ISL 2020: Odisha FC eye first win as head coach Stuart Baxter wants improvement in all aspects

Odisha FC is all set to face Jamshedpur FC in its second game of the ongoing seventh season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday. Both the teams had lost their respective first games and will like to get on to a winning track in the Super Sunday clash tomorrow. Odisha’s Head Coach Stuart Baxter has also made his intentions clear a day before the crucial encounter.

Speaking during the pre-match Press Conference, the 67-year-old gaffer explained, “We need to improve on all aspects of the game. Not just based on the last game but based on the fact that I have had probably 14 sessions with the team. There was all good work being done before I came but we knew there are areas that still we needed to work on. Now, a new voice means maybe a little bit of motivation but it also means a new message.”

“Even if you are working on new things there’s something for the players to accept and to integrate into the way of thinking. At the moment, the players are getting used to that and I am getting used to the players and the league. And, given the compromised time it’s a challenge for everybody. I am sure I am talking for every coach in the league when I say that but it really is a challenge. So we need to be patient and during that patience, we need to be competitive so we make sure that we can take some points during that time,” the experienced manager further added.

Odisha didn’t have a great outing in their first game against Hyderabad FC in Bambolim and they had to suffer a 0-1 defeat. The Head Coach also explained the playing style and formation that he used in the previous game where he had to play without some of the important players like Vinit Rai, Cole Alexander, Jacob Tratt and Jerry Mawihmingthanga.

“If you look at the possession in general then it was long away from what we wanted to be. Tactically, the balance was wrong. We ended up being very separated. We couldn’t get support on to the front players. The midfield players were a bit too deep. And then mentally, whether it was the first game of the season or the young players were nervous or it was just the balance of the team that prevented it, we weren’t very brave within that balance, we weren’t very brave with the ball in taking great responsibilities. We have changed the shape a little bit in training. We have encouraged the players to relax a little bit more on the ball. It’s looked better.

“There will be changes of players in positions because of the opponent. With Jerry injured, we have no real direct replacements so we tweaked a little bit and played Manuel (Onwu) not on the wing, he wasn’t on the wing but in the pocket giving Diego (Mauricio) a very quick support. Manuel himself asked me about playing in that role because he has played it before and he is conscientious in his defending. So we looked at it and Manuel was the best solution we had. We wanted him to be closer to Diego, closer to Marcelinho and make that front three,” the OFC Head Coach commented.

Odisha has a very strong defensive line with the likes of Steven Taylor and Jacob Tratt in the squad along with some top quality Indian youngsters like Shubham Sarangi, Hendry Antonay and Gaurav Bora. However, Australian centre-back Tratt didn’t start in the previous game due to an injury and their defence looked a bit lacklustre as well.

“The availability of Jacob is still a little bit of a question mark. I have to say, I think that when you lose 1-0 and you give away a very bad transition and it ends up in a penalty then defending is not the first problem I want to look at. I want to look at our possession, I want to look at how we open the field up, how we go support to our front players and how often we penetrate; that would be my first look. But, we can defend with more personality and more control and more domination. So, I will be looking to improve the defending but it will not be the first thing that you go to,” the former South Africa national team Head Coach highlighted.

When he was questioned regarding the presence of Marcelinho, Onwu and Diego Mauricio as three foreign forwards being a problem of plenty for the team management, the gaffer replied, “I don’t think it’s aplenty because they are all adapting to a new environment as well. I think one of them is gonna be rotated and one of them will be a good asset on the bench. But, they all have to adapt to a new environment, we have had very little time to adapt to it. I think all the coaches and all the teams have seen that there is work to be done in every team. There’s probably only the clubs that have the core of the squad available and the same coach they have really not had that feel about them. Many of the teams have that feel in their way.”