The sixth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) saw the ball legally cross the goal line a whopping 294 times, with some tremendous strikes smashing the back of the net. Top goalscorers list features the likes of Nerijus Valskis, Roy Krishna, Ferran Corominas, Bartholomew Ogbeche and so on.
Despite the similarities in their position, there were several differences in their roles and approach to the games. For instance, Golden Boot winner Valskis and ATK star Krishna each garnered six assists to go with their 15 goals.
The Lithuanian’s ability to hold the ball in the final third and release the wingers made him a crucial element in Chennaiyin’s front-line. Not only was he a target man, but a key figure in the build-up. His touch-map in the final against ATK showed how most of his touches were in the centre of the ATK box or just outside the area. 31 touches is a good number for a striker and it was clear that he was the centre-piece to their attacks.
Krishna too has been among the assists, but the Fijian’s style of play is dissimilar. He relies on his pace to beat players and creates chances in the form of cut-backs or crosses. His partnership with David Williams brought out the best of both players and helped them register good numbers. His game is reliant on intelligent and effective movement and a sudden burst of pace that helps him con defenders.
Both players differ from Ferran Corominas. The Spaniard is arguably one of the most prolific strikers to have played in the league. Although he has not sparkled in a deeper role this season, Coro is very creative when he gets on the ball and often ends up creating goalscoring chances.
In the first leg of the play-off between FC Goa and Chennaiyin, Coro was burdened with the additional task of creating goal-scoring opportunities in the absence of Brandon Fernandes and Hugo Boumous. Though he could not impact the result of the game, it also had a lot to do with the team on a whole putting in a substandard shift. That said, even at 37, the veteran marksman is bound to be among the first name on the team-sheet of all the ISL teams.
Ogbeche has been the target man for Kerala Blasters like he was when he plied his trade for NorthEast United FC last season. He is not as involved in build-up play as you’d spot him in the centre of the box waiting to bury a cross first time. It’s also worth noting that five of the 15 goals he scored arrived from the spot – a testimony to his composure. But despite a lack of assists, Ogbeche's role in the final third cannot be understated. The Nigerian's hold up play and intelligence means he drives the team forward in attack. At the same time, the Nigerian has been spotted defending set-pieces at the other end and has impressed with his great work-rate.
We have had other top attackers light up the league this season. Aridane Santana scored nine times for Odisha FC before having an injury put a stopper on his season. Like Valskis, the Spaniard too has been crucial to Odisha’s style of play and holding up the ball.
His replacement Manuel Onwu failed to score a single goal for his former club Bengaluru FC. But he proved his mettle at Odisha, scoring seven goals including a spectacular hat-trick. Onwu relies on service and is a fox in the box. The gulf in quality of the crosses he received while at Bengaluru and Odisha justifies his numbers after switching sides. The style of play was also different at both clubs.
Basically, what has been evident is that ISL teams are not opting for pure goalscorers anymore. The need of the hour is a striker who contributes more to the team's style of play than just score goals, apart from a few exceptions.