New Delhi, Nov 8: One of the most consistent sides in the history of the Indian Super League (ISL), Delhi Dynamos are aiming for a top four finish in the 2017-18 season of the lucrative football tournament.
After missing out on a place in the semi-finals of the inaugural edition, Delhi Dynamos have made quite some progress. They progressed to the last-four stage in the next two editions.
In 2015, they went to Goa with a one-goal lead but lost 0-3 to FC Goa. Last season, they travelled to Kochi with a one-goal deficit against Kerala Blasters. They won the second leg 2-1, but were knocked out on away goals.
On both occasions, the team's inability to do well in away fixtures cost them dearly. They have done well at home but need to do better in away fixtures.
At the helm of affairs is Miguel Angel Portugal Vicario. His task will be simple -- get this team to do better than last season.
Guided by previous coach Gianluca Zambrotta, Delhi had set the pace early in the last edition, but couldn't go all the way.
Interestingly, Miguel is the fourth coach at Dynamos after Herm van Veldhoven, Roberto Carlos and Zambrotta. In three seasons, the fans witnessed caution, efficiency and finally, an attack-minded team with flair and poise. In their fourth season, their approach should be a fine mix of all these.
There has been a change in approach as well. Delhi has relied heavily on stars in the past. Players like Florent Malouda, Robin Singh, Richard Gadze and Marcelinho were able to carry the team on their own. This season, they have opted for a holistic spread of players to create a more cohesive unit.
The pressure to perform will be spread across the line-up as hard-working players like Pritam Kotal, Sena Ralte, Pratik Chowdhury, Seityasen Singh and Romeo Fernandes come in. In the midfield, they have experienced South American players like Matias Mirabaje (Uruguay) and Paulinho Dias (Brazil).
Unfortunately, like several other ISL teams, the Dynamos have a habit of bringing in overage former stars who are past their prime. During the inaugural edition in 2014, they signed up former Italy star Alessandro Del Piero who had won the 2006 World Cup with his national team apart from the UEFA Champions League and six Serie A titles at the club level with Juventus.
However, Del Piero, who was almost 40 years of age at the time, was a shadow of his former self and could not make much of an impact in the ISL.
Refusing to learn from that experience, Delhi chose to bring in former Brazil star Roberto Carlos as player-cum- manager the following season. But the then 42-year-old, who had retired from international football in 2006, was also well past his prime.
Like most Indian clubs, Delhi also prefer to use Indian players down the flanks with experienced foreigners through the middle.
Delhi are used to finishing in the top four. Even in the opening season, they finished fifth, missing out by just a point. Surprisingly, the difference in their stats is negligible when compared with two-time champions ATK.
Delhi have made more passes than ATK, and have done so more accurately. They have also taken more shots and won more duels in fewer matches. They've also just scored one goal less than ATK in the tournament's history.
Records show that Delhi are a bastion of consistency. Every season they have gotten better -- fifth in 2014, fourth in 2015 and third in 2016.
Now it is time for them to go higher and aim for the trophy.