Kerala Blasters have been the proverbial underachievers in the Indian Super League (ISL). Despite having strong squads in multiple editions of the tournament, the Tuskers have almost always found ways to implode during critical junctures. As a result, the side, which probably has the largest fanbase out of all the teams based outside Bengal, has ended as runners up twice and is yet to win the league title.
This season has been even more difficult. Newly appointed Kibu Vicuna was expected to steer the side to a top four finish after winning the I-League with Mohun Bagan last season. A spate of interesting signings followed in the form of Gary Hooper, Jordan Murray, Vicente Gomez, Costa Nhamoinesu and Nishu Kumar amongst others even as the club held on to the likes of Jessel Carneiro and Sahal Abdul Samad.
However, much of the optimism that was abound at the start of the season soon dissipated after the side made a poor start to the campaign. They had to wait till their seventh game of the season for the first victory and have since won on just two more occasions. Currently, they find themselves 9th on the points table with just 15 points from 16 games. And it’s easy to understand why.
They have conceded 27 goals this season which is the most by any team. To put things in perspective, that is six more than what an abysmal Odisha FC have conceded this term. Vicuna’s men also have the dubious record of conceding seven penalties which again is the highest in the league this season. It doesn’t really end there. Of the 27 goals that the Tuskers have conceded, 17 have come in the second half which points towards a soft underbelly within the side and a tendency to crumble when put under pressure. However, none of these statistics drive the point home as much as the fact that they have lost out on 16 points from winning positions this season. The next on that list is an off-colour Bengaluru FC with nine lost points.
That is an absolutely shocking statistic for a team that has brought in two experienced foreign defenders in Costa and Bakary Kone as well as a quality midfield schemer in Vicente Gomez. It is also indicative of a distinct lack of application from the entire side when it comes to doing their defensive duties. What will disappoint their hugely passionate fans further is that every time the team plays a decent game, that is invariably followed by a performance that is irresponsible to say the least. With just four games left in their season, it remains to be seen if some of these wounds can be healed in time for the club to make a fresh start in the summer.