Can Stuart Baxter reclaim Odisha FC's lost glory during ISL 2020-21?
Odisha FC's Best Finish in ISL: Semi-finalists (2015, 2016)
Other Trophies: None
Odisha FC Head Coach: Stuart Baxter
Odisha FC, who were known as Delhi Dynamos until the 2018-19 season, had established themselves as one of the powerhouses in the first three seasons of the Indian Super League. They finished as the fifth-placed side in the inaugural edition and then reached the semi-finals in successive seasons.
However, their performances have been on a downward spiral ever since. They finished in the eighth position in both 2017-18 and 2018-19. Last season was a bit better for them as they finished sixth among the ten teams. However, they still have a lot to improve in order to reach the level they were at three seasons back and they will hope that their new coach, Stuart Baxter, helps them in gaining that lost glory back in the forthcoming season.
How did Odisha FC fare in the last ISL season?
Odisha FC played brilliant football during the first half of the last ISL season and they looked like one of the worthy contenders for a semi-final berth as well. However, they lost the plot towards the business end of the season as they lost three and won just one of their last five league games. That pushed them out of the semi-final race as they slipped to the sixth position in the table by the end of the league stage.
The main reason behind their struggles was their habit of conceding late goals. They were quite good in offence as the likes of Aridane Santana, Xisco Hernandez and Jerry Mawihimingthanga scored some of the best goals in the season. They had excellent creative force in their side but when it came to defending, things were just not good enough. They conceded a total of 31 goals in the 2019-20 edition which was three more than what they scored, and also the fourth most number of goals conceded by any team in the league stage. So that pretty much sums up their area of concern and Baxter will be looking to strengthen that this season.
Odisha FC squad for ISL 2020-21 season
Odisha lost two of their best players from last season -- Aridane Santana and Xisco Hernandez -- in the recently concluded transfer window. However, they have signed the likes of Manuel Onwu from Bengaluru FC and Cole Alexander from South African side Bidvest Vids FC as their replacements. Baxter will be hoping that these two players can bring equal success to the club as the likes of Santana and Hernandez did last season. Onwu, in particular, had an excellent outing in the 2019-20 season as he not only scored seven goals but also assisted twice in the 10 games he played.
In addition to them, Baxter has also secured the services of Marcelo Pereira from Hyderabad FC. He scored seven goals and assisted twice in 17 games last season but these were quite underwhelming numbers by his standards. After all, he is the third-highest scorer (31 goals) and has the highest number of assists (18) as well in the history of the ISL. Baxter will be eager to push Marcelinho to his best in this season once again.
Odisha have also paid attention to their defensive issues as well. They have signed the highly experienced English centre-back Steven Taylor from A-league side Wellington Phoenix to lead their backline. To partner him at the back, they have hired the services of the 25-year-old Australian right-back Jacob Tratt from Perth Glory as well.
As far as Indian signings go, the arrival of shot-stopper Kamaljit Singh from Hyderabad FC is the main highlight. He recorded a total of 39 saves in 12 games last season, which comes to 3.25 saves/match -- the second-best among keepers who played at least 10 games in the season. Apart from him, left-back George D'Souza from SC de Goa, Premjit Singh from Trau-FC and Samuel Lalmuanpuia from Kerala Blasters FC are good acquisitions as well.
However, the performances of their retained Indian players like Jerry Mawihimingthanga, Nandhakumar Sekhar and Vinit Rai is going to be more important for Odisha than the ones they have acquired this year. All three of them showed good potential in the last edition and will be looking to improve further this time.
Goalkeepers: Kamaljit Singh, Ravi Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Ankit Bhuyan
Defenders: Steven Taylor, Jacob Tratt, Shubham Sarangi, Gaurav Bora, Hendry Antonay, Kamalpreet Singh, George D'Souza, Mohammad Dhot, Saurabh Meher
Midfielders: Cole Alexander, Nandhakumar Sekar, Paul Ramfangzauva, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Vinit Rai, Thoiba Singh, Isak Vanlalruatfela, Jerry Mawihmingthana, Boaringdao Bodo, Lahrezuala Sailung
Forwards: Marcelo Pereira, Manuel Onwu, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Diego Mauricio, Laishram Singh
Odisha FC predictions for 2020-21 ISL season
While Odisha have acquired some quality overseas players this time, their fortunes in this season will mainly depend on how the Indian players perform. None of their Indian players are experienced enough. Although they have potential, Baxter will need to work pretty hard to help them transform that into results in the field. That's why a mid-table finish is the most we can expect from them in this edition.