Odisha FC are not a new team. They are a rebranded and repackaged Delhi Dynamos who cut their losses by moving from the capital to Bhubaneshwar, where they were promised greater support by the Odisha government.
Odisha FC have the same management and coach from the Delhi Dynamos set-up last season, and with pretty much the same players, they would be hoping the change in name and home base brings about a change in fortunes.
The last two campaigns have been nothing short of a disaster for Odisha – then called Delhi Dynamos – who finished eighth on both occasions. Under two different coaches with similar philosophies – of playing highly attacking and possession-based football, Odisha took way too long to warm-up. They finished their seasons strongly but the flurry came way too late for them to have a chance of making the semi-finals.
Last season, Odisha registered their first win in their 11th match before winning three more in the remaining seven matches, that included a win over table-toppers Bengaluru FC.
The Bhubaneswar-based outfit have kept faith in Spanish coach Josep Gombau, who, with greater involvement in recruitment this season would be hoping to deliver better results. The team have signed several Spanish players that is expected to aid his philosophy.
What’s changed for 2019-20 season
Arrivals: Goalkeepers: Arshdeep Singh, Ankit Bhuyan; Defenders: Gaurav Bora, Carlos Delgado; Midfielders: Martin Guedes, Xisco Hernandez, Diawandou Diagne, Jerry Mawihmingthanga; Forwards: Adriane
Departures: Goalkeepers: Shayan Roy, Sukhdev Patil; Defenders: Marti Crespi, Gianni, Zuiverloon; Midfielders: Siam Hangal, Ulises Davila, Adria Carmona, Lallianzuala Chhangte
Odisha FC have lost prominent players in centre-backs Marti Crespi, Gianni Zuiverloon, Ulises Davila, Adria Carmona and Lallianzuala Chhangte, all of whom featured regularly in Gombau’s starting XI last season.
However, their recruits should help them fill in those gaps. Among the prominent arrivals are Bengaluru FC’s Xisco Hernandez who had the most assists for the champions last season, Diawandou Diagne who played for Barcelona B, defender Carlos Delgado and forwards Adriane Santana.
The loss of Chhangte to Chennaiyin would have hurt Odisha as the youngster was a perfect fit in Odisha’s quick and youthful forward line last season. Argentine midfielder Martin Guedes would hope to fill in that role this season.
In defence, Gaurav Bora who starred for I-League champions Chennai City FC last season would in all probability play at the heart of the defence alongside Delgado. Mohammad Dhot and Rana Gharami would battle for the right-back slot.
In midfield, Vineet Rai is expected to have new central defensive partner in Diagne with Xisco slotting in in one of the attacking roles. Daniel Lahlimpuia may have to move wide to make way for Santana.
Odisha have a good variety in midfield giving them the ability to play multiple systems. Gombau tried a few formations last season and his recruits suggest flexibility will be a key feature of his Odisha side. With Diagne, Rai, Xisco, Guedes and Marcos Tebar in their ranks, the midfield has to be the biggest strength for Odisha. Expect them to keep a lot of possession in their matches this season. Whether that will translate into goals remains to be seen.
With both centre-backs from last season departing, Odisha FC will have a new centre-back pairing this season. Barring a failed stint at Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam, Delgado hasn’t played outside Spain. So, the centre-back may need some time to adapt to new surroundings and the dynamics of Indian football. Bora who is still relatively inexperienced thus would need to shoulder the responsibility in the central defence.
So, Odisha may find it a bit hard to keep clean sheets at the start of the campaign and hope their defensive changes pay off as the season progresses.
Coach profile: Josep Gombau
A former Barcelona youth coach, Gombau has had experience of working in Australia and with Kitchee in Hong Kong. He has had mixed results in his managerial career so far and his first season with Odisha was a struggle too. With the manager getting his way with the signings, Gombau would be expected to deliver results while staying true to his promise of playing attractive, attacking football.
Player to watch out for: Xisco Hernandez
The Spaniard primarily plays as a winger but has the versatility to play in different roles across midfield. He provided five assists last season for Bengaluru FC and played a key role in their campaign. Odisha would hope his arrival boosts their attacking prospects and helps them increase their goal count in the coming season.
Goalkeepers: Francisco Dorronsoro, Arshdeep Singh, Ankit Bhuyan
Defenders: Carlos Delgado, Narayan Das, Gaurav Bora, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Amit Tudu, Rana Gharami, Sajid Dhot, Shubham Sarangi
Midfielders: Marcos Tebar, Xisco Hernandez, Diawandou Diagne, Martin Perez Guedes, Vinit Rai, Bikramjit Singh, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Nandhakumar Sekar, Romeo Fernandes, Van Lal Remtluanga Chhangte, Lalhrezuala Sailung
Forwards: Aridane Santana, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Seimingmang Manchong