ISL: Why Ashique Kuruniyan is a perfect fit in Kerala Blasters
No one is ever excited about rebuilding a team because it means the future looks bleak without an overhaul. But it must be done nevertheless.
And Kerala Blasters, after sacking coach David James, are forced to introspect over their recent signings and management. But one signing, which is rumoured to materialise at the end of the season is that of Ashique Kuruniyan, the FC Pune City winger.
Why is it a good sign?
Over the last five years, Blasters have transformed from a winner to an inconsistent, but mostly bad, a team known more for twisting the knife in its jaded fan-base.
Blasters have been drafting high-profile busts like Dimitar Berbatov, overpaying free agents and generally being the model of a dysfunctional franchise.
The presence of too many below-par players is plaguing the team, holding back any chance of development.
So, all the talk of a clear-out makes sense and needs heeding.
Amid all the chaos, it bodes well for the team if Kuruniyan ends up moving to Blasters. The 21-year-old Kerala-born winger burst into the spotlight when he went train with La Liga club Villarreal's C team in Spain. A hamstring injury cut short his Spanish sojourn but he managed to cement his place in FC Pune City’s first team.
Now, almost one and a half years after making his ISL debut, Ashique Kuruniyan is one of the most talked-about young players in Indian football.
The pressure at FC Pune City isn't sky-high; so he is allowed to make the odd errors and to continue to grow as a player. He isn't dropped or booed when he does.
However, Kerala Blasters will be a whole different kettle of fish. The young winger to his credit has the attributes to match the hype and become a central force in Blasters’ attack.
He has developed mostly as a right-winger and that position seems to be his perfect spot. However, he can also play on the left side. He's very quick and his talents are best exploited when making runs on the flank with possession.
What will be key in his development is slotting him into the formation that he is more comfortable in. Whether it is as a winger in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or possibly in a 4-4-2, if he could emerge as a secondary striker that plays as a deep-lying forward.
For Ashique to grow into a long-term contributor for the club, the coaching staff must show patience. It takes time for a player to reach their full potential and capabilities as they learn from experience and growth on the pitch.
While it is far away to even think about it now, Ashique is bound to be part of the long-term solution for the next era of Blasters.
And that new era begins this summer. Blasters have a huge task of rebuilding the squad from scratch and for that to happen they must jettison many and recruit better.
Fans are getting increasingly frustrated with CK Vineeth. He has blown hot and cold this season. The club are said to offload him to Chennaiyin FC.
Others whom the club must consider guiding towards the exit door include Halicharan Nazary, Nikola Krcmarevic, Slavisa Stojanovic, Matej Poplatnik, Cyril Kali, Courage Pekerson, Lakic-Pesic, and Deependra Negi.
However, Blasters’ have some quality to work with. Lalruatthara is a talented full-back and has enough potential to persist with.
Sahal Abdul Samad, an academy graduate, is a real bright beacon for the future.
Dheeraj Singh is a good keeper, despite some mistakes, is worth persevering with.
Seiminlen Doungel exudes promise. K Prasanth and Mohammed Rakip are promising talents who deserve new contracts.
The nightmare stalking Blasters sleep is the thought of losing Sandesh Jhingan, the jewel in a badly dented Blasters crown. He and Anas Edathodika could form a formidable pair at the back.
By any normal standards, a dozen players out - and replacements brought in - would be a revolution and that its exactly what Blasters need- a revolution.