The Gaurs endured a forgettable campaign last season and have put their faith in youth to turn things around this time.
For the last three years FC Goa have represented the west state in the Indian Super League (ISL) With a disappointing last season the Gaurs’ fans with settle for nothing less than the title this year.
Last Season’s Performance
Last season was the worst for Goa, as they finished bottom pf the ISL. Throughout the tournament, they only had four victories and two draws.
Goa started the season with a 2-0, away loss against NorthEast United FC. After losing two matches and picking up a draw, the Gaurs won their first match of the season against Mumbai City FC in Mumbai. However, the poor form continued and Goa went on to lose four matches and drew one out of the NEXT seven. They ended their campaign with a dramatic last minute 5–4 home victory over Chennaiyin FC with just 14 points from as many games. But, it was hardly a surprising outcome for a campaign that was beseiged by problems, both on and off the pitch, from the start.
In October, the newlook Gaurs started their pre-season in Murcia, Spain with a 27-man squad ahead of the fourth edition of the ISL. Under a new team management in the form of former FC Barcelona assistant coach Sergio Lobera and Goan football legend, Derrick Pereira, FCG looked more confident.
Goa lost their first game to FC Cartagena 4-1, where their striker, Adrián Colunga scored the only goal for the Gaurs. In their second game, The they started the game brightly against Real Murcia Imperial but against lost 2-1
The Gaurs received a major boost when they registered their first win of the pre-season tour with a clinical 3-0 victory over Spanish Tercera Division side Deportiva Minera. Ferran Corominas put the Gaurs ahead just before halftime while Manuel Arana and Adrian Colunga added two more goals in the second period. This was Colunga’s second goal in three games in Spain. Next, Goa won 3-1 against a resilient CD Algar Deportivo, this was their second consecutive victory. Ferran Corominas scored just before the halftime to level the score and then Manuel Lanzarote scored two second-half goals, bringing his tally to three goals in four games, to effect a superb second half comeback.
Their last game in Spain was a comfortable 4-2 victory against FC Cartagena B. Goa’s first goal was scored by local favourite Brandon Fernandes and then, Manuel Lanzarote, Ferran Corominas and Adrian Colunga each scored a goal
After returning to India, FC Goa lost 2-1 to East Bengal in a tightly contested affair at the Bambolim Athletic Stadium in Goa. The visitors took the lead through an early glancing header. FC Goa left it late to get an equalizer through Manvir Singh but a defensive slip late on helped the Bengal side seal victory in a tough game.
On November 9, FC Goa will play Mohun Bagan in their last pre-season friendly at the Bambolim Athletic Stadium in Goa.
Lobera hopes to make a mark with the Gaurs
As FCG are looking to kick-start a new era at the club, the Gaurs have appointed former Barcelona academy coach Lobera as their manager for the next two seasons. After making an impact with Dosa Salesians and UFB Jàbac Terrassa, he was signed by the Blaugrana in 1997, going through their youth system and being the manager of the C-team in the 2006–07 season, in the Tercera División. He was then appointed as the Director of Sports at Terrassa FC and took over managerial duties in the last seven games of the campaign.
In 2010, Lobera was appointed manager at CD San Roque de Lepe, signing a three-year deal. In the following season, he handled AD Ceuta, also in the Segunda División.
In 2012, Lobera was named FC Barcelona‘s assistant coach in the backroom staff of former boss Tito Vilanova. However, about a month later, he signed as the head coach of then Segunda División side UD Las Palmas.
Lobera finished his first season in charge of a professional club in the sixth position, being defeated in the playoffs by eventually promoted UD Almería. He renewed with the Canarians on 18th June 2013 but was relieved of his duties on 26th May of the following year.
In December 2014, Lobera was appointed at Botola’s Moghreb Tétouan until the end of the season which was his last position before this one.
Ins: The Gaurs started their pre-season preparations very early in the month of April. FC Goa engaged themselves in squad development. First, they signed Aaren D’Silva and Derren Fernandes from Santa Cruz Club of Cavelossim, and then came Princeton Rebello from Vasco. Probably, their biggest signing in that month was Liston Colaco signed from Salgaocar FC. The Gaurs also added Ivon Costa and Jude Cardozo to their ranks.
