ISL 2023-24, January transfer window: What every ISL club needs?
The international break provides ISL clubs with an opportunity to reset and strengthen their squads.
The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season has been intriguing so far and is now on a month-long international break, with Kerala Blasters FC leading the table at the halfway mark.
Also Read: ISL 2023-24: What to expect in the new year
During this break, especially with the winter transfer window now open, clubs have a great opportunity to seek replacements and come back strongly for the remainder of the season.
In light of this, we have identified key areas where clubs can focus on improvement during this break.
Kerala Blasters FC
Kerala Blasters FC have navigated this season brilliantly, currently leading the table with 26 points from 12 matches. Despite injuries to key players, substitutes have seamlessly filled their positions, preventing the absence of injured players from being felt. However, the recent injury to captain Adrian Luna, potentially ruling him out for a long period, is a major setback. The club is actively seeking a like-for-like replacement, although Luna's role is somewhat irreplaceable, given his leadership, gameplay, and work rate. Nonetheless, finding a replacement would undoubtedly strengthen the squad and boost their bench depth.
⭐️ performers 😎— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 4, 2024
Comment your TOTS so far with the following criteria 👇
• 7 Indians & 4 Foreigners
• Max of 3 players from a team
• Captain & Head Coach
Some of the best ones will be featured on our handles! 🙌#ISL #ISL10 #LetsFootball | @Sports18 pic.twitter.com/MEG2kGtDVl
Vibin Mohanan, who effectively anchored the Blasters' midfield in Jeakson's absence, has also succumbed to an injury. Considering the anticipated return dates of the two central midfielders, head coach Ivan Vukomanovic may explore midfield options during the winter transfer window.
FC Goa have had an excellent start to the season under Manolo Marquez. The new head coach and the summer signings have seamlessly adjusted themselves to the new surroundings, and this has been evident in the results as well. The Gaurs remained unbeaten in their opening ten matches with eight wins and two draws.
However, an injury to Victor Rodriguez has ruled him out for the season, and the club would be keen to secure a like-for-like replacement for him, someone who can step into his position with ease.
Odisha FC appointed the experienced Sergio Lobera at the helm, and the Spaniard brought in players who had prior experience playing with him. Those signings have turned out to be a success for the Kalinga Warriors. Despite a slow start to the season, the Lobera-led side has gradually found its rhythm and has been unbeaten in the last eight matches in the league.
Despite creating the second-fewest number of chances (85), the Kalinga Warriors have scored the most number of goals (22) so far this season. This proves their clinical prowess in front of goal. However, an attacking-minded side like Odisha FC would definitely look to create more chances in the second half of the season.
Now, with a month-long break and the winter window open, the Spanish head coach will have the requisite time to get more from his players and also bring in players who align with his vision and system, if required.
Mumbai City FC
Mumbai City FC have had a decent start to the season and currently sit fourth in the points table. However, they aim to enhance their performance in specific areas to become more threatening as a team. The winger duo of Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte, after a quiet start to the season, has shown some glimpses of their form from last season, and their new head coach Petr Kratky will hope to extract more from his star players to propel them back to fight for the League Shield.
Also, this break presents a great opportunity for the coach to shape the squad according to his vision. Kratky could bring in new players to fit into his system if he desires.
Mohun Bagan Super Giant
Mohun Bagan Super Giant have nearly acquired everything they desired in the summer transfer window, both in terms of Indian and foreign recruitment. However, their progress has suddenly taken a downward turn due to injuries to key players, and they are currently going through a rough patch after losing three matches in a row.
Also Read: Triumphs, challenges, legacy: Ferrando’s journey with Mohun Bagan SG
The MBSG management have consistently shown a willingness to make new additions to their squad whenever required, and this time they have made a change in the coach’s hot seat by appointing Antonio Lopez Habas as the new head coach after parting ways with Juan Ferrando.
Also Read: Can Antonio Habas work his magic with Mohun Bagan SG?
Understanding the seriousness and potential duration of injuries to players like Anwar Ali and Glan Martins, if they are indeed expected to be sidelined for an extended period, the team could consider bringing in players to fill these positions during the winter transfer window. Additionally, with Ashique Kuruniyan out for an extended period, they may also explore options for acquiring a player who can operate on the wing or as a wing-back, aligning with the preferences of their head coach. They might also look to bring in players if their new head coach desires it.
