The Lions’ talismanic midfielder insists that his side have been unlucky in the league this season.
Since coming back from the international break, Delhi Dynamos have been in exceptional form. Despite their failure to win any of their first 11 games this season, The Lions’ energy is high and it was evident on the pitch in all of their last three fixtures. In the last three games, the Dynamos have kept two clean sheets and scored three goals in the process.
One of the crucial cogs of the team and coach’s playing style, Rene Mihelic has been in tremendous form this season. The ISL winner with Chennaiyin FC in 2017-18 grasped the tactics of Josep Gombau almost perfectly and has been a key figure in The Lions’ squad. The team’s understanding of the gameplay and system has been visible throughout, especially in the games against Kerala Blasters away and Mumbai City at home.
Talking to Mihelic about the team, he insisted that The Lions have been unlucky rather than being poor in any of the departments. He said, “We are playing good. We score goals, but receive too many goals, especially, silly goals from set-pieces, like the one against Jamshedpur. This is what we need to improve. We need to be better on this,” said the Slovenian midfielder.
The Dynamos have had an excellent foreign roster in the league. However, they’ve lacked in domestic talents. The team bought a pool of young Indian players in the draft in 2017 and have retained the core of that group.
“I think there are many good Indian players. Nandha (Nandhakumar Sekar), Bikramjit (Singh), Vinit (Rai), there are very good players and we have a good keeper in Albino (Gomes). I am happy to be with them,” Mihelic said backing the local crop of stars.
Watch: Rene Mihelic scored a goal and assisted another in The Lions’ win against Kerala Blasters
Along with Rene, Delhi had signed a foreign striker in Andrija Kaludjerovic. The Serbian forward had a big task ahead of him, but failed to capitalize on the opportunities he was given. In the January transfer window, the 31-year-old striker left the Dynamos for Croatian side NK Inter Zaprešić, but Mihelic insists that his barren run of a single goal in 12 games was not underperformance.
“Our style is that we didn’t feed good balls from the wings to him. He has scored more headers from crosses, but here is not that case. If he had been better on the crosses, he would have scored more goals,” he sympathized.
“Last season, we (Chennaiyin FC) played very good and we were the champions. But, I don’t know what has been happening with them. I speak to some of their players, but I think they are just unlucky,” the former Marina Machans midfielder said. “This is football, sometimes you are on top, sometimes you are down,” he added.
Talking about the difference in the style of play of his former boss John Gregory and current tactician Gombau he said, “Spanish football is different from English football. Josep is more about passing, passing with possession, but John is like being strong in defence, put long balls, be good on set-pieces, attacking set-pieces and yes, this is the big difference in them.”
Being a versatile team-player is tough, the player has to excel on many fronts. “I think my favourite position is #10, but I can play all over the midfield and forward. I can play as a left winger and cut inside to put good crosses, but yes, just behind the striker is my best position.”
Just before the end of the first half of the season, Delhi Dynamos’ fan group the Dynamos Ultras showed their distress regarding the gameplay of the team. They hung their banners upside down to give a motivating push to the players. “We want to win every game in the second phase. We lost stupid games and I hope the Ultras would come and see us,” said Mihelic in a plea for the fans to return to the stands.
Delhi Dynamos host table-toppers Bengaluru FC in their next game on 17th February, followed by away fixtures against FC Pune City and ATK.