Odisha FC on the road to redemption with positive changes in the team

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Odisha FC, after a season to forget, have so far managed to tick all the boxes off the field with multiple strategic and commercial partnerships with clubs and brands. The Juggernauts have disappointed for two consecutive ISL seasons ever since changing bases, but it looks like the team management has finally come up with a good project to challenge for the ISL trophy. Apart from the strategic partnership with Premier League club Watford FC, the club also recently announced a partnership with Brazilian club Avai FC with an aim to strengthen footballing and commercial relationships.

One of the many structural changes at the club has been the appointment of Kiko Ramirez as manager. A few young Indian players were also signed by Odisha along with a complete overhaul of the foreign contingent.

Assessment of Odisha FC’s transfer window

Due to the departure of stalwart Diego Mauricio, Odisha needed someone who could take over his role from last season. The DV7 Group and the Odisha management managed to strike gold when they signed Jonathas de Jesus. Jonathan has arrived as one of the top players and will be one to watch out for in the ISL. The other foreigners, apart from Liridon Krasniqi, are Spanish, in line with the nationality of coach Kiko Ramirez. The management made a good choice in signing two ISL experienced players in Victor Mongil and Javi Hernandez, since adaptability to the Indian environment is a big factor in a player’s performance.

Odisha FC

They strengthened their defence by signing fullbacks Sahil Panwar from Hyderabad, Sebastian Thangmuansang from Gokulam, and Lalruathara from Kerala. Moreover, Odisha have also signed two attacking midfielders as in Isaac Vanmalsawma and Nikhil Raj. The club’s management had taken stock of the holes in the squad from last season and has fixed them appropriately by only signing players they need.

Squad Analysis

Goalkeepers

Arshdeep Singh, who impressed one and all last season, will remain the club’s number one. Despite Odisha’s poor defensive performance last season, the 24-year-old managed to save 65% of the shots that he had faced, which is quite an impressive statistic. Kamaljit Singh, who was a regular in the side before he lost out to Arshdeep, will be the second option.

Odisha FC

Ravi Kumar will serve as the backup to Kamaljit who started the match against East Bengal last season when they conceded six goals to them. As long as Arshdeep maintains the form he displayed last season, Odisha will not have any worries in the goalkeeping department.

Defenders

One of the positions that Odisha has many options in will be the defence. Having conceded the most number of goals last season, the side aims to improve defensively and is stuffed with talent. The 23-year-old Gaurav Bora, who played 18 matches last season, could find himself partnered with either Hector Rodas or Victor Mongil if the coach opts for an Indian option at the back. Last year, Rodas was a regular for Leonesa in the Spanish league and can be expected to produce similar results in the ISL.

On the other hand, Victor offers Kiko an option in the midfield as well, as the coach regards him as a versatile player who can perform in both defensive and attacking areas. In an otherwise young back line, both the Spaniards will bring in crucial experience.

Odisha FC

The young center-back Deven Sawhne has also made it into the first team from Odisha’s youth team. He is a graduate of the Aspire program and can also play as fullback. Shubham Sarangi will not be available for the first few months, but Odisha has enough talent to compensate for his absence on the right side. Lalhrezuala Sailung and Sebastian Thangmuansang are two promising youngsters who can fill in for Sarangi’s absence.

Sailung broke into the first team last season and is currently one of the most promising young players in the Odisha squad at the moment. He was also the captain of Odisha’s U18 team. As for Sebastian, he had a great season with Gokulam Kerala FC last season and was one of the best defenders in the entire I-League.

Hendry Antony, who played in 11 games last season, will be an option for Kiko at left back. Sahil Panwar, who spent most of last season on the bench for Hyderabad, is another alternative. Lalruathara is also a viable option defensively. He was named Emerging Player of the Season in 2017 before slipping down the rankings. A possible comeback in a new jersey is something that Lalruathara will aim for in the upcoming season.

Midfielders

Vinit Rai has been a mainstay in the Odisha FC midfield and it is expected that the 23-year-old will continue to be a regular name on the teamsheet come the new Indian Super League season. New signings Javi Hernandez and Liridon Krasniqi should fill the other midfield spots. The latter is on loan from Malaysian club JDT and is a regular in the Malaysian National Team. His box-to-box skills and physical ability makes him a solid midfielder. Odisha FC’s main attacking outlet will be Javi Hernandez, who had an injury-plagued season last year.

