Indian Super League 2015 Preview I: ATK, CFC, FC Goa, and KBFC

Indian Super League 2015 PreviewI am an amateur student of geopolitics and international relations. In one of my indulgent moments, I read somewhere recently that all economies are cyclical. What this means is that, regardless of which economic system is in place, over a period of years, it will need to be evolved to face the changing dynamics of the world.

The perfect example of this is China, a country that was being touted as the heir apparent for the US but is now in dire economic straits. In fact, the fallout of its economic troubles is now troubling our own currency and economy. When I read about the cyclical nature of economies, I immediately connected it to my other passion – football.

A football team is no different from national economies. They need to evolve and change every season. Consider Manchester United. The whole period of David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, and Louis Van Gaal can be seen as an example of how the Red Devils were trying to cope with the shifting sands created by the fault line that was the absence of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Now, consider Arsenal, a team that has managed to shift and change solely because of the continuity of Arsene Wenger at the helm. Still, after the heights of The Invincibles, even Wenger with his inherent ingenious hasn’t managed to win the league or the Champion’s League.

The point I’m trying to make here is that in the upcoming Indian Super League 2015 season, we’ll see what it truly means to have a good backroom staff. This is where the Chairmen, the Managing Directors, the Operating Officers, the Negotiators, and other such “management” players will come into play.

Just because Atletico De Kolkata, Kerala Blasters FC, Chennaiyin FC, and FC Goa were the four big guns last year doesn’t mean that they will be the same this year. So, now you see where my preview is actually heading. It’s going to focus on what Indian Super League 2015 teams have done to prepare for ISL2.

Atletico De Kolkata Makes an Effort at Evolution

Atletico De kolkata 2015The standout performer in the pre-season according to me is Atletico De Kolkata. I castigated them last season for their pragmatism.

My personal preferences just wouldn’t allow me to appreciate ATK’s overly physical attitude against their opponents. For me, they were more like Stoke City FC than the Real Madrid FC of India.

However, my hunch is now telling me that Atletico De Kolkata is planning to become a more rounded team.

In defence of my opinion, I point to you the signing of Iain Hume and Helder Postiga in combination with the removal of Fikru Teferra.

Fikru was ATK’s primary striker last time out. His playing style was that of a hurly burly target man who used physical strength over and above any skill that he had. Hume and Postiga are different from Fikru. Postiga is a more rounded striker even though he hasn’t had great success with big teams in Europe. He can hold up play and make some runs.

None of us are strangers to Hume’s swashbuckling style of play. Hume’s a darter who plays in holes in the opponents’ formations while simultaneously looking to break the offside trap. Hume and Postiga are both better finishers than Fikru as well.

This last difference also makes me think that Atletico De Kolkata have plans to become a slightly more possession based team than earlier. They are looking for finishers who can contribute to the overall style of play, unlike Fikru.

Chennaiyin FC to Be the New Atletico De Kolkata?

Chennaiyin FC 2015 ElanoWhile I think Atletico De Kolkata is becoming more possession focused, I think Chennaiyin FC is going the other way. Chennaiyin FC was always a type of counterattacking team which focused a lot of defence.

They relied heavily on Elano for possession, the outlet pass, and the freekicks. Part of their strategy was to defend well, counter by giving ball to Elano, and letting him give through balls or dribble it.

Invariably, this either led to a shooting chance or a freekick. This is virtually same thing for any team that has a talent like Elano in its midst.

I don’t think Chennaiyin FC has done enough to evolve from its last year’s avatar. They seem to be set up in the same way since they’ve focused on defence again. Moreover, they have chosen to continue to rely on Elano and his skills. The only other significant variables in their team are Bruno Pelissari and Stiven Mendoza both of whom have a lot of talent.

The worse part, however, is that they’ve chosen to make their team more physical with the signings of Fikru Teferra and Thoi Singh. Fikru I’ve already written about and Thoi Singh is a ball winning Indian midfielder. Both are physical players. So, you see why I don’t think Chennaiyin FC will be very much different from last time out except for being more aggressive and physical.

FC Goa Will Continue To Be Entertainers

FC Goa 2015FC Goa is another team that has chosen to not change its style of play except making it more flamboyant and possible effective. It’s no secret that I like the Goans most from the 8 teams in the Indian Super League 2015 and that includes Delhi Dynamos FC. And, it’s no secret that I like FC Goa for their style of play more than anything else.

