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The ISL Wrap: Shining Subrata, fun Odisha and more

Subrata Pal had a good outing against Bengaluru FC.
Subrata Pal had a good outing against Bengaluru FC.

Star of the week

Subrata Paul

In a league that celebrates youth, especially Indian, with such fervour (sorry, Mr. Mukhi), Subrata Paul has thrown down a pretty decent challenge on behalf of the old guard. Commanding in the box, marshalling his defence well, comfortable on the ball, and pulling off some superb, trademark, reflex saves, he has been a major reason behind Jamshedpur's early ascendancy.

Oh, and a nod to Marcelinho and the Hyderabad crowd; the Brazilian's free kick to beat Kerala was a peach, the home crowd's vociferous support throughout, even better.

Flop of the week

Manuel Onwu

It does not help that Onwu has had to step into the shoes of one of the league's most prolific strikers, but while comparisons with Miku are harsh, wearing the no. 9 for the champions comes with its own unique pressure.

Bengaluru have now scored just one goal in three games, and they've not won yet. It may be too early to judge, and Bengaluru are certainly creating chances (although not as much as we're used to seeing), but it doesn't quite feel like Onwu is the answer* to their troubles in front of goal.

(*He is now going to score an absolute belter against Chennaiyin on Sunday, isn't he? Speaking of, Chennaiyin's complete, collective, inability to finish a chance runs in at a close second.)

Performance of the week

Mumbai 2-4 Odisha

What is the point of sport? Merely winning? As top-level sport, and fandom with it, hits unparalleled heights of cynicism and negativity it's easy to forget that sometimes it's all about having fun.

Josep Gambau's Odisha have fun; they are essentially Sergio Lobera's risk-everything-Goa on steroids.

Their win over Mumbai was a perfect encapsulation of all they stand for. The four goals they took were all stunning; ball worked out from the back, fullbacks pushed high, wingers allowed the freedom to roam, passes played with delightful confidence.

Meanwhile, the two goals they conceded may have come from an iffy penalty and even iffier keeping but Mumbai created plenty of chances. If it were not for some profligate finishing, they may even have drawn level.

It had been the same when they had been based in Delhi, but a lack of quality in the final third meant their scoring hadn't been able to keep up with their conceding (23 goals to 27). The transfers of Xisco Hernandez and Arindane Santana appear to have helped address this issue.

Watching Gambau's teams play is one of the most enjoyable things in the ISL, and long may that remain true.

Funky tactical tweak of the week

Farukh Choudhary attempts an audacious bicycle kick against Bengaluru FC.
Farukh Choudhary attempts an audacious bicycle kick against Bengaluru FC.

More a temporary in-game adjustment than formational. Watching Goa abandon all pretense of philosophy and hoof it long to Manvir Singh toward the end of the NorthEast United game was quite fun - made even better by the fact that it worked. An excellent Manvir header saw 10-man Goa salvage a 2-2 draw.

Rant of the week

Don't write about the refereeing. Don't write about the refereeing. Breathe!

This schedule, eh? It has been the norm since day 1, but you would think they had compiled enough evidence to prove that playing professional football daily, with teams playing two, at times three, matches a week just isn't going to help with the quality of the performances. Especially not in a country as vast and tough to traverse as India.

A little more breathing space could do wonders for the game.

Having said this, Igor Stimac's comments on not having enough time with his players at national team camp are not on. Neither is getting on his bandwagon and screaming to the high heavens about how unpatriotic the ISL is for not releasing players sooner.

The last ISL game before the break is on the 10th, India play on the 14th. World over this is the norm for mid-season international breaks; the English Premier League plays till the 10th, England play on the 14th.

As someone who has coached at the highest level, these are challenges that Stimac knows exist when it comes to managing a national team. The deflection ought to stop.

Tweet of the week

Is he just praising a former player? Is he taking a potshot at a current player? Is he simply admiring his own handiwork? The layers to this, ah!

We should just start calling this section of the column 'the Eelco Schattorie Corner'.

WTH moment of the week

In a most agreeable way, Farukh Choudhary's bicycle kick attempt against Bengaluru.

Managers love playing Choudhary for his ability to run all day and follow instructions to the T, and very often that's all he does in games, but new coach Antonio Iriondo seems to have gone a step further. There is a lot more freedom to Choudhary's movement this season, and this moment hinted at a rising confidence that might just see him realise his full footballing potential.

Pleasant surprise of the week

Stiven Mendoza, once so charismatically of this parish, has been awarded the player-of-the-month award at Amiens, who are 12th in Ligue 1 at the moment. The former Chennaiyin striker has scored four goals in six games, including one in Amiens' stunning 3-1 thrashing of Olympique Marseille.

Onwards and upwards!


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