The Indian Super League outfit Odisha FC are one of the teams who have a lot to prove in the upcoming season. During the 2020/21 season, the outfit finished at the bottom of the table with only 12 points to their name. The Bhubaneshwar-based club came into existence ahead of the 2019/20 season when the owners of erstwhile Delhi Dynamos FC changed the base to Odisha. The inaugural season was a mixed bag for the outfit, as it finished in sixth place.
However, the second season in the league was a hard watch for the fans as the club only recorded two wins across the campaign. OFC lost 12 of their 20 matches and managed only 12 points on the board at the end of the league stage. There were problems aplenty in the team, from the inefficiency of the management to the lack of experience amongst the players. The whole recipe was a disaster and the end result was reflective of it.
The eighth edition of the ISL is looming close and the Juggernauts will head into it looking to make amends. In order to improve on last year's performance, the club has to focus on some key areas. Here are five keys to success for Odisha FC in the upcoming season of the ISL:
Trust in the process
Odisha FC have made major changes to their approach ahead of the new season of the ISL. The biggest of them is the arrival of new head-coach Kiko Ramirez. Last year, Stuart Baxter was the head coach and things did not work out with the experienced tactician and the two parties separated during the season. The new head coach brings Spanish flavour to the outfit, as it seems to be the blueprint to success in the ISL. Lots of coaches from Spain have made their mark until now.
OFC will hope that Ramirez can have a similar effect. One can expect Odisha FC to play very differently from the previous season. The arrival of players like Hector Rodas and Victor Mongil means there is a Spanish core in the squad. Kiko Ramirez has coached teams like Castellon and Wisla Krakow but this will be his first experience of Asian football. Having said that, the management must stick with their new manager and give him enough time to establish a system at the club.
Avoid over-reliance on individuals
Odisha FC scored 25 goals last season out of which 12 goals came from Diego Mauricio. The Brazilian striker was a revelation to the league and a one-man army upfront. However, Baxter made the mistake of relying too much on his goals and there were no other reliable sources of goals. OFC must not let the same issues come up next season.
The key to success will lie in the overall contribution of the team, especially the local players. Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Paul Ramfangzauva scored two goals each, which was the biggest contribution by Indian players. Come next season, Ramirez must ensure that OFC are not over-reliant on newcomers like Jonathas or Aridai Cabrera.
Reinforce the defence
One of the major factors behind the dismal campaign last year was the leaky defence. The outfit conceded 44 goals, the most in the division. They were the only team to concede more than 40 goals and had the worst goal difference of -19 amongst all the teams.
The outfit has used the transfer window to right these wrongs. Arrival of experienced stalwarts like Hector Rodas and Victor Mongil in the heart of defence will certainly shore things up. A strong defence is the first step towards grinding out results and putting points on the board.
Find a stable starting lineup
Stuart Baxter was all over the place with his team selection last term. Be it personnel changes or formation changes, there was a clear lack of a system. The tactician attributed the lack of stability to a short pre-season which was fair to a certain extent. But, all other clubs were in the same situation and somehow OFC were worse off than the rest.
Kiko Ramirez must find a stable starting lineup. A sense of continuity will give players confidence and at the same time help the tactician establish a style of gameplay. It will be interesting to see how the tactician will set up his team, but he must resist the need to make constant changes.
Incorporate new signings effectively
Odisha FC have revamped their foreign contingent completely. Players like Cole Alexander, Diego Mauricio, Diawandou Diagne, Jacob Tratt, and Manuel Onwu have all left the club. New foreign players such as Hector Rodas, Victor Mongil, Liridon Krasniqi, Javi Hernandez, Aridai Cabrera and Jonathas have come in. Former skipper Steven Taylor has retired as a professional player after last season with OFC.
The task at hand would be to choose which four foreigners will make the starting lineup. Establishing a good chemistry between these new signings is the key to success for Odisha FC. One cannot hope to get new players and expect good things by just throwing them on the field. There needs to be a plan behind the incorporation of new players.