Kerala Blasters FC’s Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 campaign was characterised by a mix of memorable events and underwhelming performances. Headed by Serbian head coach Ivan Vukomanovic, who became the first KBFC head coach to be retained for another season, the Blasters qualified for the playoffs for the second consecutive season, a feat never accomplished with any of the prior head coaches.
The previous season’s finalists, on the other hand, played an engaging, appealing style of football witnessed by the Blasters’ fans for the first time ever at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi under Vukomanovic’s coaching. Although finishing fifth in the league standings may appear to be an underachievement, the Blasters have showed indications of development under Vukomanovic.
Pl: 21; W: 10; D: 1; L: 10; GF: 28; GA: 29; Pts: 31
The Tuskers kicked off the Hero ISL 2022-23 season with a 3-1 win over East Bengal FC in front of their home fans in Kochi. Unfortunately, the team suffered three straight defeats against arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan, Odisha FC, and Mumbai City FC. However, the team’s form dipped in the latter part of the season, with only two victories in the final eight games, costing them a place in the top four.
The Blasters won 10 games this season, their most in a single Hero ISL season. While there was concern over the exits of Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Pereyra Diaz from the club, the Serbian backed up his ambitions by signing the striking combo of Dimitrios Diamantakos and Apostolos Giannou. The pair combined for 17 goals for the team, falling two shy of the 19 goals scored by Vazquez and Diaz the previous season. However, with 28 goals this season, the Blasters have the third-highest goal tally in a single Hero ISL season.
The Kochi-based team conceded 28 goals, the same number they scored this season. They allowed the second-most goals among the top six. However, with no like-for-like substitute for injured first-choice centre-back Marko Leskovic, Vukomanovic’s side were struggling to mount a solid defensive libe capable of obstructing the opponent’s threat.
When it comes to playing away from home, the team has not reached their finest form. However, six of their nine losses this season have occurred on the road. Furthermore, the Kochi-based club has struggled to maintain a lead after scoring first, dropping points on four occasions, including games against ATK Mohun Bagan (home and away), Odisha FC (away), and Chennaiyin FC (away).
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The Blasters’ midfield mainstay Adrian Luna enjoyed yet another outstanding season. For the second year in a row, the 30-year-old registered double-digit goal contributions, with four goals and six assists. The Uruguayan also became himself as the Tuskers’ all-time greatest assist giver (13 assists) and chance maker (105 opportunities created).
Best Young Player
The 23-year-old played 349 minutes in 12 games for the Blasters, contributing two assists. Moreover, Miranda is a likely issue solution in the middle third after a strong rookie season in which he excelled anytime he was called upon. However, his defensive abilities, along with his mobility in providing crosses and attacking through the flanks, make him an invaluable addition to Vukomanovic’s midfield.
What do they require for the upcoming season?
Given all of their defensive issues, Vukomanovic must fix his team’s defensive unit. The Yellow Army have surrendered the third-most goals in a single Hero ISL season. With 28, matching their total from the previous season. However, there hasn’t been a single defender in the Blasters’ backline who has played in every game this season, highlighting the necessity for an ever-present defender who can take leadership and lead the squad throughout the season.
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