ISL 2018 | Best Indian Super League XI after Phase 3

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ISL 2018 | Best Indian Super League XI after Phase 3

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Subhayan Dutta

01/02/2019

After two long and enduring months of the Indian Super League, the struggling teams have now started gaining momentum while the consistent ones have fumbled occasionally. This could mainly be credited to some prolific solo displays who are featuring in our best combined eleven after phase three.

Goalkeeper

Amrinder Singh - While Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is definitely running away with the golden glove award after the first three phases of the season, the India No. 1 cannot take credit for his role especially given the system he plays in. The Mumbai FC custodian, on the other hand, has been the club’s lynchpin with his tremendous consistency and presence inside the box especially, with Jorge Costa’s defence first instructions. Sitting behind a setup that is primarily designed to score on the counter and Amrinder’s reflexes and composed ball collection and distribution is extremely important for Mumbai, and the fact that Mumbai sit second on the table speaks volumes about his efficiency.

Defenders

John Johnson- Bengaluru FC have easily been the best side this season defensively in terms of conceding goals (8), and the team following them closely is ATK (11). Steve Coppell was always going to excel in this scenario and there has been no doubt that John Johnson is his main general. He has started all the games for the two-time champions with his defensive partner changing from Gerson Viera to Andre Bikey, but his role hasn’t changed. Johnson does pretty much everything for ATK that is possible from a centre half. He can provide long balls, can be a real threat from set-pieces and has shown exemplary reading of the game. The high scoring ISL sides have faded away into a goalless draw against ATK and Johnson should be mostly credited for it.

Lucian Goian- Goian has easily become a legend for Mumbai City FC in the two seasons he has stayed with the club. From singing the Indian national anthem without faltering to saving the team from the deadliest of attacks, the Romanian international has been a heartthrob for the Islanders. After starting the season on a poor note, Goian has led the side by example, getting his last-ditch tackles always on point. His fearlessness has also rubbed off into his teammates, who now don’t think twice before putting their head into places where others would be scared to extend a leg. Playing alongside him, young Joyner Lorenco has become a mainstay in the first eleven showing tremendous improvement.

Rahul Bheke- Bengaluru FC’s deploying of full backs as playmakers from the midfield is certainly an innovative move as far as Indian football is concerned, but to execute it perfectly regardless of opponents’ variegated setup is a commendable job. No other team has been seen using their full backs to this extent on the offensive and Carles Cuadrat would be immensely happy with how Bheke has performed. To add to his attacking approach, the full back is also blessed with a surprising calm when inside the box that has enabled him to score at crucial junctures. His exclusion from Stephen Constantine’s 28-man preliminary Asian Cup squad has consequently seen a major outcry by fans. 

Subhashish Bose- At an age where most full backs are basically wing backs adding an extra edge to the side’s attacking arsenal, Jorge Costa has taken the old way with a classic full back at his disposal. In Bose, Mumbai has a player whose primary concern is always is to not concede a goal before he decides to run up and cross from the left. Bose is naturally a centre half and the only reason he could adapt to the wider role is because of his tremendous discipline. He lets the likes of Arnold Issoko and Rafael Bastos do the fancy work and focuses solely on keeping the backline intact and alert. Every team desires such a player who is so committed to his cause. 

Midfield

Raphael Augusto- No matter how terribly Chennaiyin FC have been performing this season, the only reason they still have fans coming to watch games is Raphael Augusto. The Brazilian has the fastest feet in the league and some insane close ball control that enables him to go through every defender on is way with stunning ease. Only if he had players who could finish the tap-ins he feeds into the centre of the box, Augusto could easily have been the most sought after player in ISL. From the deep midfield to the attacking third, he can play almost anywhere creating chances at will.

Dimas Delgado- Bengaluru FC’s performance so far, has been a perfect example of team play. However, Cuadrat’s most important link in between offence and defence has been the Spanish midfielder. In the likes of Erik Paartalu and Harmanjot Khabra, BFC’s physical limitations are pretty much covered and it is Delgado who provides the creative perspective. Relentless in the midfield, Delgado’s through balls have been the biggest boon for the flank play that BFC exploits like anything. Without him, the team lacks incision that was evident in their clash against Delhi Dynamos, where Udanta Singh came to their rescue at the 88th minute with a 1-0 win.  

Arnold Issoko- If one man can make a difference in an ISL season, it is Arnold Issoko. Mumbai’s initial struggles in the season were clearly because of Issoko’s erratic form for they have not faltered even once after he has hit the road. Strong, fast, and overbrimming with intent, Issoko can be a tyrant for defenders when chasing the ball. Paulo Machado playing a long ball quite a few yards away from Issoko, and the Congo winger just whizzing past the last man to collect the ball and then providing a pass for an easy tap-in, is the most common sight in Mumbai matches now. He has two goals and five assists in 11 games. 

Carlos Calvo- Now, while many would point his diving antics to put him at fault, it is difficult to find a player who takes so much of burden to keep his team in front. The nimble footed Spaniard is Jamshedpur FC’s main source of attack and Cesar Ferrando has rightly given him a free role in the attacking third as others adjust to his position. It is because the Atletico Madrid and Udinese player could see passes others don’t and never flinches in going down in the slightest of chances to get his team closer to the opponent’s box. He, too, has two goals and five assists so far.

Attack

Moudou Sougou- Now, this development was totally unseen by one and all. Mumbai City FC started scoring in numbers very late leaning mainly on small margin wins for a good chunk of four to five games. Moudou Sougou was their bulldog in all those games getting a scrappy goal on the counter every match that eventually took the side over the line. Hence, when Mumbai started scoring perfect counter attacking goals, Sougou was hardly expected to bring their movements to absolution. As the season has developed, the wayward looking forward has got more and more clinical with the full circle coming against Kerala Blasters in their latest match as Sougou drilled in four goals in the match.

Ferran Corominas- While Sougou’s rise to prominence was highly surprising, Corominas’ was equally foreseeable. The Spaniard looked to be in a close tussle with NorthEast United’s Bartholomew Ogbeche for the race of the golden boot with both FC Goa and NEUFC going through a rough patch in the recently concluded third phase, where goals came in with tremendous difficulty. However, it was the third last match before the international break where Goa showed their sublime scoring form with Coro leading the attack with his clinical form. Playing against an in-form NorthEast side, Coro could take three shots with two on target, with both ending in the back of the net. He took his tally to 10 goals with Sougou and Ogbeche hot on his heels with nine goals.

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