The tactician reflected on the last defeat with an aim to improve on all aspects.

The start to his Indian Super League career did not go as Stuart Baxter must have hoped. He saw his side, Odisha FC, lose to Hyderabad FC by a solitary penalty goal last time around. With eyes towards the upcoming fixture against Jamshedpur FC, who also lost their opening fixture, the tactician hopes that his team can improve on all the aspects of their game and has called them to be braver in their approach.

HFC dominated the middle of the park in the last game and talking about Odisha’s midfield performance that lacked in quality distribution, he said that, “If you look at the possession, it was a long way away from where we wanted to be. Tactically, the balance was wrong. We ended up being very separated, could not get support up to the front players. Midfield players were too deep and then mentally, whether it was the first game of the season or its young players being nervous or the balance of the team prevented it, but we weren’t very brave within that balance.”

“We weren’t brave with the ball, taking responsibilities. We have changed the shape a little bit in the training, encouraged the players to relax a little bit on the ball. It has looked better but proof of the pudding will be in the eating,” the gaffer further added.

Lots of fans wondered about the starting place of Manuel Onwu on the team sheet where he was fielded on the left wing, to which Baxter answered by saying that, “There will be changes in positions due to the opposition. With Jerry injured, we have no real direct replacement, we tweaked a little bit, with playing Manu not on the wing, but he was in the pocket giving Diego very quick support but Manu himself asked me about playing in that role because he’s played in it before, and he’s conscientious in his defending”

“We wanted him to be closer to Diego and Marcelinho and create that front three but as I said before, we got separated. It looked like he was playing on the wing. Which is why we changed and pushed two strikers in the middle. You can expect him to be back in his position but also expect some players to play in slightly different positions because of the opponents or the way we want to play,” further explained the 67-year-old.

Odisha were defensively weak and missed their important signing in Jacob Tratt. Baxter shed light on his chances of playing and further commented about his team’s defending. He said, “The availability of Jacob is still a question mark. We can defend with more personality, more control and more domination so I will be looking to improve the defending but it will not be the first thing to go to automatically after that first result.”

Odisha FC had a pretty strong start to life in ISL last season

Jamshedpur FC has Nerijus Valskis leading their attacking line, who has already opened his account for the season in the opening game. When asked about if there will be special plans to stop the striker, Baxter responded by saying that, “Not more than we’ll take heed of the fact that he is a finisher. Obviously, when you have a player like that in the team, then other players seek him. We will try to cut off that service and we’ll try be compact around him.”

Stuart Baxter also talked about the potential shape of the team, and if the formation of 4-2-3-1 will change or not. He said that, “Things you work on as a coach is to find a formation that will allow you to tweak it and we did play 4-3-3 also in the preseason games. I think when you have done such a short preseason and when you have been given such a little time to jump from one system to another with big steps is probably not well-advised. So we will be tweaking it because we were not happy with it. But it will not be huge rotations. There won’t be such massive changes.”

The Englishman was also asked about the trio of Marcelinho, Diego Mauricio and Onwu and whether it was a problem of plenty for him. He responded by saying that, “I dont think it’s aplenty because they’re all adapting to a new environment as well. So I think one of them is gonna be rotated and one of them is gonna be a good asset on the bench but they all have to adapt to a new environment.“

“Either you are branded a team that has got a base to build on or there is work to be done so we are a work in progress. We will put together two or three depending on the opponents and one will be an impact player,” he further expressed.

When asked about if there is a particular area that his team needs to improve upon before the next game, Baxter responded by saying that, “We need to improve on all aspects of the game. Not just based on the last game but based on the fact that I’ve had probably 14 sessions with the team. There was a lot of good work being done before I came but we knew there were areas still that we needed to work on.”

“Even if you’re working on new things, that is something for the players to accept and to integrate in their way of thinking. We need to be patient but during that patience, we need to be competitive so we will make sure we can get some points during that time,” he further went on to add.

Lastly, Baxter ended his pre-match interaction by expressing his thoughts on the threat of growing injuries and what planning is being done to avert them. He said that, “I think the medical team and the sports scientists are doing a great job here. The techniques and strategies we’re using are good as anywhere else I have worked. I don’t think there is anymore we can do on that front.”

“But globally, you have seen on average 260% more injuries. It’s the same story all over the world because of the compromised schedule, many games, few trainings, less rest, social stresses they’re all under those increased stresses of the pandemic. We are hoping we don’t get more soft tissue injuries, we can do something about that. But the teams with big squads definitely have a bit of an advantage,” Stuart Baxter concluded.

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