Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic is keen to go one step better than last term as he prepares his team for the upcoming Hero Indian Super League (ISL) season.

The Kochi-based side were beaten on penalties in the final last season and Vukomanovic who has seen a number of players leave and arrive in the transfer market believes the Blasters are better equipped to challenge in the upcoming campaign than last year.

“Overall, we have managed to bring together a compact team with balance in all the departments,” Vukomanovic told Malayala Manorama in an interview.

“Last year, we did not have enough bench strength to deal with the absence of key players in crucial matches. This team has some unpredictable and dangerous players. Kaliuzhnyi is one of them,” he added.

The Serbian managed to get the best out of his players last season and believes more than the reputation of the player, he looks at their desire to work for the team’s cause as a key quality while signing players.

“All the foreign recruits for the new season are proven players. We don't want big names in our team. We want players who have an insatiable hunger for success and those who feel proud to wear the yellow shirt,” he said.

Apart from assembling a group of foreign players that didn’t just add quality but a lot of work rate as well, Vukomanovic got the Indian players to fire on all cylinders. The likes of Sahal Abdul Samad, and Ruivah Hormipam were among the best Indian players in the league.

Vukomanovic has once again stressed the importance of young homegrown players in the team and it won’t be a surprise if a few players from the Kerala Blasters FC youth team that played in the Next Gen Cup and Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) make their way into the squad.

The Serbian is looking to have a lot of tactical flexibility in his team in the upcoming seasons and aim to use a formation that gets the best out of the players he picks.

“The playing style depends on the individual potential of each player,” he said.

“Last season, we began most of the matches in the 4-4-2 formation. However, we tried out various other formations depending upon the situation created by the opponents. You might have noticed full-backs attacking vigorously while fulfilling the defensive duties and midfielder Sahal (Abdul Samad) playing as a pure striker,” he said.

Kerala Blasters FC are currently in the UAE preparing for the new season. They will finally return to playing their home games in Kochi after a gap of two years and the crowd are sure to play a big part in where they end up this season. Having the yellow army cheer for them in Kochi will certainly aid Kerala Blasters FC’s chances of going far in the tournament.