The Stallions have one of the best squads in the league on paper but have failed to deliver the goods on the pitch.
FC Pune City who have had an extremely poor start to their Indian Super League (ISL) season with just five points from nine games, finally found their first and a very crucial win in their second last game against Jamshedpur FC. However, they yet again slumped to a defeat against NorthEast United.
Although, qualification for the playoffs might look impossible at this stage, it is not over for the Stallions yet. Here are the five things they need to do in order to revive their season.
5. Establish stability in defence
Building a solid defence should be a top priority for the Stallions, as it would be beneficial to climb one step at a time. The team have conceded 19 goals in nine games this season, more than any other team in the league. Thus, they team need more consistent performers in the backline.
So far this season, all eight defenders in the squad have featured in the team, but only Matthew Mills has been a constant, which explains the unstable back four. Interim coach Pradyum Reddy must keep in mind the fact that the defence is the backbone of the team.
4. Use midfielders to their strengths
Pune are blessed with some of the most experienced midfielders in the league. However, it is all down to how they make use of them. With Adil Khan as the holding midfielder and Jonathan Vila and Marko Stankovic in the central role, Pune have shown glimpses of how they can rule the game from the middle of the park. The foreigner duo are capable of contributing to the attack with their combined ball-distribution and shooting skills and Adil is pretty strong himself to support the defence from behind the other two midfielders.
Pune are looking strong especially since the last game, as all their players are fit and available for selection. Stankovic made his return and was a good influence on the team, proving why he was missed in the previous games. A strong display from the midfield will only help them turn their season around.
3. Facilitate transition between formations
Since the start of the season, Pune have tried different formations like 4-2-3-1, which is the primary system, while also going for a 4-1-4-1 system in a couple of games. It is all up to Reddy, how and to which formation he plans to mend the squad. However, it is necessary to know that in the 4-2-3-1 system, the responsibility of creating chances in the attacking third falls only on the attackers and particularly on the central attacking midfielder, Marcelinho.
The Brazilian, much to the relief of the coach, formed a good chemistry in the Jamshedpur game with his compatriot Diego Carlos, who marked his return from suspension with a spectacular goal. Now, with Ashique Kuruniyan in superb form and the introduction of Iain Hume in the #9 role in place of the loaned out Emiliano Alfaro, the attack stands a good chance of delivering results.
However, given the fact that Hume has just returned from injury and is yet to settle with the rest of the team, Reddy can adopt the 4-1-4-1 system for the time being, which will provide an extra boost in attack and the team wouldn’t have to rely totally on the lone striker for goals.
2. Make the most of Kuruniyan-Carlos wing partnership
The win against Cesar Ferrando‘s side brought along a lot of positives for the Stallions and they need to build upon the same to revive their season. A brilliant attacking display by Carlos and Ashique, showed what potential Pune have, for the first time this season. A strong 7/10 performance by both of them ensured their side a hard-fought first victory of the campaign.
Reddy must be grateful to see the duo forge an impressive partnership and will hope that they continue to perform the same way for the upcoming games. But since Carlos is out injured until January, either of Nikhil Poojary or Robin Singh will have to step up to do the job.
1. Build on the confidence from their first win of the season
The Men of Steel were supposed to be one of the toughest opponents the Stallions could face this season. However, with the presence of key players like Carlos, Stankovic and Hume, Reddy’s men fought hard to earn their first win this term. The team looked pretty confident since the very first minute of the game and the fans knew by just looking at the lineup that a win was coming.
Reddy has several key players now available at his dispense, it would be a major task for him to make them gel together in order to get positive results. Although, a loss against NorthEast might have affected the team’s confidence, Pune will need a leader on and off the pitch to bring together the team and collectively they can turn their season around.