Jamshedpur FC take on Odisha FC in both the sides’ second match of the Indian Super League (ISL) campaign at Tilak Maidan tomorrow. Odisha FC head coach Stuart Baxter addressed the media ahead of the game where he spoke about where his team fell short against Hyderabad FC. Excerpts:
On his midfielders’ inability to create dangerous situations near the opposition penalty area in the first match
Baxter: I agree with that statement. We were a long way off in terms of the type of possession that we wanted to have. Tactically, our balance was wrong and we couldn’t provide support to the players upfront. The midfielders were a little too deep for my liking. I understand it was the first match of the season but we weren’t very brave with the ball. We’ve changed the shape a little bit in training but the proof will be in the pudding.
On Manuel Onwu being ineffective from the left wing in the first match
Baxter: With Jerry (Mawihmingthanga) injured, we don’t have a direct replacement for him which means we had to make a few tweaks. Onwu wasn’t playing in the wing, he was playing in the pocket supporting Diego (Mauricio) upfront. Onwu has played that role before and he is conscientious in his defending. So we wanted him to support Marcelinho and Diego from there but as I said, we got a little separated in attack. You can expect to see him back in his normal position though. You can also expect a few players to be used differently based on the opposition.
On if Jacob Tratt’s availability should improve the defensive performance
Baxter: The availability of Jacob is still a bit of a question mark. When you lose 1-0 and give away a very bad transition that ends in a penalty, the first thing I want to look at isn’t necessarily the defence. It’s the possession that we had, it’s how we opened the field up and how often we penetrated. But we can defend with more personality and dominance and I hope we can achieve that.
On all his defenders seeing yellow cards against Hyderabad FC
Baxter: Well I’m looking at all the games and I see lots of yellow cards being shown everywhere. I must admit that there have been some which were unwarranted and some others that weren’t given that were more warranted. It’s definitely not an ideal situation as I do not want my defenders to be on the edge. I want it to be controlled and within the laws of the game without taking out their spirit for the game.
On if he has any special plans for Nerijus Valskis
Baxter: No. We’ll of course acknowledge that he is a great finisher and that when you have a player like that others tend to seek him. So we’ll try to cut off those channels during the match and hopefully keep him and the other opposition players quiet.
On if he plans to tweak his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation
Baxter: One of the things that you work on as a coach is trying to find a formation which you can then tweak based on your squad. Yes I like the 4-2-3-1 formation but we also played 4-3-3 in the practice games. But I think when you have such a short pre-season it is more difficult to make huge changes in formation because the players might get confused. We will be tweaking it but it won’t be a major overhaul.
On where his side needs to improve
Baxter: We need to improve in all aspects of the game. That is not based on the last game but on the fact that I’ve only had about 14 sessions with the team. There has been a lot of good work before I came here but I also knew that there are areas where we need to improve. A new voice may mean a little bit more motivation but it also means a new message. The players are getting used to that and with the limited amount of time, it’s a challenge. We have to be patient but try our best to pick up points along the way.