Two seasons. Two managers. Two fifth-placed finishes. That has been the story for the Red Miners in the Indian Super League.
Another Spanish tactician has been chosen this campaign to help them get over the line and into that elusive play-off spot but Antonio Iriondo has his work cut out for him. Jamshedpur’s best players from last season have been poached by more ambitious rivals and while the club’s commitment to youth development is admirable, one wonders where the goals will come from. This has been a problem area for the team since its inception and there has been a huge reliance on set-pieces, regardless of the playing philosophy.
Cesar Ferrando’s side played a very attractive possession-based game last year but the Miners hardly carried any threat in the attacking third for large portions of the season. Michael Soosairaj and Carlos Calvo provided a few goals from the wings but the centre-forwards disappointed. Tim Cahill was largely ineffectual when available, and unfair expectations were placed on the shoulders of Sumeet Passi and Farukh Choudhary. Jamshedpur were sound defensively, with Tiri a rock as usual, but they would have liked to keep more clean-sheets through the course of the campaign.
The side excelled in the middle of the park with Memo and Mario Arques completing more passes than anyone else in the league except Ahmed Jahouh. Sergio Cidoncha in front of them was at the heart of everything good that the side created. Jamshedpur only tasted defeat for the first time in their eighth game of the season, when he was unavailable due to a knee injury. His absence for six matches during the campaign possibly cost them a place in the play-offs.
Cidoncha, Arques and Soosairaj have all left and it makes for pretty grim reading at the Furnace. The foreign additions have been underwhelming. Except for Sergio Castel, who joins without a proven goal-scoring record from Atlético Madrid B, they are all above the age of thirty with Noé Acosta (35) and Piti (38) filling in for the departed Arques and Cidoncha respectively. Given the club’s tie-up with Los Rojiblancos, it is no surprise that they are all Spanish and Aitor Monroy completes the overseas line-up.
If there is reason to be excited about Jamshedpur this season, it would be because Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Narender Gahlot could get extended playing time. They are the two most promising teenagers going around in Indian football, and having already made the national squad, will try to force themselves into Iriondo’s starting line-up. Joyner Lourenco, Keegan Pereira, Issac Vanmalsawma and C.K. Vineeth have all been peripheral figures in Indian football recently. They will look at their moves to the Furnace as a chance to kick-start their careers.
The JRD Tata Sports Complex can be a very intimidating venue when the crowd get going. This squad would do well in providing them with something to cheer about. If Jamshedpur finally make the play-offs at the third time of asking, it would be some achievement with the quality available at some of the other squads. The Red Miners must be sick of coming in fifth every time, but maybe they should take it this time around.