Hero ISL 2022-23, half-term review: Phil Brown and Mark Tompkins give their verdicts
The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) crossed its halfway mark in the 2022-23 season at the end of Matchweek 11, with the teams finely poised in the race for the playoffs.
Mumbai City FC lead the way with 27 points in their first ten matches and are unbeaten so far in the season. Defending champions Hyderabad FC are hot on their heels, sitting just two points behind but five ahead of ATK Mohun Bagan, who find themselves in the third position.
Kerala Blasters FC, FC Goa and Odisha FC make the top six that are separated by eight points.
Chennaiyin FC lead the chasing pack, followed by Bengaluru FC and East Bengal FC. Last season’s League Shield Winners, Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC have found the going very tough this season as they make up the bottom two.
As we move into the second half of the season, former Hyderabad FC head coach Phil Brown and Hero ISL commentator Mark Tompkins review all the teams in the league.
Mumbai City FC (Pl: 11, Pts: 27, Rank: 1)
Brown: They are top of the table and will probably be ‘the invincibles’ this season. I don’t see them getting beaten. If they do have an off day, maybe it will be in the final stages leading to the playoffs and the finals. But they have performed outstandingly so far.
Tompkins: Mumbai City FC seem to have everything in abundance and probably have the best midfield three in the league at the moment. Apuia got goals last time, and Chhangte is scoring goals this season. Jorge Diaz is slotted in nicely at his new club, so Mumbai City FC are the whole package.
Hyderabad FC (Pl: 11, Pts: 25, Rank: 2)
Brown: Manolo Marquez learned more about his players in the two 0-1 defeats than he did after winning the title last season. He has learned that they can play under pressure in the final, but the two defeats taught him a little more about his team’s character. HFC are a top team.
Tompkins: With Marquez, you are going to get a well-organised and solid back four and a settled spine team’s spine. Marquez is a clever man who has got the best out of the Indian players who he has brought through the ranks. The introduction of Odei Onaindia has helped them galvanise their performances. This season could be another fruitful one for HFC.
ATK Mohun Bagan (Pl: 11, Pts: 20, Rank: 3)
Brown: They have been disappointing so far in their forward play. I think the settling down of Hugo Boumous (in the starting eleven) and his movement will be a deciding factor in the fate of ATK Mohun Bagan in the second half of the season.
Tompkins: They have been a little inconsistent this season. They haven’t been helped with injuries especially the one to Joni Kauko, who was controlling things in midfield. Some of the performances this season have been really flat from Juan Ferrando’s side. They have conceded silly goals and aren’t scoring many. They have scored 15 which is less than half the amount that MCFC have scored.
FC Goa (Pl: 11, Pts: 19, Rank: 4)
Brown: Carlos Pena certainly knows the club and how they want to play football, but I think he’s got the balance right between how they play and winning games individually and collectively. I expect a decent second half of their season. So, if they win six or seven of their remaining nine games, FC Goa will surely get into the playoffs. I think they can.
Tompkins: They have been a little inconsistent this season. Pena has mixed young Indian players with quality foreign players like Iker Guarrotxena, Marc Valiente and Fares Arnaout. Edu Bedia has been a mainstay in the team for the last four to five seasons. But in Noah Sadaoui, they have a player who can turn the game. With a little more consistency, they are a good bet.
Kerala Blasters FC (Pl: 10, Pts: 19, Rank: 5)
Brown: I love Ivan Vukomanovic and his approach to managing a club that provides a lot of pressure on the players. It’s not been a bad first half of their season and I see a strong second half for them. They’ll not be far off.
Tompkins: Under Vukamanovic, they have played brilliantly in the last few games. They are six games unbeaten going into the halfway stage of the season. By changing the formation slightly and not pressing with a high line, they have been able to stop teams from coming back at them and thus haven’t conceded many goals. They have not just got results but played entertaining football. They can win it this season.
Odisha FC (Pl: 10, Pts: 19, Rank: 6)
Brown: They have been the surprise package this season, but Josep Gombau has been pragmatic in his approach to how he sees the game. So, I don’t think it has been a bad first half of their season, and I expect to see a similar kind of approach to the season, probably one that mirrors their performances in the first half of the season.
Tompkins: Josep Gombau is familiar with the club and with the set-up right back to the days when he was with Delhi Dynamos FC. He has got his side firing on all cylinders. Jerry and Nandha have been quality and in Diego Mauricio and Pedro Martin, they have the goals to make a real impression.
Chennaiyin FC (Pl: 11, Pts: 14, Rank: 7)
Brown: Their strength in the second half will rely on certain individuals. Anirudh Thapa adds energy and quality. CFC prefer to play like a 4-3-3 rigidly than a 4-2-3-1 and with an understanding between the Number 10, 6 and 8. If Thapa and (Abdenasser) El Khayati can play together, then that midfield will be a force to be reckoned with.
Tompkins: I think Chennaiyin FC have had a great season so far. Thomas Brdaric is playing a different type of football from what we have seen from the previous two head coaches. They brought in Petar Slilskovic, who can score brilliant headed goals. Abdenasser El Khayati has been a revelation. This Chennaiyin FC side is one of the better teams we have seen in recent seasons. They can make the top six.
Bengaluru FC (Pl: 11, Pts: 10, Rank: 8)
Brown: I expect a strong second half to their season. Ten points from 11 games is not a great return. Have they got enough to catch Odisha FC? I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination. A strong second half of the season and the fifth or sixth place could be up for grabs.
Tompkins: It’s been a tough start to life in India for Simon Grayson at Bengaluru FC. Roy Krishna has struggled and scored just once this season. Javi Hernandez has added creativity to the midfield. They have shown in flashes that they can play some good football but they need Sunil Chhetri to show what he can do.
East Bengal FC (Pl: 10, Pts: 9, Rank: 9)
Brown: EBFC need strong movement in the transfer market. Their first half of the season has been average. With Stephen Constantine’s experience with the Indian national team, one would have expected a better first half of the season.
Tompkins: East Bengal’s wins over Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC have been punctuated by a lot of defeats this season. They aren’t keeping clean sheets even though they have Ivan Gonzalez and Lalchhungnunga at the back, who is one of the finds of the season. But they won’t be happy with some of the performances in that first half of the season
Jamshedpur FC (Pl: 11, Pts: 5, Rank: 10)
Brown: Their season has been disappointing. Aidy Boothroyd is a technical coach and with Owen Coyle leaving the club and going back to Scotland, JFC thought they had a decent squad and all they needed was a coach to organise them. Management and coaching are a lot more than that.
Tompkins: It’s been a dramatic turnaround for last year’s League Shield Winners after losing their talisman Greg Stewart and then Alex Lima among other players at the start of the season. They have struggled with goals, with Daniel Chima Chukwu scoring only a couple. They are not just getting the rub of the green at the moment but their performances have also not been good enough.
NorthEast United FC (Pl: 11, Pts: 3, Rank: 11)
Brown: It’s disappointing that they have got just three points on board after eleven matches. They have changed their head coach, and Vincenzo Annese has had an impact as they beat ATK Mohun Bagan to pick up their first points. But at this stage, unless they bring in four or five strong players for the second half of the season in the transfer window, I can’t see them climbing up the table a lot.
Tompkins: It has never happened before. Ten defeats in a row. They have brought in Vincenzo Annese and he has started to turn things around. But just five goals scored in their opening eleven games of the season show where their problems lie. They are not performing as a team. Annese has started to change that and maybe they can finish the season strongly.