NorthEast United FC
Having finished at the bottom of the table last season, NorthEast United FC have shown significant signs of improvement this season under Juan Pedro Benali. The Highlanders currently sit sixth in the table with 12 points from 12 matches. However, during the break, they would look to enhance certain areas on the field.
Benali, who recently signed a contract extension with the Highlanders, might consider additions in the striking position and may also explore options for the goalkeeper position in the transfer window, with their custodian Mirshad Michu not being in the best form lately.
Chennaiyin FC haven't had a good start under the familiar face of Owen Coyle. They have conceded the most number of goals (22) in the league so far, and this would be the primary area where Coyle would like to work during the break. The Scottish-Irish tactician has a knack for working with young players, and Chennaiyin FC have several young prodigies in the squad whom Coyle would definitely look to groom and develop.
Also, the head coach is quite familiar with the league and the players, and he might bring in players of his preference in the winter transfer window to enhance the quality of the side.
East Bengal FC
East Bengal FC made some quality signings in the summer window, and the changes have been evident in their gameplay. Despite losing three matches in a row, they made a great comeback and have remained unbeaten in their last five matches, showcasing defensive solidity by keeping four clean sheets in a row, five in total (compared to the three clean sheets achieved in the entire last season).
However, their main struggle has been chance creation. Despite having players like Nandhakumar Sekar, Mahesh Singh, Borja Herrera, and Cleiton Silva, they have only created 80 chances, the fewest in the league so far. They would surely like to add more strength in this area.
Also Read: It's important for us to keep this momentum: East Bengal FC’s Carles Cuadrat
Their defence has been the second-best in the league in terms of goals conceded, but their offence ranks as the third-worst, managing only 11 goals. Forward Javier Siverio is yet to open his tally in the league for the Red and Gold Brigade, and only four East Bengal players have found the back of the net so far. The lack of an Indian forward is another reason. They would undoubtedly look to strengthen in this area.
Souvik Chakrabarti, after spending most of the time on the bench last season, has redeemed himself this season and become a vital cog in Carles Cuadrat's system. In Souvik's absence, they would surely look for someone to fill his position and play alongside Saul Crespo. However, players like Ajay Chhetri, Edwin Vanspaul, and Mobashir Rahman haven't impressed so far, managing only one appearance each this season. This is another vital area where they might look for a quality addition.
Bengaluru FC have already witnessed a change in the coach’s hot seat this season and have secured four points in the last two matches under their new head coach, Gerard Zaragoza. So far, the Blues have conceded 19 goals, which is very surprising given their style of play. The void left by Sandesh Jhingan is yet to be filled in the Blues' backline, and they might look to add an experienced Indian centre-back that will also allow them to play more foreigners up front.
This break is an ideal opportunity for Zaragoza to tinker with his side and get the best out of his players. Bengaluru FC might also look to strengthen their forward line to improve their goal-scoring rate, as they have only managed to score 12 goals in 12 matches.
Jamshedpur FC stand second in terms of chances created (107) but find themselves only in the 9th position in terms of goals scored (12) so far this season. This poor conversion rate and lack of composure in front of the goal have left them in the 10th position in the points table with only nine points from 12 matches.
The Men of Steel have roped in a new head coach, Khalid Jamil, who will undoubtedly have his task cut out, with the primary target of improving the offensive area. Also, with experienced players Pronay Halder and Ritwik Das set to be sidelined for an extended period, they might look for new signings to fill their void and add strength in those areas.
Punjab FC, the newest entrant to the ISL, have had a challenging start to the season. After their opening 12 matches, they have only secured one win, which came in their 11th match against Chennaiyin FC. However, they have shown signs of progress and are gradually finding their momentum in the league, especially in their defensive half. They will surely look to work on their concentration, as most of the losses came by a very fine margin where the team lost concentration for a bit.
However, they haven't been much of a threat in the attacking third and have only managed to score nine goals in their opening 12 matches. Now, with a one-month gap, the team will definitely look to improve in this area. Also, with the winter transfer window open, the newly promoted side won't let the chance slip away to bring more quality players to the squad.
Hyderabad FC have been just a shadow of their previous seasons this season. The Yellow and Black are struggling at the bottom of the table with only four points from 11 matches. Moreover, they are yet to win any matches this season. They have a huge task at hand, which they would definitely like to work on during this break. Hyderabad FC have scored the least number of goals (5) and have conceded 19 goals so far, which is jointly the second-worst this season.
They need to improve both in the defensive half and the offensive half if they aim to improve their luck in the second half of the season. Hyderabad FC might also look for new faces during the winter window to pull themselves out of this situation.