Kibu Vicuna: Our defence needs to strike a balance with the attack

Kerala Blasters FC’s new head coach Kibu Vicuna wants his side to strike the perfect balance in attack and defence in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21. Vicuna wants to build on the Blasters’ possession-based game from last season by helping his team create more chances going forward, while remaining defensively resolute at the back – unlike Hero ISL 2019-20 when they conceded 32 times.

“I’ll be looking to allow the team to continue playing a possession-based style, while forcing them to work hard on creating more goalscoring chances. I will also be focusing on developing a more organized defence because I believe that the team conceded too many goals last season due to defensive errors,” Vicuna explained during an interaction with fans on the Instagram account of Manjappada, Kerala Blasters’ fan club.

"Balance is a key aspect of football. As a team, your defence needs to strike a balance with the attack. Only then you can transition easily between both processes and dominate your opponents in the game,” he stressed.

Vicuna won the I-League with Mohun Bagan last season but is under no illusion when it comes to the task at hand that awaits him at Kerala. “Competition in ISL is very tough. Teams are almost equally strong. Hence, we should maintain top form throughout the season. Reaching the playoffs is all the more important for Kerala Blasters because the team couldn’t get there in the last three seasons. To finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the playoffs is our first objective,” he said.

He continued, “Every coach has his own style. I think it would be better to go forward step-by-step rather than thinking about winning the title already. I watched all of Kerala Blasters’ matches from last season and understood that we have good players when it comes to attacking. This will definitely be taken into account when we are making plans for the new season. Right now, we are still working on building our squad. We will try to build the best team possible, so that our primary objective of reaching the top four can be achieved.”

The Spanish head coach went on to reveal that he’s been in touch with his players and has been giving them several conditioning exercises to aid their preparations. “We are currently not training with the team as you all know, but all of us are meeting and talking to each other via video conferencing. Players are also being given various physical and mental training exercises to help them prepare for pre-season training.”

While expanding on some of the options at his disposal with Kerala, the 48-year-old added, “Sahal (Abdul Samad) is a very creative player. He can play in a number of positions – as a No. 8, No. 10, and so on. His passing is impeccable. From what I saw in his highlights from last season, his through-passes are extremely effective. It is not surprising that he has found his way into the Indian football team and he is definitely one of the most important young players in the country.”

“Nongdamba Naorem played under me at Mohun Bagan last season. He joined them on loan from the Blasters, but now he has returned. He was exceptional last season and played a major role in us winning the I-League title. I hope he will continue to produce promising results with Kerala Blasters as well next season.  Jessel (Carneiro) – whose contract we renewed last week, Prasanth K, Abdul Hakku, Jeakson Singh, Rahul KP will also stay with us next season. These are the few other players I like,” Vicuna admitted.

However, he made it clear that no individual can be greater than the collective and how the team must always come first. “That said, I believe that the most important player in any team is the whole team itself. For me, to create a good team means creating a very good atmosphere in the dressing room and to give equal importance to every player. The first step in creating a good team is to make it a good family,” Vicuna shared.

“Footballing styles, coaches and even players come and go, but the team has to stay the same way if they are looking to achieve success on the pitch. As the new head coach of Kerala Blasters, I would try my best to be approachable by any player. I can help them in the best way possible only if they open up to me,” the Spaniard added.

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