For FC Goa, probably the biggest factor going into the new season is familiarity. That's because out of 10 teams in the Indian Super League (ISL), only three clubs have not changed their manager. Change is the only constant and Indian Super League (ISL) clubs have lived up to the maxim, with many teams hardly sticking with the same managers and players in consecutive seasons. FC Goa, though, have been some sort of exception. They trusted Brazillian football legend Zico to do the job for three years in the league and now Sergio Lobera will manage the team for the second successive year.
Familiarity with the place and the manager prompted FC Goa's Ferran Corominas, the highest goal-scorer in the league last season, to stick with the club and fight for the elusive trophy. When asked if it was the main reason for him to play one more season with FC Goa, Corominas said, "It was one of the reasons. The coach wanted me to sign for the team, the club also wanted me to come back again and my family was very happy in Goa. So it's a conglomeration of all three things put together."
Corominas' and Spanish midfielder Manuel Lanzarote played a key role in Goa's run to the playoffs, with the latter netting as many as 13 goals and six assists in the league. Lanzarote has left the club this season to join Kolkata's ATK under Steve Coppell, but Corominas thinks the midfielder's absence will not affect the team's scoring abilities. "Goals can come from multiple sources, it does have to be one pair that does all the scoring. The greatest strength of the team is that it is a team and we are not relying on individual players to do the scoring from us. Once the team gels well, and there is understanding in the attacking front, goals will come from different sources," Corominas said on the sidelines of ISL media day in Mumbai.
Corominas, as expected, sounded optimistic and did not give much importance to that fact that Lanzarote will not be playing for Goa this season, but his absence from the squad will certainly be a huge void. It's not going to be easy to replace someone who has scored and assisted as consistently as Lanzarote. Having said that, apart from Lanzarote, Goa have kept their core intact. The likes of Edu Bedia, Bruno Pinheiro, Ahmed Jahouh, Mandar Rao Dessai and Brandon Fernandes have played under Lobera, so they are accustomed to his footballing philosophy. There's an aspect of continuity to the project which Lobera started last year, and that will be the key for Goa in the upcoming season.
FC Goa's attacking brand of football helped them to qualify for the playoffs last season. Other clubs, who were not aware of Lobera's style of football, were taken by surprise and found it difficult to counter their attacking threat. Now, teams are aware of Goa's style and will be more prepared when they play against them. Will this factor result in Goa changing or making alterations to their style? Corominas doesn't think so. "Our greatest strength is our style. Yes, it is true that when other teams know how we play, it becomes difficult because they have prepared for a certain style of play. But that is our strength and we have to continue with it. I don't think our team is built to play any other style of football, so we have to ensure that we carry on with our system."
Even for FC Goa's new assistant coach Jesus Tato, who also played in the third season of ISL, style of play matters for the club and he sees it as a way to keep their fans happy. "Our challenge is to win the title. But we also want to focus on the way we take this challenge. Last season, the fans enjoyed our football so we want to keep this way of football as it also important for the fans to enjoy. We have the best fans in ISL so we must give them something back. This is our principle objective this season,” said Tato, who played under Lobera for Moroccan club Moghreb Tetouan.
Certainly, Goa's footballing philosophy impressed quite a few last season, but there were areas where the team faltered, specifically in the defence where Lobera's side conceded too many goals and that eventually led to them not making it to the final. Tato acknowledges this fact and spoke of improvements that the team needs to make.
"The beginning for Lobera was not easy because the team had to take risks in defence to ensure there are more players attacking. But during and after the pre-season, we have to keep working in the same line because we think it's the right path for us. No change in style but we still have to improve," Tato said.
Updated Date: Sep 25, 2018 13:40 PM