FC Goa was supposed to be one of the major contenders for the Indian Super League title before the 2021-22 season began. The outfit had an impressive showing at the AFC Champions League and retained a strong core of players from the previous season. Juan Ferrando's men had a promising pre-season and the fans had huge expectations from the club this year.
However, after the first three games of the season, all dreams have come crashing down. FC Goa has lost all three of their opening ISL games of the current season against teams like Mumbai City FC, Jamshedpur FC and North East United respectively. The performances in each of those fixtures have been poor, to say the least. The results have come as a stark reality check to the ambitions of the team. If the performances do not pick up in the upcoming matches, then finishing amongst the playoffs positions could be out of reach.
Having said that, there are several factors that have contributed to the Gaur's terrible start to the season. Here is a look at what is exactly wrong with FC Goa:
Problems with team selection
One of the most glaring issues is the team selection from Juan Ferrando. The gaffer does not seem to know which is his preferred starting lineup. The new rule which restricts a club to fielding only four foreigners has hurt the Spaniard's plans. Without an experienced Indian centre-back, the backline looks weak. Ivan Gonzalez had to pair up with Lalhmangaihsanga and Aiban Dohling in the first two matches and the outfit conceded three goals in each of those.
The gaffer finally fielded the foreign pairing of Dylan Fox and Ivan Gonzalez but the newness of the pair led to several communication issues. Moreover, Ferrando had to bench his captain Edu Bedia to accommodate two foreign centre-backs as Alberto Noguera and Jorge Ortiz took up the other two slots. This is not the time to experiment with team selection and these issues should have been ironed out in pre-season.
The defensive woes
Inconsistent team selection has hurt several departments, but the worst affected is defence. FC Goa has conceded eight goals in three matches already. The number could have been much higher without the presence of Dheeraj Singh Moiranghtem. He has been the best performer from the squad, making crucial saves in each fixture and yet eight goals have gone past him.
From holding Asian heavyweights like Al-Rayyan and Al-Wahda to goalless draws in the ACL to conceding eight goals in the ISL in three games is a huge downfall. Ferrando must find a way to stop the leakage of goals as this weakness is holding the team back more than any other aspect.
Lackluster attacking gameplay
FC Goa is struggling on the attacking front as well. The outfit has scored only two goals in reply to conceding eight in three matches. Igor Angulo's departure has hurt the team and the pair of Noguera and Ortiz lack the finishing qualities of the striker who is now scoring for fun at Mumbai City FC. Airam Cabrera is yet to find his stride and there is a lack of experienced domestic attackers in the team.
Offloading players like Seiminlen Doungel and Ishan Pandita was a terrible decision and not adequately replacing them was worse. Youngsters like Muhammed Nemil, Nongdamba Naorem, Romario among others are yet to impress and lack the experience of playing at the top level.
Juan Ferrando is one of the youngest head coaches in the ISL and impressed in his first season last year. The way he conducted himself in the AFC Champions League was admirable but his tactics in the first three games have come under the scanner. Chopping and changing personnel in key areas of the squad has backfired.
Lack of strategy in recruitment was evident and the players look flustered with the disappointing results early on. Dropping Edu Bedia against NorthEast United was a very bold decision and it did not work. He needs leaders on the pitch who can keep the morale of the team-high in this phase. Ferrando must fall back to the basics, defend well, keep a clean sheet and then build from the back. Revisiting the key aspects of his success from the previous campaign holds the key for FC Goa's revival.