After three seasons in which they went the big name route with the signings of Alessandro Del Piero, Roberto Carlos, Florent Malouda and John Arne Risse, Delhi changed tact and placed their trust in youngsters last year. Young, talented Indian players were given long term contracts and a partnership signed with Qatar based Aspire Academy before the season began suggested that Delhi’s owners were looking at building from within rather than assembling expensive squads with foreign names.
Former Real Madrid Technical Director, Miguel Angel Portugal was brought in to develop an identity and while the team played pleasing on the eye possession based football (55.4% over the course of the season), a backline shipping goals by the bucketful (2.1 per game) meant that Delhi stayed rooted at the bottom of the table for much of the season.
They were better in the forward areas but were reliant on penalties for almost a quarter of their goals (6) and it is unfathomable where they would have been without Nigerian forward, Kalu Uche, who scored 13 times in 15 games. Delhi’s passing game did not always create goal scoring opportunities and they also included crosses and long balls into their repertoire. They attempted 15.7 crosses and 73.6 long balls a game, the highest in the league on both parameters.
Portugal’s methods bore fruit towards the end of the season and Delhi ended their campaign with a six game unbeaten run which lifted them to eighth in the table. Not quite what they had envisaged at the start but there were a lot of positives to talk about, not least the development of Vinit Rai, Mohammad Sajid Dhot, Nandha Kumar Sekar, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Romeo Fernandes.
Delhi may have missed a trick in not retaining Portugal to build on his work and he has since signed with FC Pune City. Speaking after his exit, the former manager cited the low budget that Delhi operated within to be a major factor in the team’s performance, something which has not gone down too well with the franchise. Former Barcelona youth team coach, Josep Gombau comes in as his replacement and Delhi’s activity in the transfer market hints at a frugal approach this season as well.
Aspire Academy has been providing the Dynamos with expertise in coaching, training, scouting and sports science and the team has spent considerable time in Doha during the off-season and pre-season. With Kalu Uche leaving for ATK, Delhi must be hoping that their investment in youth pays off this season because if it does not, they are going to be in trouble.
Last season’s finish: Eighth
FlyingGoalie Prediction For This Season: Seventh