Jamshedpur FC are currently in the fourth position in the Indian Super League (ISL) with 11 points in their seven games but they could have entered the break as table-toppers. Jamshedpur’s season started with a comfortable 2-0 win away from home against Mumbai and they followed it with an impressive performance at Bengaluru where the two parties shared spoils in a four-goal thriller.
However, things have not particularly gone in head coach Cesar Ferrando’s favour ever since. The Men of Steel grabbed all three points on only one occasion in the remaining five matches. To Jamshedpur’s credit, the win came against FC Goa, one of the beast teams in the league.
Ferrando’s men are unbeaten in the league and naturally the Spaniard is pleased with this. The fact that they could have won at least three of the four games that they have drawn is more of a critique to their defence than to their attack.
The defence has been a massive hindrance to a wonderful story of ‘what could’ve been’ for Jamshedpur. Captain Tiri has been one of their key players so far but the likes of Raju Gaikwad, Pratik Chaudhari have failed to form a stable, long-standing partnership with the Spaniard. Sanjay Balmuchu was presented with an opportunity to establish himself against Kerala Blasters but he failed to impress and didn’t feature in any of the subsequent games. The fact that most of the goals Jamshedpur conceded have come against the run of play highlights how individual defensive mistakes have played spoilsport.
Against ATK, Pratik played a loose pass which was poached upon by Manuel Lanzarote who forced a save from the keeper and scored directly from the resulting corner. This is clearly not a move you’d expect to stumble upon in top-flight football.
“We should have won the match. We made a mistake in the first half. We couldn't defend the set-piece. We have to defend better from set-pieces,” Ferrando exclaimed after the match.
Funnily enough, that wasn’t the worst Jamshedpur’s defence had to offer. Against Delhi, Robin Gurung played a lazy back-pass to a clueless Subrata Paul. Delhi’s Lallianzuala Chhangte saw the opportunity, latched onto the ball and made short work of the former Indian national team keeper.
“We defended very well I thought apart from one big mistake which is football,” said Ferrando after the game.
The Men of Steel lit up the furnace against Kerala, leading 2-0 at the break and dominating in every department. A substitute in the name of Len Doungel made all the difference in the game. The winger was left with acres of space on the left with Yumnum Raju making no attempts to close him down. Kerala’s first goal came from a Slaviša Stojanović strike from the centre of the box, one that could have been prevented had the defence stayed awake.
The Jamshedpur defence was there for the taking against NorthEast and Bartholomew Ogbeche struck early in the first half after a defensive mishap which saw Mario Arques give the ball away to Federico Gallego.
“You can't concede these type of goals. They can take a shot when they want but we can't concede a goal so easily,” an unhappy Ferrando retorted after the game.
Loose passes, inability to cope with the opponent’s pressing and not being able to even clear the ball have clearly cost Jamshedpur at least six points until now.
On the contrary, the midfield has performed very well and displayed shades of the identity Ferrando is intending to instil in Jamshedpur. Arques and Memo have been their best players by a mile and can also make a case for being one of the best midfield duo in the league.
As is visible, Jamshedpur’s midfield is bailing out their defence very often. A midfield like that should be fetching you three points every week, not converting the zeroes into ones.
Ferrando has announced his arrival in the ISL but his defence has limited his impact.