Team Profile: Will the overhaul at Kerala bear fruit this season?
Kerala Blasters FC endured one of their worst seasons in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) last term. Finishing second from bottom, the two-time finalists, struggled through the entire campaign, winning just twice in 18 matches. The club, seeking a revival after back to back disappointing seasons, have invested heavily in the summer, signing some quality players whilst also bringing in a new head coach to aid the process.
With the new season now on the horizon, here’s our in-depth assessment of the Blasters squad in Hero ISL 2019-20.
TRANSFER INS AND OUTS
The Blasters were possibly the busiest team in the summer, signing talented players from around the globe as well as from within the country. There’s an entirely new set of goalkeeping options available now, with TP Rehenesh, Bilal Khan and Shibinraj Kunniyil all making the move to Kerala.
Defensively, Gianni Zuiverloon and Jairo Rodrigues' acquisition will add depth to an already powerful back four. In midfield, Senegalese midfielder Mouhamadou Gning's addition can very well help unleash the best of last season's 'Emerging Player of the Year' Sahal Abdul Samad, absolving him of much of the defensive workload. Promising young attacking assets like Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Jeakson Singh and Rahul KP have also come in and will add to the intrigue factor at Kochi this season.
Further up the pitch, the Blasters have really gone big, signing experience and proven stars in the form of Bartholomew Ogbeche, Sergio Cindoncha and Mario Arques. Cameroonian forward Raphael Eric Messi Bouli, too, has come in and will provide a more physically imposing option up top for the team. The club will be hoping that these players can hit the right notes from the start, and compensate for the loss of Dheeraj Singh, Anas Edathodika and CK Vineeth.
AT THE HELM
After a historic season in-charge of NorthEast United FC last term, Eelco Schatttorie was quickly identified as the man to take the Blasters forward and restore them as one of the most feared sides in the league once again. Schattorie’s style and philosophy combines an equal measure of pragmatism and attacking intent, making him highly effective when it comes to churning out results. The Dutchman’s man-management skills, too, are top tier as proven by his success despite working with a very small Highlanders squad last season. With the Blasters though, the 47-year-old won’t have to deal with these restrictions anymore, thereby an opening a bright new world of possibilities for him and the club.
Quality in all sectors is undoubtedly Kerala’s biggest strength going into the Hero ISL 2019-20 season. The squad is full of goals, class and boasts players capable of turning a game within seconds. Last season’s struggles will also provide extra motivation to the retained players, who will be keen to prove a point and showcase how good they really are. This aspect could be a lethal weapon for Schattorie as he could use this aspect to facilitate that small edge, which makes all the difference in big matches.
AREAS OF CONCERN
As with any squad which has gone through a major overhaul and has a new boss at the helm, Kerala might need some time to come together as a unit. The new players have each got a distinctive style, which may require a considerable settling in period for the squad.
Furthermore, the unfortunate injury to Sandesh Jhingan, which just may keep the defensive ace out for a significant period, will be another possible issue that may adversely affect Kerala’s season. The India centre-back has been one of the best defenders in the league, bringing quality, experience and adaptability to the back four. Jhingan’s leadership ability is also an important aspect of his game, and the Blasters will hope it doesn’t affect them too much in the coming season.
GOALKEEPERS: Bilal Husain Khan, Rehenesh Thumbirumbu Paramba, Shibinraj Kunniyil
DEFENDERS: Mohamad Rakip, Jairo Rodrigues Peixoto Filho, Jessel Allan Carneiro, S Pritam Kumar Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Abdul Hakku, Lalruatthara, Gianni Michel Eugene Zuiverloon
MIDFIELDERS: Mario Blasco, Mouhamadou Moustapha Gning, Irom Seityasen Singh, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Pragyan Sundar Gogoi, Rahul Kannoly Praveen, Sahal Adbul Samad, Halicharan Narzary, Sergio Cindoncha, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Thounaojam Jeakson Singh
FORWARDS: Bartholomew Ogbeche, Mohammed Rafi, Raphael Messi Bouli
With some big expectations from them this season, can Kerala Blasters live up to their billing? Leave your predictions for the team in the comments below: