The aftereffects of an improper pre-season are evident in how the teams have gone about their business on the field after the first round of matches in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season.
As the season enters into Round 2, injuries and fitness issues have hogged the limelight for a lot of clubs.
After several months without football and on-field training due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, the ISL clubs set up camp in Goa to train a month before the season opener on November 20.
The foreign players came in batches and that meant none of the head coaches were able to train with a full-strength squad for at least a month.
Not going through a proper pre-season can be detrimental's to a team's progress. Moreover, the players will take time to reach full match fitness and are more likely to pick up niggles along the way.
Improper pre-season is only one of many reasons for players to pick up injuries. Even otherwise, the teams have had to deal with injury blows to tackles and bad landings.
ATK Mohun Bagan received the biggest hammer blow to their the season right after their first match when Michael Soosairaj suffered a ligament injury. The former Chennai City player is set to be ruled out for the rest of the season.
Kerala Blasters missed the services of Rahul KP and Nishu Kumar for their season opener due to knocks they picked up in pre-season. Nishu returned for the second game but Rahul remains out of contention. Sahal Abdul Samad also picked up a quad strain was unavailable for the second match.
Mumbai City had to take off Raynier Fernandes in the 26th minute of their opening game against NorthEast United. The Indian midfielder suffered a groin injury. Odisha's Thoiba Singh had to be stretchered off the field in the second half of their game against Hyderabad.
Jamshedpur have also suffered a big blow as an injured Peter Hartley had to be replaced after the half-hour mark in their first game of the season. His replacement Narender Gehlot too had to be subtituted as he picked an injury.
Other than these, the return to full fitness of several key players is also anticipated in the upcoming rounds of matches. One such player is Brandon Fernandes, ISL's all-time top Indian assist provider, who injured his knee in the playoffs last season. He made a brilliant cameo appearance in Goa's 2-2 draw with Bengaluru but was an unused substitute in the second game.
The decision by the league to allow five substitutions this season is a welcome tweak and will help coaches manage the situation better if their players are under pressure in terms of fitness. Only five teams - Kerala Blasters, Bengaluru, Chennaiyin, ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City have made use of five changes and going forward, coaches may be forced into rotating their squad more often and making five changes every game.