lyon and Chelsea superstar won the UEFA Champions League in 2012 with the Blues and would be hoping to add another trophy to his glittering cabinet.
The powerful winger is equally effective from set-pieces and it would be interesting to see how the captain rallies his squad throughout the season. Delhi Dynamos and their fans would be looking to their marquee player to take that last, most important step towards the title.
Needless to say, with so many transfers, Gianluca Zambrotta must be a happy man. It is evident that the former Juventus, Barcelona and Milan defender had a lot of say in his team and the owners would be expecting to lift the trophy by the end of the season.
The team looks very balanced on paper, with two options for every spot on the field. The Lions have also had a very successful pre-season, in which they defeated Skene and Assyriska BK 2-1 and 3-2 respectively and drew 2-2 with BK Hacken.
However, the highlight of the pre-season for the Dynamos was the match against West Brom at the Hawthorns, where they lost 1-0. Zambrotta has reiterated that the team has gelled well and this is promising for a squad full of new players.
Delhi Dynamos would be looking to better their performance from last season, and a trophy or a top-two finish would be perfectly suitable for a team which looks destined to dominate opponents on the pitch.
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They may have had a successful season last time out but the capital club had their own issues throughout the campaign. Conceding 23 goals whilst only scoring 19 tells a tale of its own. Remarkably, they scored only six goals away from home and also conceded 13 on the road. Malouda was their best player by far with a league high assists tally of 8 and with a passing accuracy of 86.5%
Editorial by Punit Tripathi Khel Now Correspondent from Delhi – A sports enthusiast. Freelance writer on football and cricket. A die-hard Manchester United follower. You can Follow him on twitter .