Team Profile: Robust midfield key to Odisha's maiden Hero ISL dream

Football is on the rise in the state of Odisha and Odisha FC's inception as the eastern state's representative marks a new dawn not only for the region but also the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). In tune with the occasion, expectations surrounding the team will be sky high for their debut season.

With the Hero ISL 2019-20 just over the horizon, here's an overview of just exactly how prepared Odisha FC are to tackle these expectations.

The Team

With a big part of the roster, including the head coach, coming in from the Delhi Dynamos setup from last season, Hero ISL fans should be familiar with a significant chunk of the roster. The team consists of some highly-regarded Indian players like Vinit Rai, Narayan Das, Nandhakumar Sekar, Rana Gharami, Romeo Fernandes. Enigmatic Spanish midfielder Marcos Tebar will also be part of Odisha FC's maiden venture and so will be the ever-reliable Francisco Dorronsoro - currently the Hero ISL's only foreign goalkeeper for the upcoming season.

The management has also added some very effective signings like former Barcelona B midfielder Diawandou Diagne, striker Aridane Santana, young Indian defender Gaurav Bora, Argentine midfielder Martin Perez Guedes, Brazilian defender Carlos Delgado, winger Jerry Mawihmingthanga and others to bolster the squad.

AT THE HELM

Despite a very slow start with Delhi Dynamos FC in Hero ISL 2018-19, Josep Gombau managed to inspire and instruct a young team to finish the campaign on a strong note. It definitely took time for his philosophy to rub into his players, but once it did the quick possession-based Catalan style was pretty evident. With a much stronger unit at his disposal at Odisha, the Spaniard will be looking to showcase more of his tactical acumen with the right tools in his shed this time.

STRENGTHS

With Diagne playing as a screen for the defence, Tebar and Rai taking up box-to-box roles and Guedes representing a solid addition at the middle of the park, Odisha, on paper have a formidable midfield. Nandhakumar and Jerry's pace down the wings, coupled with Xisco's ability to find a pass in the final third will also provide plenty of chances for Santana. The Spaniard is an accomplished striker and can thrive with the supply from midfield and the wings.

AREAS OF CONCERN

Despite Santana representing a very potent option up top, the only two strikers apart from him in the team are Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Seiminmang Manchong. While Lalhlimpuia impressed last season with Delhi Dynamos, showing glimpses of his talent, it may still be early days for the 22-year-old to lead the line on his own. Nineteen-year-old Manchong, on the other hand, only has the experience of having played a handful of minutes in top-flight football. Furthermore, unlike a few of their rivals in the Hero ISL this season, Odisha don't quite have the personnel in midfield who can possibly take up the mantle of an out-and-out striker and be the targetman for the team. Thus, in case of an injury to Santana, or a prolonged absence, Gombau might find himself with a major headache.

SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS: Francisco Dorronsoro, Ankit Bhuyan, Arshdeep Singh

DEFENDERS: Gaurav Bora, Shubham Sarangi, Narayan Das, Carlos Javier Delgado, Rana Gharami, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Amit Tudu, Mohammad Sajid Dhot

MIDFIELDERS: Diawandou Diagne, Bikramjit Singh, Marcos Tebar Ramiro, Xisco Hernandez, Martin Perez Guedes, Vinit Rai, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Romeo Fernandes, Nandhakumar Sekar, Lalhrezuala Sailung, Van Lal Remtluanga Chhangte

FORWARDS: Aridane Jesus Santana, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Seiminmang Manchong

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