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Kerala Blasters keep it simple after disappointing start to season

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The Kerala Blasters are 10th in the standings and a change of approach is a welcome gesture…

The last game of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 in which the Kerala Blasters had more possession of the ball than their opponent did in their match against East Bengal almost a month ago. Kibu Vicuna’s side recovered 59 percent of the ball as they dominated the game in the second half and snatched a late equalizer via a Jeakson Singh header in extra time.

It was indeed a valuable point, but at that point, Vicuna’s patience peaked with his team losing points in one way or another with every game. They were winless in six games after that game and it had been (and still is) a frustrating start to the season.

A few games after that draw, Vicuna was asked if he was ready to change his team’s playstyle to get results. Instead of refuting such a suggestion, he replied that he had already done so in recent games. A look at the possession statistics tells us that this is indeed true.

The Kerala Blasters got rid of their obsession with keeping the ball at all times and started to use the ball better in dangerous areas. When they get the ball, there has been a refreshing change in the type of points their players make behind or in front of opposing defense, which is in stark contrast to their distraught appearance at the start of the season.

Since the draw against East Bengal in December, the Blasters haven’t had more than 50 percent possession in any of their games, including their two wins in that span.

The change Vicuna made in his squad’s playstyle may not be major, but it may be the right course for Blasters this season after the start they’ve had. Sergio Cidoncha’s injury and Gary Hooper’s form may have also forced the coach to change his approach for the season, but either way it seems to be working.

Style still relies on having the ball in the right areas, but the emphasis is on being direct rather than trying to open up the opposing defense. The likes of Facundo Pereyra and Jordan Murray look set to thrive in this Blasters v2.0.

This is visible from their last matches and is a welcome gesture as play-off places become more and more unlikely with each point lost. It will be interesting to see if Vicuna takes a similar approach in their next game against Bengaluru FC, a side with five wins in seven matches against the Blasters.

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