With the Draft set to take place on Sunday, Khel Now looks at the various strategies the clubs are set to employ as they choose their players for next season… 

This Sunday’s Hero Indian Super League 2017-18 Indian Player Draft promises to be an exciting affair as the footballing minds of the ten ISL clubs would put their strategies into action in a bid to seek signatures of some of the best domestic players.

All ten ISL clubs have completed their respective international head coach signings. Assisted by the Indian coaches, the Head Coaches will represent their respective clubs at the team table at the ISL Player Drafts 2017.

Contrary to the notion, the Indian Player Draft 2017 has suddenly assumed importance as many top Indian international players are now available this ‘Super Sunday’. Thanks to Delhi Dynamos opting not to retain any domestic players, while FC Pune City letting go of experienced boys for young keeper Vishal Kaith – the ISL Player Draft has opened up with interesting names.

Also Read: Beneath the glitz and glamour of the ISL, players descend from riches to rags

The ISL mandate of maximum two player retention also ensured all clubs especially the new entrant Jamshedpur FC gets a level playing field.

Best National & Promising Talents

Not surprisingly, the addition of experienced national players like Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Anas Edathodika, Thoi Singh, Rino Anto, Jackichand Singh, Pritam Kotal, Robin Singh, Subrata Pal, Mehtab Hussain and many more are the key attractions of the Player Draft.

The sequence of the Draft 

On the other hand, the Player Draft also offers a wide variety of young promising talents like Lallianzuala Chhangte, Mawhmingthanga (Jerry), Rohit Kumar, Mohammad Yasir, Lalthakima, Sukhadev Patil, Farukh Haji Kasam Choudhary, Subhasish Bose, Germanpreet Singh, Lalrempuia Fanai.

Unknown Talents

The Indian Player Draft also highlights names of relatively unknown budding footballers Umesh Perambra, Akshay Joshy and Ajith Sivan who caught the eyes of AIFF scouts during the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports school & college football championship.

Demand for Indian Keepers

It is expected that the goalkeepers would be the preferred picks in the early rounds as four clubs – Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters FC, Delhi Dynamos and Jamshedpur FC would like to fill this position which has assumed importance for the Indian goalkeepers due to the league’s new rule of increasing Indian players in the starting XI to six. With less international players on the field, clubs have changed their strategy to focus more on having an Indian keeper. Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United, Chennaiyin FC, FC Pune City, Atletico de Kolkata and FC Goa have taken the opportunity of the retention rules to secure their goalkeepers first.

Also Read: 10 most and least expensive players In ISL 2017 Draft

Experienced Arindam Bhattacharya, Subrata Paul and Albino Gomes lead the list of 30 goalkeepers in the Player Draft. Each club is mandated to have 3 goalkeepers in the squad.

Club Strategy Prediction

A close look at eight of the ten clubs who have made the best use of the retention window early this month offers a sneak peek to their formation approach and what they could possibly be looking at in the Draft for Indian players.

Atletico de Kolkata

The two-time champions have retained Debjit Majumdar (goalkeeper) and Prabir Das (full-back) and will enter the Draft in the third round. They have a minimum 13 players to pick including two U21s. ATK has a new Technical Director in Ashley Westwood and a new Head Coach Teddy Sheringham. Westwood having coached Bengaluru FC and worked with the best of Indian players earlier, understands Indian football, players and conditions and is likely to be leading the charge on Sunday.

Also Read: Teddy Sheringham and Ashley Westwood unveiled by Atletico De Kolkata

The Englishman likes to have a packed defence and hence would probably keep foreign players in central defence and would also look at a foreign holding midfielder. At the Draft, the former tactician will look at Indian players for wingers and central midfield positions. It won’t be surprising to see if he goes for the former Bengaluru FC players.

Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters have missed out on being ISL champions twice – both times against ATK. 2016 was their best display by the club under Steve Coppell. However, the club this time will be coached by Rene Meulensteen. They have retained CK Vineeth as the striker and Sandesh Jhingan in central defence.

With a new coach and not having signed any international players yet, it’s difficult to predict what strategy the club will go with on Sunday. But they could be out in the market to sign the best of Indian players available starting Round 3 and look for foreign players later according to the positions left in the formation.

Bengaluru FC

Though this is their debut year in the ISL, they aren’t new to Indian football, having dominated the landscape for the last three years. Coached by Albert Roca, BFC have gone for the outfield players in retaining the country’s best striker Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh showcasing that they are probably working on a different strategy compared to others. Entering in Round 3, however, one would assume they will look at securing one of the top three goalkeepers first.

Also Read: Bengaluru FC retain Nishu, Zuala for ISL; Daniel for AFC Cup

BFC have already signed foreign players for central defence positions – they will be looking at a full-back and wingers at the draft.

FC Goa

The 2015 finalists have a new coach in Sergio Rodriguez. FC Goa have retained Laxmikanth Katimani (keeper) and Mandar Rao Desai (left winger) and have already registered three foreign players for central positions. The Goan side will now look at completing the wide positions ie full-back and wingers through the Indian players’ draft. They are looking at creative young players and it won’t be surprising if the club think-tank stays away from big spending in the draft.

FC Pune City

The club is looking at a complete overhaul. Continuing with their coach Antonio Habas for the second season, FC Pune City surprised the football fans when they retained only a young keeper in Vishal Kaith as against some of the national players in their rank. Habas believes in defensive Indian players and foreigners upfront. At the Draft, Habas is likely to go for full-backs and defensive midfielders, while keeping the creative positions ie wingers and striker for international players. Pune will enter in Round 2 of the Draft.

Also Read: Exclusive: Retained list for ISL clubs revealed!

Chennaiyin FC

The 2015 champions have done well by retaining their main striker Jeje Lalpekhlua and goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh. Chennaiyin FC will probably look at having international players in central positions and Indians out wide. They will be keen to have Indians as full-backs and wingers.

Chennaiyin will enter in Round 4 of the draft – having retained a capped U-21 player in Jerry Lalrinzuala. It will be interesting to see how the club transitions from Marco Materazzi to John Gregory.

Delhi Dynamos FC

It’s a new beginning for Delhi. From the change in ownership to changing the entire squad, for Delhi ISL season 4 is no less than the first year of the league. They are the only club along with Jamshedpur FC to feature from Round 1 of the Draft and are expected to go all out for the best Indian talents. It will be surprising if they don’t sign up a goalkeeper as their first pick.

Also Read: Miguel Angel Portugal set to play possession football at Delhi Dynamos

Jamshedpur FC

New in the ISL but not new to Indian football, the Tata Steel owned club probably has the best knowledge of Indian player talents considering their legacy of nurturing and producing players for decades. Coached by an experienced Steve Coppell, Jamshedpur FC have the opportunity to pick first in the first two rounds, and are likely to go for a central defender and a goalkeeper immediately. Coppell might also bring in his tried and tested international players who were part of Kerala Blasters previous season. This club is one to watch out for.

NorthEast United FC

Northeast United’s flavour has always been the local talent from the region. However, considering Northeast players not being very tall, the club has always rallied on big and strong skilful players from the international market to fill in centre pitch. At the draft, NorthEast will look at Indians out wide. NorthEast having retained a goalkeeper and a central midfielder, will enter in Round 3.

Also Read: NorthEast United Launch Centre of Excellence

Mumbai City FC

Mumbai are the second club other than Pune to have retained their coach. Mumbai are likely to continue with international players in the attacking zone upfront. At the Draft, the club from the ‘maximum’ city will try to notch Indians at full-back, defensive midfield and centre-back. Mumbai will enter the draft in round 3.