December 8, 2021

ISL 2020-21: Will wholesale changes change Hyderabad FC’s fortune this season?

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With a new manager and a host of new players in their squad, The Nizams will hope to get a better result than last season…

Hyderabad, at one point in time, was a hotbed of Indian football with several star footballers and coaches hailing from the City of Nizams. The 1950s and 60s witnessed the heydays of Hyderabad football but it fizzled out thereafter. 

The city’s football was revived last season when Hyderabad FC was formed and made their debut in the Indian Super League (ISL). One of the objectives was to bring back the glory days of football in the Southern city.

Unfortunately, for ‘The Nizams’, the results did not go their way. They finished at rock-bottom on the league table with just two wins in 18 matches and 10 points to show for. 

After a nightmare debut in the ISL, the team management decided to rebuild the side. They appointed former Bengaluru FC manager Albert Roca at the helm who came on board in January this year but took charge of the side only after the 2019-20 season concluded. Unfortunately, Roca decided to leave the club and join La Liga giants FC Barcelona as one of their fitness coaches under Ronald Koeman. 

The Spanish coach was replaced by his compatriot Manuel Marquez Roca who had the prior experience of managing La Liga side Las Palmas. The Nizams have made wholesale changes to their roster. Hyderabad FC parted ways with as many as 14 footballers from their first season, including six of their foreigners, and brought in 15 new faces to the squad.

They have signed nine new Indian players among whom the most notable inclusion has to be experienced Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul who left Jamshedpur FC after three seasons. The goalkeeping position was a major concern for the club last season. Their first choice custodian Kamaljit Singh who appeared in 12 out of the 18 matches, conceded 26 goals and failed to keep a single clean sheet. Paul’s inclusion is undoubtedly an improvement in the goalkeeping department.

Hyderabad have also brought in notable names in Halicharan Narzary and youngsters Rohit Danu and Akash Mishra. 

Foreigners play a key role and Hyderabad have brought in some promising players. Their midfield looks compact in the presence of Brazilian midfielder Joao Victor and Spaniard Lluis Sastre both of whom have experience of playing in La Liga.

In defence, they have brought in only one foreigner in Odei Onaindia. It must be noted that the team has opted to sign only six foreigners. 

The attack looks to be one of their strong suits, thanks to the addition of former Girona forward Francisco Sandaza and Australian forward Joel Chianese. But the most notable addition to this team is undoubtedly Spanish striker Aridane Santana who has already made a name for himself in the league with Odisha FC last season.

Santana had an excellent run of form last season until he suffered an unfortunate injury in January and was ruled out of action for the rest of the season. In the 14 matches he played for Odisha, Santana scored nine goals and provided two assists.

With an experienced coach like Manuel Marquez Roca at the helm and with a mixture of youth and experience in the new-look squad, Hyderabad FC will hope to turn things around this time.