My gut says that I’ll like them even more this time out. They’ve built upon their style of play from last time by signing some very effective strikers in the form of Reinaldo, Daryll Duffy, and Victor Simoes. I think Simoes will be the backup to Reinaldo and Duffy with Zico maybe preferring the former over the latter as his primary striker.

Along with these three very interesting and mobile strikers, Zico has signed up Lucio as FC Goa’s Marquee players. This, according to me, is an astute signing because a leader at the back is exactly what the Goans lacked last time out. Lucio will marshal FC Goa’s back line and make sure that the defence doesn’t stray too much.

Consider that FC Goa’s other defenders are quite good in the form of the consistent Debabrata Roy, the tenacious Gregory Arnolin, and the super talented Narayan Das. With Lucio’s experience and leadership to mould these three into a well-knit defence, I expect good things from FC Goa.

Zico FC GoaI see two problems for FC Goa. The first is the absence of a certified playmaker in the midfield department. While I expect Romeo and Mandar Rao Desai to kick on from last season along with the new signing of Jofre, I expect the absences of Andre Santos and Robert Pires to tell over the second stint of the Indian Super League 2015.

Unless Romeo and Desai have a breakout season or Zico manages to mould the team’s midfield into an effective enough attacking system (which he is very much capable of doing), I think they may have trouble creating good chances.

From the friendlies, I can tell that the system is taking root in this team.

The other problem for FC Goa will be Zico himself. Zico has thrown in his hat as a presidential candidate for FIFA. He has the backing of his federation but is still a long way away because the other federations haven’t hopped onto his bandwagon.

It takes considerable effort to get federations to back someone outside their region so Zico has his work cut-out for him. This “work” can easily become the bane of FC Goa with Zico’s attentions being divided. Let’s see how much of a multi-tasker Zico can be.

Kerala Blasters FC Are the Mystery

Chris Dagnall Kerala Blasters FCThey really are. I have no idea what’s going on inside the management of the team from the south.

I can’t fathom a whit of sense in what Peter Taylor has done since he arrived. So, forgive me fans of KBFC but I predict only doom and gloom for your team in yellow.

From what I can see, your wonderful manager now has 9 defenders in his team! That’s two for each position and one surplus if I haven’t failed to count one or two more.

Is he planning to appear in the European Champion’s League to have so many defenders? And, I haven’t even mentioned the fact that there isn’t a midfielder who can light up the Indian Super League 2015 in Kerala’s team.

The only saving grace I see, and trust me I am rooting in the cellars of my positivity to come up with this, is Chris Dagnall and Sanchez Watt. Between the two Chris Dagnall can be a real threat but who will provide him the service he needs? You can’t expect a player who last played for Leyton Orient to carry the team on his back.

And, what about Sanchez Watt? Granted he is a product of Arsenal Youth Academy but that doesn’t mean jack if all he’s done is played for some League One clubs in England. He hasn’t even played for a Championship side.

I’m sorry but I take back what I said. This isn’t even any kind of saving grace. Unless some people walk on water, carry mountains on their little pinkies, build bridges out of floating rocks, or turn into gazelles, I don’t see any hope for KBFC.

Tomorrow or the day after, I’ll review the rest of the 4 teams in Indian Super League 2015. Keep a lookout Mumbai FC, Delhi Dynamos, FC Pune City, and Northeast United FC fans.

David Platt May Fall Flat!

One of the rarely heard from clubs, FC Pune City recently announced that they have taken on the services of David Platt as their manager. This is an interesting one. As much as I want to be excited about a former Arsenal player (I am a longstanding fan, in case you weren’t aware of it), I just can’t bring myself to it.

David Platt Had a Decent Playing Career

David Platt

David Platt – The Player.
Credit: Arsenal Football Club.

David Platt actually had a very decent playing career. I actually remember hearing about him in his last season with Arsenal.

I was very much a football greenie then since it was my first year as a football fan. You see, I started watching and supporting the beautiful game in 1998 because of the World Cup.

Don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those things that happened and ended up sticking. I have since spent half my lifetime watching, playing, or just reading football.

Once I got on to Arsenal, my obsession led me to watching everything even if it was a replay and I watched quite a few.

So, I began hearing of David Platt in reference to his twilight years only.

Since then my obsession has caused me to try and find as much as I can about Arsenal’s history and since David Platt featured for my team for four years just before I started following them, I had to look him up.

Writing this one has caused me to learn even more about the man who Manchester City fans call ‘Mr. Potato Head’. No, I’m not kidding. Looking at his picture, you can see the logic in it. What you can’t see is the reason why City fans hate him so. That’ll come later.

