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ISL 2018-19: Route One or Clueless? Change inevitable at Kerala Blasters

20:53 GMT 29/11/2018
Chennaiyin Kerala Blasters ISL
Kerala Blasters do not want a repeat of their 2015 ISL season but they need to act quickly...

Kerala Blasters haven't won a single game since their opening day win in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season. David James and his band of players have been under pressure as the club is once again on the brink of having yet another disapointing campaign.

Manjappada's statement had called the former Liverpool goalkeeper's tactics 'clueless' and there has been an outcry on social media for a change in leadership at the Kerala-based club.

It makes no sense to award your coach a three-year contract with a long-term project vision and sack him a few months later and that too, midway through the season. Mid-season managerial changes have never worked wonders in ISL.

But changes are needed at Blasters, that much is certain to anybody who watched the Yellow Army struggle to find any sort of rhythm against Chennaiyin FC at the Marina Arena on Thursday. 

Assuming David James still has full control and trust of his squad, what transpired in Chennai was due to a plain lack of quality. If it weren't for a 'man of the match' performance in goal by Dheeraj Singh and Chennaiyin's atrocious profligacy, Blasters would have been dealt a painful blow by the hosts. 

Baffling decisions cost Blasters

David James must shoulder the responsibility for the mess Blasters find themselves in. Nine games into the season, he still has not found his first-choice lineup. Skipper Sandesh Jhingan's omission from the starting lineup was surprising and CK Vineeth, known for his late match-winners in the previous seasons, spent the whole game on the bench. 

The first team had four central midfielders - Keziron Kizito, Nikola Krcmarevic, Zakeer Mundampara and Sahal Samad - playing in an unfamiliar shape. All four players seemed unaware of their role on the pitch and there was no width on offer to stretch Chennaiyin's backline. It looked like the visitors approached the fixture with the sole intention of avoiding a defeat. 

James' substitutions were also confusing. The English coach did not use his full quota of three changes and when he did bring Jhingan on, it was for midfielder Sahal Samad as Vineeth and Prasanth ended the game as unused substitutes. 

Blasters have equalled their worst tally of points after nine matches (8 points in 2015) but they surely wouldn't want a repeat of a disastrous 2015 ISL season. 

It has been a forgetful season so far for Kerala Blasters and with Bengaluru FC, FC Goa and NorthEast United looking like they will occupy the first three spots for the play-offs, fresh ideas are badly needed.

Chennaiyin need a 'goalscoring' striker

James' counterpart John Gregory will have every right to give his players a hairdryer treatment for their display against Kerala. They missed chance after chance and it included a 'miss-of-the-season' contender from Thoi Singh. Jeje Lalpekhlua and Carlos Salom have been appalling in the attacking third and it is clear that Chennaiyin need a new striking solution in the upcoming transfer window. 

The hosts used their opponent's lack of width to good effect. They played four times as many crosses as Blasters (20 vs 5) and took twice the amount of shots (12 vs 6). But they lacked enough quality to make it count. 

Raphael Augusto is carrying the defending champions with his midfield displays that deserve credit but for all the flair that the Brazilian has, Chennaiyin need their Indian players to step up big time. The likes of Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh look like shadows of their former selves from last season. It was the team's midfield that stood out during their title-winning campaign and the Machans need that mojo back.