Jamshedpur FC had the second-best defensive record in the ISL last season, conceding 18 goals and keeping seven clean sheets in 18 matches. This was bettered only by Bengaluru FC, the finalist, which conceded 16 goals and kept a joint-high eight clean sheets.
Yet, Jamshedpur FC failed to reach the playoffs, finishing fifth (four points behind FC Pune City) largely because it averaged less than a goal per match (16). Therefore, it often dropped more points than it gained in what was a very competitive ISL season.
Michael Soosairaj is one of the new acquisitions who will make Jamshedpur dynamic going forward, while the signing of Tim Cahill, Australia’s record scorer with 50 goals, is a statement of intent from the club. Sergio Cidoncha, Mario Arques and Carlos Calvo — all Spaniards — are the other newly-signed midfielders who will complement Soosairaj, who was directly involved in almost half (three goals and four assists) of Chennai City’s 15 goals in the last I-League season.
The need is to strengthen the midfield and attack, but this hasn’t stopped the club from reinforcing its defence and building on last season’s solid defensive record. Sanjay Balmuchu, Raju Gaikwad, Pratik Chowdhary and Dhanachandra Singh are the four new central defenders, with goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury signed from Kerala Blasters potentially as backup for Subrata Paul. Brazilian midfielder Wellington Priori, who scored three goals and registered one assist last season, has left the club with its consent.
New manager Cesar Ferrando, in his first interview after taking over from Steve Coppell, indicated that his aim was to build a good defensive and offensive team.
Jamshedpur begins its season with consecutive away fixtures against Mumbai City FC (October 2) and Bengaluru FC (October 7), while its first home fixture is against two-time ISL champion ATK on October 21. November is likely to be a key month for the Jharkhand-based club with fixtures against three of last season’s top-four teams (FC Goa, FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC).
The club is preparing for the new season with a training camp in Spain, where it has played three friendly fixtures at the time of writing.
Speaking about the feeling in the camp, senior goalkeeper Subrata Paul said, “The mood (in the camp) is very positive and strong and the squad is looking forward to the new season. The pre-season is going good as the team is gelling well together.
“Every manager has his own philosophy and as players it’s our duty to understand and perform to the best of our abilities,” the goalkeeper said about the need to adapt to the new manager’s style of play.
Player to watch out for
Soosairaj will be the chief playmaker in the team. He has great vision, range of passing and an eye for goal and was an inspirational figure in helping Chennai City FC avoid relegation in the I-League last season. He scored a goal and assisted in another to help his old club win the final league outing of 2017-18 and remain in the top division.
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