After two forgettable seasons, monotonous Odisha FC need results

It has become a trend for Odisha FC to falter after looking promising…

On Sunday, Josep Gombau’s Odisha fought hard against FC Goa away from home and returned with a 0-3 defeat.

They almost had as much of the ball as their opponents, took a lot of shots at goal, played only around 50 fewer passes than the hosts but still ended up on the losing side. In a way, that summed up Odisha FC’s tale since the 2016 season when they last experienced the Indian Super League (ISL) play-offs. 

It’s been a bumpy ride for the club which was then known as Delhi Dynamos and played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi. They couldn’t make it work in the country’s capital and the owners relocated to Bhubaneswar where the Odisha government were far more welcoming. However, nine games into a new season under a new club branding, the story on the field hasn’t changed. 

They are as unconvincing and inconsistent as they were under Miguel Angel Portugal at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. An improved second half of the season helped Odisha move off the bottom and they ultimately finished eighth.

Josep Gombau replaced Portugal last season and there was a lot of promise on offer, especially with regards to the style of football that the team is going to play and the development of youth. Both of those things did happen – the team started playing a more expansive style of football and there was also minutes given to several Indian players.

Nandhakumar Sekar, Vinit Rai, Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Lallianzuala Chhangte are a few of the players who reaped the rewards of Gombau’s insistence on playing young players. But the main issue just refused to go away. They ended the season having won a game less (4) and with one point fewer compared to the previous season and finished eighth once again. 

For all of Gombau’s promise of excellent passing football and comparisons to FC Goa, the striking difference is that Sergio Lobera’s team plays winning football. Odisha are yet to showcase a winning mentality on the field. After nine matches this season, Odisha are seventh with nine points – that’s a point per game which is simply not good enough for a side aiming for top four or even claiming to play a beautiful brand of football.

Lallianzuala Chhangte Pune City Delhi Dynamos

Before the game against Goa, Gombau had said, “I think that we are a team that has a lot of young players. These players need to grow. Every single game we are playing with five under-23 players. This is every single week because even the players that come in (from the bench) are young. I think that we are doing well. The players are getting experience. We play good football and I am satisfied with the job we are doing.”

Focusing on youth, playing football – the tone has remained the same for two seasons since taking over from Portugal despite the team being ineffective and inconsistent. The second half of the ongoing season is going to be crucial for the head coach and his boys unless the management itself is easily pleased and satisfied with the offer of mediocrity and a lack of winning mentality in the name of good football. Can Odisha turn things around?

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