The Anchors: Best Midfielders from the Hero ISL 2022-23 season
The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season saw Indian football rising to new heights with teams playing attacking football and displaying a coherent style of play. The campaign was defined by world-class goals scored by the attackers but the crucial cog behind those moves were midfielders, the backbones of their respective teams binding everything together and running the whole show from the middle of the park.
From leading the team through the shadows or stepping forward when needed the most, midfielders have taken the baton of responsibility to be the face of the team and have proved throughout the history of Hero ISL how crucial they are to form a successful trophy-winning side.
With yet another nerve-racking end to a scintillating Hero ISL season, let's take a look at some of the best midfielders from the 2022-23 season:
Lalengmawia Ralte (Mumbai City FC)
Lalengmawia Ralte commonly known as Apuia has taken big strides in terms of his performances and authority over the field with every single match. Having won the Hero Emerging Player of the season in the 2020-21 season, the 22-year-old cemented his place in an already star-studded Mumbai City FC's midfield and played an important role in helping the Islanders to clinch the League Winners' Shield.
Clocking more than 1200 minutes in the latest season, Apuia was one of the first names in Des Buckingham's lineup and the midfielder returned the faith by putting up exemplary performances with every outing. He scored three goals, his best scoring season to date and went on to create 11 chances for the team while averaging 39.53 passes per match.
"He's got the ability that the young players don't have. He reads the game very well," John Helm praised the youngster while speaking to Indiansuperleague.
Known for his composure and distribution on the pitch, Apuia played the role of a sweeper in a very attacking Mumbai City FC team and he played the role perfectly. His awareness of sensing out the danger and reading the flow of the game is top-notch and his brave performances against the top-six teams only proved how the youngster has the making of a star midfielder for Indian football.
Iker Guarrotxena (FC Goa)
It's not usual to see a midfielder amongst the leading goal scorers of the season list but that's what you get with Guarrotxena, the Spanish midfielder bagged 11 goals to his name and was ranked on the fourth spot in the top goal scorers list, failing only one goal short of the top spot.
The 30-year-old was one of the few bright spots of the FC Goa who failed to make it to the playoffs after losing the all-crucial match against Bengaluru FC, however, Guarrotxena scored in that match as well to show how he has carried the responsibility on his shoulders from midfield. His late runs into the box and clinical finishing have made him one of the league's most influential midfielders, and the ability to turn up when needed the most only proves Guarrotxena's metal in the highly contested league.
From a 12-minute hattrick against East Bengal FC to the winner against NorthEast United FC, the talisman came to the rescue again and again for Carlos Pena's side. If this is how Guarrotxena performed in his first season of Indian football then the fans can expect fireworks every single season because the Spaniard looks to stamp his authority as he moves.
Hugo Boumous (ATK Mohun Bagan)
One of the very few players to win the Hero ISL trophy in back-to-back seasons, Boumous knows how to deliver on the big stage and the French midfielder came out strong for ATK Mohun Bagan in their push for their maiden Hero ISL trophy.
The 27-year-old played in all 20 matches for the Mariners and was one of the most crucial players in the team. He contributed to the Mariners' campaign with five goals and bagged four assists while averaging 0.25 goals per game and creating 48 chances for the team. Known for his intelligent style of play and inch-perfect passes, Boumous gelled brilliantly with his teammates in only his first season with the club.
From the winner against FC Goa in matchweek 13 to the opener against Odisha FC in the Eliminator match, Boumous displayed his knack for scoring goals at the crucial time. The French midfielder displayed his composure and guided the team in the toughest moments and was highly applauded by Juan Ferrando for his role to help the Mariners lift the Hero ISL trophy.
Javi Hernandez (Bengaluru FC)
Hernandez played an important role in Bengaluru FC's season when the strikers were not having the best seasons of their lives. The Spanish midfielder was one of the biggest reasons the Blues were able to turn around the season which looked dismal because of their struggling start.
The 33-year-old scored seven times, the highest of his Hero ISL career and bagged five assists to his name, displaying his attacking prowess as a midfielder. He brought in clutch performances when the team needed him the most, the brace against FC Goa, to the winner and an assist against Mumbai City FC to inflict their first defeat of the season and the goal in the Semi-final, a few of the examples to show how Hernandez how done it at the biggest stage and against the toughest opponents.
The Blues fell one step short of the biggest prize but Hernandez had one of the most impressive seasons of his Hero ISL tenure and the veteran midfielder would be looking to build upon a brilliant campaign to take his game one step higher in the coming additions.
Adrian Luna (Kerala Blasters FC)
In a season which saw Kerala Blasters FC going on a record-breaking eight-match unbeaten run to losing seven out of nine matches of the second leg of the fixtures, Ivan Vukomanovic's side had one constant and that was Luna, the Uruguayan midfielder displayed his quality whenever he stepped on the pitch and was the difference maker on more than one occasions.
The 30-year-old scored four times and created six goals in a season where the Blasters reached the Semi-finals. His play-making and close control skills have brought fans to the edge of their seats and to top it off, Luna has scored some screamers to show his knack for the goal. Being one of the most trusted men by Vukomanovic, Luna played all 20 matches while clocking more than 1800 minutes.
Despite his side, not being able to fulfil their ambitions, it was a bright season for one of the most eye-catching players of the Hero ISL. His moments of brilliance to turn the match on its head have been a constant in Hero ISL, his screamer against Chennaiyin FC in matchweek 19 and turning up the heat and setting up the winning goal is one of the latest examples of why he's a fan favourite and considered one of the best midfielders in Hero ISL.
Suresh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC)
The youngest player on the list, Wangjam is the perfect example of grit, passion and hard work. The 22-year-old was one of the most consistent players in Simon Grayson's side and the English head coach showed trust in the youngster to feature him in every match of the campaign.
In a season of two halves where the Blues struggled in the first half of the season and then went onto one of the most heroic runs of the Hero ISL history, one player who held his standards and delivered optimum performances throughout the season was Wangjam. Known for his never-dying work rate and robust mentality, the youngster never shied away from any challenge and displayed the real essence of Bengaluru FC. He clocked over more than 1800 minutes while averaging 36.77 passes per game.
The ever-present face in midfield, Wangjam was one of the most crucial parts of the Blues team who turned the tables on its head after the turn of the year and went onto the final. His display of composer and coolness was evident when he dispatched a calm penalty in the Semi-final against Mumbai City FC. The youngster has made him one of the first names in Bengaluru FC's playing XI and he'll be looking to get one better in the competitions ahead.