A stroke of ingenuity: The rise of Mohammad Yasir at Hyderabad FC

Reigning Hero Indian Super League (ISL) champions Hyderabad FC have shown immaculate poise this season and have made their champion calibre known across the six games that they have played so far in the Hero ISL 2022-23. 

Manolo Marquez’s men have clinched the most points out of all teams, 16 points in six games, and sit four points clear at the top. They are one of the only two unbeaten sides this season - the other being Mumbai City FC - and have secured five wins on the trot. While their impenetrable defence has been the talking point of many, their attack too has been flawless, having scored the fourth-highest goals in the league this season.

If we go back to the start of the season, the stakes would have been on Bartholomew Ogbeche to put goals in the kitty for HFC, but certainly, that isn’t the case with them. The side have a new front runner for goal contributions in their Indian forward Mohammad Yasir. 

The 24-year-old has been in top-notch form this season and has delivered two goals and as many assists in six games for his side. In addition, Yasir has also been at the centre of chance creation for Hyderabad FC this season, having created 14 chances so far - highest among all HFC players and the leading Indian player in the league.

Having been at the club since its inception in the 2019-20 season, Yasir has gone from strength to strength through each passing season, and has been moulded into a versatile midfielder with multiple facets by Manolo Marquez. While his emergence might seem as a surprising factor given the likes of excellent attacking players in Bartholomew Ogbeche, Javier Siverio, and Joel Chianese, Marquez brings his unique trait of churning out the best from his players and at the same time improving them and taking them to the next level, and Yasir is just another product of that.

“Yasir has been one of the standout performers this season. He’s been absolutely brilliant for Hyderabad FC, we can’t (just) simply talk about Bart Ogbeche, Halicharan Narzary, or Siverio (Javier). You have to give credit to Manolo Marquez as well, he’s got the knack of improving every single player he’s got in the squad, and Yasir is definitely one of them,” stated Hero ISL expert Darren Caldeira. 

The forward has already reached his best-ever goal contributions tally (two goals, two assists) in six games this season and not only does this benefit him but it also shows the expertise Marquez brings with him. The midfielder has flourished thoroughly, not just in terms of goal contributions, but also as a player besides showing that given the opportunity, he can maximise his potential.

“I think one of the main reasons why he is flourishing in this Hyderabad FC side is because he’s got that confidence right now that he’s playing with. Marquez has given him a free hand, you watch Yasir, he’s definitely a winger on the team sheet but he’s got that freedom to move and cut inside, and he’s doing a lot of that right now. He likes to get on his left foot, he’s taking free-kicks and a lot of the set-pieces as well because you can see the kind of confidence he's playing with,” added Caldeira.

“Yasir has been really inspirational this season. What happened is that he was playing last year and was coming in and out of the team whereas this year he has been given a run-in by Manolo Marquez. His ability to cut inside and cause all sorts of problems really helps. He knows and understands the position now and that’s why Manolo Marquez has been spot on by giving him that gametime, by allowing him that freedom out in that wide area,” stated Paul Masefield, Hero ISL commentator and expert. 

There is still some commonality between the Hyderabad side of last season and this season. One can see their fluidity in the game and how the team shapes up in the build-up with almost every player getting involved. What makes Yasir standout this season is that he has stepped up his character, his game, and made bold decisions on the pitch - off the ball as well as with it. That is something that had been developing last season and has now come to his feet, which is one of the primary reasons for him being the face behind the goals for HFC.

“He’s getting further ahead towards the goal and that is a different subset with Yasir this season especially his presence in and around the box on a lot of occasions which is why he’s chipping in with a lot of goals. We’ve spoken about Sahal and Brandon Fernandes having a big season but for me, it’s a big season for Yasir as well, not just at club level but I think he has a great opportunity to start becoming the first eleven player for the national team,” said Caldeira.

Not only does Yasir’s attributes benefit the entire team, but they also instil an attitude and temperament of how one player can make a huge difference by fulfilling the roles and duties assigned to him, and that is just one of the many cruxes of Manolo Marquez’s title-winning side.

“If you look, what he does best is that he can get to the byline, he can deliver, he comes inside and can cause all sorts of problems. However, not only that, he knows the dirty side of the game as well, he tracks back, he closes down, and helps his full-back out, Nikhil Poojary. So, on that right-hand side, Yasir really understands the role and I think that’s the biggest thing that he’s bringing this season that he hadn’t had before, fully understanding the role, the position, what’s required and I think this year he is doing it to a aplomb, and we will see more goals and more assists from him as the season goes on,” he added.

With plenty of games to look forward to, Hyderabad FC have a precious gem in Yasir who holds a vital key in their attacking line and will prove to be a critical asset in their title defence this season.

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