ISL 2014: Delhi Dynamos show that they're not just about Del Piero
Here are three reasons why Delhi Dynamos, despite their draw, could be the team to beat this season.
The Indian Super League is just three games old, but from all the teams we've seen so far, it's Delhi Dynamos who look like the most complete package. Sure this can change as the league grows old, but Harm van Veldhoven's side looked quite solid against FC Pune City and were unlucky not to take all three points from a one=sided encounter.
Atletico de Kolkata's win over Mumbai City FC in the opener may have had a much more convincing scoreline to it, but Delhi's performance just looked much more impressive — especially their midfield.
More importantly, Delhi started without Alessandro Del Piero and still managed to control the game against Pune and create a number of goalscoring opportunities. Things got better when he came off, but it was never a one man show. Delhi played like a team.
Here are three reasons why Delhi Dynamos, despite their draw, could be the team to beat this season:
Midfield: Games are won and lost in midfield and Delhi's is easily the best we've seen so far. The duo of Francis Fernandes — playing just off the two strikers in what looked like a 4-1-3-2 formation — and Dutch Hans Mulder was absolutely devastating. Fernandes was everywhere and probably deserved the man of the match award for his excellent link-up play. He stole the ball inside the penalty area only to be robbed of it just when he was about to pull the trigger, collected loose balls just outside the box and set up a couple of clear chances — one for Mads Junker whose shot was well saved by Emanuele Belardi — and was always looking to set his frontmen through on goal rather than go for the spectacular.
Mulder and even Bruno Herrero Arias were in complete control in the middle of the park, not allowing talented Greek Kostas Katsouranis an inch of space to impose himself — with the Euro 2004 champions taken off before 60 minutes after a woeful performance.
Mulder had a good chance from an Alessandro del Piero freekick but just mistimed his header and Arias was the anchorman who guided the defence out of trouble numerous times. Together, the three players looked in synch — only Kolkata's Luis Garcia and Borja Fernandez came close to what Delhi's trio managed against Pune.
Alessandro del Piero: Del Piero gave the ball away a couple of times when it seemed as if anyone who knows how to kick a ball could have made those passes. But these were overshadowed by some brilliant pieces of skill. The Italian's introduction gave an immediate lift to his team and the whole crowd — with players coming closer for passes and space being created with a couple of Pune defenders getting drawn towards him (proof in the picture used in this article) — and fans going nuts at his introduction.
He unleashed a left-footed piledriver which whizzed past the post and his tricks, turns and last-second passes opened up Pune on quite a few occasions. Despite his age (39-years-old), Del Piero didn't seem lacking in fitness and still possesses a fear factor that no other marquee player does. He was screaming and shouting for the ball and appealing to the referee when he felt decisions went unfairly went against his team — it's evident that there's still some fire in his belly — and it could be enough to ignite Delhi into action.
Harm van Veldhoven and his bench: If Veldhoven has the courage to start with Del Piero on the bench, then this is a man who can make the big decisions. Del Piero replied with a curt 'no' when asked post match whether he was happy to start on the bench — but the fact that Veldhoven would risk the ire of fans by keeping his marquee player on the bench means he's got full authority in the set-up.
In fact, it was probably the clash of heads which left Morten Skoubo slightly dazed that forced the Dutch coach's hand. It also shows his confidence in the rest of the side and keeps his bench strength very strong.
But it wasn't just that. You could see Delhi, in Dutch colours, play a style where all the players were involved in defence and attack. It's hardly total football, but it's inclusive at least. Shylo Malswamtulunga was the perfect example — bounding down both wings and helping midfield and defence. Fullbacks Shouvik Ghosh and Naoba Singh both pushed up as the Arias tracked back and the team held a good shape. He threw on 20-year-old Gustavo Santos in the last 10 minutes and the Brazilian hit the post.
Delhi have a good depth to their squad, a classy marquee player and a solid midfield — out of the six teams which have played so far — they're easily the most well drilled. The only issue, and probably one which needs be taken seriously, is the finishing. But that's an area where they would expect Del Piero to have greater say in the future.
Former Italy football captain and World cup winner Alessandro del Piero, a marquee player for Delhi Dynamos, Friday hoped that the Indian Super League (ISL) will help the national team, which is languishing at the 158th spot in the FIFA rankings.
Del Piero, however, gladly obliged the media and the shutterbugs at the parking lot of the Delhi University Stadium for nearly 15 minutes in heat and humidity.
Delhi Dynamos have scored just seven goals from eight matches and their solid defence was also punctured by FC Goa strikers on Thursday.