We’re almost at the mid-way stage of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2018-19 and we still have a team that hasn’t won a game and one that hasn’t lost any.
There have clearly been a lot of surprises this season, but one thing has remained constant from last season – Foreigners outperforming Indians and propelling their teams to the top. The reliance on the overseas players is visible, especially in the top six teams – Goa, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Jamshedpur, NorthEast United and ATK.
Arguably the best player in the league, Ferran Corominas has already scored eight goals and has provided four more, with his deputy Edu Bedia netting four and assisting two. The pair have contributed to almost 57 per cent of Goa’s total goals.
Jackichand Singh and Brandon Fernandes have scored two goals each so far. Chinglensana Singh and Mohammed Ali were underwhelming in defence
Moroccan Ahmed Jahouh operates from the heart of midfield and has been extremely crucial for Goa’s success.
Miku Fedor has been the most consistent player for Bengaluru FC ever since their debut in the ISL last season. The Venezuelan has scored or assisted in every game he's played in apart from the home tie against Jamshedpur, the only game where Bengaluru dropped points.
Erik Paartalu has been a vital cog in Bengaluru’s midfield. The Australian’s distribution and his defensive participation has been key to Bengaluru’s almost perfect record. Dimas Delgado remains to be the most technical player in the squad and the centre-back pairing of Juanan Gonzalez and Alberto Serran have stood strong in the first six games.
Yes, Sunil Chhetri has been exception there with five goals and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has done well in goal. But that's about it.
Despite sitting in a play-off spot, Mumbai have scored just seven goals in their eight matches so far and have conceded eight. The lethal duo of Modou Sougou and Arnold Issoko have scored five of those seven goals and won Mumbai nine points together.
Lucian Goian has been crucial for the Islanders in defence just how Paulo Machado has been the key in midfield. One can probably go on a stretch and say that Subhasish Bose and Souvik Chakrabarti have impressed but the over-reliance on the foreigners is clearly visible.
Mumbai City have not even given their Indian striker, Alen Deory, a chance.
Mario Arques can make a case for his spot in the top five midfielders in the league. Team-mate Memo would be giving him some stiff competition. Sergio Cidoncha has been Jamshedpur’s best player so far, scoring and providing three goals each in the seven games that he has featured in.
Tiri has been a rock at the back but the likes of Pratik Chaudhari and Raju Gaikwad have failed to form a stable partnership with the Spaniard. Michael Soosairaj and Sumeet Passi have stepped up and have – to an extent – provided evidence against the reliance on the overseas players.
If one takes a look at NorthEast United, the team's heartbeat is Bartholomew Ogbeche and Federico Gallego. Mislav Komorski and Mato Grgic have been excellent in defence. Apart from Rowllin Borges and Redeem Tlang to an extent, none of their Indian players have stepped up.
For ATK, it is John Johnson, Gerson, Everton Santos and Manuel Lanzarote who have ended up propelling the team. None of their Indian players have so far risen to the occasion. Both ATK and Mumbai City are defensive teams and both of them are entirely dependent on foreign players in central positions. Only the fullbacks keep changing.
One Kalu Uche was injured against Bengaluru FC, ATK struggled in attack. Balwant Singh has been unable to lead the lines or rather he has not been trusted enough with that role.
But the fact that the team in which the reliance on foreigners is least is placed behind the first three plays right into the hands of the theory that the Indian players have not stepped up.
Foreigners are just the catalysts to help the Indian players develop, they say. The Indian players clearly need to step up if they are to prove this to be true.