Armchair Scouting: Who Is Gregory Nelson?

Gregory Nelson is the first unknown (relatively speaking) I’ll be scouting on this blog from my armchair. It is a comfortable armchair. In fact, it is so comfortable that I get super scouting powers from it. That is why the all the great scouts of the world need to see players in real life while I can scout them in my undy fundies.

I assure you I’m a very humble man in my personal life. In this blog, I’m atrociously flagrant. That’s the internet these days though. “I’m flagrant, atrociously flagrant. I have the licence to be ridiculous.” The internet said so.

Back to the subject of one Mr Nelson. He was a great freedom fighter in South Africa. Oops, wrong Nelson. Gregory Nelson is the subject of my attention today. Here’s my (armchair) scout report. Continue reading

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The Gaurs vs. Super Machans Preview

How Low the Mighty Have Fallen

The two worst teams in the league will face off against each other as the Super Machans travel to The Gaurs’ home ground, Fatorda, Goa. Both Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa have effectively been pushed out of contention for the four playoff spots by their recent results.

Their respective third Indian Super League has been in direct contrast to how they performed in the previous season. The Super Machans and The Gaurs actually played the final last year, which was won by Chennaiyin FC. This time out, however, neither team has managed to replicate their form from the last season.

The Gaurs’ Form & Strategy

rafael-coelho-fc-goaFC Goa, especially, has been woeful and their statistics paint the clearest picture of how poor they’ve been. They’ve conceded the most goals as well as scored the least number of goals in the league till now. Naturally, this has given them the worst goal difference in the league too.

However, what will be even more disconcerting for Zico and The Gaurs is that they now have the ignominious record of being the team that has lost the most in a season in the history of Indian Super League. In a nutshell, The Gaurs’ morale is shot and they have nothing to play for, except pride.

In the third season of the Indian Super League, The Gaurs don’t even have the proverbial silver lining to their thunderous cloud. Two FC Goa players that stand out of the group are Rafael Coelho Luiz and Laxmikanth Kattimani. The striker because of his hardworking nature and the goalkeeper because he has the second most saves in the entire league.

You still have to commend Zico’s persistence because the Brazilian manager is still tinkering with his side, in an effort to find the right combination. You can view this as desperation to fix things or as the reason for all their failings. At the end of it all, though, FC Goa has nothing to look forward to in their last game against the Super Machans.

The Super Machans Form & Strategy

raphael augusto, super machansSuper Machans, themselves, are only slightly better off than The Gaurs. They’re better off because they find themselves out of contention for playoffs by the courtesy of a number of late goals. In fact, till the last game, they were in with a good shout for the fourth spot.

Unfortunately, they conceded a goal in the 95th minute and ended up drawing the game against NorthEast United FC. That draw meant that the Super Machans have now only won 1 game in 9 games! To be fair to them, that run includes five draws which means that they’ve only lost 3 times in 9 games.

Defence has been a problem for the Super Machans in this season. They’ve conceded the second most number of goals in this league and are only behind Goa by one goal.

Mathematically, the Super Machans can still make it to the fourth spot. After all, they’re only off by 3 points. The problem is that they have only one game left to play while their rivals have two and their goal difference is atrocious when compared to their rivals. The Super Machans will have to deliver a historic thumping to The Gaurs to have any chance of making it. This means a 4 to 6 goal win!

With the draw between Atletico De Kolkata and Kerala Blasters FC, there is no way that the Super Machans can make into the semis now. Since it was only a single win or the goal difference that is keeping draw between ATK and KBFC that kept the Super Machans out of the playoff spots, it can be said that they haven’t played that bad this season. Just a bit of luck in a few matches would’ve seen them nearer the fourth spot in the table.

They will look to sign off on this season with a big win simply because Materazzi is a proud and optimistic man. We expect Chennaiyin FC to turn up with an attacking 4-3-3 formation. They will look to feed a lot of balls to their in-form striker Macpherlin Dudu Omagbemi, who scored a hat-trick in the last game.

However, there is no player they will rely more on than Raphael Augusto. Augusto is the leading passer and has the second-most tackles in the league. Moreover, he is the main creative force for the Super Machans with team-leading 4 assists to his name. In defence, they have Karanjit Singh, the man with most clean sheets in the league.

