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Odisha FC’s Stuart Baxter - Need to cut the supply line for Nerijus Valskis

12:09 GMT 28/11/2020
Stuart Baxter Odisha FC ISL 7
The Odisha FC coach explained his decision to not field Manuel Onwu as a number nine in the last game...

Odisha FC did not have the brightest of starts in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season as they went down 0-1 against Hyderabad FC in their opening game. Coach Stuart Baxter admitted that the club didn't put in the best of performances in their very first game and shared his reasons for the same.

“If we look at the possession in general, then it was a long way from what we wanted to be. Tactically the balance was wrong. We ended being very separated. We couldn’t get the support of the front players, the midfield players were a little bit too deep and then mentally, whether it was the first game of the season or the young players got nervous or just the balance of the team prevented it, but we weren’t that brave. We weren’t very brave with the ball.

“We have changed the shape little bit in training, we have encouraged the players to relax a little bit on the ball and it is looking better but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating,” said Baxter before facing Jamshedpur FC on Sunday.

Spaniard Manuel Onwu was on song for Odisha FC as a target man in the second half of last season and his impressive performances earned him a new contract this year. But in the opening match, Baxter deployed him as a wide forward in a front-three and that did not produce the desired result for the team.

Explaining his decision to field Onwu in a new role, Baxter said, “There will be changes in the position of players because of the opponent. With Jerry (Mawihmingthanga) injured, we have no real direct replacement. So we tweaked a little bit and played Manuel (Onwu), not on the wing, but in the pocket. He was in the pocket giving Diego (Mauricio) quick support. But Manuel himself asked me about playing him in that role because he has played there before and he is conscientious in defending.

“We looked at it and Manuel was the best solution we had. We wanted him to be closer to Diego closer to Marcelinho. As I said before, we got separated, we defended a bit too deeply and Manuel ended up tracking their wide players instead of staying in the pocket and it looked like he was playing on the wing. That is why we changed and pushed two strikers in the middle in the second half.”

Last season’s Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis picked up from where had left off last season as he scored on debut for Jamshedpur FC against his former club Chennaiyin FC.

But coach Baxter is not willing to strategise any special plan for the Jamshedpur striker and is rather focusing on cutting off the supply line for Valskis.

“We will take the heat of the fact that he is a finisher and obviously when you have a player like that in the team, the other players seek him as we saw when he scored the other day, that was a definite ball into that space. We will try cut off that service and we will try and stay compact around him. But our defenders will be well warned and they won’t give him too much room,” said the former Bafana Bafana head coach.