When Juan Ferrando was brought in at the helm of affairs at FC Goa, not many would have heard of the Spaniard. The 40-year-old had previously been in charge of clubs like Cultural Leonesa and Linares Deportivo in Spain as well as GS Ergotelis and Volos NPS in Greece, and arrived in India with the expectation being that he would impose a similar style of play to what Sergio Lobera had. After a slow start to the season, Ferrando’s side are now playing like a team that can, on their day, beat anyone in the Indian Super League (ISL) and find themselves in 3rd spot on the table.
In the absence of Brandon Fernandes, he started with a 4-3-3 in the first few games which turned into a 4-2-3-1 with the ball. His most creative midfielder, Edu Bedia, tends to sit deep and set the tempo of the game while also allowing the fullbacks to push up. In Lenny Rodrigues and now Glan Martins, they have someone who can do the dirty work of retrieving the ball and recycling possession quickly while further forward, the likes of Brandon and Alberto Noguera always stay between the opposition lines of defence and midfield. What this does is it keeps them ready for a counter attacking situation, both through the middle and by using their fullbacks.
Ivan Gonzalez has been another key player for them. He has the most number of passes in the side (771) after Bedia, who has the most passes in the entire league with 1116. Gonzalez is always the one who tries to carry the ball out of defence, thereby creating a numerical advantage in midfield. His understanding of space makes it easier for Bedia to drop back and pick the ball without much pressure on him which helps him initiate attacks. Bedia has 87.8 touches per game and provides an average of 74.4 passes each time he takes the field with more than 85% accuracy, a staggering stat even for a deep-lying playmaker. Having runners like Alexander Jesuraj and Princeton Rebello beside him also helps his case as they usually drag a defender with them.
Going forward, the full-backs Saviour Gama and Seriton Fernandes stick to the by-line to stretch the field and more often than not create a numerical advantage in the opposition half with one of the midfielders joining in. This is the reason why they have been able to put in so many crosses all through the season, especially Gama. As far as the attack is concerned, both Jorge Ortiz and Igor Angulo are both great at looking up and switching play from deeper areas. Ortiz especially is a brilliant ball carrier and is allowed a free role from wide left to run at defenders with Brandon or Gama usually making a decoy run. On the other hand, Angulo is excellent at playing on the shoulder of the last defender and timing his runs into the box effectively, something that was illustrated perfectly in his goal against Mumbai City a couple of days back. He also instigates the high press, thereby playing a key role in winning the ball back quickly.
All in all, it can be said that Ferrando’s wards have taken to his philosophy really well. Their positional play in different areas of the pitch, ability to create a numerical advantage in the final third and consistent pressing make for a highly entertaining watch. However, where they have been found out on occasions is their inability to cover the space behind their full backs. The lack of speed in their centre-backs further exacerbates that problem but as long as they can keep hold of the ball for long durations like they usually do, it shouldn’t be a huge issue.