Odisha FC, after a tough start to their Indian Super League (ISL) season, will be hoping to end 2020 on positive note when they play their final match of the year against NorthEast United on Tuesday.
The Juggernauts' are winless so far and their 2-1 defeat against Bengaluru last Thursday was their fifth defeat in six matches. However, under-pressure head coach Stuart Baxter feels that it is only a matter of time before they turn their form around.
He feels his charges showed signs of improvement in the Bengaluru match where they equalised in the second half, only to concede another late goal.
"I thought the boys showed clear signs of improvements and now we have to start changing a few of the sad stories into happy endings because, at the end of the day, I think it's a lack of focus that results in the performance going down.
"So as long as we can keep our focus at the right level, we can keep on improving. This squad has got a lot of work to do and they are working really hard. The good news is that, if the refereeing decisions go our way, which they should have done, then even the performance that we gave (against Bengaluru) could have resulted in three points," claimed the 67-year-old.
Odisha have conceded late winners against Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, with lapses in defence hurting them. However, Baxter has praised his team's attitude to keep fighting.
"We have been the architects of our downfall a couple of times. We have been at the wrong end of a couple of bad calls and sometimes just momentary lapse of concentration. We are working on that and as long as the lads are working on it, with the fantastic attitude that they are showing, that's what we can demand from them," he added.
The former Finland national team manager wants his players to imbibe his instructions and do the same on the field instinctively. He also shared his opinion on NorthEast United, who are coming into the game on the back of their first defeat last week.
"A lot of the things that we are doing, the players are still having to consider 'what was the coach saying, what did he want' and so there they stay in a sort of a conscious zone. So, when they know, it’s an understanding and they do it more instinctively.
"I think that the NorthEast team have got quite a few quick players. They play back-to-front very quickly and play the ball to their strikers. We defend as a team and whatever solutions we are planning will be based on our team and not on individual marking."
Baxter took the onus upon himself and the coaching staff on the club’s poor run of form.
“I think, whatever responsibilities we take for winning, losing or drawing, we take as a team. I can't deflect all the attention on the players. I would rather (have) people look at me. I will look at myself and the staff's job and we will do the best that we can.”
Marcelinho has been in focus as Baxter has opted to start with the Brazilian just thrice this season. The former ISL Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner has found game-time hard to come by. The experienced coach offered an explanation on why the former Hyderabad FC attacker hasn’t featured regularly this season.
"It's not as easy to say one of the foreigners is not doing this or that or the Indian boys are not supporting the foreigners. It's not one thing. It's a lot of things. But the direct question about Marcelinho is that obviously he was injured. His performances in training have not yet led to say that he is fully recovered. So until then, we have to find the best role for him. I spoke to Marcelinho and we know what we are doing," Baxter signed off.