JFC and HFC: Two silverware winners who share a differing trajectory

Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC have had a contrasting tale in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season. The reigning Hero ISL League Winners' season hasn't gone down as planned, and the team hasn’t yet fully recovered from the departure of key personnel in Greg Stewart and former head coach Owen Coyle.

Alternatively, the reigning Hero ISL champions have had a commanding presence in the league so far, having won four out of the five games they’ve played, collecting the joint-most points (13) after five games in the history of Hero ISL, and are one of the two unbeaten teams this season as they lead the league standings.

In the six Hero ISL encounters between the two teams, Jamshedpur FC have been unbeaten against Hyderabad FC, having drawn four and won two. That might turn out to be a major differentiating factor for both the sides in their first contest of the 2022-23 season at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur.

After going down to Odisha FC in their opening game of the season, things have gone downhill for the Red Miners this season as they registered only one win in their following three games. With a different style of football under head coach Aidy Boothroyd’s helm, his style has still been under practise, with the team yet to deliver their best performance so far.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Jamshedpur FC were hampered by that bad start to the season. They were absolutely devastated to be two goals up so early against Odisha and then lose 3-2. Then, the worst thing possible (happened), they would want to get that (the loss) out of their system instead they didn’t play for another 11 days. Then, when they did, they had another 8-day wait. So they only played three games in the first 3-4 weeks of the season which wasn’t good for them,” said Hero ISL commentator John Helm on how bad the opening game affected the rest of the games for JFC.

A team that was firing across all cylinders during last season, the Men of Steel seem to have lost their attacking firepower this season. Aidy Boothroyd’s men have been able to score only four goals in four matches this season. After scoring two goals in their first match, they have managed only two goals in their last three matches. In the 2022-23 season, they are scoring fewer goals, taking fewer shots, and creating fewer chances every 90 minutes compared to last season. Their goal conversion rate and shot accuracy is also lower than what they managed under former head coach Owen Coyle in the previous season.

Season

2021-22

2022-23

Goals p90

1.95

1

Shots on target p90

4.59

2.75

Shots p90

14.05

13.25

Shot Accuracy %

32.68

20.75

Minutes per goal

46.05

90

Goal Conversion %

13.26

7.54

Chances created p90

9.82

8.5

With no near perfect replacement for Greg Stewart, who led the team with his creativity and goal output last season, the side has been scoring fewer goals and creating fewer chances than the league average this season. One of the key issues has been landing their shots on target. They have failed to have more than three shots on target in any of their four matches this season. Only two teams have a worse shot accuracy than their 20.76% this season – NorthEast United FC and Bengaluru FC.

Metric

Value

League Rank

League Average

Goals

4

8

6.09

Goals/match

1

7

1.34

Goal conversion rate

7.54

8

9.81

Shots

53

8

59.27

Shots per match

13.25

8

13.04

Shots on target

11

8

18.09

Shots on target/match

2.75

8

3.98

Shot Accuracy %

20.76

9

30.5

Chances created

34

9

42.54

Chances created/match

8.5

8

9.42

“I’m sure that Aidy Boothroyd doesn’t know his best eleven yet, to start with. Should it be Chukwu (Daniel) and Sawyer (Harry) upfront as a pairing or should he go with just Chukwu upfront? Wellington Priori has been excellent in midfield so far, he’s slotted Farukh Choudhary in the midfield alongside him and they do have dynamic wingers in Boris Singh and Ritwik Das. However, I’m not convinced at the moment that the best centre-back partnership is Eli Sabia and Peter Hartley. So maybe Aidy Boothroyd still has a bit of tinkering to do before he can finally settle on what is his best combination and then he should just stick with it and get on with the job,” added Helm.

On the other end, Manolo Marquez’s men have had a magnificent start to the season, having registered four wins and four shutouts in five games, taking their points tally to 13, four points clear at the top of the table. In each of the four matches they kept a clean sheet, they have conceded a maximum of two shots on target. Their excellent defensive display has limited their opponents to fewer than 10 shots from inside the box in each of those matches. They have also conceded the fewest goals this season (3), all of which were conceded in their season opener against Mumbai City FC.

It is not surprising given the way Marquez has shaped his team to their optimum capacity: high intensity-pressing, use of all extreme ends of the pitch, and build-up play through each player’s ball carrying ability, which has been developed through each passing season. Marquez's ingenuity lies in his blend of using the right kind of foreign players and domestic players. In each season, the coach’s focal point has been building the team around the core players while also keeping the development of young players as the focal point.

“What a joy it has been to see them over the last couple of seasons, he’s (Marquez) has lifted them fantastically. When we’re talking here about the image he’s set and the effect on Indian football as a whole. Their first season in the league, they finished at the bottom. Since then, they’ve been absolutely brilliant, and he’s brought the youth in, people like Akash Mishra, Yasir, Hitesh Sharma, they’ve all done absolutely brilliantly. He just has a great reputation of working with young players. I think they look at him as a father figure and he loves that role as well,” Helm commented on how Hyderabad FC have gone from strength to strength. 

A perfect example of this is the revival of Halicharan Narzary and Yasir Mohammad, who have been the face behind the goals for Hyderabad FC this season. Yasir has three goal contributions: one goal and two assists whereas Halicharan has notched two goals and two assists. While last season it was Bartholomew Ogbeche who was their main man when it came to scoring goals, Yasir and Halicharan have shared the responsibility so far this season, and it only shows how the young players have made headway in their game.

“The other thing that stands out for me with Hyderabad FC this year is the rejuvenation of Halicharan (Narzary) down that left-hand side, he’s been super. He scored a couple goals the other evening as well. That past, they have the most underrated defender in the entire league: Odei (Onaindia), the Spaniard at centre-back, he never puts a foot out of place, never has a bad game. In addition, those are the reasons and combinations why Hyderabad FC are so successful, long may it continue. I would back them to still be in the top two at the end of the season,” the commentator added. 

Jamshedpur FC have not settled that well under Boothroyd but it will be a tough task for them to get past a splendid Hyderabad FC. The Men of Steel have relied on set-pieces for goalscoring opportunities and they face a Hyderabad FC who are yet to concede a goal from set-pieces. 

While it certainly may not be an easy contest, it surely will be an entertaining one, with the stakes being high for both sides.

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