Back to Platt’s playing career. David Platt began as a Manchester United youth player. So, all you plastic glory hunters can feel good about a former Manchester United player managing FC Pune City because you’re the only ones who would.

The real Manchester United fans will know that David Platt never turned out for the Red Devils. In fact, he barely lasted one year before he was let go. Once released David Platt joined Crewe Alexandra where he made a name for himself.

This caused him to be roped in by Aston Villa (the team Arsenal just beat black and blue, woot!). He did well again at Villa before going Italy and playing for Bari, Juventus, and Sampdoria in that order.

It was at this point that Bruce Rioch brought him to Arsenal. Platt played for Arsenal for four years from 1995 through to 1998 when he finished his career under Arsene Wenger.

In total, David Platt played 448 games and scored 151 goals. This is a good return especially if you consider that Platt was a midfielder and not a striker. David Platt was even an England international, playing 62 games in total and scoring 27 goals.

Everything Went Downhill Once David Platt Retired

David Platt Man City

David Platt – The Coach

So if he had such an illustrious playing career, why is it that I can’t bring myself to expect anything out of his stint with FC Pune City? Well, there are solid reasons and most of them are evident in his managerial career. Let me explain.

Right after David Platt left Arsenal, he turned to management. In fact, he was immediately given the chance to manage Sampdoria in Italy – a team that he had played for earlier.

It was such a surprising assignment that I wouldn’t be surprised if David Platt had a special relationship with the senior management of Sampdoria and the decision to make him manager was made at a drinking night out between him and the officials where they made a bet on whether David Platt could get a chick’s number at the bar.

All the senior officials bet against their buddy Platt who managed to surprise everybody by getting the girl’s number because he found out that she liked Arsenal football club. In any case, Platt’s dream date probably lasted longer than his stint as the manager of Sampdoria.

Amidst solid protests from everyone in Serie A against Platt’s appoint because, you know, he didn’t have any serious qualifications, Platt managed to bring Sampdoria to the brink of relegation, and jumped ship before it actually happened. Sampdoria were relegated soon after Platt left.

After ditching Sampdoria, David Platt went straight back in to manage Nottingham Forest in the Championship. He stayed with the famous club for two seasons and did the following:

  • Spent 12 million (that was a lot then for a club in the lower leagues) on players that failed to perform
  • Fought with senior players and caused them to be released by the club
  • Put the club in debt through his spending… err… splurging
  • Leave to manage the England Under 21s. He most probably had dreams of coaching the England national team someday.

Because of the insane debt that David Platt had created and the state he had left Nottingham Forest in, four years later the club went down to the third division. Fans of Nottingham Forest literally hate the man.

David Platt at Sampdoria

David Platt at Sampdoria

David Platt did alright with the England Under 21s but then there isn’t much coaching involved there is it? You just watch club games, pick the players in form, have some scouts study them, and put them on the pitch in the games.

I’ve never rated these international managers. They don’t train players much, they don’t teach them anything, they just come up with a strategy, I mean how difficult is it really?

David Platt took his team to the U-21 European Championships of 2002 but resigned two years later. Incidentally, he was replaced by Peter Taylor, the coach of Kerala Blasters FC. I peg Taylor to do much better than Platt.

After Platt resigned from England Under 21, he became a pundit. That’s right folks, he became a MEDIA PUNDIT! Which manager in his right mind would choose to become a media pundit in the middle of his fricking managerial career? David Platt, of course. Take a bow, good sir.

After about six years of high intensity punditing, David Platt would become the first team coach of Manchester City. And get this, he became their first team coach why? Because, he had played with their manager Roberto Mancini in his playing days.

The fans of Manchester City hated this assignment so much that they actually tried a petition drive to get him ousted. They hated David Platt because he was known to have anti Manchester City opinions while he was doing his high intensity punditing.

Platt left Manchester City when Mancini was removed from his high seat.

My Conclusion on David Platt’s Appointment

David Platt

David Platt – The Manager

Do you see why I don’t expect much out of David Platt? While he was a good football player, judging by his managerial career, he’s one of those who use their past grandeur to make their present better. I mean everyone does that but does everyone end up wrecking the clubs they go to?

Even if you accept that it wasn’t really Platt’s fault that his clubs went into trouble after him, he couldn’t bring them success.

So, I am sorry FC Pune City fans, I don’t see David Platt lighting the league up in any way. His results may be better than Franco Colomba but that will most probably be because you guys will have slightly better players (if).