In the month of June, the reign of Arthur Antunes Coimbra aka Zico was over and FC Goa appointed Lobera, a Spanish football manager as their new head coach. They also announced the return of Bruno Pinheiro, who played for them during the first season of the ISL as a central defender/ defensive midfielder. In July, they retained goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani and midfielder Mandar Rao Desai from last season’s squad and both players signed a three-year deal to stay with them until 2020. Next, Manuel Arana signed for the Goan franchise on a one-year contract. They also announced the signing of Spanish forward Ferran Corominas on the same terms.
The Gaurs then added fourteen new players from the players draft, goalkeepers Bruno Colaco and Naveen Kumar, defenders Chinglensana Singh, Amey Ranawade and Mohamed Ali, midfielders Brandon Fernandes, Pratesh Shirodkar, Anthony D’Souza, Seriton Fernandes, Jovel Martins and Mohammed Yasir. Defender Narayan Das and midfielder Pronay Halder made their comebacks. FC Goa also signed Indian international striker Manvir Singh.
In August, the Goa side signed Moroccan midfielder Ahmed Jahouh on a year-long loan deal and also roped in former FC Barcelona B player Sergio Juste joined for. The Gaurs signed Manuel Lanzarote from another Spanish club, Real Zaragoza. In September, they completed the signings of two foreign players Edu Bedia and Adrian Colunga.
Outs: There were few players from the Goan side who were signed by other clubs in the draft. Defender Keenan Almeida, and Fulganco Cardozo were signed by Chennaiyin, midfielder Sahil Tavora was signed by Mumbai City, midfielder Romeo Fernandes was signed by Delhi Dynamos and forward Robin Singh was signed by ATK. I-League side Mohun Bagan signed defender Debabrata Roy outside the draft. Elsewhere, Brazilians, Lucio, and Luciano Sabrosa were released along with the Spanish, Jaofre Mateu and French Gregory Arnolin. Reinaldo, Júlio César, and Richarlyson went back to play for their native clubs. Striker Rafael Coelho is currently playing for a Thai football club called Chiangrai United.
Formation and Tactics
The Gaurs are most likely to play a 4-2-3-1 formation
Most probably, FC Goa will be going with a 4-2-3-1 formation. It is probably one of the most widely used formations, which is going to help FC Goa to win games based on the kind of players they have bought.
Colunga will be the lone man up front, but he will have three players whose job is to supply the striker with proper ammunition. Those three players are going to be, Lanzarote, who will assist him from the left side of the wing with his creativity, Manuel Arana will be on the right wing and in the middle will be the local boy, Brandon.
The two wide players will have the job to create chances from the flanks as well as cutting in. With the strength and stamina, Lanzarote and Arana, will be expected to cover the full-backs when the team is without the ball and the formation will look more like a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. Brandon will be a central creative force and will be featured behind the striker. With his subtle skills, Brandon’s job will be to create havoc in opposition defences.
Speed comparison: Brandon Fernandes vs Mandar Rao Dessai
The two holding midfielders in front of the back four are going to be Halder and Bedia. It is very important that the two players have positional sense in order to protect the back four properly. Halder is going to be a tackler and Bedia will focus on distribution. Having these two players in front of the back four will provide a platform on which Goa’s more attacking players can create chances.
The back four in FC Goa’s defence will be, Pinheiro and Konsham Singh, controlling the centre-backs positions. Narayan will be on the left wing and Seriton will be playing on the right wing. Narayan and Seriton will have the job to defend against opposition attackers, particularly wingers. The pace of Narayan and Seriton is the key if they are up against a speedy winger and also, the same pace can also be a major attacking weapon. Pinheiro and Singh are there to repel opposition attacks through the middle by tackling, heading and marking players. In goal, will be Kattimani who has a point to prove after being retained despite last season’s poor showing.
The above lineup is subjected to change according to the availability of the players and also if the manager wants to make alterations against a specific team. There is a possibility that Jahouh can play in place of Bedia as the box-to-box midfielder behind the striker and Brandon Fernandes will take up the right wing.
