ISL 2019 | Squad Analysis for Kerala Blasters for Season Five

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ISL 2019 | Squad Analysis for Kerala Blasters for Season Five

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Subhayan Dutta

09/29/2018

Though Kerala Blasters’ mid-table finish wasn’t very pleasing in the eyes of their ever demanding fans, a mid season managerial change didn’t leave them with too many expectations either. David James has had his share of accolades and accusations and thi is the perfect season to prove his mettle.

One big advantage of having someone like Rene Meulensteen at the helm was his ability to attract stars like Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown. With an inexperienced James taking charge now, although the likes of Berbatov has criticized his tactics at his back, the management’s continuing trust on has been an interesting development.

Defence

Kerala have taken the retaining route more this season. Being an international goalkeeper who has played for years at the highest level, James was expected to perfect that position in Kerala. And he has taken extreme steps in rectifying that by replacing all the three shot-stoppers Meulensteen had bought last season. Quite interestingly, all three of his goalkeepers are Indian - Dheeraj Singh, Harshad Meher, and Naveen Kumar. Kumar could be the first choice given he is the only player to have any sort of ISL experience, with the other two likely to be understudy.

Wes Brown was easily the most important player for Kerala last season with the former Manchester United player being effective in the midfield as well. His absence has been compensated to some extent by France’s Cyril Kali. Kali has played in the midfield as well in the Greek Super League, and we would expect him to play in the deep midfield role this season.

As for the central defence, apart from retaining the highly effective Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, James has brought in Anas Edathodika, who is slowly making a place in the national side with 10 caps already, and Abdul Hakku, who can also play as a right back apart from the central role. Despite being new at his job, James had fearlessly experimented with his setup last season with 3-4-3, 4-3-3, and sometimes even 5-3-2 being put up. Whatever he comes up with, at the middle of it is Sandesh Jhingan, who was magical at times. We expect mostly defence heavy lineups this season as well.

Midfield

A closer look at Kerala’s midfield would give the hint that the yellow army has provided very little budget to James to start with. The club has recently parted ways with Jackichand Singh and Kerala haven’t replaced him, at least not in a like for like manner. Among their only two imports are Zakeer Mundampara and Nikola Krcmarevic. Mundampara now has enough game under his belt to start regular games while Krcmarevic will be thrown into the deep end.

While Meulensteen was a fan of a 4-3-3, or sometimes the diamond formation even, James has always prioritized defence over everything. Hence, we might likely be looking at more of a 4-1-2-3, 4-2-3-1, or the conventional 4-4-2 as his most used ones this season. The good thing about Kerala would be their Indian core. Despite parting ways with Jackichand, Kerala still have CK Vineeth on the flanks with Holichara Narzary and Seiminlen Doungel coming from NorthEast United FC. With so many speedsters on the side, Kerala’s tactics are crystal clear – they will defend heavily hoping to break on the counter – with Courage Pekuson likely to carry out the playmaker’s role.  On the bench, in Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Sahal Abdul Samad, Hrishi Dhat, and Ajith Sivan, Kerala have a lot of options in a bunch of youngsters who could fill any position in the midfield as and when required.

Attack

With Berbatov and Ian Hume gone, Kerala were left to rebuild the attack yet again. And with contending for the title not looking to be a priority for them this season, they have spent accordingly in bolstering their attack. Spending more on wingers, the Blasters have brought in Slavisa Stojanovic and Matej Poplatnik from Serbia and Slovenia respectively. 

Both are inexperienced in ISL and would find it difficult to settle in, although with Stojanovic previously playing in Europa League, James will have a slight hope that things fall into place faster. And Blasters would have to be extremely cautious with their injuries as they have zero backup in that position.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Blasters are a team in transition and are yet to win the league a single time. Hence, their only strength would rely on their unity and the incredible fan support that they are proud of. James has been a good find for Kerala at the helm and if given proper time, the Englishman could progress efficiently. However, as of now, Blasters have nothing that could be their actual strength. In terms of weaknesses, the one that is glaringly visible, is their attack. Going forward without a proven striker is a huge gamble and it risks their primary target of finishing in the playoffs. 

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