ISL 2017: Deciphering the lackadaisical start of Kerala Blasters
Written by: Ali Shibil Roshan
Meandering the lines of fanboyism-and-journalism, Shibil Roshan writes on why Kerala Blasters have been poor this season and what they and the fans need to do in the future.
Hailing from God's own country, Kerala Blasters is among the most successful sides in the Indian Super League. The runners-up in the first and third edition, Kerala Blasters have come this time around with a power-packed squad, with the former assistant of Sir Alex Ferguson, Rene Meulensteen at its rein.
In spite of having a blessed squad, the star-studded side has failed to open their win tally even after four games. It is not an outlandish issue in football but is a snaring fact when the team enjoy the services of Dimitar Berbatov, Iain Hume, CK Vineeth and co to flourish their attack.
In their first match against ATK, the home side was outclassed by ATK defenders, ending in a stalemate. The game vs ATK announced the weakness of Rene's side and their hit man, Berbatov who was well packed by the opponents. Kerala Blasters had 11 on the pitch, and Berbatov was just one of them. The finisher in CK Vineeth, the proven poacher in Iain Hume were all hushed against ATK.
It was indeed the lack of co-ordination of the hosts, that helped ATK and hindered Kerala Blasters. The runners-up had a long one-month pre-season jaunt in the renowned Marbella Football Centre, and the childish justifications like the lack of time to prepare well is not satisfactory, while the lack of competitive games is a decent reason.
In their second game against Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters acted better than their previous match. The team had dominated the game in the middle of the park, and the defence of the team was stunning as usual. Despite keeping the ball at their feet for the major part of the game, it was Jamshedpur FC who dominated the attacking stats, and it indicates the lack of incisiveness on Blasters' team sheet.
Kerala Blasters vs Jamshedpur FC Highlights
The third game saw Kerala drawing 1-1 against Mumbai City FC, with Mark Sifneos opening the club's account and CK Vineeth earning a dismal red card. In the fourth, the team scored twice against the rampant FC Goa, with Sifneos and Jackichand Singh carrying themselves to the scoresheet, but conceded five, termed as a forgettable performance by several fans.
However, the dismal results are not letting the fans mourn, suggested by the history of Kerala Blasters. In the last edition, Steve Coppell's Kerala Blasters had floundered to defeats in the beginning, but rose to the finals heroically as the league went into its later stages.
Kerala Blasters had kick-started the third edition with a narrow defeat from the Highlanders, Katsumi Yusa scoring the crucial goal for the hosts. The stumbling side met a defeat against arch-rivals ATK in the next game thanks to Javi Lara, whose shot went past Graham Stack after getting a slight deflection from Sandesh Jhingan.
The overthrow at the hands of ATK was not the end of their struggling journey though, as the Blasters were held by the mighty Delhi Dynamos in the next match. Their current situation is similar to that of the situation they had the previous time, and the rise can still happen with the right people in the right places with the right attitude.
They were the phoenix of the third edition and the Kochi based ISL outfit astonished everyone with their tactics, and the fans of Kerala will be looking for another similar act from Rene Meulensteen.
Superstitions are common in the world of sports. An inspection into the mind of the Kerala fans will let one say that they're no different from the European fans, and the other Indian fan bases.
The Kochi side kick-started the first and the third edition losing to Northeast United and they ended up as the runners-up. They started their second edition trouncing the same Northeast United FC 3-1 in their first match, and concluded the tournament disastrously, finishing at the bottom of the then 8-team table.
Kerala Blasters vs Mumbai City FC Highlights
This time, in the fourth edition, they kick-offed their journey with a draw against their arch-rivals, ATK, and it was no surprise, that the fans of Kerala are forecasting that they'd clinch the title this time since they've started their course with a draw, albeit hopefully.
In this world of technology, superstitions have no place to stand, and those facts are just what the fans of Kerala Blasters are thinking. Technically, Kerala Blasters had moderate teams in the last editions, and the times they cruised into the finals of the cash-rich league were only because of the brilliant tactics from their then think-tanks and that, probably, is an unequivocal fact.
The tutor in Rene Meulensteen and the squad are indeed one of the greatest the ISL has ever witnessed. The inclusion of both Berbatov and Wes Brown can be marked as a switch from their traditional way of signing a band of low-budget players, which in turn had affected their play for the past three editions.
'If they have the team and the coach, then why are they not scoring? Why are they not winning?' This question reverberated across the stadium against ATK and is legitimate. The team has not scored a lot of goals, but with a completely new look, they've just started to work as a unit, and football is not an illusion. Just like all other works, it needs toil and time to get better, and this is what the team really needs at the moment.
However, their Spanish course has helped them develop a little, as you can see players like Sandesh Jhingan and Milan Singh mastering the play at their respective positions. If the young Indians continue their sojourn in the right direction, the Yellow sea at the stands will go home happily, more often than not. With NorthEast United visiting Kochi, life has come a full circle for the team, that very kindly looks set to be guarded by the heavenly skies.
Published: Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:01 AM IST