Bad or Worse?

This game will find The Gaurs incredibly demoralised. In contrast, Materazzi will have his players revved up. Furthermore, nothing is going right for FC Goa this season. This lethal combination will see Zico’s team being on the end of a mauling.

For us, this is a certified win for the Super Machans. We expect them to beat their last season’s fellow finalists by 3 – 1. We also think that Dudu will be on the score sheet and that Augusto will dominate the midfield yet again.

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Chennaiyin FC vs. Mumbai City FC Preview

The Battle for the Top Spot Commences

Mumbai City FC travel south to face Chennaiyin FC at their home, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in what is going to be the battle for the top spot in the league. Both, Chennaiyin and MCFC can take the top spot with a win in this game with the former relying on Goal Difference and the latter on an extra game.

Chennaiyin FC’s Form & Strategy

raphael-augusto-chennaiyin-fcThe reigning champions, Chennaiyin FC, will be coming into this game on a good run of form, which may be slipping. They’ve won 2 of their last 4 games but have only drawn the latest 2. This means that the Super Machans are on a 4-game unbeaten spree, even though they’ve only taken 2 points from their last two games.

Typically, Chennaiyin is a very midfield focused team. Marco Materazzi, their manager, relies heavily on his midfield to perform to churn out results. This is reflected by the fact that their leading goal scorer is the central midfielder, Hans Mulder, with 2 goals. Furthermore, the other central midfielder Raphael Augusto is not only their leading passer but also tackler.

Unfortunately, the Super Machans may be without Mulder since he got injured in the last game. Instead, they will be relying on their combativeness and pure desire to beat Mumbai City FC. Chennaiyin FC players are generally confrontational and don’t back off from a duel. This is clearly a quality that they draw on directly from their manager Materazzi who is known for inciting the infamous head-butt from Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup Final.

Despite the combative nature of the Chennaiyin players, they still allow opposition players to play their attacking game. Chennaiyin keepers collectively have the most saves in the league, which means that their defence lets them down consistently. In spite of this, though, their goalkeeper Karanjit Singh leads the league with three clean sheets. With respect to the playing style, Chennaiyin like their long balls with a special focus on diagonals which brings in their wide forwards into the game. You can expect the same style of play against Mumbai City FC.

Mumbai City FC’s Form & Strategy

pronay-halder-mumbai-city-fcIt will be interesting to see how Mumbai City FC players cope with the inherent combativeness of Chennaiyin players mainly because MCFC players are prone to picking up cards. In fact, MCFC is a very card friendly team. Two MCFC players, Pronay Halder and Sehnaj Singh, lead the league on the table of shame with 4 yellow cards each. Needless to say, this tendency will be something that Alexandre Guimares, MCFC manager, will have to consciously root out for this game.

While midfielders like Halder and Singh were losing their way, another MCFC midfield Lucian Goian was keeping things together. His game is the foundation that MCFC launch their attacks out of because he wins the ball back and serves it through a simple pass to more creative players.

Mumbai City FC is actually a good attacking team too. While many of the recent results haven’t gone in favour of MCFC, that is only because they’ve been unlucky. MCFC has played most of their games on the front foot but has failed to convert the chances they’ve created. Most notably, they attack as a team and have a good passing game.

This is proven by the fact that goals and assists are shared equally amongst the MCFC players. Even so, the most key combination for MCFC will be Matias Defederico and Diego Forlan. Whenever the two play together, MCFC looks almost irresistible.

How Will The Scales Weigh?

As a matter of fact, if Defederico and Forlan start this game, then in our eyes, an MCFC win is certain. Even if they don’t start together, we believe that their passing game will prove to be too much for Chennaiyin FC. We predict a score line of 2 – 1 in favour of MCFC with Defederico either scoring or assisting.

You can also expect a few yellow cards in this game owing to the fact that MCFC players are generally prone to being warned and Chennaiyin players rarely ever back off from a fight.

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Kerala Blasters FC vs. Chennaiyin FC Review

Kerala Blasters FC vs. Chennaiyin FC

A Topsy-Turvy Game between KBFC and CFC

So, five games without a win and four straight losses, Kerala Blasters FC are proving all my predictions true. What’s more is that they’ve actually ditched their manager, Peter Taylor. I didn’t go as far as suggesting that Taylor will be sacked in the article linked above but I have to say that I’m not that surprised. Oh and by the way, I don’t care what Kerala Blasters FC’s release says about “mutual agreement”, Peter Taylor was sacked!

