The seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) has already given us a number of competitive matches and some great football. As of now, all of the teams occupying the current top four positions have shown qualities that those below them have lacked. Be it a star-studded Mumbai City or a young Hyderabad side, they have come on top during the crucial periods in matches and have shown immense composure and efficiency in the process. Here we take a look at where they can still improve so as to cement their position at the top half of the table come March.
Mumbai City FC
For a side that has been so dominant this season, it is surprising that the Islanders have the third lowest number of shots with just 111. Although they do have the most goals with 17, this tendency to try and score the perfect goal almost cost them points against ATK Mohun Bagan. The 1-1 draw against Jamshedpur FC was also an example of what might happen on a day when their passing doesn’t click like usual. While they have intricate players like Hugo Boumous and Cy Goddard who tend to complete most of their progressive passes and dribbles around the box, they should try hitting the target more often. Another area that they need to improve on is the number of cynical fouls that they commit resulting in yellow cards. They have seen 30, the highest in the league which they may end up regretting due to the automatic suspensions that might come as a result.
ATK Mohun Bagan
Even though head coach Antonio Lopez Habas may scoff at the idea that his is a counter-attacking team, fact remains that ATK Mohun Bagan have the least number of passes and touches of all with 3061 and 4691 respectively. This is not to say that they are passive during matches. Their midfield and forward line are extremely good at active pressing and regaining possession in the opposition half, especially Carl McHugh and Roy Krishna himself. They also possess one of the best defensive units which has allowed them to stay at second on the table despite scoring the joint least number of goals (10). However, going forward there will invariably be times when a defender makes a mistake that results in a goal. They therefore need to do more to connect their midfield and attack in a way that Boumous does it for Mumbai City, especially when they are playing with a back five.
Juan Ferrando’s side started with a stutter but have come into their own in the last few weeks. What has shown through is their wealth of flair players who are great on the ball but may not be the best off it. In Princeton Rebello and Alexander Jesuraj, they have players who have the best progressive passing accuracy numbers while Jorge Ortiz and Igor Angulo tend to get on the end of most of those. Left back Saviour Gama is another constant driving force with his runs down the flank as well as infield. However, their gung-ho defensive approach has resulted in them keeping just two clean sheets this season. Moreover, they have the third highest number of fouls with 163 which is again indicative of the desperation with which they tend to defend during counter attacks and dangerous positions in and around the penalty area. This is one aspect where they need to improve drastically.
Probably the team of the season so far based on where they finished last term, Hyderabad is another side that has had its trust in youngsters pay off till now. In Akash Mishra and Asish Rai, they have two young full-backs who make hugely impactful progressive runs with and without the ball and are not scared of dribbling past players in tight spaces. Liston Colaco and Halicharan Narzary are similarly important in attack and their directness and quick feet has made Aridane Santana’s life upfront much easier. However, like Goa, they too have just two clean sheets all season and need to work on their defensive transitions. Their set-piece defending is another area of weakness which has come to haunt them time and again.