ISL 2020-21: ‘Restructure’ is the word for Kerala Blasters FC
The summer of 2020 was no different for the Kerala Blasters management as they were looking for a new head coach yet again. The constant chopping and changing of managers has been a routine activity at the club as the fans have witnessed nine managerial changes even before the start of the seventh season.
The fans will also be witnessing a change they are not accustomed to as club legend and former skipper Sandesh Jhingan joined ATK Mohun Bagan FC during the off-season. The 27-year old will be donning a green and maroon kit instead of the club’s iconic yellow shirt in the upcoming season.
Kerala Blasters are known for having the loudest supporters who always turn out in huge numbers, thus getting the nickname of ‘Yellow Army’ or ‘Manjappada’. But, with the 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League taking place behind closed doors, the team would be missing their crucial 12th man in a season that should mark a new dawn for the club.
Need and Desire for some stability at the club
The 2019-20 I-League winning manager Kibu Vicuna was appointed at the helm of the club along with a new sporting director Karolis Skinkys in an attempt to change the recruitment policy and attacking philosophy of the team.
It is being said that the senior management has vowed to back their new Spanish manager even if he fails to win a trophy in the upcoming season of the ISL.
The duo of Skinkys and Vicuna has invested smartly as a lot of young Indians have been signed including former Bengaluru FC full-back Nishu Kumar, young central midfielder Puitea from NorthEast United, and Indian Arrows duo of Givson Singh and Ayush Adhikari.
Signing young Indian talent has allowed the club to bring in the likes of Gary Hooper, Bakary Kone, Vicente Gomez, Facundo Pereyra, Costa Nhamoinesu, and Facundo Pereyra despite staying within a tight budget.
The talented 19-year old shot-stopper Prabhsukan Singh Gill has joined Kerala Blasters FC but it is unlikely that he will be given the No.1 role at the club this season. The lanky Bilal Khan would be rivaling the new signing Albino Gomes for the club No.1 shirt but the former could be preferred due to his tall figure.
Kibu Vicuna has gone for bags of experience in defense as the club has signed the former Guingamp, Lyon, and Malaga defender Bakary Kone to partner the 34-year old Costa Nhamoinesu in the centre of the defense.
Kerala Blasters FC made Nishu Kumar the second-best paid Indian defender in the league by offering him a bumper contract to price the full-back away from Bengaluru FC. With Nishu playing at his preferred right-back position, Lalruatthara is expected to be the first-choice on the left side of the defense.
The Yellow Army is well equipped in the central midfield area with plenty of young players. New signing Puitea could make himself one of the first names on the team sheet with Rohit Kumar, Ayush Adhikari, and Jeakson Singh also available to play in the same position.
Experienced Spanish midfielders Vicente Gomez and Sergio Cidoncha would provide steel to the midfield with creative players like Sahal Abdul Samad and Facundo Pereyra playing behind the striker.
Gary Hooper is the new No.9 and the Manjapadda have always showered love on their strikers with them replicating it with goals. The 32-year old English centre-forward has big boots to fill with Bartholomew Ogbeche moving to Mumbai City FC and he is more than able to fill those boots if he can remain fit throughout the season.
Another A-League signing Jordan Murray will be the understudy for the injury-prone Hooper and should be on the goalscoring charts whenever given a chance in the upcoming season. The 21-year old Naorem Mahesh Singh adds to the squad depth after scoring 4 goals and proving 3 assists in his debut I-League season.
Kerala Blasters FC full squad for the upcoming season
- Goalkeepers: Albino Gomes, Bilal Khan, Lovepreet Singh, Prabhsukan Singh Gill
- Defenders: Abdul Hakku, Abneet Bharti, Bakary Kone, Costa Nhamoinesu, Denechandra Meitei, Jessel Carneiro, Kenstar Kharshong, Lalruatthara, Nishu Kumar, Sandeep Singh
- Midfielders: Arun Jayaraj, Ayush Adhikari, Facundo Pereyra, Givson Singh, Jeakson Singh, Nongdamba Naorem, Prasanth K, Puitea, Rahul KP, Ritwik Das, Rohit Kumar, Sahal Abdul Samad, Seityasen Singh, Sergio Cidoncha, Vicente Gomez
- Forwards: Gary Hooper, Jordan Murray, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Shaiborlang Kharpan
Possible Starting XI (4-3-2-1)
Bilal Khan, Nishu Kumar, Bakary Kone, Costa Nhamoinesu, Lalruatthara, Jeakson Singh, Puitea, Sergio Cidoncha/Vicente Gomez, Facundo Pereyra, Sahal Abdul Samad, Gary Hooper
Possible league table finish: 8th