The club will be looking to produce a stronger season this time around.
Hyderabad FC made their debut in the Indian Super League (ISL) last season. It was one to remember, but for all the wrong reasons, as the team finished bottom of the league. Now, in their second campaign, the Nizams have fortified their setup to launch a better attack on the league.
With renewed optimism, a new coach and with some savvy signings, Hyderabad FC have addressed areas where they lacked last season and look solid across the pitch. They will be looking to right most of the wrongs (if not all) of last season en route to a markedly better showing.
Last Season’s Performance
Their debut season in the league didn’t bring them luck, as the club started their campaign on a disastrous note, going down 5-0 to eventual champions ATK. From there, Hyderabad never made it into second gear. To further exacerbate the issues, the team faced frequent injuries to key players in the squad like Robin Singh, Giles Barnes, Marko Stankovic and others. Eventually, the side finished rock-bottom of the league.
Hyderabad set some infamous records last season, including for most goals conceded (39), the joint-fewest wins in a season (with three other teams), worst goal-difference in a season (-18) and the longest winless run in a season (14 games). They finished the season with two wins, four draws and 12 defeats, which fetched them a paltry 10 points.
The club and head coach Phil Brown parted ways after 12 games. Assistant coach Xavier Gurri Lopez took the interim reins to see the season through. To give some respite, they finished on a fine note with a thumping 5-1 win over fellow strugglers NorthEast United.
Hyderabad FC’s administration were busy in the summer and have worked out two spectacular deals to help improve the exposure for their youngsters as well as being strategic ones.
In August 2020, the club announced a historic two-year partnership with Borussia Dortmund as part of youth development and extended exposure in the future, with an option to extend till 2025. In October, they announced a partnership with Spanish Segunda Division B club Marbella FC. The deal was made with the view to offering exposure trips for the clubs’ young guns.
As for things at hand, Hyderabad FC arrived at their bio-bubble in October, a month ahead of the beginning of the 2020-21 season. The team was later joined by their head coach Manuel Roca, who has wasted no time in putting the boys through their paces.
Hyderabad FC have played in four pre-season friendlies against Kerala Blasters, Bengaluru FC, NorthEast United and FC Goa. Despite having a trimmed pre-season, Hyderabad would’ve gotten the first taste of playing against ISL teams. The Nizams lost twice, but drew against Bengaluru and won against Goa. These two results are sure to be a shot in the arm for them ahead of the new season. The matches also gave new coach Roca a chance to test all his players.
Ahead of the new season, on 1 June, Hyderabad FC announced that former Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca was set to become the manager of the side. But, Roca left for FC Barcelona to join their new manager Ronald Koeman’s coaching staff. As a replacement, the club announced that Manuel Marquez Roca will be taking the reins.
Xavier Gurri Lopez returns to his previous role as the assistant coach, having managed the club on an interim basis following the sacking of Brown last season.
Roca’s gameplay focuses on taking the attack to the opposition. It involves swift playmaking and possession-based football, which would bring a fresh approach to Hyderabad and give their attackers more freedom.
However, Roca’s man-management skills would be put to the test with a new-look squad that has to endure a grueling schedule and the medical precautions to be taken as a result of COVID-19, including the bio-bubble.
Hyderabad FC’s plans for improvement meant smarter acquisitions in the transfer market and working around the same in terms of sales. The club have gone big at both ends.
The most notable imports include former Perth Glory winger Joel Chianese, former Leganes midfielder Lluis Sastre, and Odei Onaindia from Spanish Second Division club CD Mirandes.
The club have signed some exciting local starlets such as Indian Arrows duo Rohit Danu and Akash Mishra as well as Liston Colaco (loan move from Goa made permanent). Notable domestic inclusions are Souvik Chakrabarti from Mumbai City FC, Chinglensana Singh from FC Goa, and Holicharan Narzary from Kerala Blasters.
But, the signing of Aridane Santana, is in particular, an astute purchase by the Nizams to bolster their attack. The fact that he opened his account in the pre-season game against Bengaluru will give him and the club much-needed confidence going into the new season.
At an average age of 25.3 years, Hyderabad have the fourth youngest squad in the league.
Formations and Tactics
Considering their current roster, Hyderabad look well-suited to a 4-2-3-1 formation. The midfield will be the fulcrum for the side, where the experience of João Victor and Sastre will be pivotal to their fortunes.
Adil Khan and Onaindia are set to be fixated at the heart of the defence, while Sahil Panwar and Asish Rai will be tasked with manning the two flanks and providing width. Hyderabad’s playing style will be more centrally-focused and this formation would generally follow the same trend. But, they are also blessed with pacy wingers, wing-backs and tall strikers to meet crosses into the box.
Mohammed Yasir and Colaco could also be called upon to play as wing-backs if required, giving more options to Roca. The attacking workload is expected to be shouldered by Chianese and Santana.
An alternative to a more sturdy midfield, this formation could be used based on the performances of the back four in the first few games. If good, Roca could experiment with playing Adil Khan in a midfield of five, which offers more leeway for the wing-backs to pace up and down the flanks despite maintaining the play centrally.
Roca encourages his teams to go on the attack and this formation means that Hyderabad can commit more bodies forward when in need of a goal. The extra striker’s spot could be taken up by Francisco Sandaza, Narzary or the exciting Danu, which could provide more freedom for Chianese to play behind the strikers.
- The club have some exciting youngsters who would be looking to grab their chance to shine, while they are also rounded by experienced foreigners and a support staff that know the team inside-out, having spent last season with them.
- Goalscoring was a huge issue for Hyderabad. The Nizams found the back of the net the second-lowest number of times last season (21). But, this term, with seasoned campaigners like Santana, Chianese and the youthful Colaco, the attacking prowess has been bolstered.
- Problems and question marks will remain on the depth in midfield and defence. Hyderabad evidently put up the worst defensive numbers last season, conceding 39, which is the worst tally in ISL history. Their defence requires more experience and sturdiness which they seem to lack at the moment.
Players to Watch
Aridane Santana will be the lynchpin in Hyderabad’s attack. In his debut season, he scored nine goals in 14 games for Odisha FC, which was more than Hyderabad’s top scorer Marcelinho’s tally of seven. Santana posts an imposing frame of 1.91m, which allows him the ability to win aerial duels. Hyderabad have pacy wingers and their crosses could prove more effective with a player like him at the end of them.
His presence along with players around him like Chianese, Colaco and Nikhil Poojary means that Hyderabad’s attack could prove to be a handful for defences in the league.
Although, he played only four games in the previous season for Hyderabad after a loan switch in January, Colaco showed his quality by scoring two goals in just a few minutes of action. Now, that his move has been made permanent, this could prove to be his breakout season.
Colaco possesses excellent dribbling ability and pace to match it. He is also a decent crosser and would certainly develop in a possession-oriented system.
Despite it being his debut season, there would be a lot of expectations on Joel Chianese owing to his exploits last term for Perth Glory. His experience and quality upfront would see him being the glue in attack.
His partnership with Santana and the way the experienced duo handle the youngsters around them could very well determine the team’s fortunes this campaign.
What to Expect?
After a disastrous debut season, Hyderabad FC would’ve learned the lessons from the past and have worked on addressing their areas of concern. They have a team filled to the brim with talent all over the park. It is all down to how quickly they gel and play cohesively.
Unlike other teams, Hyderabad have made a lot of changes to their squad, including their head coach. With new ideas, new players and new surroundings, they would look to turn a new leaf in the ISL.