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ISL: FC Pune City โ€“ 5 takeaways from the 2014 season

Kostas Katsouranis
Kostas Katsouranis
Rohan Swamy

FC Pune City, who finished sixth in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League (ISL), had a mixed run in the tournament. Right from sinking to the bottom of the table, to rising to the top, falling again, to rise and fall short, the graph of their performance has been a sine wave of sorts. Of course coming in within a hand's distance of qualifying for the final four, Pune will be rueing the fact that luck, despite having worked hard, ran out towards the very end for them.Coach Franco Colomba certainly took his time to start getting the team to gel well, but will have to wait a year to see his Pune team have a renewed shot at the title. Despite the presence of David Trezeguet, the team's marquee player, there were no heroics on his part to save his team the blushes.We take a look at the performance of FC Pune City and analyse their mixed run in the league:

#1 Players who impressed:

The problem with Pune, right from the onset of the tournament has been the flashes of brilliance from players which have eventually fizzled away. But through it all, there were a couple who continued to impress right throughout the tournament. Kostas Katsouranis, the tireless midfielder ran up and down the flanks and also ensured that he entered the scoring charts.

Game in, game out he was the most impressive player for this misfiring team in the tournament. He teamed up first with the charismatic John Goossens (whose run was cut short by a injury to his ribs), then with Dudu Omagbeni, and later on with Kristian Vadocz to lead the scoring from the front. In midfield, he also combined with Lenny Rodrigues, Park Kwang-il and Israil Gurung to keep the moment of the team moving forward.

On the Indian front, if any player has impressed throughly it has to be custodian Arindam Bhattacharya. Having come in to replace the Italian Bellardi in a game against Kerala Blasters FC in Pune, he cemented his position as the mainstay of the team. Not just that, but in every game since coming in, he has gone on to make saves that have become the talking point of their games, both home and away.

If the ISL has thrown up anything positive for Pune, and for Indian footballers at large he would be one of the biggest talking points of the game. And on more than one occasion he has saved face for not just his defence but the team on the whole.

#2 Players who disappointed:

David Trezeguet
David Trezeguet

One could open the proverbial pandora's box while describing this segment for FC Pune City.

First of the lot is the marquee player of the team David Trezeguet. Questionable match fitness (having stayed on the sidelines because of injury) and failure to motivate the team on field (when he was playing) to win were perhaps the biggest sore points for him. When Trezeguet found his scoring flair when he scored against Goa at home and followed up with a goal the next match against Kerala (which they eventually lost), it looked like business as usual. But it was a false start and he did flatter to deceive.

The other guilty parties include the likes of Dudu, Israil Gurung, Jermaine Pennant, Saidou Mady and Vadocz. Not that they played bad, but yes they all failed to deliver when it mattered the most. Flattering only to deceive has been a big reason for the team's downfall. And at various stages of the tournament these players were responsible, if not collectively then individually for the team's lacklustre finish.

#3 Best and Worst Matches:

Franco Colomba
Franco Colomba masterminded a fantastic win at Kolkata, but suffered an embarassing loss to derby team Mumbai

Since FC Pune City's graph has altered at both extremes there are definite examples of the very best and the outright terrible games for the team. There have been times when coach Franco Colomba has been left at a loss of words (either out of sheer joy or a shattered morale), we take a look:

Best Match: Atletico de Kolkata vs FC Pune City (1-3)

Arguably the best game of the tournament for Pune, they not only took the fight back home to Kolkata, but also downed them in front of a packed audience at Kolkata's home ground โ€“ the Salt Lake Stadium. Kostas, Dudu and John Goossens were instrumental in leading an attack that clicked and sucker punched Kolkata's defence in the gut. Of course as is the case with Pune, on their day they can steam roll oppositions with the ease of a trapeze artiste performing tightrope walks while juggling three balls. And that was the case that day.

Pune opened the scoring, then cemented the scoreline with two goals further. It was also the game which would go on to decide the future of Pune, as they lost John Goossens to an injury. But on the whole it was the best game of the season for them for two reasons. One it shut the critics up and propelled them into the top four. And the second one, they showed what they were capable of doing when the sank the invincible Kolkata team in front of a stunned home crowd for the first time in the tournament.

Worst Match: Mumbai City FC vs FC Pune City (5-0)

The lowest point for the team came with the defeat at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. With a hattrick in the first half of the game, and two further goals Mumbai ran through Pune in the 'Maha Derby'. So distraught was the team that when during the post match conference, coach Franco was at a loss unable to explain the morale shattering defeat. Andre Moritz was the hero for the game, where he broken open Pune's Indian-Italian defence line with alarming ease.

The magnitude of that defeat was such that, till date it continues to be the biggest margin by which a team has won against an opposition in the I-League. The defeat margin was a stumbling block as they never recovered from the goal deficit right till the very end.

#4 Areas of Improvement:

Dudu Omagbeni
Pune need to improve their finishing

The team formation. Playing a lone striker up front in Dudu (after Goossens injury) was something that didn't work to their favour. Dudu who had combined extremely well with Goossens, usually ended up squandering chances, or running into dead ends and blind alleys. The initial 4-4-2 formation was a compact and sturdy one, which allowed them to get the better of the likes of Chennai Kolkata and Goa.

Another area that needs improvement is the passing. With the amount of missed or bad passes, Pune have stumbled in vital games at crucial points which eventually cost them heavily. More long passes, less emphasis on side passing and more on passing forward will be an important factor for the team to regroup and rethink its strategies.

The finishing was another lost cause. In the last two games (which Pune lost by solitary goals) they had chances to put away the game for good. But for some reason they couldn't. At a platform like this one, they will need to minimise such errors and bring more credibility to their game by scoring more goals.

Coach Colomba's ideas were very clear and when the team followed them in sync with the 4-4-2 formation the results were usually heavily in favour of them. Getting the Indian players to get used to it, took a long time, and perhaps that went against Pune. For the next season they will have to work harder on their passing and finishing skills if they harbour hopes of winning with better margins and more frequently.

#5 Season\'s Rating:

FC Pune City

As their squad did not have many big names (during the earlier days of the season), Pune didn't look like a team that would be a major threat then. While they didn't make it to the semis, the squad picked up later on with the addition of Goossens, Pennant, Vadocz amongst others. Coach Franco Colomba too came in with a reputation of having coached some of the biggest names in Italy. Even though Pune showed in parts, what it was capable of doing, the very idea of waiting for 'a day to click' was something that caused them to shoot themselves in the leg eventually.

Pune began with a draw against Delhi, followed it up with the biggest loss of the ISL against Mumbai before going on to win against the likes of NorthEast United and Goa at home. As mentioned, the Pune course charts a distinct sine wave, with both crests and troughs aplenty in the course of their time at the ISL. Pune can look back on the season and be proud of their goalkeeper, their defence (which came of age after the Mumbai battering) and Katsouranis.

Pune lost the chance to make it to the top four on the day of their last match against Kerala. It might be a memory, which will be hard to shake off for Pune but they can still go out with more positives than negatives. The former outweighing the latter by a slight margin of sorts.

Final Rating: 3/5

Edited by Staff Editor

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