The 2023-24 Indian Super League (ISL) season initially brimmed with promise and anticipation for Kerala Blasters FC. However, as the season progressed, it was marred by a string of injuries and a constant shuffle in the lineup.

The club had strengthened both their attacking and defensive departments during the summer transfer window, with notable signings including Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das, Milos Drinic, and Kwame Peprah.

With head coach Ivan Vukomanovic at the helm for his third season, expectations were high among fans for a playoff push and a competitive bid for silverware. While the Blasters did manage to clinch a playoff spot, their journey came to an abrupt halt for the second consecutive season in the one-legged knockout fixture.

Record 

Pl: 22; W: 10; L: 9; D: 3; Pts: 33; GF: 32; GA: 31 

Kerala Blasters FC kicked off the season on a high note, emerging as formidable contenders for the League Shield with an impressive start. With just two defeats in their first 12 matches, they secured eight victories, showcasing their prowess on the field. However, setbacks struck when key foreign players like Adrian Luna and Kwame Peprah sustained long-term injuries, altering the team's dynamics and impacting their performance.

Following the league's resumption in January, Kerala Blasters FC endured a challenging phase, suffering defeats in seven out of the ten matches played and managing only two wins. Despite this slump, their strong showing in the initial half of the season ensured their qualification for the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Notably, Kerala Blasters FC were the second team after FC Goa to spend the most days at the top of the table during the 2023-24 season.

Positives 

Despite constant injuries within the squad and changes to their starting eleven, the Blasters gave it their all on the field and were difficult to stop when in full flow. They netted 32 goals, bettering their tally from last season. They blanked in just four of their 22 league games, showing how efficient they were in front of goals. 

Another silver lining was how their players from the youth academy stepped up. The likes of Sachin Suresh, Mohammed Azhar, Mohammed Aimen, Nihal Sudeesh made the most of their chances and their contributions were visible. Even when the Blasters suffered injuries to key and experienced players, it was the young players who shouldered the responsibility and put up mature performances despite their lack of experience.

Negatives 

Despite Kerala Blasters FC's ability to find the net, their defensive stability remained a concern. They conceded 31 goals during the league stage, one short of their goalscoring tally, which proved detrimental as they fell out of contention for the Shield. Since the league resumed in January, the Blasters endured 10 games without a clean sheet, conceding 21 goals while scoring 17. These defensive weaknesses presented formidable obstacles for the team, affecting their performance in the latter half of the season.

Best player 

Dimitrios Diamantakos 

Diamantakos' absence was keenly felt in the playoff defeat against Odisha FC, as the Greek forward sustained an injury towards the end of the league stage. Despite struggling with injuries at the season's outset and towards the end of the league stage, he featured in 17 games, stepping up admirably in the absence of Adrian Luna and Kwame Peprah, shouldering much of the goalscoring burden.

Read: Diamantakos' brilliance lifts Kerala Blasters FC

With 13 goals in 17 appearances, Diamantakos matched Roy Krishna's tally despite playing fewer games. However, he clinched the Golden Boot award due to his superior goals-to-minutes ratio.

Best young player 

Mohammed Aimen

Midfielder Mohammed Aimen enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Blasters, solidifying his position in the starting lineup during the latter half of the league stage. His dynamic attributes including his pace, energy, and creativity - proved invaluable to the team, while he also seamlessly transitioned between roles at times, from midfield to forward. 

Aimen appeared in 21 games, chipping in with a goal and two assists. Notably, he scored his first ISL goal against Hyderabad FC in Kerala Blasters FC's final league match.

What do they need next season? 

Following Vukomanovic's departure from Kerala Blasters FC, the club faces the task of finding a successor capable of continuing his attacking philosophy while nurturing youth talent—an integral aspect of the club's ethos. 

Additions in defence and midfield will be paramount going into next season. Despite Marko Leskovic's pivotal role in defence over the past two seasons, his struggles with injuries underscored the need for an experienced backup centre-back to provide depth and competition. 

Moreover, the absence of a commanding defensive midfielder, exemplified by Jeakson Singh's injury-induced absence, impacted the team's defensive solidity, resulting in the team conceding numerous goals. 

Rectifying these issues stands as a crucial objective for the upcoming season, with the aim of maintaining Vukomanovic's attacking ethos.