At the same time, I don’t think his removal will make any big difference in Kerala Blasters FC’s future performances. They will continue to suck and suck royally like they’ve been doing. Why? Simply because their squad isn’t strong enough or balanced enough. Squad building was to be done before the Indian Super League 2015 season began. It’s too late now.

Chennaiyin FC aren’t in the best form either. They’ve only won 3 of their last 6 games which shows that they can be quite inconsistent. Kerala Blasters FC would be looking to leverage that in some way.

Team News for Kerala Blasters FC and Chennaiyin FC

Kerala Blasters FC - Sanchez WattEven though I’ve rung the bell of doom for Kerala Blasters FC, the team news makes me feel very positive. Trevor Morgan, the interim caretaker manager, chose to deploy Sanchez Watt and Chris Dagnall both.

In addition to these two strikers, Morgan even put in the high flying Mohammed Rafi as the third striker. These are moves that I fully support.

The three man strike force of Kerala Blasters FC showed intent and a hint of Kerala Blasters FC’s strategy which I believed would be counterattacking football.

Essentially, Kerala Blasters FC made 3 changes in their first team with the entry of Watt, Saumik, and Bruno Perone for Josu Currias, Marcus Williams, and Shankar Sampingiraj.

More than the change in personnel, their change in strategy was interesting to watch. Chennaiyin FC, like Kerala Blasters FC, made 3 changes to their first team. They brought in Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sena Ralte, and Alessandro Potenza for Dhanachandra Singh, Bernard Mendy, and Jayesh Rane. Chennaiyin FC would continue to rely on the league’s best front strike pairing of Elano and Stiven Mendoza.

The defining element of this match will be how well Kerala Blasters FC’s midfield performs against Chennaiyin’s midfield. The midfield battles will determine how effective Elano and Mendoza are going to be so I expected Kerala Blasters to really try to get between the Chennaiyin midfielders. At the same time, team selection showed that Kerala Blasters FC will sit back and try to counter with pace. I was curious to see if that worked out for them.

End To End Stuff In the First Half Followed By a Steady Period

Chennaiyin FC - Mehrajuddin WadooThe first half began in a very dynamic manner. Both teams looked fired up and determined to attack. It was end to end stuff. Every time one team would attack, they would camp in the opposition half for a good one minute before the other team would get the ball back and return the favour. It bode well for the entertainment value of the match.

The first real chance fell to Kerala Blasters FC when Dagnall broke through the offside trap with a scoop finding him from the midfield. He crossed the ball to Watt but his shot was blocked crucially by Mehrajuddin Wadoo.

By the 15th minute, the early first half intensity had dropped a little with both teams settling down into a steady rhythm. It was dull for the next 15 minutes with both teams working hard.

The second great chance of the first half also fell to Kerala Blasters FC. From the outside of his boot, Joao Coimbra dropped a long ball in the middle, behind the two Chennaiyin central defenders. Dagnall had run that channel, he collected the ball but couldn’t finish as Karanjit Singh smothered the ball.

Chennaiyin FC Take the Lead

Chennaiyin FC - ElanoDespite the fact that Kerala Blasters FC had the better chances of the first half, it would be Chennaiyin FC who would take the lead.

They would do so through a soft penalty given away by Sandesh Jhingan.

The ball was tossed in from the right flank, Mendoza backed into Jhingan whose clumsiness caused him and Mendoza both to fall over. It was very weak, cheap, and soft. Elano stepped up to take the penalty and stroked the ball in with sheer nonchalance. Kerala Blasters FC 0 – 1 Chennaiyin FC

Another Chance for Kerala Blasters FC Goes Begging

Kerala Blasters FC - Chris DagnallIn the 37th minute, Chennaiyin FC’s Mendoza fashioned a wonderful chance for himself. His shot on the turn, however, was parried by the Kerala Blasters FC’s keeper, Stephen Bywater.

Soon after, an injury to Coimbra saw him being replaced by Josu.

