Kibu Vicuna: Kerala is a very good yet challenging opportunity

Kerala Blasters FC's new head coach Kibu Vicuna is looking forward to testing himself with his new club in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). The Spaniard is not new to Indian football though, and comes into the Hero ISL on the back of a title-winning campaign with Mohun Bagan in the Hero I-League. Vicuna described his recent appointment as ‘a very good yet challenging opportunity’ in the latest episode of Let’s Football Live.

"I received a phone call from the sporting director Karolis Skinkys and we discussed the future of the club and about creating a new project. I also had a word with the president and the CEO of the club, and I thought that we can create a good team,” Vicuna told host Anant Tyagi on Thursday evening.

“The supporters of Kerala Blasters are amazing. It is a very good yet challenging opportunity. It is a very good challenge for me especially, to develop myself as a coach and try to create a good project in Kerala," he added.

Kerala’s new head coach delved into a variety of topics during the almost hour-long chat about his philosophy, the importance of young talent, Indian Football and more.

Kerala's new philosophy

Vicuna has already tasted success in Indian football and was at the helm of an entertaining Mohun Bagan side that dominated the Hero I-League and secured the title prior to the COVID-19 pandemic suspending the campaign.

Under the 48-year-old, Mohun Bagan had the sharpest attack and soundest defence, scoring 35 goals and conceding 13 times, and the Spaniard hopes to carry the same philosophy into the Hero ISL with the Kochi-based club.

"The key word here is balance, especially between attack and defence. I think we can improve through the team, but I think we have to create our own style. When we talk about conceding goals, the defence comes under scrutiny, and when we talk about scoring goals, it’s the attack. But it is about the whole team. We will try to create a good attacking team but at the same time, we have to concentrate on the defensive face of the game," he said.

Vicuna’s vision

Vicuna wants his Blasters to make the most of their chances and emphasized the importance of scoring. "We will look to have more possession of the ball, and we will play in the opponent’s half. The most important statistic is the number of goals scored. Last season Kerala had more possession in 16 of the 18 games but converting this possession to chances is very important," he opined.

The Spaniard continued, "We are trying to create a good team according to the situation and the budget. First, we need to look at the talent at our own club. Our objective is to create a strong team with strong values. My idea is to always be a proactive team - always trying to control the game through the ball. If we work well and play good football then we will be closer to getting good results."

Want to work with the young players

Vicuna revealed that he’s looking forward to using Kerala’s exciting youngsters more and gushed about some of the club’s young prospects. “I want to work with the young players, with the five or six young academy graduates. We had the same plan in my previous club. We have many young stars already like Jeakson Singh, Rahul KP, Sahal. We have young players who I expect to be important players in the team,” he said.

“Jeakson has played very well as a defensive midfielder. He has very good distribution of the ball. Rahul is also very good; in one game against Mohun Bagan and Indian Arrows, Rahul played very well so I tried to sign him at my previous club. I expect a lot from him. He is a very fast player and is very versatile,” Vicuna enthused.

The Spaniard also had high praise for midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad and expressed his desire of striking the right balance between his youngsters and experienced players. "I was also impressed with Sahal. One of the best Indian players I have seen, very creative. I think we have to create a good environment around him because he could be a very good player in the future. It's important to have players with experience along with the young players to create the perfect cocktail and having players like Bartholomew Ogbeche and Sandesh Jhingan helps a lot," Vicuna explained.

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