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At this time last year, Jeakson Singh was enjoying a very good personal stint at Kerala Blasters.
In his first full season at the club, he made 13 appearances and logged more than 800 minutes. He had easily become an important player for then-coach Eelco Schattorie in midfield.
Fast forward to February 2021, the midfielder now plays in an unknown role as a central defender at the same club in a different line-up and under a different manager who prefers a different system. The team is struggling to record wins and currently has the worst defensive record in the league, having left 29 goals in 17 games. However, Jeakson’s importance to the team remains unchanged.
Jeakson has already played 14 games this season and his first nine appearances were as a defensive midfielder as Kibu Vicuna tried to find his best starting lineup. With Blasters continuing to filter goals and the coach unable to name a consistent defensive line, Mohun Bagan’s former boss turned to Jeakson to replace him as central defender.
Since the game against Bangalore on January 20, the former Indian U-17 star who scored at the U-17 World Cup has been playing center-back.
It hasn’t been comfortable for the young man who has struggled to keep up with the different demands of the new role, but overall, the defense hasn’t gotten worse.
In the 12 games that did not feature Jeakson at center, Blasters conceded 22 goals, 1.8 goals per game. In the last five games in which the Indian midfielder played defense, Blasters only allowed 7 goals, 1.4 goals per game.
While this could also be due to the fact that VIcuna has more or less settled on his bottom line in recent games, Jeakson’s defensive capabilities as a midfielder have also helped the team when playing center-back.
Only Vicente Gómez (104) and Bakary Kone (55) have regained possession more times than Jeakson (54) this season. He has also intercepted 15 passes this season, trailing only Jessel Carneiro (25), Costa Nhamoinesu (20) and Vicente Gómez (16).
It is clear that Vicuña is reluctant to use two foreigners, Costa and Kone, together in the lineup and alternate Abdul Hakku is injury prone and inconsistent. This has forced the coach to turn to Jeakson and has given mixed but slightly better results so far.
The young man needs more time to familiarize himself with his new role and the experiment should only be considered a short-term solution for now, as this is clearly not his natural position. However, Blasters being the worst defense in ISL this season has nothing to do with Jeakson being the center-back. It’s more of a collective team failure.