ISL 2017/18: Steve Coppell refutes claims that Jamshedpur FC are a defensive side
After a slow start to the season, it has been an incredible turnaround from Jamshedpur FC, an effort that sees them currently sit fourth in the Indian Super League table and in good stead to make the playoffs. On Sunday, they will take on the team above them in third, Chennaiyin FC.
Jamshedpur have hit a great run of form, coming into this game with five wins from their last six. Speaking to media ahead of the match, Jamshedpur coach Steve Coppell was asked if he felt his side was peaking at the right time.
“I certainly hope so, only time will tell,” replied Coppell. “We've got three very difficult games coming up, starting tomorrow. Obviously, Chennaiyin are coming in on the back of a win against Goa. We play Bengaluru next week and then Goa. So three very, very difficult matches.”
He reflected on the start his side had to the season and how they've made their way into the playoff reckoning now, a position he felt his side have truly earned.
“If after three games of the season, you'd told me we'd be in this position I would have taken it. So happy to be here, we're happy to be playing the best teams. So that if we do make the playoffs, everyone can say we deserve to be there. We don't want to get in through the back door or anything. I hope we're timing it right, but until we get these three games out of the way no one will know,” Coppell stressed.
There has been some unfair labelling of Jamshedpur as purely a 'defensive team’, but Coppell took time out to explain how that's not how his team take the field.
“We don't go out to be compact. We don't go out to defend,” a slightly peeved Coppell said.
He continued: “We work very hard at our defending, but it's not the priority you know. We work equally as much time on our attacking as much as we do planning our defensive strategies. It's certainly not a game plan that we have to defend at all costs. We want to attack teams as much as possible.”
According to Coppell, the difference lay in how they attack - “A lot of other teams are perhaps more possession-based which we're quite comfortable with to be honest because it depends where you have the ball I suppose. When we attack we like to attack quickly. So our game strategy is just to be as effective as we can be.”
Considering the league is now in its final stages, he also said that it was going to be difficult to change things around too much - “After 15 games, it's very difficult to try and change and incorporate anything new. It's a question of being effective as opposed to aesthetically pleasing.”
Jamshedpur, like their opponents, haven't been reliant on one or two players for goals, with scoring being spread out. Coppell said while he's happy with the many contributions, he believes they can get better.
“It's something we look to improve on. If you look at Pune with their two strikers, they are players who can score goals from nothing. When we played NorthEast we scored a goal from nothing, a piece of individual brilliance,” he said.
According to Coppell games are going to be tight in these last few weeks: “At this stage of the season when teams are so close together there isn't a great deal between all the sides. The difference is a mistake or a piece of brilliance or a refereeing decision. Those are the three critical factors going into the final two weeks of the season. I hope the games are won on individual brilliance rather than mistakes or refereeing decisions. That is the way football should be won.”
He was frank in admitting that any team would love to have forwards capable of bagging the goals.
“We, like most teams, are capable of scoring goals, but perhaps we might have to craft them a bit more than some teams who have the marquee-type players. And they've been effective. As I said Pune, Marcelinho and Alfaro have been very effective. Bengaluru with Miku and Sunil Chhetri, Coro at Goa. I think every coach would obviously like to have those kinds of players who can be a threat in every game.”
Two things that have been new in this season's ISL have been the duration and the midseason transfer window.
Coppell said he liked the idea of a transfer window - “I quite like the idea of having a transfer window. It's a long season now and it's quite exciting to have the influx of new talent at a certain stage of the season.”
However, he is not a fan of the players moving from one club to the other, as with the likes of Mark Sifneos who went from Kerala Blasters to FC Goa.
“I'm not so sure about the transfer between clubs, it just doesn't seem right to me,” a perplexed Coppell said. “To bring players in from outside, yes, that's exciting, but to transfer players from one team to another, I'm not so sure about that one.”
The scheduling has also irked him.
"I think one of the biggest problems, as I've said from the beginning, has been the scheduling. At various times this season, we've had 7, 8, 9 days off and then at other times we've just come back from four games in 10 days. Now I don't think that's right," he exclaimed.
"Certain teams, I think NorthEast at the moment are in the middle of a really tight schedule. I think everyone's had that occasion where they've had three games in a week or something like that, but then to go 10 days or even longer in the case of some teams, I think that's not good," he said.
Jamshedpur have so far conceded the least number of goals among all teams, letting in a meagre 12. Against a Chennaiyin side tomorrow who also fancy themselves defensively, chances are the game could be cagey. With a win, Jamshedpur could cement their spot in the semis.
"It will be a huge fillip for either side to get all three points. Both sides have very good defences. Our side, I hope, doesn't give too much away. But it will be a question of earning scoring opportunities and you do that through playing well and working hard. Of course you can only play as well as you're allowed to. I'm sure John's team will be equally determined to give nothing away. It will be a very challenging game," the Englishman said.
"I hope it's not a game of chess, but a game of carefree checkers. It's a fascinating contest for me," he said with a smile to round things off.