Kerala Blasters: From Rene Meulensteen to David James, what has changed?

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ISL
David James's Kerala Blasters have seven points from seven matches, the same tally managed by Rene Meulensteen last season...

Seven games into the season, Kerala Blasters have managed just seven points and sit seventh on the Indan Super League (ISL) table. 

Last season at this same juncture under Rene Meulensteen, the Yellow Army had found themselves in the exact same spot. The former Manchester United assistant coach was sacked a day after the seventh match in which the team lost at home to Bengaluru. Will things be different this season?

David James took over immediately after the departure of Meulensteen and his first match in charge was a 1-1 draw against Pune City. The second half of that match told a tale of the fighting spirit of a highly motivated bunch of players and that has been Blasters in a nutshell ever since. 

The former Liverpool goalkeeper only completed his UEFA Pro License in June this year and is inexperienced when it comes to coaching. 

Kerala Blasters FC goalkeeper David James during ISL match

David James' coaching stint at Luton Town and a player-manager role at Blasters in 2014 cannot be compared to Meulensteen's tenure as an assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson and as head coach at several clubs including Fulham and AS Monaco. However, it must be noted that neither Meulensteen nor James has been remarkably successful as head coaches. 

But it is about Kerala Blasters' success and what the Indian club needs at this point. With a huge fanbase backing them, the minimum objective for Blasters should be a playoff spot. 

Last season, Gokulam Kerala head coach Bino George famously stated that David James is not even a coach and tagged Meulensteen as one of the best coaches in football. But it is not an easy job to coach in an upcoming league like the ISL where the expectations are high but the quality available is not. 

Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen (L)

Blasters have looked slightly better on the field despite their results compared to last season. The win against ATK in Kolkata in the season opener was promising. In the next two games, they were leading for the most part and the football on display was not too bad. A game of two halves in Jamshedpur and Pune ended 2-2 and 1-1 respectively and the team's fighting spirit was on show in both games. 

David James' idea of football seems to be much simpler than the one of his predecessor and the current crop of players seems to have adapted to it. The club awarding him with a three-year contract, the change in player recruitment policy and the increased minutes for young Indian players are signs that the head coach is still in control. 

The Englishman's team selections have received a lot of flak though. He is yet to find his best starting lineup and has not fielded the maximum allowed five foreign players in his starting lineups multiple times this season. Doesn't that mean he does not have five good foreigners to choose from and if not, what is the point of signing foreigners in the first place? 

Kerala Blasters

As long as David James has the full support of his players and staff, there is enough time for Kerala Blasters to turn things around and any change of leadership should not be after seven games in the league.

The decision makers at Blasters only need to look at the fate of other ISL clubs who have sacked their head coach midway through the season. It doesn't help, especially not at clubs in a country that has a league that runs for four months and has very few domestic cup games. 

Nothing much seems to have changed in terms of the style of football or results since Meulensteen's departure but James is not on borrowed time, yet. 

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