A new normal, more goals: an ISL season like no other

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The 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League (ISL) has been a unique one for viewers at home. The coronavirus pandemic had a huge impact on the football business and Indian football also had its fair share of concerns.

In ISL’s case, the sixth season ended a week before India entered a lockdown. Discussions revolved around how the seventh season of the competition can be organized. After much deliberation, it was decided that the tournament will be organized in Goa.

Soon, all teams started their preseason after completing their quarantine process. After a brief preseason in which friendlies were played between ISL teams, the league finally started on November 20, 2020.

The performance of all clubs since the start of the season has been affected by the short preseason, life in the bio-bubble due to the pandemic and the lack of adequate training for months during the confinement.

While some clubs have had to deal with fatigue in the form of recurring complaints, others have seen their performance levels drop. In general, the quality of football in the ISL has suffered, through no one’s fault in particular.

ATK Mohun Bagan NorthEast United ISL

There have been a total of 93 goals scored in the 2020-21 ISL season through the 43rd match. That number of goals scored is the lowest in the past four seasons and the lowest in ISL history.

There have also been five goalless draws so far this season, even before the league has reached its middle stage. The entire 2019-20 season had six goalless draws, while the 2018-19 season recorded a total of 10 goalless draws.

Of the 11 teams, East Bengal had the shortest preseason due to formalities that had to be completed before joining the ISL. The delay had a huge impact as the Reds and Golds began a seven-game winless streak that recently ended with their first win of the season against Odisha. Incidentally, their archrivals ATK Mohun Bagan were one of the first teams to start their preseason and have also retained the core of the ATK title-winning team – they sit atop the league table.

The last six teams at the table through Jan. 5 have had players with fitness issues this season and it’s all due to the lack of a proper preseason.

The mental health of the players is equally important, not just this season, but always. But life inside a biobubble is challenging. These are footballers who love to hang out with their friends or relax at home with their family after a stressful day. Instead, they are all locked in luxury hotels in Goa. It is a daunting task even for experienced players.

Arjun Jayaraj recently revealed that life inside the biobubble was difficult before leaving Kerala Blasters. Gary Hooper also mentioned that the whole experience was strange when we arrived.

As the weeks go by, players will begin to adjust to the new normal, and as a result, the league could see more goals and many exciting games.

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