The first round of matches saw a lot of interesting talking points emerge.

Indian Super League’s (ISL) seventh edition got off to a fantastic start, as teams began their campaigns in top gear. The first gameweek had a lot of unexpected results, some brilliant individual performances and a lot to look forward to in the coming days.

After the culmination of the first round of matches, the viewers have been left with a lot of interesting points to discuss. Whether it was players tasting ISL football for the first time, new head coaches monitoring their sides for the first time in a serious match situation or fans watching their favourite clubs playing for the first time, everyone had a lot to takeaway.

Khel Now takes a look back at the action and presents five things we learned from the first gameweek of the ISL 2020-21 season:

5. Owen Coyle needs to work on team mentality and game-management

Jamshedpur FC opened their account for the season with a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Chennaiyin FC. Owen Coyle, the new head coach at the helm, saw his side lose to his former club after a poor first half performance and a lacklustre second half display.

Even though CFC were clearly the stronger side on paper, JFC gave them too much leeway and ended up conceding in the first minute of the game, thereby having to chase the match from the getgo. Moreover, instead of calming things down and playing the ball around, the players were too hasty and wasteful with the ball.

An individual error leading to the penalty for the second goal on the night made matters worse. Despite Nerijus Valskis’ strike, the Men of Steel never looked like making a comeback. Coyle needs to get inside the heads of his players and work on preventing cheap goals from going in. He must aim to improve on the mere two clean-sheets the side kept last term, which was the least among all teams. 

4. Sergio Lobera needs to trust his tested method of one striker up top

WATCH: NorthEast United stunned Mumbai City FC in the season opener

Mumbai CIty FC have one of the strongest teams on paper and a manager that has proved his mettle in the Indian football scene. Sergio Lobera has been tasked to bring glory to MCFC after signing some of the big hitters of the ISL in Bartholomew Ogbeche, Hugo Boumous and Ahmed Jahouh among others.

While the team was fielded in a 4-2-3-1 formation, it was clear to see that Bartholomew Ogbeche and Adam Le Fondre would play along side each other up top. However, this combination did not work, as NEUFC found it easier to block the spaces and making it tough for MCFC to break the low-block.

It is best if Lobera takes a leaf out of his book from FC Goa days and employs a single target man up top. This has been a tried and tested method which has brought the Spaniard gaffer success in the past. Both Ogbeche or Le Fondre can play that role well and with Boumous behind in a free-role, MCFC can be tricky team to defend against.

3. Carles Cuadrat needs to be braver by intensifying the attacking intent

Bengaluru FC let a two-goal advantage slip from their hands as they drew 2-2 with a new-look FC Goa. The Gaurs had a new head coach and a relatively new-look squad after losing Sergio Lobera and many vital players to Mumbai City FC, while the Blues, under Carles Cuadrat were a more settled unit.

Despite these advantages, BFC never seemed to hit the top gear. They fielded an attack-minded team but it seemed like the attacking wingers like Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan were pre-determined to play it cautiously.

Eventually, the 2-0 lead was chalked off by two quickfire goals from the Gaurs after Cuadrat’s side chose not to go all out for the third and final goal which would have killed the game. Clearly, the Spaniard needs to utilise one of the best domestic attacking options at his disposal to play on the front foot in the matches to come.

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2. Indian youngsters will play a major role due to injuries and rotation

This ISL season is unique in the sense that it is being played amidst a pandemic behind closed doors. The players who have not trained enough are compelled to stay in a protected environment. As a result, a lot of injuries are emerging and the coaches have no other choice but to rotate their squad to prevent more.

Odisha FC were without their main players like Jacob Tratt, Cole Alexander and Jerry Mawihmingthanga and had to start fringe domestic players in their players to make up the numbers. In the end, the inexperience of these players cost Stuart Baxter’s team the match while Hyderabad FC’s young players like Asish Rai, Akash Mishra and Liston Colaco made the difference.

Keeping this in mind, as the season progresses, more injuries and rotations are bound to happen. In these situations, the Indian youngsters will get ample opportunities to stamp their mark on the league.

1. Kerala Blasters needs incisiveness in final third to capitalise on more possession

Kerala Blasters got off to a negative start to their season with a defeat to ATKMB , thanks to a solitary goal from Roy Krishna. The game was a cagey affair with both teams failing to find a longer period of rhythm. However, unlike what the result suggests, the Manjappada played better football and dominated possession with 60% share of the ball.

However, despite accumulating 489 passes to ATKMB’s 222, the team were let down by their lack of quality in the final third. KBFC failed to register a single shot on target, and let several attacking opportunities slip away, allowing ATKMB to hit them on the counter thanks to their star striker who rarely misses.

If Kibu Vicuna aims to achieve success in this campaign, then he needs to capitalise on the possession based play. With a better end product, players like Gary Hooper can hurt any opposition.

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