There are not many who doubt Sahal Abdul Samad's potential. On the contrary, most agree that Sahal is a dynamo of talent who can dazzle the pitch once he realises his talent. In the past couple of seasons in ISL(Indian Super League), the fans witnessed moments of brilliance from this midfielder. But he was performing far from the expectations that the team management had from him.
Sahal had also not been playing in his favourite central midfield role and his performances had been inconsistent prior to this season.
However, under Ivan Vukomanovic, Sahal has unleashed himself substantially, though there is still scope for improvement. He is being used in the right side of midfield, which is a deviation from his central midfield position, and the player has blossomed in this slot with each passing game. Nonetheless, there is a seamless fluidity amongst the attacking contingent of Adrian Luna, Alvaro Vasquez, Roberto Pereyra and Sahal which gives each one of them the license to roam as they deem fit in the attacking third.
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During his goal against Mumbai City FC, he was almost in the centre of the attacking half while collecting the mispass from Rahul Bheke. Thereafter, he danced past a string of blue shirts, showing exemplary ball control and dribbling skill, to finally slot home the ball. This is where he has come of age in this season. Earlier, he used to be a flash in the pan who would inevitably fade away into oblivion as the season progressed. But not this time.
The manner in which he brushed aside the Mumbai defence speaks volumes of his ability and knack to take on defenders. He has always been lethal in close spaces but this time he is more mature and knows when and how much to dribble. He has completed 24 dribbles, which is the second-most by any Indian player. Only ATK Mohun Bagan’s Liston Colaco has more with 29.
Sahal scored a goal in the very first match of the season against ATK Mohun Bagan, giving a sense of what was to come. However, he kept playing well and did not fade away. So far he has got five goals to his name, his best returns in his ISL career. The tally might further increase given that he has at least three more matches in hand, given they get at least a point against FC Goa.
Vukomanovic wants his attacking quadruple to press high on the pitch and Sahal has been doing an outstanding job. He has won 24 out of 32 tackles attempted which translates to a 75% success rate, the highest amongst Blasters' players.
Sahal has also been cheeky with his tackles. As his intention is mostly to win back possession he commits numerous soft fouls. In fact, he has conceded 28 fouls in ISL, the most by a player, and is yet to be booked.
Most fouls without a single booking
Sahal has been phenomenal in this season. Playing alongside the likes of Luna, Vasquez, and Pereyra he has grown further in stature. The next step for Sahal and Blasters is to qualify for the play-offs after more than five years. And needless to say that Sahal and co. will leave no stone unturned.
(Stat Courtesy: Opta Jeev)