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Indian Super League: 2020/21 Season Preview

 

The seventh season of the Indian Super League kicks off this weekend, with 11 clubs vying for the title – the most to ever take part in a ISL campaign. With all games being played behind closed doors across three venues in Goa, this season proves to be unlike any other with home advantage out the window.


We preview the 2020/21 campaign, utilizing our historic Indian Super League database.

By: Matt Furniss, Srinivasa Venugopalan, Ayaktan Roy

Big Guns Move to Mumbai City

 

Not content with the exciting signing of experienced English striker Adam Le Fondre, Mumbai City decided to not only bring in one of the top scorers in the Indian Super League last season, but the player with the most assists as well.

 

 

With 27 goals in 34 Indian Super League games since making his debut in October 2018, Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche has proved to be a premium player in the competition. Since his debut for NorthEast United at home to FC Goa two years ago, only Ferrán “Coro” Corominas (30) has scored more goals than he has (27).

 

 

Excluding penalties, Ogbeche scored 10 goals in ISL 2019/20 despite having chances equating to just 5.7 Expected Goals. His overperformance of 4.3 was the second most from non-penalty chances in the competition last season, behind only Nerijus Valskis (7.5).

Providing the chances to Ogbeche shouldn’t be an issue, as Mumbai have also recruited 2019/20’s creative star Hugo Boumous from FC Goa – a player that current coach Sergio Lobera is very familiar with following his managerial spell at Goa.

During the regular season, the Moroccan assisted nine goals (three more than any other player) and created 35 goalscoring chances (the second-most) for Goa as they topped the ISL table.

 

 

Most impressive about Boumous’ game is his ability to carry the ball up the pitch to great effect. No player carried the ball further (4016m) or progressed with the ball further (2206m) than he did last season in the Indian Super League, with his end product following these carries being even more impressive.

26 of these ball carries ended in a shot for FC Goa – 11 with Boumous having the shot and 15 with him creating a shot for a teammate, which was more than anybody else.

As if these proven ISL talents were not enough to terrify opposition defences, Mumbai also have Adam Le Fondre at their disposal.

 

 

The Englishman scored 39 goals in his two seasons in Australia’s A-League with Sydney FC – 11 more than any other player in that time.

 


Reigning Champions Stutter


ATK picked up their third Indian Super League title last season, thanks to 3-1 victory over Chennaiyin in the 2020 Final. Previous history suggests that it will be a hard task to follow up that success in the 2020/21 season, however.

No reigning Champion has ever sealed a back-to-back ISL title victory, with three of the last four being among the two worst performing clubs in the next campaign – this includes ATK themselves in 2017/18.

 

 

Under the new guise of ATK Mohun Bagan following a merger with the historic Kolkata club back in June, the club have retained the services of key players such as David Williams, Edu Garcia and Roy Krishna for 2020/21.

In Antonio Lopez Habas, ATK Mohun Bagan have the most successful head coach in ISL history, with the Spaniard being the only person to win it twice – both with ATK in 2014 and 2019/20. They will hope his experience can help the club become the first ever team to retain the ISL title.

 


Sandhu the Star Shot-Stopper
 

Bengaluru might have only reached the ISL playoff semi-finals in 2019/20 as the reigning champions, but their failure to pick up consecutive Indian Super League titles certainly did not come down to poor performances from their goalkeeper.

National side number one Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had an astonishing campaign with the club, proving himself to be the best Indian goalkeeper around.

 

 

Sandhu not only kept the most clean sheets (11), had the best minutes per goal conceded ratio (122 mins) and the best save ratio (78%), but his performances meant that his Bengaluru conceded nine goals fewer than they would have been expected to based on the quality of opposition shots.

 

 

He conceded just 14 goals in 19 games in 2019/20, but the xGoT total (Expected Goals on Target) was 23. This suggests that based on historic data, the “average” goalkeeper would have been expected to score with 23 of the shots on target than Bengaluru faced last season – nine more than Gurpreet Singh Sandhu prevented. This was more than double the tally prevented by the next best goalkeeper; ATK’s Arindam Bhattacharja.

The 6’6’’ giant goalkeeper now has 25 clean sheets in ISL history and will be setting his sights on overtaking Subrata Pal’s competition record of 26 during the new season.

 


Game of Two Halves for FC Goa

 

Despite winning the League Winners Shield last season, FC Goa failed at the first hurdle of the playoffs in losing to Chennaiyin 6-5 over two legs in the semi-final.

All six of the goals that Chennaiyin scored in those two games against Goa came in the 52nd minute or later – a common theme in 2019/20.

 

 

Across the whole season, no side conceded as many second half goals as FC Goa (26), which was the complete opposite of their first half defensive displays, in which they had the best defensive record by conceding only three times in 20 games.

New Goa coach Juan Ferrando will have to attempt to amend this alarming trend from last season, should he guide them to success in 2020/21.

 


Indian Legend Looks for Record


Sunil Chhetri is India’s all-time top appearance maker and goalscorer, so naturally he will be looking to get the goals needed to take himself to the top of the all-time Indian Super League top scoring chart.

His job has been made a little easier following the departure of 48-goal striker Ferrán “Coro” Corominas from FC Goa to CD Atlético Baleares in pre-season.

 

 

The last two seasons have seen Chhetri score exactly nine goals for Bengaluru, which would be enough to make him joint-top with the Spanish leader should he replicate this in 2020/21, but he’ll be hoping for a repeat of his best ISL season in 2017/18, where he scored 14 times in 21 games.

 

 

Despite his small frame (at only 5’7”), Chhetri has scored nine of his 39 goals with headers – no player has more since his debut in the competition, while only one of these have come outside the area, showing how the legendary Indian international comes alive when he’s in the box.


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