Indian Super League 2018/19: Delhi Dynamos look to plug gaps in defence and league tablehttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/football/indian-super-league-isl-2018-delhi-dynamos-preview-5371945/

Indian Super League 2018/19: Delhi Dynamos look to plug gaps in defence and league table

Delhi Dynamos would be aiming to do better than their eighth place finish in the 2017/18 Indian Super League season.

ISL club Delhi Dynamos players in training
Delhi Dynamos season gets underway against FC Pune City on October 3.

Delhi Dynamos scored 27 goals in the 2017/18 Indian Super League (ISL) season. This was more than what eventual champions Chennaiyin FC managed in the league stage and only three other teams outscored them. Yet, it was often the case that the frequency of goal celebrations used to be higher on the side of the pitch that the Dynamos were defending. A look at the numbers confirms this – they may have scored 27 but they also conceded a whopping 37 goals in 18 games which amounts to an average of over two goals per match. It was enough to condemn them to an eighth place finish in the league table.

Glaring defensive errors were a feature of any Dynamos performance last season. Their first home match was a 2-0 loss to NorthEast United. One of the goals they conceded was when the goalkeeper, attempting a pass to one of the centre-backs, gifted the opposition an open goal to fire the ball into. It had prompted then-coach Miguel Angel Portugal to say in the post-match presser that he had made a mistake in believing that this team could play out from the back.

Despite this frailty in defence, the Dynamos stuck with their passing philosophy. They made 8703 passes last season which is only below the the teams that finished in the top three at the end of the league stage. The appointment of new head coach Josep Gombau seems to be an attempt to continue along this path.

The coach

Gombau cut his teeth as youth coach at the Barcelona academy and is known to be favouring possession-based football. He has spent a better part of the last five years in Australia. The 42-year-old was manager of Adelaide United from 2013 to 2015 where his tactics earned him praise and respect among his peers, so much so that he was unanimously voted coach of the A-League All Stars that played Juventus in a friendly in 2014.

He then spent some time as the head coach of the Australian U-23 team and assistant coach in the senior team before joining Western Sydney Wanderers.

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Unlike his previous job, Gombau’s time with the Wanderers was pockmarked by bad results and alleged falling out with some of his main players. He was sacked in April 2018 – just five months into his job. Club captain Robbie Cornthwaite even admitted that the players were “not responding to his methods or his way of doing things.”

Signings

Marcos Tebar will look to boost the Delhi Dynamos midfield.

The return of Marcos Tebar is the standout addition for Delhi. The midfielder was part of the side that reached the semi-finals in 2015 and plied his trade last season for FC Pune City. Tebar was an important element there, making 848 passes with an accuracy of 81.72 percent. Slovenian Rene Mihelic is another major addition and Dynamos fans will be hoping to get a taste of his sniper-like efficiency in dead-ball situations.

Forward Daniel Lalhlimpuia was a player who was steadily raking up the numbers at Bengaluru FC while they were in the I-League. His contribution took a nose-dive last season though and the 21-year-old will be hoping that the move to Delhi Dynamos would prove to be fruitful for his career. Delhi haven’t really made a big signing among the forwards, an indication that the midfield will play a key role on the attacking front.

Albino Gomes remains the man between the sticks while left-back Narayan Das is the standout recruit this season at the back. Foreigners Marti Crespi Pascual and Gianni Zuiverloon could form the centre-back pairing and Pritam Kotal would complete the back four that Gombau tends to play.

The Dynamos had incredibly decided to go flush out the entire squad and put new players in place last season. This led to their worst ever finish in the league. The team’s hierarchy seems to have decided against repeating this decision and have tried to bring back some of those players while retaining most of those who made the squad last season. The challenge in front of them now, is to not concede more goals than they can score.