Under new coach Antonio Iriondo the Men of Steel have been at their best this season with lots of talented players in their ranks.
Forgetting all the disappointments from last season, Jamshedpur FC look like they are on the right track to reach the playoffs this campaign. Although, it is still early days in the ISL, the Men of Steel are currently top of the table, having been unbeaten in their first three games, with two wins and a draw against Bengaluru FC.
They had several issues which seem to have been addressed this season, as Cesar Ferrando parted ways with the club and experienced tactician Antonio Iriondo has taken over since.
The first noticeable change that has happened is the transformation in mentality. Their ability to take the attack to the opposition. Ferrando’s Jamshedpur FC would be a lot more defensive and also lacked a proper striker. That’s because Tim Cahill could not live up to the mantle and was mostly on the bench, motivating younger players. This season they have brought in a young striker in Sergio Castel. Interestingly, their overall attacking gameplay revolves around the former Atletico Madrid ‘B’ youngster.
Another new addition who has made a huge mark is Piti. The former Rayo Vallecano midfielder might be 38 and way past his prime, but has enough left in him to match the pace of the league. He has been a silent performer for Iriondo’s men thus far. Piti looks to orchestrate play, move forward and create chances for the like of Farukh Choudhary, Aniket Jadhav and Castel.
For most of last season, Jamshedpur FC missed a proper target man upfront. Someone who can hold the ball up and allow the wingers to make runs and get in behind the opposition defence. This term, Castel’s presence has changed the dynamics of the team, with players like Farukh playing with a spring in their step. Farukh, meanwhile, has undoubtedly been one of the best Indian players so far. His confidence seems to have skyrocketed under the experienced Spaniard.
Positive football, quick build-up and a direct approach has been the mantra for their success till now. However, the over-dependence on Tiri in defence from last season is still there, as it is difficult to maintain his level of consistency. But, with the team playing more balanced football, the defence has managed to weather the storm till now. Iriondo has tried different players at the back to partner Tiri. We have seen Joyner Lourenco playing centrally and also Memo Moura slotting in as a centre-back and doing his job with aplomb.
Youngsters like Aniket Jadhav and Mobashir Rahman, who have shone in this short spell under their new boss will look to keep the hard work going. Iriondo is a very experienced man in the Spanish football circuit and he knows how to work with youngsters. He puts immense faith in them and pushes them to work harder. The Spaniard is currently reaping the rewards of liberating the youngsters from any pressure. He simply allows them to express themselves on the field.
The main change that has come in the Jamshedpur FC camp this season is their approach and the change in mentality. Antonio Iriondo loves fearless, attacking football. Thus, the Men of Steel always try to take the attack to the opposition rather than reciprocating to their opponents’ moves.
Yes, there is a level of pragmatism required. In his short time in India, he has been seen to have several plans up his sleeve to churn out a positive result from a tight game. The old Jamshedpur FC side was a reactive one, which defended deep and tried to hit on the counter-attack. That team was satisfied with stalemates. But, this new-look side have a different aura about them, an aura of determination and hunger to win matches and get results.
Of course, the foreigners have stepped up to deliver big performances. The likes of Piti, Aitor Monroy and Castel have all adapted well to conditions here in India. But, the change in mentality is probably the biggest transformation Iriondo has brought to this side with huge potential.
With players like Amarjit Singh Kiyam and CK Vineeth still left to join the action this season, Jamshedpur FC can only strive for better things from here on. If the Men of Steel can keep their winning momentum and their positive mentality intact, then anything less than a playoffs spot will be a huge disappointment.