Kolkata: Kerala Blasters, a club that derives it’s name from the nickname of it’s co-owner Sachin Tendulkar (Master Blaster), can be said to be one of the most successful teams in the ISL in it’s three year history. Yet, having made to the finals twice in the past three seasons, it has not won the league title a single time.
Disappointment loomed when last season, playing their second final, Kerala could not overcome the Atletico de Kolkata, despite taking the lead in the first half, ultimately losing 4-3 in the penalty shootout.
Having failed to cross the final hurdle twice, Kerala looks desperate for a title this time around. Having retained the starlet Indian duo of Sandesh Jhingan and C.K. Vineeth, the team spend heavily on the Indian talent of Jackichand Singh, Rino Anto and Arata Izumi, before signing the power packed foreign stars such as Iain Hume, Wes Brown, Nemanja Lakic-Pesic and is also on the race to sign Dimitar Berbatov, a two times Premier League winner with Manchester United.
While there can be many reasons as to why the men in yellow have failed to win the title, lack of form in the final third has been one of the main reasons. If one takes a look at the stats, Kerala scored just 12 goals in the last season, which is almost half of what the team had netted in 2015 (22 goals). The signing of Iain Hume, a record all time goal scorer (23) of the ISL, will solve the issue in the attacking third. Add to it the presence of C.K. Vineeth and latest signing Dutch forward Mark Sifneos and of-course Dimitar Berbatov.
It is said, ‘goals wins you matches but defence win you titles’ and Kerala have always been strong and resilient in defence. Led by Indian hero Sandesh Jhingan the team has seen some of the top defenders of the game play for them and this year is no exception. Wes Brown, a former Manchester United academy graduate and a two times Champions League winner (1998-99, 2007-08) has been signed to replace the outgoing Cedric Hengbart, who has joined the new franchise Jamshedpur FC. With Brown and Jhingan at the heart of the Blasters’ defence and with Nemanja to follow as an able replacement, opponents have a hard task to score a goal.
With Rene Meulensteen as their head coach, their fifth in four years, Kerala finally have someone who has seen the best of them all. Having been the assistant coach to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United for 6 years (2007-13 as assistant, 2001-2006 as part of the coaching staff United’s Youth and reserves team) he is probably the one who could lead to them to glory. He knows which positions need to be strengthend and has signed players who can easily adopt to his football philosophy.
Defeat itself has taught the team from Kochi what needs to be done to win. Desperate for the title and with the team that have built so far, perhaps, the time has finally come for the club to win the coveted title. The players can take a leaf out of their co-owner Sachin’s book, who had already played five World Cups (1992-2007) before winning the ultimate crown in the 2011 World Cup. The men will definitely look to the champion player for inspiration and will try to emulate him by winning the title this season.
Having already signed 6 foreigners, the club can sign two more players to complete their 25 men squad. Talks about signing Bulgarian forward Berbatov has already progessed, while the signing of the former United striker will surely boost the team, Rene will look to add one more weapon to his team as soon as possible.
With ISL set to begin in November, Kerala Blasters will be a strong contender for the trophy and will be team to vouch for.