This year’s Indian Super League has looked more assisting to the new ideas and fresh ethos that debutant coaches brought with them. With all the semi-final teams, namely Mumbai City FC, Kerala Blasters, Delhi Dynamos and Atletico de Kolkata, being managed by newcomers in the tournament, the idea of having an evolved system is reiterated.
After the completion of the league stage, FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC finished at the bottom despite retaining successful coaches from the previous editions while FC Pune City failed again despite hiring the previously successful Antonio Habas. The failure of Zico (FC Goa), Marco Materazzi (Chennaiyin FC) and Antonio Habas (FC Pune City) to take their teams to the play-offs reflects the changing dynamics in the tournament, which is closely contested and is becoming unpredictable each year.
The trio have been associated with ISL from the inaugural year (2014) and because of having managed their teams successfully, they carried the ‘tag’ of being the most successful ISL coaches ahead of the 2016 season.
Football expert, Paul Masefield, felt the failure of the top coaches was due to many combined factors, the ability of other clubs to strengthen their squad considerably, failure to lure key players and under-performing marquee players for FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC.
“The League is stronger and more competitive now as the results suggest,” said Masefield, former Birmingham City FC player.
Ricki Herbert, former head coach at New Zealand and NorthEast United FC feels ISL is evolving in tactical and strategic implementation. “The ISL will continue to grow in a number of areas and this certainly includes the quality of teams and players. The understanding of tactical and strategic implementations is evolving and coaches are always looking to find a cutting edge to make the defining difference.”
Herbert, an expert broadcast commentator for ISL, felt teams who failed to qualify were disrupted by a number of late acquisitions, while the failure to retain some key players, Elano Blumer and Stiven Mendoza for Chennaiyin FC and Leo Moura for FC Goa, also played a significant role in their ouster. On the other hand, all the semi-finalists coaches are new to the ISL and yet, they have managed to taste reasonable success. Gianluca Zambrotta (Delhi Dynamos), Jose Molina (Atletico de Kolkata), Alexandre Guimaraes (Mumbai City FC) and Steve Coppell (Kerala Blasters) did not have an inkling of what to expect from the ISL but still managed to stay in the race.
“Fresh ideas, ethos and understanding of the game has definitely helped these sides. Also, I think that they have fallen upon a system that works for their team. The key is they fell on it earlier in the season which meant they got the points on the board earlier and qualified for the semi-finals at a canter,” said Masefield.
Herbert on the other hand said Zambrotta and Molina took over teams who performed well last season while Guimaraes had the reigns of Mumbai City and took the club to a different level.