ISL: Is Robert Pires the ideal midfielder for FC Goa?

Robert Pires FC Goa
Robert Pires of FC Goa

FC Goa has been the most disappointing team in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League. And as it stands, they find themselves reeling at the bottom of the table. The team has failed to find its feet and the coach is still busy solving a few puzzles in his side.

Under coach Zico and boasting of marquee signing Robert Pires along with the Dempo SC domestic core, the team was touted for big things. But as it has panned out so far, the team has failed to create an impact.

While Zico in his latest interview talked about the missing link in his team being a goal poacher, there is a dire need for a box-to-box midfielder in the lineup to inject more fluidity, pace and graft in the team. Though Robert Pires is a legend and has done enough with his club side and the country, being a part of the Arsenal invincible and the 1998 World Cup winning French team, he hasn’t done enough for FC Goa.

At 41, it would be harsh to expect him to cover every inch of the ground. But Pires has been misfiring with his passes as well and most of the supply has come from Andre Santos, who has been forced to play in the middle of the park to compensate for the lack of creativity down the middle.

FC Goa are struggling in midfield

FC Goa set themselves up in a 4-1-4-1 formation apart from the last game where they went ahead with a traditional 4-4-2. While Peter Carvalho dons the role of a shield in front of defence, Pires and Santos (Edgar in the first game) have been operating ahead of him.

Now given Santos, and even Edgar when he played in that role, were more creative and on the front foot. Hence, they would ideally want a player alongside them who can support them in attack, but when they lose the ball can track back at pace to retrieve possession.

Asking Pires to play such a role would be too tough on the 41-year-old, and given the loss in his speed and having been out of touch for a while, his graft has gone missing as well. While his partner takes the box to box role, he has failed to be the creative midfielder.

Getting to a 4-4-2 formation was a desperate measure and probably one taken in hindsight of Pune’s poor performances in the other games, hoping to exploit the weakness. But in the end, it came back to haunt the FC Goa outfit.

Andre Santos
Andre Santos

Keeping Pires out is not an easy task for Zico considering the Frenchman’s reputation and the ‘marquee’ tag. His suspension in the last game gave an opportunity to turn it into a blessing in disguise. But another change in formation confused the players, and Gabriel Fernandes getting injured early on left Goa chasing the game with Andre Santos being the only bright spark. And remember, the Brazilian was in a more familiar left sided role.

Taking into account the fact that Pires hasn’t been up for it with Andre Santos being made to play in his less favoured position, takes one to the conclusion that Pires is not the right fit in the FC Goa scheme of things.

On the contrary, a central midfield pairing of Bruno Pinheiro and Edgar Marcelino would be much more potent, adding legs to the centre of the park in addition to the creativity. The Portuguese understand each other well too and it helps Santos take up his preferred position on the left side of the field, linking up play with the left back Narayan Das and midfielders Edgar and Bruno, in addition to picking up the target man – be it Ranti or Herlein.

Pires certainly adds a lot in terms of experience and leadership. But he has lost pace with age and lacks the ability to outdo his opponents when they attempt to mark him out of the game. It hasn’t been an ideal ISL for the legendary Gunner and his shortcomings have allowed oppositions to cut off his supply. There seems to be a lack of drive and vigour in the play and the lack of pace is allowing the opposition to get back into holes and cover areas well.

All in all, a 4-1-4-1 with an Edgar-Bruno partnership at the centre of the park alongside Santos on the left is what would suit FC Goa ideally and add much more venom and pace to their game. Although Pires comes in with a huge reputation, the 41-year-old should be given more of a mentoring role and should be played judiciously; ideally in the latter stages of the game when the outfield players have started to tire.

Having said that, given the overall composition of the team and the way they set up and want to play, Pires does not seem to be a right choice made by FC Goa in terms of choosing their marquee signing. Someone like a Deco, who they were after earlier on, or even an Anelka or Elano would have suited them much better and added that missing cog in their machine.

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Edited by Staff Editor