After 4 years of going agonizingly close to the top 4 spots, this seems to be the year when Jamshedpur FC can finally break their duck and fight for the laurels. The Men of Steel retained their key players and signed others who will fit Owen Coyle‘s flexible system.
Despite beating the two powerhouses of last season in the league last year- 2-1 against ATK Mohun Bagan and 2-0 against Mumbai City FC, injuries, fatigue, and inconsistency gave way as Jamshedpur slumped to a disjointed 6th place finish in the table.
Owen Coyle has retained his role as the gaffer, and deservedly so as his team showed glimpses of exactly how good they can be if they found the right players. In this article, IFTWC analyzes whether they have managed to do exactly that.
Assessment of Jamshedpur FC’s transfer window
Jamshedpur’s more impressive signings are stagnated in and around the attacking third. Greg Stewart joins the club all the way from Scottish heavyweights Rangers FC. He will play either as a winger or in the hole, as a supply line for headline striker Valskis.
Jordan Murray, Kerala Blasters’ top scorer with 7 goals last year has also joined the roster. Ishan Pandita was roped in from FC Goa for a hefty fee of 60 lacs. At least one of them will have to be benched which shows how ridiculous JFC’s depth is going forward.
Pronay Halder was brought on loan to partner Alex Lima in midfield. The experienced Eli Sabia joins from Chennaiyin FC, replacing Stephen Eze who was often the victim of high pressing by opposition forwards. Other Indian signings were Ritwik Das, Komal Thatal, Laldinpuia, and Anas.
Transfer Window Rating – 8/10
TP Rehenesh signed a 3-year contract extension with the Red Miners, which shows the trust that Coyle and the management have upon the 28-year-old. The former NorthEast United no.1 is set to wear the gloves for the Red Miners once again and is their first choice.
Experienced shot-stopper Pawan Kumar and 19-year-old Vishal Yadav are the two other options who round up the solid goalkeeping contingent.
Peter Hartley was given the armband last year and he justified it with his talismanic performances on the pitch, leading the backline with character and discipline. In place of the inconsistent Stephen Eze comes in Eli Sabia, one of the most experienced centre-halfs in the league.
However, given the riches the Men of Steel have going forward, Eli Sabia may not start all games. In that case, Narender Gahlot can find himself in the XI after an inspiring performance in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers. Anas Enathodika is the other Indian alternate.
Laldinliana Renthlei and Ricky Lallawmawma are the favourites for the fullback spots. Sandip Mandi and Boris Singh are their reinforcements.
Picking the right centre-back combination will be crucial for Jamshedpur.
Aitor Monroy is the most noteworthy departure from Central Midfield. Despite his impressive passing abilities, the Spaniard didn’t suit Coyle’s system where midfielders are tasked to do much more, both going forward and dropping deep.
Despite a lacklustre season, Alex Lima has been trusted by the management and will find himself a new partner in Pronay Halder, who comes on loan from ATK Mohun Bagan. The Barrackpore-man will make the dirty tackles in the midfield and sweep up well, helping Lima play his natural game.
However, both Lima and Halder have had injuries in the past during the season and questions will arise if it happens again as Jamshedpur do not have anyone with good ISL experience to cover for them.
Greg Stewart is the pick of the lot in the wide midfield/wingers department. The Scotsman is incredibly versatile and can operate on both wings, in attacking midfield/no.10, or as a secondary striker behind Valskis or Jordan Murray. Valskis lacked a supply line for goals last year which will be provided by the former Rangers man.
Farukh Chowdhary’s injury will not be too big a blow for the Red Miners as they have the likes of Komal Thatal, Ritwik Das, and Seminlen Doungel to play in the same spot.
Jamshedpur FC have their most talented players going forward. Nerijus Valskis, golden boot winner under Coyle for Chennaiyin FC in 2019/20 will be expected to lead the line again but will face stern competition for the spot from new signing Jordan Murray. The Lithuanian and the Australian can operate together as well, if Stewart does not start.
Valskis suffered from intense fatigue in the second half of the 2020-21 season as David Grande was injured and the 34-year old had to start all games. Jordan Murray provides the perfect alternative as he can also come off the bench to terrorize defenses late in the game.
Ishan Pandita carries a heavy price tag of 60 lakhs as he makes his way to the Furnace this year from FC Goa. In a candid interview with IFTWC in early October, Ishan said, “At this age, I need to be thinking of minutes and not money. In Goa, I didn’t get the opportunities I thought I’d deserved.” Minutes might not come too easily to the youngster as he will have to fight for his place in the XI.
However, in Goa, Pandita showed his expertise at maximising the moment as he came off the bench and netted 4 goals. The club has some mouthwatering strike partnerships to chose from as Greg Stewart can also play in the central role behind any of the 3 strikers.
How Jamshedpur FC can line up
Jamshedpur FC’s strengths and weaknesses
Jamshedpur’s strengths lie in their attackers, without a shadow of doubt. Combination will be key for Coyle as he faces a serious dilemma over picking his forward line. Valskis, Greg Stewart, and Murray all bring something different to the table but he can play only 2 at one point. Pronay and Lima’s partnership in the middle of the park and Hartley in the heart of the defense are their other strongholds.
The Men of Steel lack much needed depth in midfield. An injury to Pronay or Lima will bring dire consequences as a defender may have to cover for their role. The fullback department lacks some experience as well.
Probable finish in the League Table
Jamshedpur have a squad with enough firepower to make it through to the playoffs, which isn’t something that has been said a lot in the previous seasons. Even if they fail defensively, their prolific strikers have the ability to win matches by themselves.
In terms of quality, JFC aren’t much behind the likes of Goa or Mohun Bagan or Mumbai. However, they will have to get the combination correct as soon as possible. A spot in the top 4 is in the hands of Owen Coyle, now more than ever, as he has a squad which easily can compete for the playoffs.
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