FC Goa’s Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season was one filled with drama and disappointments. 

Although Manolo Marquez’s arrival as head coach did bring a rejuvenated energy into the side, the Gaurs failed to display consistency throughout the season, suffering a significant downfall in the latter stages of the league.

FC Goa did manage to reach the semi-finals but a dominant Mumbai City FC ended their journey with a 5-2 scoreline on aggregate. Although the season went trophyless for the Gaurs, it could hardly be termed as a failure. 

Record

Pl: 25; W: 14; L: 5; D: 6; Pts: 45; GF: 43; GA: 27 

The Gaurs kicked off their season in remarkable fashion as they remained undefeated throughout the first half of the league season but the second half presented them with a number of challenges that eventually cost Manolo Marquez’s men the League Shield.

Midway through the season, Marquez’s men looked impenetrable as they enjoyed a twelve-game undefeated run before losing 0-1 to Mohun Bagan Super Giant, courtesy of a Dimitri Petratos goal.

Thereafter, FC Goa dropped points in their next four league games while losing two matches. Despite recording four wins in their last four games, they failed to catch up with the likes of Mohun Bagan Super Giant and Mumbai City FC, finishing third on the points table. 

FC Goa finished off the league stage with the second-lowest number of goals conceded (21) and the third-highest number of goals scored (39), and attained their highest-ever points tally with 45 points.

Unfortunately for them, although they made it through to the semi-finals with a narrow win over Chennaiyin FC in the playoffs, it was Mumbai City FC who crushed on their ISL Cup dreams, winning the semi-finals 5-2 on aggregate.

Positives

Marquez succeeded in making FC Goa more resilient defensively this season. The introduction of Odei Onaindia and Sandesh Jhingan at the back added some much-needed organisation and solidity to the defence. They had a remarkable defensive record in the league stage this season, conceding just 21 goals in 22 games, while keeping nine clean sheets in the process.

Furthermore, the team displayed a balanced performance in attack and defence equally, making their place in the top three of both the most goals scored chart as well as the least goals conceded charts.

After two seasons out of the playoffs, the Gaurs returned to the knockout stage and look set to be on an upward trajectory under Marquez.

Negatives

FC Goa’s inconsistencies have been the sole cause of their fall from grace. In the first half of the season, the Gaurs went undefeated and were placed top of the table, but Marquez’s men suffered a significant downfall conceding three back-to-back defeats against Mohun Bagan SG, NorthEast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC.

Although FC Goa did manage to overcome those challenges and make it through to the semi-final, their lack of consistency cost them their ISL Cup dreams. In the semi-finals, despite having taken a two-goal lead in the first leg, within six minutes of injury time, they conceded three goals, losing the match 2-3. 

Even in the second leg, the Gaurs failed to turn things around and eventually lost the tie 5-2 on aggregate, drawing curtains to their ISL 2023-24 season. 

Best Player

Noah Sadaoui

The Moroccan has been the pivotal figure for the Gaurs and has been at the heart of everything. Sadaoui concluded the ISL 2023-24 season as the highest goal contributor for the Gaurs, having registered a total of 16 goal contributions, including 11 goals and five assists. 

On the creative front, the 30-year-old created 37 goal-scoring chances and registered 37 successful dribbles. 

Sadaoui’s presence in and around the opposition’s box has been a constant threat for opponents, often playing a crucial role in diverging their defenders with him and providing service for his teammates. 

Best Young Player

Jay Gupta

The 22-year-old full-back had a breakthrough season and was one of the most exciting young players in the league. 

His exceptional work rate has been consistently remarkable, tirelessly traversing the pitch to thwart opposition attacks while also generating goal-scoring opportunities and providing crucial assists for his teammates.

Gupta has been instrumental in helping the Gaurs keep nine clean sheets. Besides that he has registered 41 successful tackles, 19 interceptions, eight blocks, and 33 clearances, while also winning 131 duels. On the attacking front, the defender has scored a couple of goals while assisting three and creating 30 goal-scoring chances. 

What do they need next season?

The Gaurs must regroup and emerge stronger, with their sights set on lifting the silverware. The injury to Sandesh Jhingan in the latter half of the season notably disrupted the team's defensive solidity, leading to a struggle in maintaining clean sheets. Since the start of the year, they've only managed two clean sheets in 12 league games. Strengthening their defensive line through reinforcements could provide much-needed stability and increase competition for starting spots.

Another concern for the Gaurs is the lack of goal-scoring contributions from their Indian players. While Carlos Martinez and Noah Sadaoui amassed a combined total of 21 goals, only six different players found the back of the net for a total of 15 goals.

As they look ahead to the next season, bolstering their squad both defensively and offensively will be crucial for their success.