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ISL 2017-18: Lobera is right – clean sheet doesn’t always matter but balance does

06:11 GMT+3 27/02/2018
Gurpreet Singh FC Goa Bengaluru FC ISL 4 11302017
It doesn't matter if you concede goals but a team without balance will struggle...

Sergio Lobera would have been relieved to leave Pune with a 4-0 victory. With two games left in the league stage for FC Goa, their target of qualifying for the playoffs is achievable and more importantly, the destiny is in their own hands. If they win their last two games, they will qualify.

The four-goal thrashing was special in more than one way. It was a result that Goa badly needed. And when you hit four goals and concede none against a strong team like Pune City, (who became the second team to qualify to the playoffs thanks to Jamshedpur's loss) the confidence levels are sure to soar.

The result also recorded Goa's first clean sheet of the season. It took them 16 games to restrict their opponent from hitting their net and that's not surprising. FC Goa have let in the most goals this season (27) after Delhi Dynamos (34). Third on the list is NorthEast United (26) and they are at the bottom of the table. 

Head coach Sergio Lobera, however, is not too worried about keeping clean sheets. After the win against Pune City, he said, "I am more happy about the fact we scored four goals than we kept a clean sheet. For me, the maintaining clean sheet is just an anecdote because we could have won 5-1, 6-1 and the context would not have changed. The important part is our offensive mentality. We created chances, were effective in the final third and took our chances." 

And he is right.

A clean sheet might be a morale booster for your defenders and goalkeeper but it does not affect the context of the game. It doesn't matter if you win 4-0 or 5-1 because the goal difference would be the same and in a league that takes into account head-to-head results before goal difference, it matters even less.

Lobera has previously stressed about the need to stick to the football philosophy that he has brought to FC Goa. The passing, the movement and the attacking intent have helped them score 34 goals so far, which is the highest-ever tally managed in the ISL so far.

A balanced attack, midfield and defence produce results. For FC Goa, cleansheets do not matter anymore right now. But one cannot have that gung-ho approach right from the start of the season. Loading the first team with attack-minded players in such a style will leave the midfield in disarray, allowing teams to pick you apart.

The scenario is such that FC Goa needs to win the rest of their matches to reach the play-off stages. But while cleansheets do not matter anymore for Sergio Lobera's team, he has to have balance in his team. With players like Pronay Halder at your disposal, it is baffling that Lobera has used him sparingly in midfield. 

He is that kind of player who makes tackles and commits fouls which actually are needed by the team and breaks up the fluidity in their opponents' attacks. This will only help Goa avoid results like the 4-3 defeat they suffered at the hands of Mumbai City. You only have to look at his impact against FC Pune City in the 4-0 win where he broke up play. 

A team cannot be criticised for not keeping clean sheets. But leaking of goals is a different scenario. ATK kept the most number of clean sheets in 2014 and they won ISL. Chennaiyin (8) followed the pattern and clinched the trophy in 2015. Mumbai City (9) topped the league but lost to ATK in the semi-final last year. Is 2017-18 season going to be different?