The Gaurs finished a lowly ninth on the table contrary to expectations.
This has been a season which every person associated to FC Goa, be it the staff, players or even the fans would like to forget. A ninth-placed finish in the table was completely unpredictable at the start of the 2021-22 season, when the Gaurs lifted their maiden Durand Cup title. Needless of mention, they were asserted to be one of the favourites to bag accolades in the Indian Super League too. However, due to a number of reasons, their season took a drift towards the bottom-half of the table.
The club saw a mid-season change at the helm when Juan Ferrando left and was succeeded by existing Technical Director Derrick Pereira to jump in as the head coach. Even certain decisions didn’t favour the Gaurs throughout the season. Also, the outbreak in the bio-secured bubble stood as another factor in weakening FC Goa.
Fact Sheet for FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22
Ortiz can be labelled as the saviour for FC Goa. Undoubtedly, he was the best performer for the Gaurs this season. After missing out on a few matches in the early stages of the league, the forward made his way into the eleven and injected hope. Despite being not a perfect Number-9, Ortiz went on to net eight goals in 15 matches, which included a hat-trick against Chennaiyin FC. He also provided five assists this season.
FC Goa solidified their defence by signing Anwar Ali on loan from his parent club Delhi FC. This marked Ali’s return to the top-tier of Indian football after a long break due to health issues and AIFF banning him from playing. Except for a few occasions, there were hardly any instances where the young defender failed to live up to the expectations. After his inclusion, the back line looked steadier and more solid. In the 10 appearances this season, Ali committed 20 tackles, made 24 blocks, 23 clearances and 14 interceptions!
Aibanbha Dohling was another important figure in the FC Goa defensive third. His journey this season went from a left centre-back in a three-man defence to a left-back in the four-man back line. There were instances of the lad displaying brilliancy on the left flank. In the 16 appearances, he committed 32 tackles, made 34 interceptions, 33 clearances and 22 blocks. Also, he scored a goal and provided two assists.
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
This has not been the season for the 21-year-old. Hopes were high after Singh’s feat in the AFC Champions League. However, in the Indian Super League, he looked shaky at times and conceded way too many goals than which are expected of him. As everyone knows, Dheeraj Singh was a part of India’s U-17 World Cup team and caught the eye of many. After he joined FC Goa in January, 2021, he played really well. But things didn’t work according to plan for him in the following campaign.
FC Goa shall be hopeful that Singh overcomes this off form in the next season. However, if that doesn’t happen, then perhaps the management will have to think of reinforcements. Reportedly, they are already after Odisha FC goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh. At just 21, Singh, a possessor of immense quality wouldn’t be ready to settle in the bench for sure!
1. Chennaiyin FC 0-5 FC Goa
2. FC Goa 4-4 Kerala Blasters
3. SC East Bengal vs FC Goa (3-4)
Manager’s report card
During the initial stage of the league, it was Juan Ferrando in the driver’s seat. High expectations were relevant due to the recent Durand Cup triumph. However, things didn’t seem to work out for him as the club suffered three consecutive defeats in the first three matches. FC Goa finally registered their first victory of the campaign against SC East Bengal on 7th December, 2021.
At this stage it looked as if it was the rejuvenation of the team. FC Goa remained unbeaten in the next two matches as well (against Bengaluru FC and Hyderabad FC). Apparently, to everyone’s surprise a few days after the Hyderabad FC clash, Juan Ferrando stepped down as the head coach and made his way to Kolkata giants ATK Mohun Bagan.
In came Derrick Pereira to carry forward the form in which Ferrando had left the club. His stay wasn’t charming as well as the team secured only two wins during his tenure, both against Chennaiyin FC. The only notable win came against the same on 9th February, 2022, when the Gaurs went on to thrash Chennaiyin in a result which read 0-5. The team lost six matches during this period.
The style of play didn’t change much. The sole reason behind this is the philosophy the club has implemented. Hence, it doesn’t matter who the coach is, the style of play will remain the same.
A question may arise on the future of Derrick Pereira. Of course, he will remain associated to the club as President Akshay Tandon won’t want his most reliable personnel to leave FC Goa. But will he continue as the head coach is the question. When enquired in the various press conferences during the latter part of the league about team building for next season, the tactician dodged the question by asserting that he is focused on the current season and will think about the next season only when the league ends. This may be a sign that Pereira will perhaps, step down to give way to a new tactician at the helm.
Lessons to be learned
Firstly, the team should entirely remain devoted to and reliant on their own performance on the pitch and not rely on the officiating authorities of the match. It has been seen a number of times how clubs in the ISL have suffered from poor refereeing. But when the standard of refereeing in evident, then why rely on them? It will be better to focus on themselves, so that such a situation doesn’t arise when they need a favour/proper decision from the officials.
Secondly, FC Goa should have utilized the winter transfer window to their fullest. Even though Airam Cabrera scored six times in 13 appearances, three of them came in the last encounter with Kerala Blasters. Thus, three goals in 12 appearances is not the pedigree demanded by a club of FC Goa’s stature, where the likes of Igor Angulo and Ferran Corominas have plied their trade. Thus, FC Goa should make sure they bring in the best personnel for next season to fetch goals upfront.
Lastly, FC Goa’s conversion rate has dropped this season. In order to improve that, the club should hire a proper goal-getter as mentioned earlier. Also, it shouldn’t be a one-man show upfront. Currently, FC Goa have no foreigners upfront. Airam Cabrera’s contract will come to an end soon and Jorge Ortiz, reportedly had already left the club before the conclusion of their fixtures. Two foreign strikers along with an Indian forward shall be the best reparation they can make in this upcoming transfer window.
I think this season has been one of the most frustrating in the recent years. We started off as one of the favourites after winning the Durand Cup, but failed miserably at the start of the ISL and never really got back on track ever since.
Injuries, COVID-19 cases & lack of training affected the performance a lot. The departure of the head coach in the middle of the season didn’t help either. The defence has always been our weak point over the years but what affected us more this season is the lack of sharpness in the final third. With all due respect to our strikers, we couldn’t find replacement for Angulo who even turned the half chances into goals last season. The match against SCEB was the worst of the season where I feel we gifted them their first win rather than them earning it.
That said, there’s have been a few silver linings too. Players like Aiban, Anwar & Chothe have been impressive. The Gaurs hardly got to play with a first choice XI due to injury or Covid concerns, but when they did play with the ideal XI, the performance was there for everyone to see. I was lucky enough to watch the Gaurs overpower Chennaiyin FC 5-0 at Tilak Maidan wherein FC Goa really looked like a title winning unit & could’ve easily scored a few more.
I must also mention that Goa lost out at least five to six points due to errors by the referees in the initial stages of the ISL, especially the penalty to Ortiz which was denied against KBFC which totally killed our momentum & always kept us lagging behind all season. This has been our worst season since the 2016 season, but I’m sure the Gaurs will rise again and be a force to reckon with next season.