To be honest, everything you read was my mind talking. My heart wants David Platt to do well. I want an ex-Arsenal player to become a great manager. There’s nothing more that I wish would happen. So, let’s all hope that David Platt doesn’t fall flat…

Sunil Chhetri And Robin Singh Join ISL: Is The Excitement Deserved?

From what I can see, the world of Indian Super League is abuzz with two pieces of news right now. The first is the signing of 84 players between 8 teams (41 retained and 23 acquired) and the other is the potential of seeing the Indian football ‘gods’ – Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh.

Sunil Chhetri & Robin Singh - the Warrior and the Rogue

Sunil Chhetri & Robin Singh – the Warrior and the Rogue

No, I will not be delving into which players have been  retained, which acquired, and how this team or that team is doing so well (you guys have fed enough on that cake and are now decadent Middle Eastern cake princes). However, after seeing fully grown boys and manly men swooning over Chhetri and Singh like they are Kama Sutra Queens, I’ve decided to delve a little deeper into the honeypot.

In case some of you are precognitive and have picked up on my leanings towards honey and bees today, I apologise. I recently had to take out a colony of wasps and my mind is buzzing with their screams of agony. So, bear with me as I exorcise my B’s and C’s by crossing some T’s and E’s.

Note: All bee jokes will bee accompanied by infamous (Buzzzzzinga!) from now on to ensure that you subliminally dream of bees tonight and develop a fondness for them (If all of you dream of Sheldon instead, I will not be held responsible but will be very much amused). The aim is to make you more concerned about how important bees are to the environment while you’re talking to people at socially sanctioned parties. (Issued in public interest by ‘Beelieve in Buzzzzzinga Non-Profit Organisation of Social Change at Parties)

Sunil Chhetri – The Busy-Bee

Let’s get the vital statistics out of the way. No, I won’t bee (Buzzzzzinga!) giving you a low down on Sunil Chhetri’s figure. We don’t want that kind of thing on this blog. Beesides (Buzzzzzinga!), not like the Indian girls watch much of football anyways. When I say vital statistics, I mean things like height and foot preference.

Sunil Chhetri is about 5’ 7’’ and prefers to use his right foot. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that he can’t head much, though. He has stung (Buzzzzzinga!) many teams by leaping above their defenders and scoring some great goals with his antennae.

You see, Sunil Chhetri has a huge leap on him. When in the right position, he can really take off of the ground. He has scored over some 6’ tall defenders as well in his career. So, you can expect Sunil Chhetri to score a few with his head in the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League.

Notably, he doesn’t only have the leap to reach the ball in the air but also good control to put it away. This means that he can often guide the ball from difficult situations into the net with his head. We didn’t see many goals of that kind in the last instalment of the Indian Super League.

This, according to me, was largely beecause (Buzzzzzinga!) defenders had more experience and pedigree than strikers in the last edition. I expect this trend to continue so, while Sunil Chhetri may score some headers, he’s not going to bee all that prolific.

Similar to Sunil Chhetri’s relatively short height being deceptive like the Venus flytrap (bee trap, beat rap, beer tap – take your pick) (Buzzzzzinga!) (Buzzzzzinga!) (Buzzzzzinga!), his preferred foot is also confusing for defenders. While he prefers to use his right foot, when the gameplay demands it, he can use his left to great effect too.

In fact, I will go on to say that his control over his wrong foot is slightly better than how effective most players’ wrong foot is. What all this means is that Sunil Chhetri has the potential to give us all the perfect hat trick i.e. left foot, right foot, and header.

Sunil Chhetri - On your marks

Sunil Chhetri – On your mark

Decent header of the ball and fair control with the wrong foot are just characteristics of Sunil Chhetri. They aren’t really his strength. His greatest strengths are his movement off the ball, his lightning pace, and his composure when on the ball.

Sunil Chhetri is an intelligent striker. He knows how to make the right runs and position himself. He also has the natural instinct of a striker which allows him to bee in the right honeycomb cell (Buzzzzzinga!) at the right time to receive the ball.

You combine these qualities with his lightning pace and you have a deadly combination. While pace, movement, and positioning are a striker’s best friends, they are not so good as to bring in goals. You need to network with finishing for that.

Just ask Jeje Lalpekhlua and Durga Boro what happened last season. They constantly got into promising positions but couldn’t finish the chance. If they’ve not been practicing their finishing this year, then I’m afraid they might bee stagnating and unlike honey in a pot, their talents won’t survive thousands of years.

