Inconsistent, flinching Kerala Blasters have an uphill task to execute
Written by: Ali Shibil Roshan
Currently seventh in the table, David James has a squad that has everything, albeit on paper, but one that fails miserably on the pitch.
Watching Kerala Blasters suffer has become increasingly excruciating for its fans. The Southern outfit started their campaign on a promising note, defeating arch-rivals ATK at Vivekananda Yuba Bharathi Krirangan, but has since then struggled to emulate a performance close to it.
David James has still not managed to find his ideal starting XI. He made five changes to their starting XI for the game against FC Goa, another five against Northeast United FC and three against Chennaiyin but still failed to yield the results he wanted.
They have a squad that has everything, albeit on the paper, but one that fails miserably on the pitch. Kerala Blasters have players who are supposed to be crucial for India in the AFC Asian Cup 2019. They have players who are touted to become the future flagbearers of Indian Football. They have foreigners who had impressed elsewhere before coming to India. Still, they struggle to impress.
Kerala Blasters marred by inconsistency
From Sandesh Jhingan to Matej Poplatnik, Kerala Blasters have players who have not been consistent this season. Everyone has struggled, so has Kerala Blasters. Sandesh Jhingan would deliver a world-class performance in one game and would make schoolboy errors in another. Nemanja Lakic-Pesic has performed exceptionally well for Kerala Blasters, thwarting opponents effectively and is arguably Kerala's best player this season.
Lalruatthara and Rakip would impress in some games. They are exciting prospects going forward but their physique does them no favours while defending. These two young defenders have room for improvement and certainly have what it takes to become the regulars for Indian national team in the near-future. Football demands consistency and that has not come from these two youngsters, however.
Rating Krcmarevic as exceptional would mean we have overlooked some situations. The Serbian may have been doing all the dirty works for Kerala Blasters, but there have been occasions where the opponents left him, and the team, frazzled. Holicharan Narzary - another Indian international - began his sojourn with Kerala Blasters brightly, starring in their first few games. However, he delivered utterly unimpressive performances in their previous few fixtures and is prone to committing unforced errors.
It took Seiminlen Doungel just 2⃣6⃣ minutes to bring in all the difference at Jamshedpur, as his 2⃣ assists brought @KeralaBlasters at par with @JamshedpurFC. He is the Hero of the Match. ????#LetsFootball #HeroISL #JAMKER #FanbannaPadega pic.twitter.com/8phtGmDjiH— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) October 29, 2018
Doungel has been a focal point for the Blasters
After a disappointing start, Len Doungel has begun to spearhead Kerala's attack but has been inefficacious in front of the goal, scuffing opportunities he could have easily converted. Sahal Abdul Samad has become the apple of the eye of the fans following his commanding performance but he has a long way to go before becoming the go-to player. His decision-making leaves a lot to be desired, but, make no mistake, the youngster is heading in the right direction.
Local heroes CK Vineeth and Prasanth K have also struggled to do the right things for Kerala Blasters. Prasanth has looked a different man from what he was during the LaLiga World. CK Vineeth is nowhere near the finisher he once was, failing to score goals even from close distances.
Keziron Kizito has not influenced the game the way the fans wanted. He is vulnerable to making flaws and it has not helped Kerala. Courage Pekuson was supposed to play a big role in James's squad, but the Ghanaian attacking midfielder has only had a few minutes of action so far this season. Slavisa Stojanovic and Matej Poplatnik have floundered to make the big impact they are supposed to create. They have struggled in front of the goal and the lack of proper support from behind have only worsened the situation.
Learn to be consistent, Kerala Blasters.
Kerala Blasters fail to thrive under pressure
You lead the game by a crucial goal until the 90th minute. The referee indicates six minutes of added time and when the referee blows his final whistle, you are on the losing side. It is harrowing in some ways but also clear symptoms of the lack of proper ethos and plans.
The South Indian outfit have had a twisted script for most part of this season
How many times have we seen Kerala Blasters blown up in their face? After Matej Poplatnik converted from a Zakeer corner to give Kerala the lead against NorthEast United, the Southerners looked all set to fly back with three points but Sandesh Jhingan decided to add a twist to the story. He would make a challenge on Mascia inside the penalty and Ogbeche would score the resultant penalty. Mascia would again become the deliverer, scoring a screamer to send Kerala back home empty-handed. How annoyingly Kerala Blasters have had to face a twisted script?
It was not the first time though. It had happened before. Had they played the remainder of the game the way they did before the goal had come in, Kerala Blasters would have bagged all three points against Northeast United FC, Mumbai City and Delhi Dynamos. This side also has the quality to deliver when they lose the fear. Against Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters found themselves in danger and responded to it sharply, scoring two in the second half to bring back parity. Had it not been for their failure in front of the goal, Kerala Blasters would have easily upstaged the home side.
The current situation has to change. When you play a game, you are supposed to face situations like this and what football demands is to thrive under pressure and Kerala Blasters don't, but they rather flinch.
Learn to thrive under pressure, Kerala Blasters.
David James - Devoid of Ideas?
His side has already played nine games this season and he is yet to find his ideal starting XI. With half the season gone, David James has only little time to hit the right notes. He may have the backing of the management and but the fans are furious and have already vociferated their protests.
David James still hasn't found his perfect combination
He is still experimenting with his squad and we will likely see the former Liverpool shot-stopper make another two or three changes when Kerala Blasters host Jamshedpur FC in Kochi. We are still uncertain of what James' ethos is. No player in the squad has played every minute for Kerala Blasters this season. He has tried different combinations in defence and has not so far stuck to any.
In midfield, there have been changes, frequently, which has not aided Kerala positively. Len Doungel, Narzary, Kizito, Sahal, Prasanth, Zakeer and Krcmarevic have worn the boots for Kerala in midfield but apart from Krcmarevic, none has been a constant figure. In attack, things are not working for James. His tactics are not helping his attackers do the damage they want. The attackers can cause more problems only when the system suits their style.
Learn tactics, David James.
Should the management be blamed for the conundrums?
They should be, to a certain extent. David James has, time and again, said they are working on a project that emphasizes on the development of the future generation. Does that mean his job is safe regardless of the result his team delivers? Even if it doesn't, his team's performance forces us to think so.
Management has been silent. As far as things are concerned, they have backed James. It remains to be seen how long they will stick with James and their plans for the future.
Kerala Blasters must do something quickly and effectively. There is something that hinders the team from living up to its billing and playing to its potential. If they continue playing the beautiful game in this ugly way, the consequences would be catastrophic. After all, this is Kerala Blasters, hailing from God's Own Country, and they have something big to do for the state.
Published: Sat Dec 01, 2018 07:47 PM IST