The former Derby County and Hull City boss takes over the club at a dire time.
As the Indian Super League (ISL) prepares to return, all eyes will be on the new FC Pune City head coach Phil Brown. The 59-year-old replaced Miguel Angel Portugal at the helm, who was sacked after a string of poor performances by the Stallions this term.
After the sacking of Portugal, Pradyum Reddy took up the reins of the team on an interim basis. However, the situation did not change very much for them. In the final five games before the break, they managed to get three wins, which took them to seventh place in the table.
Nevertheless, the club announced the appointment of new head coach Phil Brown. The Englishman comes with vast experience in English football and will bring a totally different and exciting style of football to Pune. Here are the five keys for Brown to succeed at his new club:
5. Improving the team’s defensive performance
Having conceded 21 goals this season already, the Stallions’ defence has been too porous to contain opposition attacks. It is a shame that despite being gifted with three outstanding goalkeepers (Vishal Kaith, Kamaljit Singh and Anuj Kumar), Pune have allowed the opposition to score freely.
Thus, Brown’s first task would be to stabilize the defensive lineup which has till now, been marred by injuries. The backline should be as solid as it was during the last two games as they picked up back-to-back clean-sheets.
What could prove to be a big advantage for the Stallions is that along with Brown, they will now have a new goalkeeping coach in Aidon Davidson. Like Brown, Davidson too comes with huge experience from England and has been a Premier League player himself. The Stallions’ goalkeepers will have a great opportunity to improve under him and thus provide some sort of relief to the team.
4. Utilize young domestic talent to the fullest
Pune City are one of those clubs in the ISL who are blessed with some of the best young talents in the country. Ashique Kuruniyan, Nikhil Poojary, Sahil Panwar, Sarthak Golui, Kamaljit Singh are some of the names who can help Brown to take the side back to greener pastures.
After his appointment as the head coach, the tactician too went on to praise the young Stallions and talked about their outstanding potential. However, it would be equally important for the Englishman to provide opportunities for such players without deviating from the main objective, which is to win games.
3. Get the best out of experienced midfielders
Apart from having a set of promising young players, Pune also have some vastly experienced midfielders- both domestic as well as foreigners, who have already shown that they can gel the team together.
Skipper Marcelinho took his time to get back into form, but did so in style as he scored a belter in the win against FC Goa. As for Marko Stankovic and Jonatan Vila, the duo has performed consistently, though the former was out with injury for a few games. Pune City are more than grateful to have Adil Khan as their defensive midfielder. The 30-year-old veteran has been rock-solid for the Stallions this season.
Brown will be glad to have such good options in midfield as he takes over his new club. Along with the attackers, the midfielders will also be key to the Stallions’ success for the rest of the campaign.
2. Establish a more efficient attack
A lot was expected from the Stallions’ attack before the start of the season, but it has failed to make much of an impact. Last term’s top scorer Emiliano Alfaro has been too shy in front of goal as he’s missed a couple of penalties, while new signing Robin Singh failed to score a single goal before the break.
While the former was loaned out to ATK in November to make way for Iain Hume, he has had little impact on the team so far. Moreover, majority of the goals that the team have registered till now have come from the midfielders. It is a shame that despite having options like Ashique, Poojary, Hume and Diego Carlos in attack, Pune City haven’t benefited from them much.
Now that Brown has arrived, he will have plenty of work to improve the attacking performance of the team. The former Hull City, Derby County and Bolton Wanderers head coach has had ample time to implement his philosophy at the club, a test of which will be up for everyone to see in a few days.
1. Introduce a forward thinking system
Pune City are yet to establish a primary formation this season as their trial with 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1 systems didn’t work out very well. In the last couple of games, Reddy went with a whole new three-man defence system and it actually worked for him as the team picked up six points.
However, Brown’s managerial stints in England suggest that he prefers a 4-4-2 formation. Although, the style of football in both countries is very different, one cannot deny the impact that a two-striker system can have. That way, the team won’t just depend on a lone frontman and moreover, will find solid support from the midfielders.
Pune need to win every single game from now on if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for the playoffs. While it will be a challenge for Brown to help the Stallions finish in the top half of the tablle, attacking gameplay will prove vital for their campaign.