Sergio Lobera was at the helm of FC Goa for close to three seasons where he led the club to a playoff spot on each occasion. During the course of this run, they earned a reputation as one of the most entertaining sides to watch – they looked to play attractive football, they went for goals and even though their defence could be leaky at times, watching them was fun.
But a disagreement with the owners towards the end of last season, saw head coach Lobera being shown the door even before the season ended and that in turn brings us to the FC Goa of today.
The FC Goa team that will take the field this year will be scarcely recognizable from the one we saw last year. Many of their biggest stars have followed Lobera to Mumbai City FC and that represents their biggest challenge and their greatest opportunity as well.
A chance to reinvent; a chance to go out and win the whole thing; a chance to prove all doubters wrong. They still have some good talent in the mix and the new head coach, Juan Ferrando, will be keen to stamp his authority on the setup and the squad as soon as possible.
What’s changed 2020-’21
Ins: Redeem Tlang, Ishan Pandita, James Donachie, Phrangki Buam, Alberto Noguera, Ivan Gonzalez, Jorge Ortiz, Sanson Pereira, Igor Angulo, Makan Chote, Devendra Murgaokar
Outs: Hugo Boumous, Jackichand Singh, Manvir Singh, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Kingslee Fernandes, Chinglensana Singh, Amey Ranawade, Lalawmpuia, Ferran Corominas, Murtada Fall, Ahmed Jahouh, Mandar Rao Desai, Carlos Pena
FC Goa’s squad has been ripped apart with several key players following Lobera to Mumbai City. They are missing some key talent from last season with Mourtada Fall, Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Mandar Rao Desai, Jackichand Singh and Ferran Corominas all leaving.
New signings like Alberto Noguera, Ivan Gonzalez, Jorge Ortiz and Igor Angulo have the calibre and some of their young Indian recruits like Redeem Tlang, Ishan Pandita and Makan Chote are exciting but Goa would need time to get it all together. With a lack of proper pre-season, Goa may struggle to do that. Going with just six foreign players might also hurt last season’s Shield Winners.
An obvious strength is the recruitment of some really good young Indian players. Their core of Indian players is really good and with players returning to football after such a long break, the performances of the Indian contingent will be key.
Their midfield has a strong mix of Indian and foreign talent. Noguera, Bedia and Mendoza should be able to link up well with Indian star Brandon Fernandes. It is a setup that will allow them to control the pace of the game. Even though many of their big stars have left, the manner in which Lobera set up the base for this team should continue to help them.
Upfront, Ishan Pandita’s skills might give them an advantage in front of goal too. But a lot will depend on the quality of Igor Angulo, who has been brought it to replace Goa’s all-time leading goal-scorer Corominas.
The weakness for this team is the weakness that all new teams and managements are saddled with. The coach will want a certain kind of play. The players are used to a different style. And then there are the new players who are used to neither. It might be too much to expect the team to hit the ground running but if they can, the confidence of the squad in their coach will be boosted and that will serve them well through the season.
The defense has always been a sore spot for Goa and if they want to win the title, they will need to plug the holes. As they say, good attacks will win games but good defences win titles.
Coach - Juan Ferrando
The 39-year-old Juan Ferrando, who is the second youngest coach in the ISL this year, moves into the hot seat at Goa. He’s coached all over Europe after becoming a manager at the age of 18 and he will be keen to show the fruits of that experience here.
On the eve of the match against Bengaluru FC, he was asked about his priorities between winning the ISL trophy or finishing atop the standings, Ferrando answer gave everyone watching a peek at his mindset.
“My mentality is to win every game, not only (ISL) trophy. When we play 11 versus 11, it’s very important that everybody has the mentality to win because when you are professional, you need to have the mentality to win games. This is not an academy to learn - here we need to give high performance and the only objective is to win.”
His answer pretty much reveals what he will want from his team.
Player to watch out for: Igor Angulo
Angulo was playing in Poland till a few months back and that might give him the early edge over defences in the ISL. He has a great scoring record but he also has to fill the big boots of Ferran Corominas, who was ISL’s top scorer last season.
In 126 games for Górnik Zabrze over a four-year period, he scored 76 goals. That is prolific by almost every standard and if he can bring that form to the ISL, Goa’s opponents might find themselves hard-pressed to stop him.
Angulo’s experience and nationality should help him get along with Ferrando quickly and he will be the lynchpin around whom Goa’s chances for this season will revolve.
FC Goa - Full squad
|Antonio D'Silva||Aiban Dohling||Alberto Noguera||Aaren D'Silva|
|Mohammad Navaz||Ivan Gonzalez||Alexander Jesuraj||Devendra Murgaonkar|
|Naveen Kumar||James Donachie||Brandon Fernandes||Igor Angulo|
|Shubham Dhas||Leander D'Cunha||Edu Bedia||Ishan Pandita|
|Mohamed Ali||Flan Gomes||Makan Chote|
|Sanson Pereira||Jorge Ortiz Mendoza|
|Sarineo Fernandes||Lenny Rodrigues|
|Saviour Gama||Nestor Dias|
|Seriton Fernandes||Phrangki Buam|