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.