The 44-year-old also lauded the work of some of the youngsters in the team.

Kerala Blasters face a tough challenge on Sunday, when they take on Odisha FC in Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22. Led by head coach Ivan Vukomanovic, the Yellow Army are still on the hunt for their first win of the season, while Odisha FC are on a two-match victory streak. Both teams have some quality names on paper in their respective squad, and that will hopefully result in a good game on Sunday.

Ahead of the clash, Vukomanovic spoke to the media in the pre-match press conference. He was accompanied by defender and captain Jessel Carneiro.

Organization during set-pieces

When asked if Kerala Blasters looked disjointed while defending set-pieces, Ivan Vukomanovic was quick to remind everyone that the side are yet to concede a goal from set-pieces this season.

“Well, if you look at the last three games, I don’t remember an instance where we conceded from a set-piece. Statistics say that many teams have conceded a lot of goals from set-pieces both in the previous season and in this season also. It hasn’t happened for KBFC so far this season, as we stayed focused and had concentrated more, especially in the last two games (against NorthEast United and Bengaluru FC. We’d like to maintain that,” he said.

Thoughts on Odisha FC

The Juggernauts have scored nine goals in two matches, with most of them coming off set-pieces. Speaking about Sunday’s opponents, the KBFC tactician said, “Yes, we have trained for defending set-pieces. But that’s not the only aspect to watch out for. We played a pre-season friendly with them earlier, and we know that they do have some qualities.”

Finding balance between attack and defence

The 44-year-old also spoke on the importance of finding a balance between creating chances and scoring, and defending the opposition’s attacks. “It’s an interesting aspect of football. When you want to play with an attacking style by pressing hard, using a higher back-line and so on, there is a possibility for your opponents to attack. Then, if and when you concede, everyone starts questioning the defence. At other times, you may need to take a defensive approach and if you don’t score, doubts are raised on the attack,” he said.

Vukomanovic further added, “In football, you should always try to find the right balance between attack and defence. We are trying to do that. There may be some other teams who have a bigger concern in this case than us. Regardless, finding this balance is what we’re trying to achieve.”

Chencho’s role at KBFC

Kerala Blasters have as many as four attacking options in their foreign contingent. Among them, Alvaro Vazquez, Adrian Luna and Jorge Pereyra Diaz have managed to start different matches, while Chencho Gyeltshen has always entered the action from the bench.

When asked if this is the role that the coach has identified for the Bhutanese forward, he replied, “No, not per se. All the foreign players that we have are of good quality and deserve to make it to the starting XI. However, the ISL regulations have it that you can have only four of them in your playing XI at any time. It is hence very puzzling for the coaching staff to find the right combination every time.”

“Each of these players have impressed me and the rest of the coaching staff equally, both in games and in training. Ideally I’d like to have all of them in my playing XI but because of the rules, some of them have to be benched always,” he added.

On squad rotation

“Regarding the goalkeeper position, I’d rather assign that decision-making responsibility to our goalkeeping coach as he knows about each one of them in detail. I am satisfied with Albino Gomes’ performances as of now,” Ivan Vukomanovic said, when asked about the likes of Prabhsukhan Singh Gill and whether they will replace the Goan shot-stopper in the playing XI.

He further added, “We are glad to have many talented youngsters who have the potential to grow and become important players not just for Kerala Blasters, but in the whole of the ISL too. Vincy (Barretto) as you saw in the last couple of games, Givson (Singh), Ayush (Adhikari), (Ruivah) Hormipam – we have many youngsters who are trying to find their way in the league.”

“Giving them opportunities to play is one of our goals, and hopefully we’ll see them soon.”

Team News

Finally, Ivan Vukomanovic revealed that Rahul KP is the only player unavailable for selection against Odisha FC, and that Seityasen Singh has fully recovered from an injury. “Seityasen had a small injury issue during training some time ago. We discussed it with the medical team back then and decided not to take risks. The ISL is a short-term league and we have to be careful. We didn’t want to hurry up his return and maybe create a situation later where he misses out a bigger part of the league. He returned to training a couple of days ago and is fully available for tomorrow’s game,” he explained.

The coach added, “We have training today as well and there has been no trouble so far – except for Rahul who is already recovering. We’re also happy to have a versatile player like Nishu back. He’s a quality player, who can defend and also attack. It’s now up to him to build his self-confidence, strength and abilities. You’ll probably see him at different positions during the course of the season, because he can do it.”

Jessel Carneiro’s comments

“I’m trying my best to adapt to the coach’s methods and I’m working hard to give him what he wants from me. Kerala Blasters, as a team, are surely doing very well. We are trying to win matches and that’s the plan for tomorrow as well. The players are working hard on improving themselves every day, so that the team benefits from them. We also assess our opponents, to try and win the games,” Jessel Carneiro said, when asked about his thoughts on KBFC’s performance so far.

The 31-year-old has lately had more freedom to attack, when compared to last season. When asked if he’s enjoying it, Carneiro said, “Yes I’m enjoying it very well. If I get a chance to attack, I will not hesitate.”

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