The Blue Tigers have adopted the possession-based passing game but are far from perfecting the system.
Indian football team went through a change of philosophy when Igor Stimac took over the reins and immediately emphasised the need to play possession-based football which is easy on the eye. The players took their time to absorb the new system but the transition is still under progress.
With results having been sacrificed to keep faith in the new system, the fans are getting impatient.
Where domestic players are comfortably playing the passing game in the Indian Super League, they are finding it tough to play the same system with equal flair in national colours.
Here is an analysis deciphering the reasons behind the inability of Indian players in adapting Igor Stimac’s philosophy.
Presence of foreign players and coaches helps them in ISL
The prime reason is the presence of foreign players who have vastly improved the level of domestic football. Domestic players ply their trade alongside experienced foreigners at club level. Hence, are more confident on the ball as they are given support off the ball.
However, foreign flair is not only limited to the players. The increasing amount of Spanish coaches such as Josep Gombau, Antonio Iriondo, Carles Cuadrat and Sergio Lobera among others has transformed the Indian players’ mentality as they are now more adept with the ball on their feet.
Players need to step up and take responsibility
While there are five foreign players in the ISL starting XI, there aren’t any in the Indian national team. This means that the Indian players need to take the initiative and lead by example, executing the gaffer’s tactics perfectly.
Teams like FC Goa and Bengaluru FC stand as examples of clubs who have perfectly adopted the free-flowing passing game and achieved success from it. Another team that is keeping its faith in this type of gameplay is Odisha FC, who have gone through a change in philosophy and have sacrificed results at times due to the transition.
Igor Stimac’s team selection, especially the midfield, has been focused on players who are comfortable in playing grounded balls. His lineups look especially weak without the likes of Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Anirudh Thapa. These players are more comfortable in playing an intricate passing game as compared to the likes of Pronay Halder, who looked way out of his depth against Afghanistan.
There aren’t any foreigners to help out and thus there are so many inaccurate passes when India plays. A look at the current season’s ISL stats after matchday four tells a clearer picture too.
Out of the top ten players with the most number of passes in ISL, seven are foreigners.
Top five foreigners with the most number of passes are Dimas Delgado (Bengaluru FC) with a pass percentage of 78.57% in 266 passes, Carlos Pena (FC Goa) with 86.49% in 237, Marko Stankovic (Hyderabad FC) with 74.67% in 233 passes, Ahmed Jahou (FC Goa) with 80.51% in 231 passes and Aitor Monroy (Jamshedpur FC) with 73.93% in 211 passes.
In comparison, top five Indian players with the most number of passes are Brandon Fernandes (FC Goa) with a pass percentage of 67.32% in 202 passes, Lenny Rodrigues (FC Goa) with 86.45% in 192 passes, Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin) with 75.78% in 190 passes, Narayan Das (Odisha FC) with 62.26% in 159 passes and Seriton Fernandes (FC Goa) with 79.73% in 153 passes.
The above stats prove how Indian players are helped by foreign players when it comes to playing free-flowing passing football. Their absence leads to that system falling off-the-pace when it comes to the national football team.
Igor Stimac has consistently employed players like Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes and Anirudh Thapa in order to play crisp one-two touch passing and the results on the pitch are slowly reaping rewards.
It falls on the fans to remain patient as the change in philosophy, playing style and mentality takes time. Indian players will get more adept at the passing game with time. We have already witnessed more technically sound players being a part of the team.