Kerala Blasters FC season review: A season with potential marred by inconsistency
A melange of sparkling moments and unsatisfactory performances characterised Kerala Blasters FC’s Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 campaign.
A melange of sparkling moments and unsatisfactory performances characterised Kerala Blasters FC’s Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 campaign. Led by Serbian head coach Ivan Vukomanovic – who became the first-ever KBFC head coach to get retained for another season – the Blasters secured qualification for the playoffs for a second successive season, a feat never achieved before with any of the previous head coaches.
The finalists of previous season, however, played an entertaining, attractive brand of football witnessed by the Blasters’ faithful under Vukomanovic’s tutelage at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi for the first time ever. Although it may seem as an underachievement after having finished fifth place in the league standings, the Blasters have shown signs of improvement under Vukomanovic.
Played: 21; Won: 10; Drawn: 1; Losses: 10; Goals fired: 28; Goals against: 29; Points: 31
The Tuskers inaugurated the Hero ISL 2022-23 campaign with a convincing 3-1 win over East Bengal FC in front of their home crowd in Kochi. However, the side bore a brunt of three consecutive losses against arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan, Odisha FC, and Mumbai City FC. Not backed down by these losses, the Tuskers inspired a terrific comeback that saw them go on a eight-game unbeaten run that included seven wins and one draw.
The latter part of the season saw their form dip as the side managed just two victories in the last eight games thereby losing their chance to finish in the top four.
The Blasters recorded 10 wins this season, their highest win tally in a single Hero ISL season. While there was uneasiness around the foreign departures of Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Pereyra Diaz, the Serbian backed his plans with the signing of the striking duo - Dimitrios Diamantakos and Apostolos Giannou. The duo combined for a total of 17 goal contributions for the side, two short of the 19 goal contributions by Vazquez and Diaz in the previous season. Amassing 28 goals this season, this was the Blasters third-highest goal tally in a single Hero ISL season.
The Kochi-based side shipped in 28 goals - as many as they scored this season. They conceded the second-highest goals amongst the top six. With centre-back Marko Leskovic missing part of the season due to injury, Vukomanovic’s side struggled to put up a strong defensive line that could obstruct the opponent’s threat.
The side have not found their best form when it has come to playing away from home. Out of their nine losses this season, six have come on the road. Further, the Kochi-based side have failed to sustain the lead after scoring first and have dropped points on four such occasions including games against ATK Mohun Bagan (home and away), Odisha FC (away), and Chennaiyin FC (away).
The Blasters’ midfield stalwart had yet another exceptional season to his name. The 30-year-old hit double digit figures for a second season running - registering 10 goal contributions comprising four goals and six assists. The Uruguayan also made his name into the all-time leaderboard for the Tuskers as he became their all-time leading assist provider (13 assists) and chance creator (105 chances created) in Hero ISL history.
Best Young Player
The 23-year-old played 349 minutes across 12 matches for the Blasters and provided two assists in the process. Marking his debut season with quality performances whenever called on to the pitch, Miranda was effective in the final third. His defensive ability coupled with his versatility of delivering crosses and attacking through the wings make him a huge asset.
What do they need for next season?
With all the problems they have faced in defence, Vukomanovic needs to address his side’s defensive unit. Having shipped 28 goals, the Yellow Army have conceded the third joint-most number of goals in a single Hero ISL season, matching their tally of the 2018-19 season. There has been no single defender in the Blasters’ backline that has featured in all of the games, thus signifying the need of an ever-present figure who can take charge and be in command of the team throughout the season.