A lot is expected from these players & the fans are excited considering how the coach has developed youngsters in the past.
A new dawn awaits for Kerala Blasters next season, with I-League winning coach Kibu Vicuna all set to take them in a new direction in the Indian Super League. They have earned the reputation for being an unstable unit, having changed managers almost every other campaign, but now have developed a sustainable model which shows promise to bring long-term benefits.
Vicuna is known for his excellent man-management skills, which he displayed in elevating the standards of many underperforming Mohun Bagan players. He’s especially good in helping young players find their utmost potential, with his expressive style and integral tactics working well with the budding stars.
He’ll get a big pool of young players to work with at Blasters, while also having plenty of experienced, clinical prospects who perfectly fit his style of football. Here we’ll look at five players who can improve the most under the Spaniard next season.
5. Samuel Lalmuanpuia
The former Shillong Lajong captain was roped in by the Blasters last season, but only made a handful of appearances under Eelco Schattorie. His lack of experience could’ve played a part in that, but Vicuna isn’t one to shy away from giving new talent opportunities if they deserve them.
Lalmuanpuia was among the best youngsters in the I-League before moving to the ISL side, possessing enough craft, skill and leadership qualities to uplift a team. Indeed, his goalscoring ability and creativity could be brought to the fore under Vicuna’s innovative style. Lalmuanpuia thrives in an attacking philosophy and if used well, he can be an unpredictable dynamite for Kerala next campaign.
4. Bilal Khan
Bilal Khan had a season to forget in his debut campaign in the Indian Super League, making uncharacteristic errors in the unstable Blasters side. However, he can now redeem himself under Vicuna, who knows how to help players thrive under pressure.
Khan’s credentials shouldn’t be doubted, as he proved how good he is by winning the ‘Best Goalkeeper award’ in the 2018/19 I-League season for his heroics at Real Kashmir. Now, with a new goalkeeping coach working alongside Vicuna, Khan can rediscover his shot-stopping brilliance and find the confidence to soar at the highest level.
Lalruatthara has been on the downward curve ever since winning the ISL Emerging Player of the Year award in the 2017/18 season with Kerala Blasters, as he only made three appearances for them last campaign. The 25-year-old still has a lot of ability left in him and could be galvanized in Vicuna’s philosophy.
Not only is he a sturdy figure defensively, but the former Aizawl man also possesses enough craft at the attacking end to deliver if honed well. He has the opportunity to win his spot back by impressing his new coach, as knowing his tackling ability, the 25-year-old could be inspired in the Spanaird’s system like Ashutosh Mehta was at Mohun Bagan.
2. Jeakson Singh
Jeakson had a pretty solid debut campaign in the ISL and was one of the standout players in the Blasters’ topsy-turvy campaign. He made 13 appearances in the entire season, notching up an impressive 84% passing accuracy and shielding his backline with impressive defensive attributes.
Like Sk Sahil, Vicuna can also transform Jeakson into an integral part of his system. He can use the youngster’s intelligence and tenacity to boost the Blasters’ ability to operate in a possession-based style, while also allowing those ahead of him to express themselves freely. Singh has enough potential to become an industrious part of Vicuna’s team and could evolve into a midfield general under the Spaniard.
1. Rahul KP
If comparing the India U-17 World Cup squad, Rahul KP can perhaps be best explained as the hidden gem. Kerala Blasters made a cunning move in signing him early, but he couldn’t really inspire them in the previous campaign. However, the youngster still has a lot to show off and can be the real X-Factor in Vicuna’s style.
He can operate in a variety of positions and possesses a lot of trump cards in his arsenal. KP’s tenacity to finish off moves, creativity and unpredictability could help him thrive in the new system. Vicuna helped Nongdamba Naorem soar under his guidance. So, perhaps Rahul KP can take his game to the next level by becoming the hidden weapon in the Spaniard’s style.