Hero ISL’s new showrunners Iriondo and Jarni making early strides
Adapting to a new environment in football – for players and coaches alike – is never easy. The culture, style and dynamics of a new country and league takes some time to calibrate with. For new coaches, it’s an even more challenging situation given the result-oriented nature of their jobs and the sheer volume of people, who may also be going through their own acclimatization process, operating under them.
However, Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 has witnessed a couple of coaches who seem to be proving otherwise. Antonio Iriondo and Robert Jarni were appointed as head coach of Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC respectively last summer. With it being both coaches first season in the league, there were question marks surrounding how the two teams would fare. Those fears, though, have been alleviated three weeks into the season with Jamshedpur and the Highlanders finding themselves in the top four heading into the international break.
Jamshedpur FC head coach Iriondo has gone about his work in a similar fashion to his predecessor, with greater emphasis laid on possession and short passes. The new-look Jamshedpur side have already had more touches of the ball than teams like Bengaluru FC, ATK and Kerala Blasters FC, and that number is likely to improve once the players get more comfortable with each other.
The addition and performances of experienced midfielders like Piti and Aitor Monroy has certainly helped, with the duo dictating most of Jamshedpur’s attacking play. Monroy has been especially impressive, as apart from contributing in attack, the Spaniard has also done his bit in the defensive half. He has 22 tackles, eight clearances and five blocks to his name as well as a healthy passing accuracy of 73.93%.
The emergence of the likes of Farukh Choudhary, Mobashir Rahman and Aniket Jadhav under Iriondo is another one of the several positives for Jamshedpur. Farukh has come of age, with his performances even getting him picked for the senior national team. The pace and agility offered by the 23-year-old has perfectly complemented the ruthlessness of Sergio Castel and it seems to be something that will only further develop as the season progresses.
Jarni’s NorthEast have, similarly, caught the eye in their four matches so far. The Croatian was perhaps, under more pressure compared to Iriondo heading into the season, given the brilliant achievements of the club last season. However, instead of letting it affect the expectations of his side, the 51-year-old has hit the ground running and is yet to taste his first loss in the league.
Asamoah Gyan has been Jarni’s talisman with the Ghanaian being used as the focal point of his attack, while the likes of Martin Chaves, Redeem Tlang and Panagiotis Triadis look to feed off the 33-year-old’s holdup play. Redeem has been another big positive for NorthEast this season with the 24-year-old thriving in Jarni’s pragmatic system that’s aimed at being lethal on counter attacks. Redeem’s two goals in successive games demonstrated that and opposition coaches will do well to keep NorthEast’s ability to break at pace in mind in upcoming encounters against the Highlanders.
Jarni’s pragmatic approach also hinges a lot on the need of a strong centre-back pairing and they seem to have found one in Kai Heerings and Mislav Komorski. The duo complement each other seamlessly, while captain Jose Leudo and new signing Milan Singh have also played major roles in NorthEast conceding just three goals so far.
Having said that, it’s still early days and there’s still more than three-quarters of the campaign left to play. A lot of challenges await both Jamshedpur and the Highlanders over the next few months, but their fans can nonetheless be safe in the knowledge that Iriondo and Jarni have taken to the Hero ISL like ducks to water and seem to be in their element.