I had decided to focus on one foreign player per team so that I could give each franchise equal attention. Wes Brown, however, is such a big name that I’m willing to make an exception for him. Brown will be the second Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) player I’ll be analysing in this Armchair Scouting series, the first one being, of course, Dimitar Berbatov. Continue reading
I am not happy. Why has my beloved Indian Super League suddenly developed a love affair with Tottenham Hotspurs? Why are the clubs signing so many former Spurs players? The inaugural season of the ISL was wonderful. There were loads of Arsenal players (Pires, Santos) that I could get behind. Now, there are barely any. Instead, Spurs are all over. After ATK (yes, still with that lame-ass Amar, Tomar crap) signed Keane, KBFC went one better with Dimitar Berbatov.
Both are former Spurs players. In fact, they played together in what could be seen as the best career season for Keane. I doubt Keane could’ve done it without Berbatov, though. Despite being an Arsenal fan, for some reason, I never hated Berbatov. It’s probably because of his artistry. If you like the Gunners or have ever liked them (tough to like them these days, I understand), you cannot but like poetry and Berbatov has always played poetically. Continue reading
What is the Script of The ISL 2016 Final?
Two out of three finals since the Indian Super League’s inception have been contested by the same teams. As The Tuskers and the Indian Rojiblancos face off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi for the ISL 2016 final, they will be replaying the 2014 season finale that was won by Atletico De Kolkata.
As if that wasn’t interesting enough, there will be one player in this game who played for one team last time out and will play for the other team this time out. Iain Hume started the 2014-final in the canary colours of Kerala Blasters FC but this time, in the ISL 2016 final, he’ll be donning the red and white of Atletico De Kolkata. Continue reading
Will The Rojiblancos Ride The Elephants Today?
The Tuskers will travel to the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium to face the Indian Rojiblancos in what will be a tightly contested game. The game will be close because there isn’t a lot to separate the two sides. Both of them have garnered the same number of points in their twelve games, even if they’ve done so through different paths.
The Indian Rojiblancos have drawn more games while The Tuskers have won more and lost more games. This difference between the two sides is due to their forms. Atletico De Kolkata has played the whole season in a measured and strategic manner while Kerala Blasters FC has tended to blow hot and cold.
The Indian Rojiblancos’ Form & Strategy
In fact, the strategic and tactical game play has been a feature of Atletico De Kolkata not only in this season but in the history of Indian Super League. The Indian Rojiblancos come into this game on a decent run of form too. They’re unbeaten in four games but have only won their last game in that run.
While the Indian Rojiblancos largely manage their games well, their biggest problem is that they lose concentration in the last few minutes of most games. Statistically, ATK have leaked goals near the end of their games.
For example, even though they won their last game, it was only because of a last gasp winner. They led most of that game only to let their opponents equalise in the last ten minutes. Fortunately for them, they retook the lead in the 92nd minute.
The measured Indian Rojiblancos style of play shows in their formations too. They change their shape on the basis of their opponents but it is usually some version of the 4-4-1-1. Hence, we expect to see the same shape this time around.
With respect to key players, the Indian Rojiblancos have good division of labour. Their most effective attacker is Iain Hume who is second in the league with five goals. His presence in this game is iffy, however, since he has been absent for the last two games due to injury.
In the midfield, the Indian Rojiblancos’ best player is Borja Fernandez. He is third in the league in passes and leads his team in tackles. So, he performs the function of disruption and distribution simultaneously. His tackling is going to be the more useful skill in this game since The Tuskers are blowing hot right now.
The Tuskers’ Form & Strategy
The Tuskers blowing hot and cold refers to the fact that they’ve had very bad days and very good days in the league. The early part of their season was quite poor, a period in which they won only two games out of eight played. The latter half, on the other hand, was much better because The Tuskers have won three out of their last four games.
