Last season in the Indian Super League, Odisha FC ended up at rock-bottom and stayed there until the end of the season. They were able to manage just two wins and ended up losing as many as 12 games – by far the most in the competition.
The team also shipped in a record total of 44 goals – 12 more than the next team on the list. Such a terrible season meant that Odisha FC made grand, sweeping changes this summer.
A new Spanish manager in Kiko Ramirez has come in and Odisha have also changed their entire overseas contingent. The club signed a deal with World Cup winner David Villa and the Spaniard takes over as the Head of Football Operations for the club.
Former commercial head of Rangers, Watford and Coventry City, Raj Athwal is now the club’s new President, with Odisha signing an international partnership with Watford in the summer.
How do things stack up for OFC this time?
Since being rechristened to the new identity of Odisha FC in 2019 (they were formerly Delhi Dynamos), the team has struggled in ISL. They are yet to qualify for the ISL playoffs, and although they finished sixth in the 19-20 season, last season’s dismal run has undone all of the good work.
New manager Ramirez has only worked in Europe prior to this. He has plenty of experience in the lower leagues of Spain, and before taking over the Odisha FC job, he was the head coach of Xanthi FC. Ramirez has never won a trophy in his managerial career.
With 11 new arrivals this summer, including six new overseas players, Odisha FC look like a completely different side. They also had a lengthy pre-season which was one of the priorities of new President Athwal.
OFC transfers for 2021/22
Like SC East Bengal, Odisha FC had released their entire foreign roster ahead of the season. Along with the foreigners, Odisha also got rid of Rishabh Dobriyal. He’s the only Indian player to leave the club this summer.
They’ve brought in Javi Hernandez and Victor Mongil, who have had prior experience in the league. Hector Rodas, Liridon Krasniqi, Aridai Cabrera and Jonathas de Jesus are the other new foreign faces in the team. Talented Indian players like Isaac Vanmalsawma and Lalruatthara have also been roped in.
|Javi Hernandez||ATM||ATK Mohun Bagan|
|Liridon Krasniqi||ATM||Johor DT|
|Victor Mongil||CB||Dinamo Tbilisi|
|Hector Rodas||CB||CyD Leonesa|
|Aridai Cabrera||RW||UD Las Palmas|
|Sebastian Thangmuansang||RB||Gokulam FC|
|Isaac Vanmalsawma||ATM||Jamshedpur FC|
|Sahil Panwar||LB||Hyderabad FC|
|Lalruatthara||LB||Kerala Blasters FC|
|Cole Alexander||CM||Kaizer Chiefs|
|Diego Mauricio||CF||Al-Shahania SC|
|Liridon Krasniqi||ATM||Johor DT|
|Jacob Tratt||RB||Adelaide United|
|Diawandou Diagne||DM||FC KTP|
|Manu Onwu||CF||CF Badalona|
|Rishabh Dobriyal||CF||Hindustan FC|
OFC squad for 2021/22
Goalkeepers: Kamaljit Singh, Arshdeep Singh, Ravi Kumar.
Defenders: Gaurav Bora, Lalruatthara, Sahil Panwar, Hendry Antonay, Lalhrezuala Sailung, Sebastian Thangmuansang, Deven Sawhney, Victor Mongil, Hector Rodas.
Midfielders: Thoiba Singh Moirangthem, Vinit Rai, Paul Ramfangzauva, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Isak Vanlalruatfela, Liridon Krasniqi, Javi Hernandez, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Nandhakumar Sekar, CVL Remtluanga, Nikhil Raj.
Forwards: Akshunna Tyagi, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Aridai Cabrera, Jonathas Cristian De Jesus.
The signings of Javi Hernandez could add a lot of value to this Odisha side. He brings a sense of calm to the midfield and also has the creative vision to feed the attackers. Victor Mongil and Hector Rodas are expected to a better job in plugging the holes in defence than last season when they conceded 44 times. The underdog tags is also likely to allow the players with more freedom and express themselves on the pitch.
The appointment of coach Kiko Ramirez raises a lot of questions. He isn’t familiar with the Indian football scene and might struggle to adapt. Quite like their coach, the foreign signings except Javi and Mongil come to the league with little to no experience in the subcontinent. Odisha also lack quality players on the flanks, and they might be left exposed in that area of the park this season.
Following their transition to the new identity as well as the dismal campaign last time around, a mid-table finish looks like the most likely outcome for Odisha FC this time.