KBFC would get another chance in the last minute of the half. Rafi broke the offside trap to receive a scooped ball on his head. Rafi got to the ball first even though the Chennaiyin keeper was rushing in. Unfortunately, he couldn’t guide the header into the gaping goal.

KBFC Strike Back Within 15 Seconds into the 2nd Half

Kerala Blasters FC - Saumik DeyWithin 15 seconds of the second half, Kerala Blasters FC were level. The goal was founded on a peach of a cross from the KBFC left flank. The cross was orgasmic.

The ball came in fast, curling and perfectly placed from Saumik Dey (what a selection by Morgan!). In the box, Chris Dagnall was darting in between the two Chennaiyin defenders. He dived in to finish the move. Kerala Blasters FC 1 – 1 Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC almost struck back instead of reeling from the goal. The ball was laid off to Mendoza on the edge of the KBFC box. His snapshot from the outside of his right boot just curved wide.

Kerala Blasters Miss a Penalty But Dominate Nonetheless

Chennaiyin FC - Karanjit SinghIn the 50th minute, the game would almost turn on its head as Kerala Blasters FC won a penalty virtually as soft as the one that Chennaiyin FC had one.

The penalty was won by Peter Ramage who fell to the ground because of soft contact from Mailson Alves.

The penalty was taken and wasted by Josu as Karanjit Singh saved the shot.

Kerala Blasters FC would get another chance a few minutes later. The chance came from a freekick delivery from the KBFC right flank. Peter Ramage almost got to the ball. Even when he didn’t the ball could’ve gone in if Singh hadn’t deflected it away.

Chennaiyin FC under the Cosh

Kerala Blasters FC - Josu CurriasIn the 61st minute, KBFC got another chance from another freekick from Josu.

The freekick was perfect and fell to Dagnall who stooped to guide it. The header was aimed well but Karanjit Singh was equal to it.

The parried header then fell to Jhingan who couldn’t direct it goalwards.

Chennaiyin FC were definitely under the cosh at this moment. In fact, they were having trouble getting out of their half. What’s more is that they were losing their composure by committing fouls and earning yellow cards.

Chennaiyin FC would create one great chance though. It was a shot from outside the box that had Bywater fully stretched in what was an acrobatic save.

Kerala Blasters FC Get a Player Sent Off

Kerala Blasters FC - Bruno PeroneKerala Blasters FC then lost the plot for some reason. The red card was awarded to Bruno Perone for a foul on Mendoza. The foul was more than deserved as Perone kicked out at Mendoza’s and connected his face with his heel.

It was a strange one as the kick was totally uncalled for. So much potential of the second half, wasted by Kerala Blasters Fc in a single act of madness.

Immediately after, Kerala Blasters decided to shut up shop and sit back. On the other hand, Chennaiyin FC didn’t show any significant ambition either. Draw was a good result for KBFC so it made sense for them. Chennaiyin FC should’ve done more.

Tactical Analysis: First Impressions + Projections

This was a strange game. I have no qualms about saying that. So, analysing this game tactically would be a difficult task.

The highlight for me in this game was the daring strategic change from Trevor Morgan. It would’ve been safe for him to just continue for Taylor had been doing but he took charge and stamped his managerial authority on the game by starting hir three main strikers simultaneously.

I liked how he deployed Watt. Watt was, essentially, Morgan’s playmaker with his quick change of directions, hold up play, close control, and creative passing. Dagnall and Rafi acted as target men in different moulds. While Dagnall was the channel runner, Rafi was the target man.

On the defensive side of things, I also liked how Kerala Blasters FC managed to block the connection of Elano and Mendoza. It was a simple enough strategy that involved man marking them both in a rotational manner. Their strategy could end up being the blueprint for other teams if they choose to pay attention.

The second half was particularly interesting because Kerala Blasters FC seemed to have decided to use their height advantage over Chennaiyin FC. It worked too as they scored the equaliser. However, one stupid panicked action from Perone destroyed their strategy.

As soon as Perone went off, you could see Kerala Blasters FC deciding to settle for the draw.

Chennaiyin FC did what they always do. Although they could’ve tried to counter Kerala’s counter of the Elano – Mendoza connection better. More importantly, once Kerala Blasters FC went down one man, Chennaiyin FC should’ve pushed for the winner. Instead, they decided to settle for the draw as well.

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