Fortunately, Sunil Chhetri doesn’t suffer from this mar-malaise (Buzzzzzinga!). Sunil Chhetri has the composure required to finish chances off. Usually, if he gets into a decent position, he does a good job of putting the chance away. This, according to me, is why Sunil Chhetri is exciting all the fans.

Finally, Sunil Chhetri also looks like a good lad along with being a skilled player. He displays good sportsmanship. Consider what he did at 5:20 in the above video. He stole the ball from the United FC defender and scored but before he even celebrated he went and commiserated with the defender.

Interesting info: Sunil Chhetri’s mother played for the Nepal national football team. Talk about genes. The queen bee bred a footballer bee, eh?

Recommendation: I would like to see Sunil Chhetri with either Atletico De Kolkata or Chennaiyin FC. If he was any younger than 30, I would’ve said that he should go to FC Goa because Zico is the best coach in the league when it comes to developing players.

Robin Singh – The Worker Bee

Robeen Singh (I believe that’s how many people in Kolkata will pronounce his name, yes?) is five years younger than Sunil Chhetri at 25 years which means that he may develop a little more.

While Robeen Singh is not at the same level as Fernando Llorente (certainly not at the same level!), his style of play isn’t that different. At 6’ 1’’, he is a strong, burly lad, who brings a lot of physicality onto the pitch. He can bee a great target man for the club that gets him in the end.

One Step for Robin Singh... leap in weight for teammate

One Step for Robin Singh… leap in weight for teammate

While he may be able to hold the ball up fairly well, he hasn’t developed his interplay as much as he should have. There’s still time though in his career. It may even bee that his experience in the Indian Super League will help him progress.

Robeen Singh does have a very good shot on him. He is a player with a powerhouse of a left foot. When he hits a shot it stays hit whether on target or not. His shots can also be deceptive for keepers because he tends to have a quick, short back lift but still generates a lot of power in his shots. (Those of you swooning over this one: that was shots not shorts.)

At the same time, the problem with Robeen Singh is that he doesn’t hit the target all that often. He doesn’t even get into great positions all that often. This is the main reason why Robeen Singh’s strike rate isn’t very good.

He scored 10 goals in 42 for his first club East Bengal and that was in three seasons. In fact, there has been no improvement in his strike rate either because he scored 10 in 39 games for his last club Bengaluru FC. The only difference was that he took one season less to score those.

Interesting info: With Bengaluru FC, Robeen Singh has developed a tendency to get carded. In his first season with Bengaluru FC, Robeen Singh was yellow carded no less than 5 times in 23 appearances. In his last season, that number went up to 6 times in 16 games and he also managed to draw a red card out of the deck.

Recommendation: Because of his age, I want to see Robeen Singh playing under Zico. Failing that, I would like to see him receiving coaching from international level manager because it seems like he has untapped talent.

What’s The Verdict?

There’s a reason why these two players are considered to be two of the best in Indian football. If I was to sum them up I would say that Sunil Chhetri buzzes (Buzzzzzinga!) around defenders with intelligence and finishes chances with composure while Robeen Singh is a beeast (Buzzzzzinga!) of a striker who relies on his strength and power to get the right results.

I believe I have the bees (Buzzzzzinga!) out of my system now. One last conjecture: what would happen if all of us were bees (Buzzzzzinga!)? Well, for one, the environment would be fixed. However, the asthmatics would literally turn into super villains if that were to happen.

Most interestingly, if we were all bees (Buzzzzzinga!), Per Mertesacker wouldn’t know how to defend because his equipment will be blocked off by the stinger (one last time! All together now! Buzzzzzinga!).

I leave you with proof of my conjecture.

How Have the ISL Marquee Players Performed This Season – Part II

The Bottom Dwellers Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC

The first part of this series was all about the two best performing teams in the Indian Super League i.e. the champions Atletico De Kolkata and the runners up Kerala Blasters FC. In the second part, we will focus on the two worst performing teams i.e. Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC.

Despite having a team with three different special stars, Mumbai City FC couldn’t perform in the league and the reason was twofold. First was that the fitness of two of those three stars was in question and the second was that they couldn’t build a team around those stars.

Mumbai City FC is also a prime example of how a team that looks good on paper may not perform so well on the pitch.

The second team covered in this post is Northeast United FC. There final position in the table is far more understandable than that of Mumbai City FC. They didn’t have the kind of funds that the bigwigs of the league enjoyed.

