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ISL 2019-20: Jamshedpur FC failed as a team

Antonio Iriondo’s Jamshedpur were too dependent on foreign players…

When a team fields striker Sumeet Passi as a full-back due to a lack of options, their issues are clearly exposed. Jamshedpur were a team that started well and then worked out by the rest of the league. 

There were a lot of expectations on Spanish head coach Antonio Iriondo who came in and took charge of a team that had a lot of young players. The Men of Steel also roped in a good set of foreign players and the team started the season well. 

With two wins in their first two games and then following it up with a draw, Jamshedpur were atop the league table at one point in the league campaign. With the help of the foreigners in the team, the Indian players’ performances also received a huge boost. Farukh Choudhary’s displays, in particular, were encouraging signs for the club in the first few weeks.

The biggest setback Jamshedpur suffered was when on-loan Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Castel and Spanish midfielder Piti picked up injuries. Without the influential duo, the team was quickly handicapped and it became easy for other teams to get the better of the Men of Steel. 

For a team that wanted to get into the top-four, the lack of capable alternatives to replace Piti and Sergio Castel indicated improper planning before the season kicked off. As they assembled foreign players in pre-season, there was not enough planning done regarding the recruitment of Indian players for all positions. They also signed only six foreigners and apart from Tiri, there was no foreign defender. Memo, who deputised at centre-back, is actually a midfielder by trade.

Noe Acosta was also injured for a while during the season, to compound matters.

The club chose to trust a group consisting of Indian players who are prone to inconsistency and a crop of young footballers who are inexperienced and mixed them along with a set of foreign players. As a result, when the foreign players went missing, there was no one who could take up the mantle. 

Jamshedpur were far too often a two-man army, whenever Piti and Sergio Castel were fit to play. As soon as both players started struggling, the entire squad seemed to lose confidence and the games towards the end of the season seemed like dead rubbers even when the team had a slim chance of making it to the playoffs. 

The team’s four wins from 18 league matches were too distant from each other in the campaign to create any sort of momentum. Their fourth win of the season was sandwiched between two six-match winless runs and that summed up the second half of the season for the club. 

The loss of Tiri to injury worsened the defence. A lot was expected of young prospects Narender Gehlot and Jitendra Singh but they simply failed to step up. Aniket Jadhav was hit and miss and controversial midfielder Gourav Mukhi, who returned to the first team after serving a ban for age fraud, was banished from the squad for disciplinary reasons. Jamshedpur’s season never recovered after their early fall. 

After the final league game, Iriondo summed up the issues at the club. “The thing is that we have been working with a very short blanket. When you are trying to cover your upper body your feet come out and vice versa. You need a bigger blanket to cover the full size. We did not have a deeper squad so when we went to fix one side the other side got exposed.”

Jamshedpur do need a better blanket next season. 

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