Kerala Blasters FC has turned what seemed to be a disappointing start to the season into one of the most memorable ones in their history. Newly appointed Head Coach Ivan Vukomanovic's first assignment was the Durand Cup 2021. But the Durand dream quickly turned into a nightmare as they bowed out of the group stages, losing to Delhi FC and a Bengaluru FC side devoid of their best players.
Before the beginning of the Indian Super League season, defender Marko Leskovic and striker Alvaro Vazquez joined the Kerala camp. Their first match of the season against a strong ATK Mohun Bagan FC was a tough one. The Mariners put 4 goals past Albino Gomes.
Ivan's boys turned it around from then, going on a 9-match unbeaten run, which included 4 wins and 5 draws. They even defeated the defending champions Mumbai City FC comprehensively by a scoreline of 3-0. What makes this team different from the other Kerala Blasters FC teams?
Well for starters, Kerala Blasters FC in their entire history has never ended a season with a positive goal difference. Yes, they have always conceded more goals than they have scored in the course of a season. In seasons, when they have had great strikers, like Iain Hume, CK Vineeth, and Bartholomew Ogbeche, they have finished higher up in the table.
As the plot above shows that in the two seasons the tuskers reached the playoffs, they scored fewer goals and were among the worst scorers in the division, but they held their own in defense. Last season, KBFC conceded way more goals than they scored, which made them finish 10th.
This season though, Blasters have scored a lot of goals and have conceded fewer and for the first time, a Kerala Blasters team is looking like they will finish with a positive goal difference and hence a high position on the table.
With Puitea and Jeakson holding the fort in defensive midfield, Hormipam and Leskovic being a rock at the back, Luna creating chances, Sahal getting goals and their strikers finishing off the chances, the Keralian side have got their combinations right and the stars have aligned for the Manjappada. They have recorded 4 clean sheets this season, which is the highest by any team so far.
As almost all successful teams do, Kerala Blasters this season have outperformed their xG(Expected Goals) by scoring 16 goals from an 11.7 expected goals. In defence, they have just conceded 10 goals, slightly more than the 9.5 goals they were expected to concede.
Kerala Blasters are one of the best defensive sides this season, with only two teams recording a lower expected goals against tally but conceding way more. A tackle success rate of almost 67% so far has been astonishingly good as well.
The Ivan Vukomanovic managed side have created the most number of big chances in the league. They can still improve their shots on target percentage and convert some of the big chances they have missed to become an even scarier team.
Overall, Kerala Blasters have a performance rating of just about 7, which is the highest in the Indian Super League this season. Finally, the Majapadda have a team led by a great managerial mind who are fighting for the title.