Moreover, their focus was more on building a team than building a team around individual stars. That is a long term task and the results of that can’t be expected in a period of three months.

The players have to train with each other and play with each other so they can get an understanding of how each of them makes runs, positions himself, passes, or crosses.

As is natural, the performances of the ISL marquee players of these teams are similar to the performances of their teams or vice versa. Consider.

Mumbai City FC’s Fredrik Ljungberg

Fredrik Ljungberg, Mumbai City FC

Fredrik Ljungberg, Mumbai City FC

I doubt there was any ISL marquee player who deserved the moniker more than Fredrik Ljungberg or who let the fans down as much.

The ex-Invincible was very poor simply because he was injured for most of the time. In fact, Ljungberg only made 4 appearances in the league.

That doesn’t even amount to 4 games as that would mean playing 360 minutes. Ljungberg only played 169 minutes. In terms of minutes, that’s less than 2 games.

How is a man supposed to make a difference in less than 3 hours? Even dates ask more time than that to evaluate whether a man is worth it or not. Heck the Indian bureaucracy takes that much time to have their lunch!

So, I’m not even going to bother giving you the shrivelled fruits of my research into Ljungberg’s statistics. Whatever little difference the man made to his team, he made it through his reputation and not his footballing skills.

Expected Rating**: 8.5 / 10

Final Rating: 3 / 10

It’s no secret that I’m an Arsenal fan. Any Arsenal fan would have huge expectations from Ljungberg. I have to be honest at the same time though. Ljungberg is another one of those players who relied a lot on their pace. Ljungberg is also a special case because he was at his best when he had other players who could contribute with subtle interplays. Since he left Arsenal, he hasn’t had that kind of teammates which is why his performance has dropped. So, my expectations were mainly due to my memories of him.

Mumbai City FC’s Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka, Mumbai City FC

Nicolas Anelka, Mumbai City FC

Nicolas Anelka is another ex-Arsenal ISL marquee player who arrived in India amidst a lot of fanfare. He possibly has what could be the worst case of wanderlust in the world and it was no surprise to me when it was announced that Anelka will be coming to India.

Just to put his wanderlust into perspective, in a career spanning 18 years, Anelka has changed clubs a whopping 13 times! What’s even more interesting is that he is yet to call time on his career.

Anelka’s stint with Mumbai City FC was similar to a lot of his other stints with mediocre clubs especially in his twilight years. Before he came to Mumbai, Anelka was playing for West Bromwich Albion.

He played 12 games for them in a season and managed to score 2 goals, which is exactly how many he scored for Mumbai City FC in 7 games. While this may not make it seem like Anelka stood out in the league, he did in one manner.

Anelka’s Shots on Target percentage is the best in the league if you only consider players with more than 10 shots. His percentage is 84.6 and the closest anyone else has come is Ranti Martins of FC Goa who had 81.8. Both played the same number of games, so it’s a level playing field.

While Anelka’s shot percentage may be very good, he didn’t look that effective to me. After seeing his numbers and recalling the way he was playing, I believe I now know why.

Anelka’s biggest problem at Mumbai City FC was lack of supply. His teammates couldn’t supply him with the chances that he needed to score goals. The result was that he shuffled to the flanks and dropped into midfield.

I personally noted that he either came to defensive midfield position or went to the flanks. While I don’t have the passing numbers, I did see that he crossed a lot. Anelka’s crosses were particularly high. In fact, he and Iain Hume were the only two strikers in top 20 for crosses in the league.

Anelka has always been a pacey finisher. He has always needed someone to supply him with opportunities to finish to be effective in a game of football. He didn’t get it at Mumbai City FC, which is why he didn’t light up the league.

Expected Rating**: 8.5 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

Anelka is a big name and my expectations were based on that. Moreover, when I saw him last he still looked relatively fit to me. The management of Mumbai probably thought that he would combine well with Ljungberg which didn’t really work out because of Ljungberg’s absence.

Mumbai City FC’s Manuel Friedrich

Manuel Friedrich, Mumbai City FC

Manuel Friedrich, Mumbai City FC

Manuel Friedrich is a part of this list of ISL marquee players mainly because he has played for teams like Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, and the German national team. Each of those teams has been at the forefront of German football at one time or another in the last decade or so and if a player has turned out for them then he has to be good.

While it’s true that Friedrich has never been treated like a star, he does have consistency on his side. Statistically, Friedrich is another individual who doesn’t set the world alight. What he does, he does well, and he does it quietly.

