In 183 matches over last three Hero Indian Super League seasons, eight clubs have scored a total of 460 goals at an average of 2.51 goals per match. But if the conversation at this season’s ISL Media Day is anything to go by, then this number is certain to increase. The head coaches who spoke at the event today in Mumbai were clear that they want their teams to play attacking football – and were hardly secretive of their desire to entertain their fans.
Kerala Blasters’ assistant coach Thangboi Singto agreed that their head coach Rene Meulensteen would impart a lot of facets from his time as Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant, and new entrants Sergio Lobera (FC Goa), Ranko Popovic (FC Pune City) and John Gregory (Chennaiyin FC) made it clear that they would play to win, rather than choose a pragmatic system. Mumbai City FC’s Alexandre Guimarães said that this season would see him “try some different styles” compared to last season’s compact approach which took the club to the top of the table, and Bengaluru FC’s Alberto Roca has already showed his ability to experiment in his one stint with The Blues in the Hero I-League.
“I like my team to keep the ball, and bring it back when they lose it. I like quick passes and creative players and believe that the more you keep the ball, the less you have to run. I am steeped in the Barcelona style of football, so you can guess how my team will try to play,” said Lobera, who was in charge of the Barcelona youth teams from 1997-2006.
Pune City’s Serbian head coach Popovic was in a jolly mood in his first interaction with the Indian media, and it seems that he would want his team to play in an equally expressive manner.
“Football should be played to entertain. It should be played with joy. It should be attractive. Of course, you have to be smart within the limit of the result, so my team will also be ready to tackle hard and fight till the end according to the situation. But to ask my team to play in one way, and for them to execute it, is completely different. Let’s take it one match at a time,” the former centre-back said.
His approach was personified by the presence of last year’s Golden Boot winner Marcelinho (Marcelo Leite Pereira), who joined Pune City after his incredible performances for Delhi Dynamos last season (10 goals, 5 assists).
“Football is happiness, and we want to play with a lot of positivity,” the Brazilian said.
If Pune’s players can produce their head coach’s vision, then their fans are in for a treat.
Another change in vision will be seen at Chennaiyin FC. The club will see a change after three years under the tutelage of World Cup winner Marco Materazzi. Their new manager John Gregory said that he wants to follow in the footsteps of Italian coach, but also wants to prove that English managers will not play the stereotypical English way.
“The general opinion attached to English managers is that they will play the long ball. But I want my team to play proper football. There will be no shunting of the ball to the forward from behind. We want to keep the ball and and play with style. We have the players to do that and Chennaiyin are a club that is associated with creating stars out of unknown players. So there will be a few surprises this season as well,” he said. Gregory has managed 10 clubs in a storied career which also saw him play for England.
With the Hero ISL transforming to a longer league, all these managers will get enough time to implement their philosophies. And if they manage to do so, it will certainly be goals galore.
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