Hero ISL 2022-23, knockouts: A detailed look at Odisha FC
Odisha FC qualified for the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs for the first time in their history under the leadership of head coach Josep Gombau who, in his first spell, had come close to helping the team make the cut. From their debut in the 2019–20 season, the Juggernauts have had some promising moments before fading away just when it mattered most until 2022-23, when they managed to get over the line.
Odisha FC overturned a two-goal deficit to beat Jamshedpur FC 3-2 in a breathless opening game of their Hero ISL 2022-23 campaign. Together with MCFC, they have earned 13 points from losing position, the most by any team this year. The Juggernauts won six of their first eight games, putting them in second place in the Hero ISL standings.
However, Gombau’s side failed to cope with the pressure as they went through a disappointing run of form, winning only one of their next nine games. Their deteriorating performance forced them out of the provisional play-off zone.
Amidst all the pressure, the Juggernauts picked themselves up right at the business end of the season and secured a place in the playoffs with two wins in the final three league games.
Gomabau’s men now have a tough task ahead as they take on ATK Mohun Bagan in a one-legged knockout tie on Saturday.
Key stats in Hero ISL 2022-23
Goals Scored: 30
Goals Conceded: 32
Josep Gombau has opted for the 4-3-3 formation for most of the season. His main strategy has been utilising the wide players as much as possible. This has allowed the wingers and full-backs to have adequate room to pass the ball to their target man. The trio of Moirangthem Thoiba Singh-Saul Crespo-Raynier Fernandes in midfield has been extremely narrow with their positions which has helped to keep their defence composed.
Paul Masefield’s analysis: Gombau’s strength is having the courage to change the formation and force the results. They're big, strong, and physical. They are not afraid to put their foot in and roll their sleeves up.
Wing Play: The use of wide areas has been one of the main aspects of Odisha FC’s success this season. Isak Vanlalruatfela, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, and Nandhakumar Sekar have together put in 32 key passes and generated 37 chances this season. They had many opportunities to succeed in the Gombau system since they got the freedom to accomplish their task. They mostly played as inverted wingers, but frequently swapped positions to throw the opposition off.
Erik Paartalu’s analysis: Nandhakumar Sekar, Isak Vanlalruatfela, and Jerry Mawihmingthanga have all chipped in with goals and assists this season and have really scored some amazing goals. When Diego Mauricio wasn't firing, the wingers really stepped up to the plate.
Set pieces: Odisha FC are a constant threat from set pieces. Only Hyderabad FC (16) and Mumbai City FC (15) have managed to score more goals from dead-ball situations than Odisha FC. 11 out of their 30 goals have come from set pieces, including three from corners, free kicks, and penalties, as well as two more from long throw-ins. Mauricio has once again proved to be a key figure. The Brazilian has netted six of those 11 goals. Nandhakumar Sekar has also added three goals from set pieces. This set-piece routine has been made possible by the superb delivery from either Raynier Fernandes, Saul Crespo or Sahil Panwar.
Crossing Woes: Despite facing the fewest shots (203), they have also allowed 32 goals, which is the worst among the six clubs. Along with NorthEast United FC, they have conceded the most goals from crosses, which is 50% of the total goals they have conceded. They allowed opponents to take 240 crosses (12.63 per match), and 64 of them (3.36 per match) were successful. This is mainly due to the lack of defensive support from the wingers. Most of the time, the centre-back pairs, midfielders, and goalkeepers were unable to handle the presence of the opposition players.
Erik Paartalu’s analysis: Since Osama Malik’s injury, they have struggled to get someone settled in there. If Osama is not fit, I think they need to play Thoiba there and Narender Gahlot at right back. This seems to be the best-balanced backline available at the moment.
Uncertainty in the right-back position: This is one position that opponents will indeed look to capitalize on. Gombau tested four players at the right-back position but ended up with little to no success. Their task became more difficult due to their early commitment, poor positioning sense, and inability to pace up with the opposition’s wingers.
Player to Watch Out for in Knockouts: Diego Mauricio
Known for his physical strength and attacking exploits, Mauricio is the most important player in Gombau’s side. His presence, movement, and scoring prowess constantly threaten the opposition's defence. Besides being clinical with his finishing, the attacker drops into deeper areas to help the midfield, runs down the channel, and moves the ball forward.
The Brazilian striker has already equalled his best tally of 12 goals, which was set in his first season with the Juggernauts in 2020-21. Mauricio is currently leading the golden boot race with 12 goals and four assists.
Erik Paartalu’s analysis: Going for the golden boot, Mauricio can score goals when you least expect them and turn a game on its head. Can he do it in a knockout game? That's his challenge to take Odisha to even greater heights.
Paul Masefield’s analysis: He is currently on top of the goal-scoring charts. He does come deep, likes to push on, and goes out wide. But also gets in the box and, most importantly, gets his name on the scoresheet. That's exactly what Odisha FC requires and needs.
Record and Unique Stats
- Odisha FC have made it to the Hero ISL playoffs for the first time in their history.
- They finished in 6th place with 30 points after 20 games, the most points they achieved in a single Hero ISL season (30).
- They have won 9 games in the league stage, a new club record.
- Joint-most unique Indian assist providers this season – 8.
- Diego Mauricio is leading the golden boot race with 12 goals. No Odisha player has ever won the golden boot before.
- Mauricio’s 12 goals this season are the joint-most by any Odisha FC player in a Hero ISL season. The Brazilian forward scored 12 goals during his first season with the Kalinga Warriors in the 2020–21 season.
- Mauricio has scored the joint-most goals from outside the box this season (3).
- Odisha FC have faced the fewest shots this season (203).
- They have scored the second-most goals from outside the box (8).
- They have only lost 2 matches at home this season. Only Mumbai City FC have lost fewer games (1) than them.
Predicted Starting XI (4-4-2): Amrinder Singh (GK); Shubham Sarangi, Narender Gahlot, Carlos Delgado (C), Sahil Panwar; Thoiba Singh, Saul Crespo, Raynier Fernandes, Nandhakumar Sekar; Diego Mauricio, Pedro Martin