He was a central defender for Mumbai City FC and did a very good job at the heart of it all. You might contradict with the fact that his team ended up conceding the most number of goals in the league at 21 but you would be forgetting that defence is a team’s assignment and not just one defender.

Friedrich has a penchant for scoring crucial goals when all hope is lost. He did it for Bayer, he did it for Dortmund, he did it for Mainz, and he did it for Mumbai. His goal came in the 75th minute against Atletico De Kolkata when Mumbai City FC needed to win to stay in contention.

While they didn’t make it in the end because they had left themselves too much to do, Friedrich did shine in that game against the team that would go on to become champions.

Expected Rating**: 5 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t know Friedrich before the ISL much. I had heard of him, of course, but that isn’t enough. This is why I’ve put my expected rating to a neutral of 5.

Northeast United FC’s Joan Capdevila

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Joan Capdevila is one of the true blue idols who come from humble beginnings but end up becoming stars. He started out in the 3rd division in Spain with his home town team called Tarrega.

He went on to represent Espanyol, Atletico De Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna, Villareal, Benfica (Portugal), and the Spain national team in the next 18 years. Such was the popularity of Capdevila in his home town that they named the stadium after him.

Capdevila is a popular figure in Spain. He made his name during his stint with Deportivo La Coruna. That is also where I first saw him. I still remember him bombing down the left flank to the worrying beats of the defenders’ hearts.

While Capdevila isn’t as physically fit now as he was in his prime, he was still stable and steady on the left side of Northeast United FC’s central defensive trio or duo depending on which way Ricki Herbert chose to deploy his team.

The fitness of Capdevila was a matter of concern as is the case with players of his age but he still managed to string together 12 appearances for the Highlanders. Essentially, while Capdevila didn’t stand out, he wasn’t fish out of water either. He was never a player with a lot of creativity but he did what he did consistently which is how he played for Northeast United. His stint in the ISL must be viewed in that light.

Expected Rating**: 7 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

I knew Capdevila from having watched him in the La Liga and Spain national team earlier so I wasn’t surprised with his steadiness. Moreover, I know he isn’t the most creative player so his lack of influence on the attacking side of the pitch didn’t surprise me either. All in all, his performance was exactly what I had expected.

What to Expect From the Next Analyses of ISL Marquee Players on ISL Blog

This analysis of ISL marquee players from the bottom dwellers didn’t break any new ground although Mumbai City FC’s plight did become more obvious. They were plagued by injuries to key players which is why they had such a poor showing this season. Similarly, Northeast United FC tried to do the best they could with their limited resources and I, for one, liked them for it.

In the next instalment, we’ll analyse the ISL marquee players of Chennaiyin FC which they had quite a few of. In fact, I believe them to be the most star studded team in the ISL. You’ll see what I mean. Stay tuned…

**Expected Rating: Rating I expected the player would get at the beginning of the league.

How Have the ISL Marquee Players Performed This Season – Part I

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

The Champs Atletico De Kolkata and the ISL Finalists Kerala Blasters FC

ISL Marquee Players

Many More than just 8 ISL Marquee Players

Let me start with a few disclaimers. This will NOT be a short post. It will NOT be only about ‘ISL Marquee Players’. It will NOT be generic.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain what I meant. By saying that this will not be a short post, I mean that I will actually do some research into each player I am going to mention here. I plan to check stats and even some videos for this post.

By saying this this will not be only about ‘ISL Marquee Players’, I mean that I will go beyond the 8 player restriction that that official term triggers. I will expand that purview to include other players. How will I decide who gets to be researched? Well, that’s my prerogative. This means that I may leave out some players that you think deserved to be included. If you think I did, give me a shout.

By saying that it will not be generic, I mean that you shouldn’t expect this post to be like the generic crap that many ‘news websites’ (I call them link junkies) are churning out under the guise of ISL Marquee Player reviews.

I have shortlisted 17 individuals who, I believe, need to be treated as ISL Marquee Players and one surprise, which makes a total of 18 people. Naturally, since I can’t create a single long and winding post that never ends, I’ll be breaking this one down to smaller pieces. In this instalment, you get the two ISL finalists.

So, without further ado, let’s get down and dirty.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Luis Garcia

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Kolkata’s Luis Garcia did what I call the intangibles. He wasn’t at the end of the good things that Kolkata did but he was neither negligible because he made his team tick. What I mean by intangibles is that what he did wasn’t directed at appearing in statistic tables.