In this game, even though The Tuskers are playing away from home, we expect them to continue their good form and get a result. They’ve build their entire game on defensive solidity provided by the central defensive partnership of the ever-reliant Cedric Hengbart and the influential Aaron Hughes.
Hughes uses his immeasurable international experience to direct the entire defence while Hengbart leads by example with his physicality and athleticism. Hengbart has been so good that he leads the lead in aerial duels won.
The Tuskers, in fact, have a very English game. They not only rely on defensive headers to dominate their opponents but also attacking headers. Their striker, Mohammed Rafi, happens to have won the third most aerial duels in the league.
Owing to their focus on the English style of football, you will see the Kerala Blasters wingers whip in many crosses for their strikers. Whether their strikers convert or not is another matter entirely because even ATK’s defenders are good in the air.
Which Way Will The Fence Topple?
This is why we expect this game to end up in a tame draw. Both teams will most probably cancel each other out with respect to formations and personnel. They will both also play very safe because neither of them will want to lose ground on the other.
In fact, the biggest contributing factor to the draw will be that it will be a good result for both these teams and will go a long way in both of them cementing their semi-finals births. A draw will mean that the Indian Rojiblancos and The Tuskers will both be on 19 points. This will put them four clear of three other teams in the league on 15 points with only two games to go.
Two Teams in Dire Need to Bounce Back
Habas and his team FC Pune City will visit Coppell and his Kerala Blasters FC, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. This is a very crucial game for KBFC and FCPC both since each of them is in need of a significant bounce-back.
There is a lot of similarity between the two teams. Both of them are on 15 points and are separated only by goal difference. Both of them are within touching distance of a semi-finals birth. Both of them have gone through poor stretches of results before turning things around with back to back wins. Moreover, both teams suffered in their respective last games in different ways, so it will be interesting to see which of them shows the most character and spirit.
KBFC’s Form & Strategy
KBFC’s last game was a disaster. They went down two goals early in the first half to Diego Forlan. As they tried to regain parity with attacking football, they were put to the sword by Mumbai City FC. They lost that game 5 – 0. Irrespective of what anyone says, their last game will have had a huge impact on their morale which, in turn, would influence this game significantly.
After all, before their last game, KBFC were the most defensively sound team in the league. That game took them from the least conceding team in the league to an average team. Since their entire style of play is based on defence, the thumping they got in their last game would’ve affected them severely. In fact, the resounding dent to their morale will most likely result in Coppell setting them out even more defensively in this game against FCPC.
For example, if they don’t have their defence to rely on, they have nothing because they’re one of the lowest scorers in the league with only 9 goals from 11 games. The only silver lining in that dark cloud of despair will be CK Vineeth who has scored 3 goals in 3 games.
FCPC’s Form & Strategy
Fortunately for KBFC, FCPC is in the same boat. For FCPC, the lack of morale will come from having lost their last game in the dying minutes to a stoppage time goal. Still, FCPC would be hurting far less than KBFC simply because they can rely on their standout performers.
Of these, Mohamed Sissoko, their marquee signing, will be the most crucial. Sissoko is renowned for his physical, tough-tackling style of play and has exhibited the same by being amongst the top 3 tacklers in the league. However, Sissoko has shown another aspect of his game this season too. He happens to be the second most proficient passer in the league.
In addition to Sissoko, FCPC will be able to rely on Anibal Zurdo Rodriguez, who happens to have scored only one goal fewer than the league leaders. Rodriguez has scored 4 goals.
Will It Be The Tuskers Or The Stallions That Stampede?
Even though FCPC has attacking potential, you can expect them to set out their stall to not concede. This is their usual strategy for away games. We expect them to maintain the status quo and not change something that has worked for them in the majority of situations.
So, that shows us that KBFC and FCPC both will be defensive in this game. They will play conservatively and avoid taking risks. Neither of these teams has the kind of player that can generate a moment of pure magic too. This means that this match will decidedly be a drab affair. Thus, our prediction for this game is a drab, goalless draw.