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ISL 2020-21: Is Kibu Vicuna going to be next on the chopping block?

ISL 2020-21: Is Kibu Vicuna going to be next on the chopping block?

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 8 Jan 2021 1:42 PM GMT

Kerala Blasters slumped to their fifth defeat of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season on Wednesday. Diego Mauricio’s second half brace and a largely passive defensive performance from the Tuskers themselves helped Odisha put one over fellow bottom of the table dwellers. Now, with Carles Cuadrat already shown the door at Bengaluru FC, any further setbacks might mean the same fate for head coach Kibu Vicuna in what has been a season of twists and turns.

Vicuna was brought in with much pomp and splendour ahead of the start of the season by Sporting Director Karolis Skinkys. After Eelco Schattorie’s departure, the 49-year-old Spaniard was handpicked to steady the ship following his I-League exploits last season with Mohun Bagan. The expectation was that he would come in and impose an attractive style of play, something akin to the style Mohun Bagan dominated the I-League with. Instead, their performances so far have been lethargic and simply not good enough considering the quality of other teams.


At this moment, Kerala have problems everywhere on the pitch. They have a leaky defence which has also been hit with injuries, Nishu Kumar being the latest on that list. They lack a proper defensive midfielder who can screen the back four. Further forward, their foreign strikers have been underwhelming to say the least while they also don’t have wingers to stretch the game. And then there’s Sahal Abdul Samad.

For such a talented young man, Samad has been a passenger in almost all the matches this season so far. He has been deployed just behind the striker as well as part of a midfield three and he has shone in neither role. He has an average of 23 passes per match. Compare that to 36 for Vinit Rai or 27 for Mohammad Yasir and one would get an idea about his lack of involvement in the attacking buildup.

Overall, the side lacks confidence. Albino Gomes has made 28 saves so far. Even then, they have conceded 17 goals in 9 matches which should tell you all about their defence. Vicuna has tried out a 4-4-2 in a few games but with the lack of wingers, has been forced to play Samad and Rahul KP as inverted wingers. The same confusion has also been a feature of their midfield. Lack of tracking back has often resulted in their centre backs coming out to try and break up opposition play which leaves space behind them to be exploited. Finally, both their strikers have drifted in and out of games and none of their attackers have been able to run beyond defenders except Jordan Murray.

It remains to be seen if new signing Juande de Dios can inject some energy into the side. The Spanish midfielder was announced a week ago but is yet to feature in the matchday squad. The Manjappada will be hoping that something can kick-start their campaign but at the moment, they look like a team devoid of ideas and everyone knows who the first one out the door is in such situations.

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