After a season riddled with injuries, fatigue, and inconsistent performances, Owen Coyle’s Jamshedpur FC have been busy in the transfer window, looking to replicate their heroics from their inaugural season in 2017/18 when they qualified for the playoffs.
Despite finishing sixth, Coyle’s services at the club have been trusted by the management for another season. Jamshedpur showed glimpses of exactly how good they can be, most notably in their victories over heavyweights ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC last season.
Instead of a complete overhaul, the Red Miners have retained three of their six foreigners and signed another three. In this article, IFTWC analyzes their overseas unit and how crucial they can be for the Men of Steel’s playoff hopes.
Jamshedpur FC signed Valskis after he had scored 15 goals in the 2019/20 season for Chennaiyin FC and won the golden boot. It is hard to say whether the Lithuanian marksman lived up to his pedigree for the Men of Steel, netting 8 goals in 18 appearances.
He was his well-known lethal self in front of goal but lacked the supply line which was provided by Rafael Crivellaro during his time at Chennaiyin. After the injury to David Grande, Coyle was forced to field Valskis in every single game and he suffered from fatigue deep into the season.
However, with the likes of Greg Stewart in a deeper role and Jordan Murray as his potential strike partner, Valskis will no longer have to carry the entire goalscoring burden on his shoulders and will find adequate support in the attacking third.
The skipper remained solid throughout the season despite having to be paired with the inconsistent Stephen Eze who, despite all his physical attributes, was the frequent victim of great pressing by opposition attackers and sloppy passes.
Hartley has a new defensive partner in Eli Sabiá and the two could prove to be one of the firmest defensive duos in the league. The Englishman’s leadership and experience will bring much-needed stability to the side yet again.
Having a superb profile prior to joining the ISL, Jamshedpur had high hopes from the Brazilian when they signed him in 2020. However, despite all his exploits in K League 2 and the MLS, Lima failed to register a single goal or an assist for the Men of Steel last season.
His contract renewal shows the faith that Coyle and the club management have in the midfielder and his abilities. He will look to turn things around this season and will have to lead the midfield after the talented Aitor Monroy was released by the club.
A potential partnership with the more physical Pronay Halder is on the cards, which will help Alex play his natural technical game as the Indian international sweeps up behind him.
In Eli Sabiá, Jamshedpur FC has roped in one of the most experienced defenders in the Indian Super League. He has been a rock at the back for Chennaiyin FC for the past few years, and the reunion with his former boss Owen Coyle, promises to be special.
The Brazilian began his career with Paulista, playing for the likes of Santos F.C. and Atletico Paranaense on loan. He made his debut for Chennaiyin FC in the 2015/16 season of the ISL and went on to play three more seasons for the Marina Machans, wearing the armband last season after Rafael Crivellaro suffered an injury.
He will replace Stephen Eze at the back who, as mentioned earlier was often prone to making defensive errors. Sabiá’s composure on the ball and accurate interceptions will improve the team’s solidity and help build attacks from the back.
After leading the line for Kerala Blasters and finding the net 7 times for the Yellow Army, the Australian makes his way to the Furnace. However, it will be an uphill task for the Australian to frequent the starting eleven as he will have to compete with Ishan Pandita or Nerijus Valskis for the no.9 role.
The 25-year-old was a regular feature for the Central Coast Mariners in the 2018/19 and the 2019/20 seasons of the A-League, scoring 7 goals in 41 appearances. Given his age, he could have a long future ahead of him in India if he utilizes the opportunities that he will be presented by Owen Coyle.
Greg Stewart can turn out to be the most important signing made by Jamshedpur FC for this season. The Scottish forward can play in all positions up front, having made 97 appearances as a center-forward, 54 as a right-winger, and 49 as a left-winger in his senior career.
A product of the Rangers academy, Stewart signed with Scottish top-flight team Cowdenbeath in 2010 and went on to score 40 goals in 140 appearances for the club. He went on to play for a number of successful Scottish clubs, namely- Aberdeen, Dundee, Kilmarnock FC, and Rangers.
His only foray into English football was when he played for Birmingham City in the Championship. Stewart is not the traditional goal poacher and has much more to his game as his high number of assists suggests. He has a staggering 27 assists to go with his 32 goals in 84 matches during his time at Dundee.
A Valskis-Stewart frontline could have devastating consequences for opposition defenses.
What this means for Jamshedpur FC’s upcoming season
Without any doubt, Jamshedpur FC has a strong squad this season. However, the balance still remains a point that may not have been struck. They have an abundance of attacking options in not just the foreigners but also Farukh Choudhary and Ishan Pandita, who left FC Goa in search of more minutes. Owen Coyle has a massive headache ahead of him in picking his starting forwards.
A lot depends on how well Alex Lima performs as the club has not signed an attacking midfielder, something they were lacking last season. If Coyle can formulate a good coordinating system out of the foreigners and Indians, the Red Miners might find themselves in a top 4 spot.
Picking his eleven will be an uphill task for Coyle and the sooner the Men of Steel can crack the right combination, the higher their playoff chances will be.
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