The league table has gradually begun to shape up as teams head towards mid-season.

The Indian Super League (ISL) is almost at its halfway point and we are gradually having an idea of the teams which may end up in the playoffs this season. However, the difference in points is still minimal and one bad result may see a team slip out of the top four spots.

ATK have continued their dominant form this week as well against NorthEast United FC away from home, with reigning champions Bengaluru FC pushing them for the top spot after a relatively slow start. Chennaiyin FC have experienced a shift in momentum in their favour, as they look to push for a playoff berth, while FC Goa still looks like a formidable team ready to challenge for the title. It was another eventful week and here are the talking points from ISL Week 5:

5. Do Bengaluru FC need to invest in a forward in the January transfer window?

The reigning champions have been in fine form lately and are pushing ATK for the top spot. Carles Cuadrat has managed to keep the defence organized and the Blues have only conceded twice in seven matches and only once from open play. Although, Bengaluru have the best defence in the league, they are still lacking on the attacking front.

The Blues had Miku last season and his absence has been felt at every step this time. Sunil Chhetri and Co. have given their best till now. However, as we enter the business end of the league, Bengaluru need to invest in a prolific striker in order to defend their crown.

4. Could a resurgent Prabir Das be the answer to India’s right-back problem?

Prabir Das missed the entirety of last season due to injury and on his return, he has looked like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The 25-year-old has arguably been the most consistent Indian player in the league, delivering top-notch performances week-in-week-out. He was once again brilliant against NorthEast United, providing an assist for David Williams with his teasing cross.

The Indian national team have struggled to find a suitable right-back and Igor Stimac has tried several players in that position, starting from Pritam Kotal to Rahul Bheke. But, looking at Das’ current form, the full-back could be the answer to India’s right-back problem.

3. Is hosting matches at a neutral venue turning out to be a major disadvantage for Odisha FC?

Odisha has always been a state where the people love their sport. Therefore, them not playing their first three home matches at the Kalinga Stadium, is just like taking away the soul from the club. Josep Gombau’s men have played some great football thus far and at times they hardly had anything to show for their toil. Odisha held ATK to a 0-0 draw and it was the only game other than their season opener, in which the Kolkata outfit looked out of sorts. The result could have been different if they had the backing of their passionate fans.

Fans are an integral part of football and they often act as the driving force for any team. Therefore, playing their home matches at a neutral venue is a huge disadvantage for the newcomers. They still have another match before they return to Kalinga and Gombau’s men have to grab all three points against Hyderabad FC. Otherwise, they will drift away from the playoff spots this campaign.

2. Is Sergio Lobera’s trust in his young players, the biggest weapon for FC Goa this season?

ISL 2019-20: Talking Points Week 5

Chinglensana earned the Hero of the Match award during his side’s win against Hyderabad FC

There have been injuries and disciplinary issues among the foreign players and yet the Super Cup winners have stuck to the task and churned out results. With their defensive stalwart, Mourtada Fall suspended, Lobera turned to Chinglensana Singh, as Manvir Singh led the line in place of an injured Ferran Corominas. Chinglensana was awarded the ‘Hero of the Match’ for his perfprmance. Meanwhile, Manvir scored the solitary goal and the reliable Brandon and Lenny Rodrigues had great outings. The Gaurs, unlike other ISL teams, are not over-reliant on their foreign stars and this quality could take them closer to the title this season.

1. Could VAR improve the standard of refereeing in the ISL?

One of the major talking points of not only this week, but throughout the entirety of this edition of the Indian Super League has been the refereeing standards and how the decisions have affected the outcome of several matches. While the fans have repeatedly asked to implement VAR in Indian football, there will be questions regarding its conclusiveness and viability to implement it in India, as there are also questions regarding its cost and other aspects.

This week especially, Jamshedpur FC have seen two errant decisions from the referee, with one going their way and another going against them. The Men of Steel were deprived of a penalty against NorthEast United in the dying embers of the game. The match ended in a 1-1 stalemate, but that penalty could have changed the whole scenario.
Also, Antonio Iriondo’s men had a tough outing against Chennaiyin, where they scored a late goal to restore parity. However, the goal scored by Isaac Vanmalsawma struck Farukh Choudhury’s arm before going in. The referee failed to spot the arm and let the goal stand. These decisions affect the points table and we will have to wait and see what the AIFF and FSDL decide to do in this regard.