ISL 2018 | Studs and Duds after Phase 3 of Indian Super League

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ISL 2018 | Studs and Duds after Phase 3 of Indian Super League

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Subhayan Dutta


The Indian Super League has hit the final gear just before the final phase of the campaign with the big name signings finally coming into form. However, there are some of the veterans, who have also hit new lows as we chalked down the studs and duds after the third phase of the season.


Balwant Singh- Scoring hasn’t been ATK’s forte this season so far, and if not for Steve Coppell’s masterful strategies and Manuel Lanzarote’s unparalleled genius, the club would have surely been lingering in the bottom half by now. But, when your forwards could score only 10 goals in 12 games, individual talents don’t matter and Balwant Singh’s continuous disappointing presence proves that aptly. With Kalu Uche and Emiliano Alfaro injured, the Indian forward has been Coppell’s only natural option up front and he has been calamitous. In 12 matches, Balwant has taken 12 shots scoring only once this season and his lack of confidence was summed up in ATK’s match against Bengaluru FC where Balwant missed numerous one-on-one chances. Even his selection in Stephen Constantine’s Indian squad for Asian Cup has been largely criticized.

Slavisa Stojanovic- The fact that Slavisa Stojanovic still leads the scorers’ list for Kerala Blasters with three goals and one assist from 10 games pretty much sums up their season. With David James’ public displeasure with Matej Poplatnik that led to the striker being benched, it was the right time for Stojanovic to steer Kerala’s ship. However, the Serbian has been as frustrating as any forward could be with his dry spell. Playing a free role up front, Stojanovic is the filter that screens every attacking move for Kerala and his indecisiveness in the attacking third has been Kerala’s biggest problem so far, this season. While the lack of a clinical striker in Poplatnik alongside him could be a problem for the Serbian, his movements haven’t been very convincing either.

Marcos Tebar- If there is a team who has done most things right on the field with the win still evading them, it has to be Delhi Dynamos. Josep Gombau sure started the season in a terrible manner but they have since then improved massively. The tactics and the players’ roles are well defined and had there only been a leader to keep their chins up, the Dynamos would have been standing far from the bottom half after two long months of ISL. Unfortunately, Delhi have the perfect man for the job in Marcos Tebar who moved to the side from FC Pune City last summer but has been largely ineffective. He has been a mainstay in Gombau’s squad and has been nothing more than a passenger. 

Sanjiban Ghosh- In a bid to freshen up things just for refreshment’s sake, John Gregory had decided to hand in Sanjiban Ghosh a place between the sticks, which turned out to be his worst move ever. Starting his campaign against a harmless Kerala Blasters, where the match ended goalless, the former Dynamos custodian was not called into action much and it proved to be a curse for him. It is because Chennaiyin’s next match was against ATK that ended up being a five-goal thriller and the Marina Machans were on the losing side of the 3-2 result. It shattered Sanjiban’s confidence, which was evident in the very next match against Mumbai where Gregory’s side lost 2-0. Sanjiban was benched following that match, although Kamaljit Singh’s re-inclusion didn’t make much of a difference as Chennai lost to Delhi 3-1.

Jeje Lalpekhlua- Senior to Balwant and is currently facing similar public wrath for getting selected in the national squad, Chennaiyin City FC’s fan favourite, Jeje, has been another disappointment this season. Coach John Gregory has tried each and every permutation and combination available on his table up front with the likes of Carlos Salom, Thoi Singh, and Isaac Vanmalsawma playing alongside Jeje, but to no avail. Where fans expected him to inspire the side, pulling them out of tough situations, the 27-year-old has largely been a liability. Jeje has managed a meagre seven shot at the target from 11 matches, playing in a position where all his teammates are basically instructed to give the ball to him at every attacking instance.


Federico Gallego- The Highlanders were one of the most consistent sides when the league began having just two draws and one loss in the opening two phases. However, the slow buildup play and clinical finishing have finally been checked by their opponents in phase three with Eelco Schattorie’s men drawing thrice this time before succumbing to a massive 5-1 defeat at the hands of FC Goa. While Bartholomew Ogbeche has been their top scorer, Gallego has been their lynchpin. The attacking midfielder fills the void between deep midfield and attack efficiently and could play a creator, as well as a dasher on the counter. He has scored twice and created five times so far, and with Juan Mascia and Ogbeche in form, the last phase before the playoffs should see the Uruguayan star finish on a high. 

Moudou Sougou- It wouldn’t be wrong to say that only Jorge Costa believed in the striker regardless of his early dismal displays. With a pathetic first touch and poor finishing, Sougou looked like the wrong buy for much of the first two phases of Mumbai’s campaign. However, he managed to keep his place in the squad by virtue of some scrappy goals here and there before bursting into scene against Kerala Blasters, where he drilled in four goals at the back of the net. He sure broke some records with his feat, but more than that, his display that night at Mumbai Football Arena reflected that of a striker who was fearless about losing his place and was just hellbent on doing what he has always wanted to do – score goals.

Lallianzuala Chhangte- I am the happiest to include someone from the struggling teams of the league, who, despite not getting the proper outcome, has shown some terrific solo performances week in week out. And one of the prime examples of a single man pulling an entire team is Dynamos’ Chhangte. Though the likes of Adria Carmona and Rene Mihelic have shown the spark from time to time, the 21-year-old winger has been like a breath of fresh air for them this season. His exclusion from India’s 23-man squad was a shock given the fact that it has now been evident how much India could have gained by his sudden burst of pace, unparalleled stamina and perfect crosses from difficult angles.

Ferran Corominas- Everyone on this list has been a forward and if there is one example to group all their qualities into one, it would FC Goa’s Corominas. The most naturally gifted striker in the league given the fact that he has never ever run out of form, Corominas is pretty much the culmination of the best qualities of all the above forwards. He has pace, he can be brilliant in hold-up plays, he excels in playing one-touch passes to lose his marker in the blink of an eye, and most importantly, he hardly misses his target from inside the box. Sergio Lobera’s go-to man for any situation, the Spaniard can automatically make his teammates notch up a level with his vision and quick thinking in pressure situations. It won’t be surprising if he ends up winning the golden boot.

Arnold Issoko- The reason for putting him beneath Corominas is because Issoko is the only one to have a quality that the Spaniard doesn’t possess – ghastly physique and beastly pace. It is difficult to remember a footballer who has been so successful one-dimensionally in his approach. When under pressure, Jorge Costa does just one thing – asks his players to pass the ball to Issoko. No defender has found a way to stop the Congo winger despite knowing exactly what he is going to do with the ball at his feet. His muscular physique buoys him to outmuscle any opponent, who are mostly full-backs in his case, but the 26-year-old is also blessed by a rare element – a footballing brain. Issoko has two goals and five assists to his name and the biggest reason why Mumbai have almost cemented a playoff position with six matches yet to go.

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