Hero ISL 2022-23 Playoffs: A detailed look at Hyderabad FC
Hyderabad FC have been one of the most consistent teams in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) over the last few years. After narrowly missing out on the spot in the semi-finals in the Hero ISL 2020-21 season, Hyderabad FC finished second in the league standings and made it to the final in the 2021-22 campaign to clinch their maiden Hero ISL trophy with a thrilling victory against Kerala Blasters FC on penalties.
Manolo Marquez’s side continued their impressive run of form in the Hero ISL this season, going toe-to-toe with Mumbai City FC at the top of the table. They were on top of the table for 55 days but eventually finished second with 42 points from 20 games, four points behind the Islanders.
The reigning Hero ISL champions kicked off their 2022-23 ISL campaign with a breathtaking 3-3 draw with Mumbai City FC. After that, they went on to win their next five games before narrowly losing out 1-0 to Kerala Blasters FC and ATK Mohun Bagan FC.
After two successive defeats, Marquez’s men reacted strappingly and were undefeated in their next eight games before a shocking 3-1 loss to Odisha FC. They registered two more wins in their remaining three league games.
Hyderabad FC will now play a two-legged semifinal with ATK Mohun Bagan, the winner of the second knockout game.
Key stats in Hero ISL 2022-23
Goals Scored: 36
Goals Conceded: 16
Manolo Marquez is not a big fan of tinkering. In every league game, he has opted for the 4-2-3-1 formation. The Spanish tactician has emphasized defence more this season than last. Despite the absence of No 1 goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani, Marquez's side has maintained a strong defensive structure both in open play and during set pieces. He primarily focuses on attacking through the wide players and encourages his fullbacks to join the attack. The main attacking force is centered on Ogbeche, and they also utilize set pieces frequently.
Defensive solidity: Despite being crowned as the Hero ISL champions last season, Hyderabad FC struggled to keep clean sheets regularly. This season, Manolo Marquez brought in Odei Onaindia to replace Juanan in the central defence and transformed Nikhil Poojary into a right-back player to replace the departed Asish Rai. These decisions worked well for the side as they have managed to keep 10 clean sheets so far this season, compared to only 3 from last season. Brilliant defensive shapes and tireless work from players like Hitesh Sharma, Joao Victor, and Borja Herrara helped them keep those defences tight.
Paul Masefield’s analysis: Their strength is unity as a side. The strength is every single individual. They all know what they're doing, and there is strength in depth.
Set-piece masterclass: HFC has been the most proficient team this season in both attacking and defending set-pieces. They have scored the most goals from set-pieces (16), including 7 from corners, with Bart Ogbeche being a key contributor with his late movement and physicality inside the box. The deliveries from Borja, Narzary, Yasir, and Joao Victor have consistently posed threats for opposing teams to defend against.
On the defensive end, HFC has been equally impressive, conceding only 4 goals from set-pieces, including 2 penalties. It wasn't until their 15th game that they allowed the first goal from a set-piece. The team's strategy to aggressively attack the ball and tight man-marking has made it challenging for the opponents to exploit dead ball situations.
Contribution of wide players: HFC's attacking strategy involves utilizing wide players, similar to MCFC. Narzary and Yasir have been outstanding in this regard and are currently among the league's best crossers. Their passes are proving to be very effective. Yasir, in particular, has shown a propensity to cut inside and take shots, in addition to his excellent passing skills. Collectively, they have created 53 chances for HFC this season, often causing headaches for their opponents.
Even substitutes like Rabeeh and Danu have made significant contributions in their limited opportunities.
Phil Brown’s analysis: They’re the most well-drilled and well-organized group of players I've seen for a long time. And even the substitutes, slot into the system in the same way. They got pace in the team, they got discipline, they got cleverness, and there is solidarity about them that makes them very, very dangerous.
Not clinical in attacking third: Hyderabad FC's attacking play has been less clinical this season, even though they’ve retained much of their core group this year. Last season, Marquez’s side scored the most number of goals (43) at the end of the league stages, which is seven more than this year’s tally. While they regularly score goals, they have only scored more than two in a game on six occasions. The side heavily relies on their wide players for attack and lacks a proper creative midfielder. Despite scoring ten goals, Bartholomew Ogbeche hasn’t performed at his best level this season.
Phil Brown’s analysis: Winning a game 1-0 can certainly be dangerous when they come up against the better side that can score goals like Mumbai City FC.
Lack of a creative no 10: The main reason behind Hyderabad FC’s dip in the attacking third is the absence of a creative no 10. So far, they have failed to replace Edu Garcia, who had exceptional ball control and could provide line-breaking passes. Without his vision and distribution, HFC has lacked variation in their attacks, unlike other top teams like MCFC, ATKMB, and BFC, who have creative players like Greg Stewart, Hugo Boumous, and Javi Hernandez to provide them with an advantage. Despite trying out Borja Herrara, Joel Chinese, and even Bart Ogbeche in the no 10 position, Manolo has been unable to match that flare that Edu possessed.
Erik Paartalu’s analysis: Not scoring a lot of goals (is a weakness), will that be a problem over the two-legged semis?
Player to Watch Out for: Odei Onaindia
Odei Onaindia re-joins the Hyderabad FC camp ahead of the Hero ISL 2022-23 season and has flourished under the guidance of Manolo Marquez. The Spaniard is a tough central defender who has significantly strengthened the HFC defence this season. He has been one of the driving forces behind HFC’s defensive success this year.
Odei has kept the defence solid during matches when his side has struggled to score goals. Hyderabad FC have enjoyed six 1-0 victories this season, which has been largely possible due to the leadership quality of Odei at the heart of the defence.
The 33-year-old, who is currently one of the best centre-backs in the Hero ISL, has exceptional positioning sense, tackling abilities, and strong technical skills. So, all eyes will be on the Spanish defender to see how he leads his side from the back in knockout games.
Record and Unique Stats
- Hyderabad FC recorded their most wins in the league stage of a single Hero ISL season (13).
- They attained their highest-ever points tally in a single Hero ISL season (42).
- Marquez’s side kept 10 clean sheets for the first time in a single season which is the joint-most clean sheets by a team in the league stage of a single season in the history of Hero ISL.
- Hyderabad FC scored the most number of goals from set-pieces this season (16).
- They’ve scored the most goals from corner kicks this season (7).
- HFC conceded the least goals this season (16).
- They’ve conceded the joint-fewest set-piece goals this season (4).
- HFC faced the fewest shots on target this season (67).
- Halicharan Narzary has provided six assists this season, the most by a Hyderabad FC player in a single ISL season.
- They’ve scored the most late goals this season (13). They are the only team to score more than 10 goals between the 76-90 minute timeframe.
Predicted Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Gurmeet Singh (GK); Nikhil Poojary, Odei Onaindia, Chinglensana Konsham, Akash Mishra; Hitesh Sharma, Joao Victor; Mohammad Yasir, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Halicharan Narzary; Javier Siverio.