With the Indian Super League (ISL) entering the second half of its three-month-long season, we look at four major talking points and the statistics behind them.
WHERE ARE THE GOALS?
One of the founding ideas behind ISL, apart from providing a platform for Indian footballers to shine at the highest level, was to also make the game more attractive for the audience. Matches are hence played at 7 p.m. every night, unlike the I-League where a lot of games are still played in daylight, enabling even the office-goers to watch the matches on TV or at the ground.
But the football has been anything but attractive this season. Only 59 goals have been scored in the 32 matches that have been played so far. At the exact same stage last year, 81 goals had been scored and one can’t help but wonder why the goals have dried up.
While the >players and managers think it is due to the quality on the ISL going up , there is no denying that the league is suffering from a dearth of quality strikers such as Stiven Mendoza. His replacement, Italian striker David Succi (one goal), has found life difficult in the ISL.
The other teams have found it tough as well. Apart from Delhi Dynamos' Marcelinho (five goals, four assists) and NorthEast United's Emiliano Alfaro (five goals), none of the top strikers have lived up to their expectations. Mumbai City FC's Diego Forlan (two goals, one assist) has shown glimpses of his best but is yet to deliver big time.
ATK's Iain Hume (three goals) has scored all from penalty kicks while Helder Postiga (one goal, one assist) is having yet another injury-marred season.
Returning international strikers — FC Goa's Reinaldo (zero goals), Kerala Blasters' Michael Chopra (one goal) and NorthEast United's Nicolas Velez (zero goals, one assist) — have failed to hit the ground running as well.
Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell had an explanation for signing >Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes as his team's marquee signing — he wanted a marquee player who can contribute and be a part of the playing XI and not just another fading star. His words have been prophetic.
Hughes has played a major role in Blasters having the best defensive record (conceded just six in eight matches), while other marquee signings have failed to live up to their billing.
Chennaiyin FC's John Arne Riise and ATK's Helder Postiga have both been injured for most part of the season. FC Goa's Lucio has been woeful in defence (11 goals have been conceded by Goa so far) while Mumbai's Diego Forlan has struggled to keep pace and has been outshone by fellow-South American Matias Defederico. Delhi Dynamos' Florent Malouda (one assist) is beginning to find the rhythm while FC Pune City's Mohamed Sissoko (one goal) and NorthEast United's Didier Zokora have been reliable as defensive midfielders.
IS HOME AN ADVANTAGE?
They say fans are like the 12th man on the field. The advantage hasn't certainly been a factor in this season for most teams in ISL, though. Only FC Pune City and NorthEast United have got more points at home than playing away. Pune has five points from six matches at home while the side got four points from the two matches it played at an away stadium.
A week ago >Hume said he was disappointed with the fan turn-out for ATK’s home matches. But similar excuses cannot be given by teams such as Kerala Blasters and FC Goa, who continue to get tremendous support at their stadiums.
KERALA AND GOA AT THE BOTTOM FOR A REASON
Goals win you matches. Clean-sheets ensure you don’t lose matches. But it’s a combination of both that is essential in winning a league, something bottom-dwellers FC Goa and Kerala Blasters (both former finalists) are struggling to adopt.
FC Goa has conceded 11 goals so far while Kerala has scored only four in its eight matches. Lucio has looked out of pace while Gregory Arnolin has also struggled to replicate last season’s stunning form.
While Kerala boasts of the best defensive record, it has certainly struggled up front with Michael Chopra and Mohammaed Rafi unable to find the net. The team has had only 19 shots on target (second lowest is Chennai with 27). Returning Bengaluru FC midfielder C. K. Vineeth will bring some dynamism up front but is tough to see how Kerala can turn things around in the second half of the season.
- Du Plessis hints at return to international cricket ahead of T20 World Cup
- Manchester United vs Chelsea: Top five Premier League clashes
- ISL 2023-24: Mohun Bagan Super Giant looks to avenge AFC Cup loss against Odisha FC
- Mohun Bagan Super Giant vs Odisha FC LIVE streaming info, ISL 2023-24: When, where to watch; Preview
- WATCH: Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim out handling the ball in second Test against New Zealand