Early last season, Goa beat Kerala 5-2 in an open game where possession was ceded constantly in dangerous areas, prompting me to write a piece on how playing from the back was a step too far for Indian teams. Goa had won their previous match 4-3 and would win their next one 5-1, so it is fair to say that Sergio Lobera did not share any of my concerns and his swashbuckling team would end up obliterating the regular season goal scoring record with 42 goals from 18 matches. On the flip side, they would also concede 28 times, comfortably the worst defensive record for a team in the top six last season.
Notwithstanding the credence that attacks win matches but defences win championships, there was so much to admire about the way Goa played. They were a brilliant watch and their numbers in attack were phenomenal. Their goals were a manifestation of 15.8 shots and 6.1 shots on target per game, both league leading stats. They had 61.1% possession and attempted 516.9 passes per game, nobody else came close. They had almost twice as many passes as Jamshedpur for the season. Most of those passes were successful and at 84.2%, they were comfortably ahead of the other teams on that parameter too. They also led the league on key passes and assists. Their commitment to keeping the ball on the ground can be seen from the aerial duels and clearances charts. They had the fewest of these for all the teams.
All of this meant that they were the most attractive team to watch last season but in their commitment to playing that football, they left themselves vulnerable at the back and this is something for them to address this season. While the stellar efforts of Manuel Lanzarote and Ferran Corominas made all the headlines, a pleasing aspect of Goa’s play was the contributions from Indian players. Seriton Fernandes, Mohamed Ali, Konsham Singh, Mandar Dessai, Brandon Fernandes, Pronay Halder and Manvir Singh all caught the eye and they have been retained, save Halder.
Lanzarote has departed for ATK and will be a huge miss given that he was central to everything Goa did, but Golden Boot winner, Coro, remains and if he replicates his form from last season, the team shall be in good shape going forward. One wonders what might have happened last season if Goa had shown some defensive nous and the signings of Lenny Rodrigues and Mourtada Fall suggest that they might add some solidity to their play this year. If Lobera can add that characteristic to his squad, FC Goa could very well be the team to beat in ISL 5.
Last season’s finish: Semifinalist (Regular Season – Third)
FlyingGoalie Prediction For This Season: First (Qualify For The Playoffs)