Thrillers, upsets, dominance; a captivating ISL season 2023-24 has had it all as the halftime whistle blows

The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 embraced the coming New Year by reaching its halfway mark with the clash between FC Goa and NorthEast United FC in Guwahati on Friday. The competition has halted for international competitions now, which will see Team India participate in the AFC Asian Cup, beginning January 12 in Qatar.

The milestone 10th season of the ISL has been as captivating and engaging as expected, headlined by the return of three former league winning coaches along with the involvement of the first-ever promoted side in the history of the competition, i.e. Punjab FC. With Kerala Blasters FC leading the table at the midway mark, here are some of the major takeaways from the league and how it has unfolded so far.

Watch the best moment 2023 so far

Increased competitiveness amongst teams

The enhanced competitiveness amongst clubs, brought in by seasoned coaches, younger players, and assembling of superior squads has narrowed the gap between the teams in the ISL. This has resulted in scorelines being tighter than ever, with 169 goals being netted in the first 69 games of this season, as compared to the 213 that had been hit after the same number of games in 2022-23. The margins of results have been slimmer, resulting in more engaging contests, keeping audiences to the edge of the seats often. With an average of 2.44 goals being struck per game, the days of one-sided victories are long gone as the ISL enters an era where each team breathes down the neck of its nearest competitor.

Catch the best goals of 2023

Strengthened defences key to the success

The season has witnessed finer tactical awareness, with teams quickly realising the importance of a solid defensive unit. The most glaring example is that of FC Goa, who have jumped to the second spot straightaway since the arrivals of Odei Onaindia and Sandesh Jhingan. Overall, there have been 39 clean sheets across 69 games in ISL 2023-24, which is 18.18% higher than had been witnessed (33) after the same count of matches in the last campaign. The Gaurs lead the way with six clean sheets after 10 games, with Odisha FC keeping the same number of them in 12 matches. The Juggernauts are also the leading goal-scorers with 22 strikes so far, with Sergio Lobera’s impact being evident across departments of their gameplay.

Breakout Indian stars add excitement to the league

The promotion of Indian talent has been at the cornerstone of the truest motives and objectives of the ISL. Right from Parthib Gogoi scoring outside-of-the-box stunners in his first three appearances of the season to Sachin Suresh becoming the first goalkeeper in league history to save penalties in consecutive games, the top-tier has again created a pathway for scores of promising talents to find their feet in football. Sahal Abdul Samad (4), Liston Colaco (3), Nandhakumar Sekar (3), and Manvir Singh (2), are amongst the top assist makers in the league at present, showing that the local talent is thriving in the final third equally well. Lallianzuala Chhangte had become only the second Indian after Sunil Chhetri (2017-18) to win the ISL Golden Ball when the Mumbai City FC winger claimed the top prize in 2022-23. It’s safe to say that the race for another talent from the nation to replicate that feat is wide open for the current campaign at this moment.

Teams intensifying approach as season progresses

Whilst the campaign began with teams adopting an arguably conservative route, it can be argued that they have begun gradually opening up and playing to their full potential as the tournament has progressed. The eighth matchweek was a turnaround in this regard, with Kerala Blasters FC-Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC-Punjab FC playing out 3-3 draws respectively, before East Bengal FC registered their biggest win in ISL history by 5-0 against NorthEast United FC. Jamshedpur FC repeated this scoreline in their win over Hyderabad FC, whereas Mumbai City FC emerged triumphant by 4-0 over Bengaluru FC earlier this month. In fact, Odisha FC capped off their first-half of the season with a 4-1 victory against Jamshedpur FC. All in all, despite the enhanced level of competitiveness reflecting in tighter results, spectators should know that they are in for a treat when teams gradually get in their groove and begin exploring the depths of their potential to the fullest.

The shuffles and surety of Coaches

This season has witnessed an array of shuffles, departures and sustenance in performance of Head Coaches. While Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC parted ways with their earlier this season, Jamshedpur FC announced the departure of tactician Scott Cooper. But making the headlines were the stalwarts – Manolo Marquez, Sergio Lobera, Ivan Vukomanovic and Carles Cuadrat. Manolo Marquez and Sergio Lobera moved to FC Goa and Odisha FC respectively, and took on the challenge immediately by leading their teams to the second and third spot in the table at the halfway mark. Topping the standings is Kerala Blasters FC, where head coach Ivan Vukomanovic continues to dish out his magic for a third season in a row, hoping to bring silverware for the Kochi-based club. In Kolkata, Carles Cuadrat has turned a chapter with East Bengal FC, as the Red & Gold Brigade have a formidable chance to qualify to the playoffs for the first time since they entered the ISL in 2020.

ISL Fantasy – Matchweek 12

Top Scorers

Roy Krishna (OFC) – 19

Iska Vanlalruatfela (OFC) – 16

Amrinder Singh (OFC) – 9

Gurkirat Singh (MCFC) – 8 

Jerry Lalrinzuala (OFC) – 8

If not registered already, fans can participate in the overall league or club-based leagues based on their preferences. Create private leagues, inviting friends and fellow football aficionados to compete. Prizes include a Sony PlayStation®️5 gaming console, EA Sports FC 24, signed club merchandise, and a Gift Card worth INR 20,000, will be awarded to 100 winners at the end of the season.

The ISL 2023-24 campaign takes a break for international football action, with India participating in the AFC Asian Cup starting January 12 in Qatar.

Also Read: The 10th season of the Indian Super League is a moment of great pride for Indian football: Abhishek Bachchan

Also Read: CFCI (U23) hold Maharashtra Oranje (U23) to 0-0 draw, spice up MFA Super League playoff race in Group B

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