Goa’s biggest strength would be their midfield. There is a lot of creativity in those lads. Lanzarote has already impressed fans by his amazing free-kick skills and tally of three goals in pre-season. Brandon is also showing his progress by scoring and providing assists. Arana will be a key player on the right wing. The two defensive midfielders compliment each other, as Pronay is an excellent tackler and Bedia is good in distribution and being creative. This time FC Goa also has a strong backline and the four defenders are definitely the ones to look out for when the ISL starts.
The weakness of the Gaurs would be their striker’s position. No doubt, Colunga is a quality striker, but FC Goa doesn’t have any other quality player in THE striker’s role in their squad. Ferran Corominas has been excellent in Goa’s pre-season games and is a really good option on the bench. But in reserve, there is Manvir, who has been proving himself recently, especially with the goal he scored against East Bengal in pre-season. But he is young and doesn’t have much top level experience.
FC Goa will be hoping for a good performance from Manvir when he gets a chance to play on the big stage of the ISL for the first time. While, they also have the players like Liston, who was the highest scorer in last season’s Goa Professional League with Salgaocar FC and also Princeton Rebello who is currently on the national U-19 side. However, it is too early to say whether the Goan youths will get a chance to prove their calibre at this level.
Top 3 Players to Watch
Manuel Lanzarote: One of the best signings of FC Goa this season is definitely the Spanish winger Lanzarote. Having already scored three goals in pre-season, Manuel ‘Manu’ Lanzarote Bruno is definitely a player to watch this season for the Gaurs’.
Live conference including Pratesh Shirodkar, Brandon Fernandes & Mandar Rao Dessai
Lanzarote last played for Spanish second division club Real Zaragoza in the 2016-17 season. The Spaniard had spent his youth career playing for FC Barcelona from 1994-2003. The 33-year-old started his senior career playing for Barcelona C, where he scored 12 goals in 44 appearances from 2002-05. He also figured 17 times for La Liga club Espanyol from 2013-15. In August 2017, Lanzarote moved abroad, signing for Indian Super League franchise FC Goa.
Adrián Colunga: Colunga is the kind of player Goa needed this season. Till now, this 32-year-old striker has given consistent performances netting three goals in the pre-season games. The Spanish striker is known for clinical finishing, while he is also good at surprising opponents with shots from distance.
Colunga has formerly represented the likes of Getafe, Las Palmas and Brighton and Hove Albion in England. The two seasons he played for Recreativo de Huelva, he scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Real Betis. His first season was successful but nevertheless, the team faced relegation and in 2010 and he was loaned to Real Zaragoza, where he became the team’s top scorer of the season helping them to avoid relegation.
Brandon Fernandes: It’s a homecoming for Brandon who left Goan shores in search of greener pastures in South Africa as a 17-year-old amateur. After two successful years with ASD Cape Town in the South African Second Division, India’s brightest young player has returned, to play for his hometown team, FC Goa. Brandon has already netted once for the Goans in a pre-season friendly against FC Cartagena B.
FC Goa: The Gaur Family
Brandon came to prominence with the Salgaocar Juniors during the Manchester United Soccer Skills Competition at the Manchester United Premier Cup in the summer of 2009. His sweet right foot, precise free-kicks and ability to pick a pass have already won him a lot of admirers. In 2012, Brandon was strongly linked with a move to English football, having undergone trials with Reading FC and Leicester City.
He was picked up in the 2015 ISL draft by Mumbai City. Having missed the first seven rounds of the season through injury, Brandon made his debut against Delhi Dynamos in round 8. In the 2016-17 I-league season, Brandon appeared 15 times in the league for Churchill Brothers, where he scored three goals. The high point of his season was the game against Chennai City where he provided four assists and scored once in a 6-1 win for his team.
FC Goa’s schedule this season
What To Expect
According to their new manager Lobera, the initial target is to always work hard and keep improving. FC Goa have to work together as a group and in a league where the tiniest of things can make the difference, it’s important to work hard in an effort to achieve the club’s objectives. Their head coach is also a firm believer that, the results are a consequence of the work they put in before the match. This time the Gaurs will have to aim to be more ambitious and look to stay at the top of the table once the league starts. Getting to the semi-finals is the first objective.