Modus operandi of 2016 Hero ISL head coaches
Hero Indian Super League 2016 served up plenty of different approaches to the beautiful game as all eight head coaches of their respective clubs looked to stamp their philosophy on the team. It made for interesting viewing with contrasting styles of play on display as well as different tactical disciplines and formations. Here we look back at how all eight teams unfolded under the guidance of their head coaches in Hero ISL 2016.
Jose Molina (Atlético de Kolkata)
Champions for a second time in three years, Jose Molina’s title winning Atlético de Kolkata team will go down as one of the most consistent teams in the history of the league. They lost just twice over the course of this season making them worthy champions. One of the main reasons behind their consistent performances was the nature of their defence that always started with a back four. ATK’s ability to defend in numbers and soak in offensive pressure was the first indicator of their champion qualities this season. In fact, their solidity at the back can be further highlighted by the fact that they were the only side not to concede three times in a game this past season, sometimes even with the presence of 10 men on the pitch. Moving forward most of ATK’s attacks came from their deadly wing-play which starred individuals like Sameehg Doutie, Javi Lara, Abinash Ruidas and Lalrindika Ralte. Most of ATK’s goals came from wide areas this year where their wingers’ pace and trickery on the ball proved too much to handle for opposition defences.
Steve Coppell (Kerala Blasters FC)
Runner-ups to Kolkata for the second time in three years, many had written off Kerala Blasters FC’s chances of making the semis, let alone the final after losses in their first two games of the season under Steve Coppell. However, after striking a perfect balance at the back with a strong backline featuring the likes of Cedric Hengbart, Sandesh Jhingan, Aaron Hughes and Josu Currais, the Blasters went on an incredible run, especially at home that saw them win six consecutive matches in Kochi. Their defense, which featured a flat four, looked rock-solid for the most part of the season, with the exception of a 5-0 loss to Mumbai City FC. Up front, the men in yellow relied on quick and clinical counter-attacks to get on the scoresheet with powerful attackers like Kervens Belfort, CK Vineeth, Duckens Nazon and Antonio German leading the way.
Alexandre Guimaraes (Mumbai City FC)
Mumbai City FC enjoyed their best season yet after making their maiden semis appearance this year. Under the tutelage of Costa Rican Alexandre Guimaraes, the Mumbaikars ended the league stage at the summit of the table with 23 points from 14 matches. They also deployed a flat back four and encouraged their full backs to bomb forward. Their defence will go down in history as the league’s tightest backline having registered eight clean sheets and conceded just eight goals after first 14 matches. However, it was Mumbai’s frontline that let them down in the semis as they struggled to break down a 10-man ATK side defending a one-goal aggregate lead for more than a half. While their defence accounted for another cleansheet in the second leg of their semis, their fowardline’s lack of cohesion up front came to the surface and compromised their season.
Gianluca Zambrotta (Delhi Dynamos FC)
Gianluca Zambrotta’s Delhi Dynamos will always be considered one of the greatest entertainers in Hero ISL history. The Lions adopted an all-out attacking approach for the most part of the season and ended the league stage as the top-scorers with 27 goals. Never out of a game even with 10 men on the pitch, the Dynamos also deployed four at the back with two holding midfielder and four attack-minded players up front, two of which were utilised on the wing. Kean Lewis and Marcelinho marshalled the wide areas, while Florent Malouda and Richard Gadze assumed responsibility up front, making for a deadly attacking quartet that formed their identity in Hero ISL 2016.
Nelo Vingada (NorthEast United FC)
The Highlanders finished fifth in the league for the second year running as they narrowly missed out on the semis. Nelo Vingada’s men used a 4-1-4-1 formation for the most part of the season with Rowllin Borges sitting in front of the back four, while Emiliano Alfaro was left to spearhead their attack. They also fielded a powerful midfield that had Nicolas Velez and Seityasen Singh on the wings and Romaric and Katsumi Yusa in the centre of the park. After a strong start that saw them win three of their first four games, they ran out of steam due to injuries to key personnel in all areas of the pitch.
Antonio Habas (FC Pune City)
For a side who never knew their best 11 till the latter part of the league, Pune did well to finish sixth in the table. With Antonio Habas at the helm, the Stallions started the season with four at the back as their Spanish head coach served a four-match touchline ban. Once he returned to the dugout they started playing with a 3-5-2 formation with wingbacks joining in up front as well as in defence. The change in formation did see an upturn in their fortunes, however, it wasn’t enough for them to secure a first semis appearance.
Marco Materazzi (Chennaiyin FC)
The 2015 champions endured an unsuccessful title defence due to a leaky backline that conceded 25 times in 14 matches. More than capable of coming up with the goods in attack, Marco Materazzi’s men failure to keep clean sheets was their undoing. Constantly rotating with their back four as John Arne Riise, Bernard Mendy and Eli Sabia jostled for starting berths made life very difficult for the rest of the side as regards acclimatisation. The fact that they became the first team to score four goals and still lose a game this season further sheds light on their gung-ho approach that eventually left them without any realistic chance of defending their crown.
Zico (FC Goa)
Goa suffered their worst Hero ISL season ever this year after finishing rock-bottom with a defensive record matching that of Chennai. Unaware of their best 11 as well as formation even in their last match of the season, Zico’s men struggled to cope with pressure in defence, while not being at their clinical best up front. The Gaurs played in a similar fashion to their 2014 and 2015 campaigns where their wingers were decisive, however, they failed to convert any of their chances with regularity this season leaving them exposed at the back.