Want to build a team that make it hard for opponents to play their game: Kerala Blasters FC’s Ivan Vukomanovic

Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic wants his players to build on last match’s performance against Mumbai City FC, as they take the field against rivals Chennaiyin FC in match 38 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season on Wednesday at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa.

Kerala Blasters FC stunned Mumbai City FC in a 3-0 win in their last game, and Vukomanovic wants his team to be a side no team wants to play against.

Ahead of Kerala Blasters FC’s clash against Chennaiyin FC, the head coach along with midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad addressed the media during a pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts of Ivan’s press conference:  

According to you, what is the best way to play against Chennaiyin FC who are extremely good defensively? 

Vukomanovic: If you see the rest of the leagues, you’ll realise that the teams which concede the least goals are actually on top of the table. So, from a coaching perspective, you should always consider and think about your defensive organization because as the saying goes, defense wins you titles.

We’ve already played Chennaiyin FC in the pre-season, and we have known each other for a long time. So, looking from that perspective, there will be no surprises tomorrow. Though, we’ll try and explore certain things tomorrow in order to win the game. So, I think we’ll see a tight game with lots of duels on Wednesday. It will be a tough one, but we’ll give our best for sure.

We are into the seventh match of the season. What are the areas where you want to make more improvements? And what are the aspects which the team should address while going forward?

Vukomanovic: Before the start of the Hero ISL, we wanted to avoid any injury issues of the players in our team. So, we are happy that we are capable of controlling the fitness part of our program. So far, we are grateful that we did not have big issues and problems on a fitness level with muscle injuries.

When you start and analyse the strength and weak points of your team, you have to start building up sometimes from the bottom. You have to try implementing new things, try to implement the mentality of a changing mindset and being committed to victory: to win every possible game.

So, if we speak about it, we cannot just choose and pick one topic or think that we can say, okay, we want to improve that because in the football game you want to improve every possible aspect as I’ve said in my previous interviews. So far, we’re extremely happy because our players have improved on every possible aspect and there’s still scope for more.

We played a different formation, a 4-2-2-2 against Mumbai City FC, with Adrian Luna and Sahal Samad playing as wide 10s. Is it a formation based on the opponent, or will you continue with it?

Vukomanovic: We are happy to have some of our players who have the ability to play in various positions, you know, in the front as a striker, as a deep striker, as a number 10 position, or even as a winger. For me, as a coach, this is a luxurious problem which I can mix and match to find the right combination.

So, depending on our opponents, we will always try to find the best formula to have the best and the strongest team on the pitch. I’m proud to see them evolving and improving on those positions and giving what the team needs. We want to explore and become a team who will press high and make our opponents struggle against us.

You’re giving chances to Prabhsukan Gill, Hormipam Ruivah, Bijoy V. Could we see more youngsters like Sanjeev Stalin, etc to come through, are they performing to your expectations?

Vukomanovic: Yes, we are incredibly happy with their improvement. Since we started, there has been a huge improvement in all of them. Now, it’s all about momentum and working hard, waiting for your moment to get the chance and perform.

We are trying to give as many chances as possible to youngsters because they have to start somewhere and we want to give them the feeling to play in the ISL, as they are an important part of Kerala Blasters. We want to build a strong team who can play not only this season but who will shape the legacy of Kerala in the future.

Here are the excerpts from Samad’s press conference:

The role you play requires a lot of work-rate. So, do you as a player feel more equipped to deal with that due to the fitness work that you have conducted in the extended pre-season?

Sahal: I already missed the most important part of our pre-season due to my duties in the national team camp, but yes, as a player, I’m ready to give my everything on the pitch, I’m ready to defend for 90 minutes, if coach wants me to stay in the box for 90 minutes, I’ll stay. I can do anything, I’m ready to do anything for my team.

What’s the impact made by Ivan Vukomanovic in your playing style and how are you improving in this case?

Sahal: Firstly, the coach gave me the strength to believe in myself. Even in the practice sessions, I missed a lot of chances, but he kept on pushing me and that’s what a player needs. It's helping me because I scored my first goal in the first match, so it gave me an extra push to move forward with confidence and it's definitely helping me.           

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