Not so super – What’s wrong with the Kerala Blasters attack?

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Kerala Blasters have struggled in the last third and we are trying to find out why, with the data collected by Opta …

With two points from their first five matches, Kerala Blasters are off to a poor and winless start to the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season in Goa.

While the short preseason due to the Coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the preparations of all clubs, the Blasters are only one of three teams that have not won after the first five rounds.

Kibu Vicuña has struggled to find his best starting lineup. Their main forward Gary Hooper, who replaced the club’s all-time top scorer, Bartholomew Ogbeche, has yet to find his scoring boots in open play. In their own third, they have conceded 10 goals, no other team has allowed more in five games.

Lack of chemistry

The lack of chemistry in the final third is evident. Of the five goals Blasters has scored, only two have come from open play. In five games, Vicuña’s team has attempted 24 shots (fewer among all teams) of which eight were on target (again, fewer among all teams), with a shooting accuracy of 33.3 percent.

Sergio Cidoncha seemed to emerge as a key player in Vicuña’s system, but his long-lasting injury does not bode well for the team’s attack. Midfield lacks a player who can unlock defenses and be influential in getting the ball and passing it further up the field. According to data collected on December 14, only East Bengal had fewer touches in the opposition box (43) compared to Blasters’ 57.

Kibu Vicuña, Bangalore vs Kerala Blasters

Even from wide areas, there just hasn’t been enough quality in the side and side deliveries. Only nine of their 59 crossover attempts have reached their intended target, which equates to a poor accuracy of 15.3 percent, putting them in the bottom half of the respective chart.

Attack from the right side

In Blasters games, they have predominantly used the right flank to attack the opposition, except when they faced Chennaiyin. His right flank has been occupied by several players so far, namely Ritwick Das, Rahul KP, Seityasen Singh and Facundo Pereyra. This also raises questions about the quality of the other side, where Nongdamba Naorem and Puitea have struggled to make a mark.

The blasters have not attacked from the flanks any more than they have attacked from the center and this is to be expected from the type of striker they have brought in. Gary Hooper feeds on balls inside the box and is a good poacher from inside the box. But has he done what is expected of him?

Not so super hooper

Gary Hooper has had only six touches inside the opponents’ area in five games. The table below shows a comparison to the other best forwards in the league after the first five games.

StrikerMatchesTouches in the opposition area (T)Box touches per game
Igor Angulo5265.2
Roy Krishna52. 34.6
Nerijus Valskis5twenty-one4.2
Adam Le Fondre5twenty4
Gary hooper 5 6 1.2

While it is true that Hooper has not had the kind of service in the area that he expected, it does not help that the English forward has not adapted correctly to the Kibu Vicuña system. There wasn’t enough movement off the ball by the former Celtic striker until the Yellows’ final game, where he deployed slightly behind Jordan Murray in a two-forwards formation.

Hooper was heavily involved in the first goal against Bengaluru when he dribbled more than half the field before assisting Rahul’s first goal. It came from a quick counterattack, but it showed that Hooper’s presence and pace of work need not be questioned, he just needs to do it more often and not be isolated for the rest of the game.

Blasters have always gotten off to a slow start at ISL, but they’ve had their worst start this season. It is also the first time in their history that they have not won after the first five games. Vicuña has now had more than five days to work with the team to make the necessary corrections before their sixth game against Robbie Fowler’s East Bengal, which has also been terrible so far. Kerala simply has to do a winning race to save the season.

The statistics used in this article are from Opt and registered on December 14, 2020.

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