Blue Tigers unite in appreciation of Igor Stimac’s ideas

Football has massively evolved in the last decade and a half. From being just about results and getting the three points, the world’s biggest sport has slowly grown to appreciate and applaud the value of identity in a team’s style of play. Since his appointment, head coach Igor Stimac has gone about trying to achieve the same narrative: press higher up the field, take more risks and show courage when on the ball.

The latter, in the Croat’s idea of football, applies to all players on the pitch and not just the forwards and midfielders. Defenders like Sandesh Jhingan, therefore, now have the freedom to express their passing range and help the team at both ends of the pitch.

“Everyone has seen how the coach wants us to play," said the Kerala Blasters man in an exclusive interview to AIFF. "It's not easy to implement a new possession-based style. We have to be brave and I can say that from our games against Curacao (King's Cup) to Syria (Hero Intercontinental Cup), we have improved a lot. We have the right kind of players and everyone in the team has loved the new approach," he said.

The 26-year-old also gave insight into the training regime which forms the groundwork of Stimac’s philosophy. He said, “Training has been about building patterns on the pitch and making them a natural part of our games. As a centre-back, I have to play out from the back and every player is adapting to his new role as well. Off the field, we are studying as well and we keep getting videos and clippings from the staff, that help us learn better."

Alongside Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Sunil Chhetri, attacking midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad has been one of the most trusted lieutenants of the Croatian’s reign so far. The Blasters man has operated in behind the striker, giving him the freedom of the park to go out and express his undoubted quality.

The 22-year-old revealed that the bonding inside the squad was growing by the day, thereby helping him comprehend his duties on the pitch better. “Training has been intense – we are always pushing each other that extra yard. Off the field, we are like brothers,” said the youngster. “We have developed a great understanding in midfield and know each other's movements – when to make what run and when to stay back. Knowing that I have the support behind me also gives me the confidence to push forward as well.”

Anirudh Thapa and Udanta Singh similarly, chipped in with their views on the Croat’s idea of football. “I like what the coach wants from us,” said the Chennaiyin star. “He wants us to keep the ball and keep possession. I like it and it suits me well. Adapting to it is a challenge but we are gelling well together in midfield. We are working on improving our understanding and game-reading."

Udanta further commented, “We all are working hard on the ground and the gym. We are all raring to go and hoping to do our best on the field. With the previous matches we have played, we got to learn our strengths and weaknesses and now we are working on them accordingly.”

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