The Gaurs have had a squad overhaul in the summer but will be aiming to go a step further this time around.
With the seventh season of Indian Super League (ISL) on the horizon, the only question in the minds of everyone associated to FC Goa will be ‘Have the Gaurs assembled a good enough team to challenge teams – both in the ISL and in the AFC Champions League?’
After a turbulent end to last season; FC Goa will be looking to bounce back quickly. With the new signings they’ve made so far, it looks as if the optimism is on another level. Let’s have a look at the strengths, weaknesses, key players and the expectations’ for the upcoming campaign. With the team’s core following former head coach Sergio Lobera to Mumbai City FC and with a new coaching staff and overseas signings having minimal experience of playing in India, it will be interesting to see how the team gels:
Last Season’s Performance: League Leaders
FC Goa were on a roll last season under Lobera. Alas, some differences between the management and the Spaniard prompted the club to take the huge decision to sack him, which left the team under the watch of assistant coach Clifford Miranda. Nevertheless, it was a bittersweet end to the last campaign, as the club finished atop the table but got knocked out in the semi-finals to runners-up Chennaiyin FC.
With Juan Ferrando taking over the helm at FC Goa, a lot will be expected from the Spanish coach. A man with huge experience and versatility in his tactics, Ferrando will be a boost for the club going into the season. He along with assistant coach Clifford Miranda, goalkeeping coach Virender Singh and conditioning coaches Roma Cullinera and Javi Gonzalez complete the current managerial setup.
This transfer window has been the toughest of all so far for the Gaurs. With many departures and arrivals at the club and very importantly the retention of most of the local players, the management have shown their vision for the development of domestic talent.
With a total of 11 new signings and six players being promoted from the development team, FC Goa have set their sights on the top prize in Indian football. New signings include five foreign players. That includes the club securing a loan deal for Aussie defender James Donachie and four Spanish players brought in on free transfers namely Igor Angulo, Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Noguera and Ivan Gonzalez.
It was a huge loss for the club as they parted ways with talisman Ferran Corominas in the summer. The heart of the Gaurs’ midfield as well as the key cog behind the link-up play between the defence and midfield Ahmed Jahouh left the club along with Hugo Boumous, Mandar Rao Dessai and Mourtada Fall. A number of other Indian players also departed including Chinglensana Singh, Jackichand Singh and Manvir Singh.
Goalkeepers: Mohammad Nawaz, Naveen Kumar, Shubham Dhas, Dylan D’ Silva
Defenders: Sarineo Fernandes, Aiban Dohling, Ivan Gonzalez, James Donachie, Leander D’cunha, Mohamed Ali, Sanson Pereira, Saviour Gama , Seriton Fernandes
Midfielders: Alberto Noguera, Alexander Romario Jesuraj, Brandon Fernandes, Edu Bedia, Flan Gomes, Jorge Ortiz Mendoza, Lenny Rodrigues, Nestor Dias, Phrangki Buam, Princeton Rebello, Redeem Tlang, Seiminlen Doungel
Forwards: Aaren D’silva, Devendra Murgaonkar, Igor Angulo, Ishan Pandita, Makan Winkle Chothe
Formation and Tactics
When the team is playing against a more defensive side that only depends on counter-attacks to score goals, this might be the best formation for FC Goa. It will be fascinating to watch the coach deploy this formation with the number of attacking players at his disposal. Donachie and Gonzalez are the centre-back options while Seriton and Gama, will add the full-back cover. With skipper Edu Bedia and Lenny Rodrigues in held back roles and neutralizing the opposition’s attack Brandon Fernandes, supported by the two wingers – Redeem Tlang and Jorge Ortiz can create chances in the attacking third with Igor Angulo ready to strike.
Having depth in midfield would mean that coach Juan Ferrando could go for a more stable 4-2-3-1 formation, that allows the midfielders to control the pace of the game. This in turn would allow them to neutralize any attacking team by winning the ball in the middle itself and launch a counter-attack with Angulo, Ortiz and a third foreign midfielder in Alberto Noguera, alongside Brandon all ready to pounce.
In this formation, the use of Alberto Noguera as a partner for Ortiz in midfield will mean that Ferrando will have to sacrifice one of the foreign centre-backs in the starting XI. In such a situation, Mohamed Ali will pitch in as the Indian replacement at the back, with Aiban Dohling also an alternative option.
- The Indian core of the team has largely been retained from the last season. The Indian players who left have been replaced with like-for-like additions.
- There is a good blend of youth and experience in the team, which includes Indian as well as overseas players.
- The five foreign players that have been signed have already proven themselves in other leagues across the world. The likes of Ferran Corominas and Hugo Boumous have been replaced with Igor Angulo and Alberto Noguera, which look like well-planned decisions on paper as of now.
- The team has a strong Spanish core, who will get to play the style of football they are most familiar with under the new coach Juan Ferrando, who is also Spanish. This will help them adapt to conditions faster than other clubs.
A lot of FC Goa’s star players from last season have since moved to Mumbai City FC along with their former coach Sergio Lobera. In addition, the release of striker Corominas is also bound to affect the side negatively at least in their initial few matches.
One of the biggest weaknesses for FC Goa at the moment is having a foreign contingent with no experience of playing in India. Moreover, there are a lot of young players in the squad who have no experience either at the level of the ISL.
Players to Watch
A proven goal machine who has been brought in to fill the position of two-time Golden Boot winner and the Indian Super League’s highest-goalscorer Ferran Corominas. Before his arrival in India, Angulo was the top scorer in the Polish top flight in the 2019-20 season.
He also has the experience of playing under current Kerala Blasters head coach Kibu Vicuna, who labelled him as a formidable force in attack in a recent interview. Juan Ferrando is known to prefer an attacking brand of football, which means that it will not be surprising if Angulo is a regular part of his plans at the club.
With a lot to prove and a lot of critics to answer, India international Brandon Fernandes will look at giving top drawer performances for the club in the upcoming season. There is no shortage of talent in the midfielder who has even featured for Leicester City Reserves in his early days. Under Juan Ferrando, the 26-year-old will be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
At the peak of his career and having an eye on a national team spot, Seriton will look to impress Blue Tigers head coach Igor Stimac and put in his best-ever performances. The 28-year-old defender has already impressed in the past few campaigns of the ISL, with 59 appearances in the competition to date. He has also registered four assists and was a part of the Gaurs side that lifted the Super Cup in 2019.
What to Expect
Trophies are always the barometer of success at any club in the world. With a relatively proven winner at the helm, the fans and the club hierarchy will expect nothing less than the ISL title this year.