Odisha FC

In addition to Hernandez, Thoiba Singh and Paul Ramfangzuava are promising prospects in the middle of the park. With five appearances to his name, Paul showed his tremendous talent and potential last season. In his assessment of Paul, interim coach Garry Peyton called him a very special talent and a special player. Thoiba Singh, who graduated from the Minerva Academy, is a versatile player who can play as either a midfielder or a defender. At the U15 level in the I-League a few years back, he had scored seven goals in 15 appearances.

Forwards

Jerry Mawihmingthanga, who has been one of the best wingers in India over the past few years, will definitely be one of the first names on the team sheet come the new season. The new foreign signing for Odisha, Aridai Cabrera, is also comfortable in the right-wing position, but he will be required to play on the other flank as Jerry will be a guaranteed starter at Odisha. In the last four years, the Spaniard recorded over 13 goals and eleven assists in the Segunda Division.

Isak Vanlalruatfela is expected to be the second fiddle at right wing. He is a skillful and intelligent footballer with enormous potential, and had a successful season last year with Aizawl FC. Also, CVL Remtluanga, a graduate of Aspire Academy, has been called up to the senior team for the first time. Remtluanga’s playstyle is similar to that of Lallianzuala Chhangte of the national team.

Odisha FC

There will be some competition between Nandhakumar and Vanmalsawma for the left-wing spot. With his speed, Nandha poses a significant threat down the flanks. He has appeared in over 50 ISL games and has scored three goals and assisted nine times. Vanmalsawma can also play as a CAM and had been a regular for Jamshedpur FC last year.

In front of them will be Jonathas de Jesus, one of the biggest signings of the season. The Brazilian has experience playing in the Bundesliga, Eredevisie, La Liga, and Asia as well. A good finisher, he also has good pace and good physical presence. Nikhil Raj and Lalhlimpuia are expected to be Jonathas’ backups. Nikhil is on loan from BDFA club Kickstart FC. He is primarily a striker but can also play as an attacking midfielder. A training stint with Denmark’s Esbjerg fB’s U19 team is also on his resume.

Akshunna Tyagi is another interesting name in the Odisha FC squad. He was the top scorer in the U18 I-League, scoring against some good teams. He is a good prospect, and is likely to see some playing time under Kiko Ramirez.

Possible line up

Odisha FC

Strengths and weaknesses

The Odisha team’s biggest weakness last season was their defence, which conceded 44 goals. With the addition of defenders Hector Rodas and Victor Mongil, the team’s weakness last season might very well become its strength this season. The additions of Sebastian, Lalruathara, and Panwar provides Kiko with a lot of quality options in the fullback position and has strengthened the position remarkably.

The team also struggled to create chances last season, but the signings of Isaac and Javi Hernandez have considerably strengthened the positions. Odisha also have a strong unit of wingers under their belt with players like Nandha, Jerry and Aridai competing for the spots.

Odisha FC

Odisha FC has a very young core of Indian midfielders, most of whom are inexperienced and have not been tested at the highest levels of competition. Apart from Vinit Rai, both Paul and Thoiba have played less than five matches in the Indian Super League so far. The lack of ISL experienced players had hurt them last season as well but under a new coach, Odisha will expect better results from their youngsters.

Odisha lacks an established Indian center back since newly promoted Deven Sawhney is the only pure India defender in the squad, apart from the young Gaurav Bora. Kiko Ramirez also comes with no Asian coaching experience, as well as a squad that contains several new players that will take time to settle in.  

Probable finish in the league table

Thanks to the positive changes made by the team, fans can look forward to a much better season than last year. A positive result at the end of the season will require the senior players to be at their best throughout the season since the Odisha FC’s depth, as previously mentioned, is very young and inexperienced. Odisha’s hopes for the upcoming season have been vastly improved with the signing of Jonathas de Jesus, however, the midfielders will have to be better than what they were last season and create enough chances for the Brazilian.

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Odisha FC on the road to redemption with positive changes in the team b8af641dd0fdfdc3beaf152e1ad6503c?s=96&d=monsterid&r=g
Anurag Guha
Loves Indian Football and cars that go vroom vroom

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