He only provided two assists and scored twice, of which one was a penalty kick. He wasn’t the most prolific shooter and he didn’t even get the majority of his shots on target. With players like these, you need step outside the general view. You have to see them in action in real games. You have to see their indirect influence so to speak.

Luis Garcia’s influence on his team, while not exemplary, wasn’t negligible either. Every time he was on the pitch, I could see Kolkata’s passing quality becoming that much better. All you need to see Garcia’s value to his team is see the games in which he isn’t playing.

Kolkata’s attacks were more blunted and ineffectual without him. They simply lacked the guile that is needed to unlock defences. At the same time, he could’ve done more.

If you’ve seen Luis Garcia play at his peak then you would know that his biggest strengths were his agility and speed both of which are not available to him anymore. It is because of this reason that I’m not surprised with his underwhelming performance. I still had expected a little more.

Expected Rating**: 7.5 / 10

Final Rating: 6 / 10

I expected him to do more mainly because I hadn’t seen him for a long time and remembered his days in the Liverpool and Atletico De Madrid jerseys.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Borja Fernandez

Borja, Atletico De Kolkata

Borja, Atletico De Kolkata

I remember when I used to think that Borja Fernandez was a very good player. He had just broken through the Real Madrid first team then.

He ended up playing only 23 games for them over a period of 3 seasons. That was 2003, a period when I was easily wowed by football. Nowadays, I’m a little more jaded having seen the Invincibles which I believe was the epitome of football.

Borja was a mixed bag of a player in the last 3 months but I think he fit in perfectly with Kolkata’s philosophy. You most probably don’t know what I’m talking about because you haven’t seen the stats yet.

Borja was the best tackler in the league. He had the maximum number of tackles at 63. He was far ahead too because the second position is held by Denson Devadas of Chennaiyin FC with only 53.

However, answer me this. What happens when you have a player who is free with his tackles? Why, you get loads of fouls! That’s exactly what Borja did too. He was second in the Indian Super League with fouls committed at 36.

Who was he behind? His darling teammate Fikru Lemessa. How behind was he? By only 1 foul! So, the top two foulers in ISL were from Atletico De Kolkata. If you’ve been reading my reports, you’ll know that I’ve been castigating Atletico De Kolkata for their overly physical game. With these numbers I rest my case on that debate.

Expected Rating**: 6 / 10

Final Rating: 6.5 / 10

I didn’t think Borja would end up having the kind of influence that he did in the end but a lot of that is because of the way his team was setup. His team’s style of play and his style of play were perfectly complimentary which is why he turned in a better season than expected.

Kerala Blasters FC’s David James

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

You could say that David James is a legendary British keeper. He still holds the record for most clean sheets in the English Premier League and is 3rd in terms of all time appearances.

In the yellow of Kerala Blasters FC, despite his old age (he is 44 years old just in case you didn’t know), James still showed why he is a legend. It is unheard of for players to play up to 44 years, even if they’re keepers but James did and did a fair good job of it too.

James played 12 games for Kerala, an achievement in itself but kept the opposition from scoring in 5 of those games. Overall, he allowed 10 goals in at an average of less than a goal per game. Those are good numbers even if you don’t consider James’ age.

The best part about James, though, was his performance as a manager. Granted, Kerala Blasters FC struggled to score goals during the league phase of the ISL but the way that they turned up in the ISL semi final was a coaching master class from James.

Before the ISL semi finals, I said that James was being selfish as a coach by ensuring clean sheets and that he needs to open up his team a little more to score goals. That is exactly what happened in the ISL semi finals as Kerala Blasters blitzed Chennaiyin FC into a catatonic state. You could see the Chennaiyin players reeling on the ground at the Kerala Blasters onslaught.

I will always remember the way in which James turned around his team’s style. I’ve never seen such a drastic change made in such a small time with the same manager and players being available.

In the end, James, I think, did justice to his legend and may well be on his way to adding to that legend as a manager. I won’t be surprised if he gets a chance as a manager in England soon.

Expected Rating**: 6.5 / 10

Final Rating: 8 / 10

I expected James to do well as a goalkeeper but not as a manager. He was decent as a keeper but brilliant as a manager. Together, he exceeded my expectations!

Watch this space for More ISL Marquee Players’ Analyses

So, this was my analysis for my ISL marquee players from the two ISL finalists. Don’t sit back just yet because the next post will be an analysis of the ISL marquee players from the bottom dwellers of the league Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC. Keep watching this space.

**Expected Rating: Rating I expected the player would get at the beginning of the league.