For the Yellow Army it proved to be another season that flattered to deceive.
The 2019-20 season for Kerala Blasters promised a lot, but didn’t live up to the lofty expectations that the team and fans set for themselves. It is safe to say that the team had another underwhelming season.
The Blasters were given a massive jolt before the campaign even began, as Sandesh Jhingan was sidelined for the whole term with an ACL injury along with Brazilian Jairo Rodriguez. But, the injuries meant a lot of work had to be done in terms of recruitment.
Kerala Blasters were proactive in their recruitment approach with personnel both on the pitch and on the touchline. The Tuskers first recruited head coach Eelco Schattorie from NorthEast United and the coach got in his star striker from last season Bartholomew Ogbeche. They also signed players like Raphael Messi Bouli, Gianni Zuiverloon and Mario Arques. This gave the team a settled look ahead of the season, with a good blend of experience as well as burgeoning young prospects.
Kerala had a dream start as they defeated ATK 2-1 in the season opener which seemed in some respects a fortuitous win, but soon the team was jolted by more injury problems to key players. The responsibility was now on the younger players and as much as they did their best to drag the team through, it soon became clear that it would be another underwhelming campaign for the southerners.
Fact Sheet For Indian Super League Season 2019-20
Season Finish: 7th
Games Played: 18
Win %: 22.22%
Underperformer Of The Season
TP Rehenesh: The Kerala goalkeeper had a homecoming of sorts and was one of the more experienced buys in pre-season in a line of purchases that Kerala made. A lot was expected from the former NorthEast United and Shillong Lajong custodian. He finished rank-bottom of the goalkeeping stats and had the worst goals-to-minutes ratio, conceding once every 46 minutes. He was also erroneous on occasions, which also led to him conceding some clumsy goals.
Rehenesh’s performances in the season 2019-20
Clean sheets: 2
Saves Made: 23
Goals Conceded: 25
1. ATK 0-1 Kerala Blasters
2. Kerala Blasters 5-1 Hyderabad FC
3. Kerala Blasters 2-1 Bengaluru FC
Manager’s Report Card
Eelco Schattorie came in with a lot of promise on the back of his performance last season when he lead the Highlanders to their first-ever playoffs. While the start was good, it soon tapered into a downward spiral for the Blasters, as the team suffered from inconsistency, late goals and injuries to key players at crucial junctures of the campaign.
Overall though, it can be termed a “transition season” for the Blasters, but the fans of Kerala and the team have always placed a premium on success on the pitch.
Lessons To Be Learnt
Kerala failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons and despite showing a lot of promise, failed to show up on the big occasion. Although, they can be given a reprieve on account of injuries, the campaign also exposed their soft underbelly in terms of a lack of squad depth. While they did show flashes of brilliance, it was clearly a case of inconsistency which left them waiting for another year for a playoffs berth.
The team has some great prospects for the future and must look to add more experience to their ranks if they are to fight for the top spots next season. The squad still lacks that settled look and Spaniard Kibu Vicuna who is set to take the reigns will have a task on his hands to get them firing as a unit.
Kerala Blasters are one of the most loved clubs of India but from last three seasons the fans have not gotten many opportunities to be proud of. This season was no different as the Blasters kicked off the season in a grand way by beating rivals ATK in the league opener but after that the journey was very tough.
Many factors contributed in that, for instance the ACL injury to captain Sandesh Jhingan before the start of the season and injuries to the new recruits like Brazilian defender Jairo Rodrigues, Gianni Zuiverloon and Mario Arques. However, there has been a silver lining to the dark clouds. Youngsters like Jeakson Singh, Mohammad Rakip impressed everyone and not to forget the highlight of the season- Jessel Carneiro.
Fans can expect a better next season with some statement signings that have already been made.