One of the biggest topics of discussion during the pre-season was the lengthy list of departing players from FC Goa. In spite of the shock departure of Hugo Boumous, there was a certain calmness surrounding Goa after the dust over the departures settled. This is a club that has qualified for play-offs in five out of six seasons in the ISL and this consistency is a testament to their recruitment. Building and developing a team from scratch was something they had done before, and now they would do it again.
Eight games into the season, we are starting to see the new FC Goa under Juan Ferrando. Though the team still needs time to tune its accordion of players, it wouldn’t take a genius to see the potential and talent the squad possesses.
There is much to discuss tactically, but this piece will focus solely on FC Goa’s recruitment and squad composition. To aid us in our discussion, here’s a graph with their squad, their ages at the start of the season and the minutes they have played.
Filling the big boots
Now that the graph is clear, let us get to the point – FC Goa’s recruitment. 14 players left FC Goa after last season; 17 new additions were made to the squad ahead of the new season including recruits from the development team. The top departures undoubtedly were the foreign players that left the club.
So how have Goa managed to replace them?
For starters, let’s look at the age of these players. The outgoing players had an average age of 32.2. Their replacements have an average age of 30.4. Igor Angulo is the only foreigner above the age of 32 in this squad. And as we all know, Angulo is no victim to time. With this, we can comfortably say that there has been an injection of youth in the foreign contingent. Even the ones that are past their peak have the legs and quality to perform well in India.
There were quite a few notable Indian departures such as Mandar Rao Dessai, Sana Singh, Manvir Singh and Jackichand Singh. Goa have tried to replace them in multiple ways. Mandar and Sana were replaced by players who were already at the club – Saviour and Aiban. Jackichand’s replacement was Redeem Tlang or Len Doungel.
Manvir Singh seems to be the only player who they haven’t replaced with a known heavy-weight. Although Ishan Pandita and Devendra Murgaonkar are strikers, neither of them have seen enough game-time to prove their mettle. This lack of a plan B could be a cause for concern if Igor Angulo is out due to injury or fatigue.
Apart from direct replacements, Goa has also deputized their flanks. Sanson Pereira, Romario, Phrangki Buam and Makan Chothe are some who were brought in to man the wide areas.
Does everyone get to eat at Ferrando’s table?
But the job of development does not simply end with signing young players. It also consists of giving them adequate game time and playing them alongside competent players. So let us go over how Goa has handed out minutes, and whether they follow any rotation patterns.
We can already see that very few players are over the age of 30. Lenny Rodrigues is the only Indian in this department. 10 players are currently in their peak (3 foreign, 7 Indian) and 8 are youngsters (all Indian).
Expectedly, all foreigners have played for over 450 minutes. Igor Angulo is the only one who has started all games while all others have had to rotate with Indians or fellow foreigners at times. Since there is no seventh foreigner, the minutes are also in excess for each foreign player. Had there been a back-up striker, they probably would have come under the rotation department.
Out of the four key Indian players, half are under the age of 24 – Saviour and Nawaz. Meanwhile, Seriton is in his prime and Lenny is a veteran. Since Brandon was not fully fit at the start of the season, he missed out on the 450 minute threshold.
In rotation, we can see Romario and Len who have both shared minutes on the wing with Brandon and Jorge Ortiz. Princeton and Aiban have also been getting chances and will continue to do so in the future.
Sanson Pereira and Redeem Tlang are unexpected entrants in the back-up department. Judging by what we have seen so far, neither player will be given many starts unless there is an injury or suspension. Though untested, Goa also boasts a wealth of talents on their bench. Phrangki Buam, Makan Chothe are both players who have caused havoc in the I-League despite being significantly younger than their opponents.
When it comes to rotation patterns, the striker, full-back and goalkeeping spots are set in stone. Midfield sees a hint of rotation with Princeton getting a start every now and then, but for the most most part, it is between the foreigners, Lenny and Brandon.
Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie usually start alongside each other in defense, but Aiban Dohling has been given a run out if Ferrando wants an extra foreigner higher up the pitch or if one of the foreign centre-backs is unavailable.
The area that has seen the most change is the wings. Jorge Ortiz is the only key player who starts on the wings (and sometimes he plays as a second striker). Due to this constant chop-and-change, Romario has been able to prove himself as a quality player.
Goa also prefer that their wingers press a good amount and due to this, we can see many substitutions to keep their legs fresh. By rotating between young and energetic wingers, Goa are able to prevent injuries and keep healthy competition within the squad.
What all of this tells us is that FC Goa is one of the best clubs in the ISL when it comes to nurturing talent. They like to snap up players when they are young and turn them into starters for the future. The fact that so many of their Indian starters have been at the club for 2-3 years backs up this claim.
Even if players do not get a chance under the head coach, FC Goa gives them a platform to propel themselves to other ISL teams. They have also inculcated a culture of attacking, possession football. This helps young players grow as it gives them good fundamentals of passing, pressing and movement. Liston Colaco, Mohammed Yasir and Amey Ranawade are all under -23 players who are taking to the field regularly for their new clubs.
In an age where clubs shut down or relocate within a decade of their existence, the Gaurs boast a remarkable consistency and longevity with their plans. With a stellar feeder league such as the GPL, FC Goa have tapped into their local resources in an extremely effective and sustainable manner.
Though they may be outside of the top-four towards the end of this year, the squad showcases a talent that far surpasses their current position. Success is always unpredictable, but something we can definitely expect from this side is quality football from bright, young lads.