Kerala Blasters are 10th on the league table and a change in approach is a welcome move…
The last 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) match in which Kerala Blasters had more possession of the ball than their opposition was in their fixture against East Bengal nearly a month ago. Kibu Vicuna’s team claimed 59 per cent of the ball as they dominated that game in the second half and snatched a late equaliser via a Jeakson Singh header in added time.
It was indeed a valuable point but by then, Vicuna”s patience reached a brimming point with his team dropping points in one way or another every single game. They were winless in six games after that game and it had been (and still remains) a frustrating start to the season.
A few games after that draw, Vicuna was asked whether he is open to altering his team’s style of play to fetch results. Instead of refuting such a suggestion, his response was that he had already done it in the past few games. A look at the possession stats tells us that it is indeed true.
Kerala Blasters have gotten rid of their obsession to keep the ball at all times and have started making better use of the ball in dangerous areas. When they get the ball, there has been a refreshing change in the type of runs that their players make in behind or in front of the opposition defence, in stark contrast to how they looked clueless at the start of the season.
Since the draw against East Bengal in December, Blasters have not had more than 50 per cent possession in any of their games, including their two victories that have come during that period.
The change brought about by Vicuna in his team’s style of play may not be a major one but it may be the right track for Blasters to take this season after the start they have had. Sergio Cidoncha’s injury and Gary Hooper’s form may have also forced the coach to alter his approach for the season but either way, it seems to be working.
The style is still reliant on having the ball in the right zones but the focus has shifted to being direct as opposed to trying to carve open the opposition defence. The likes of Facundo Pereyra and Jordan Murray look set to thrive in this Blasters v2.0.
This is visible from their last few matches and is a welcome move since play-off spots are becoming more improbable with every dropped point. It will be interesting to see if Vicuna adopts a similar approach in their next game against Bengaluru FC, a team who have five wins in sevens matches against the Blasters.