Hyderabad FC announced the departure of Phil Brown after his colossal failure to manage HFC in their debut season in the 2019-20 Indian Super League and brought in Albert Roca in January.
Roca is an established name in Indian football, having previously managed Bengaluru FC, and Hyderabad FC may have just found their perfect manager in the 57-year-old.
Here’s why roping in Albert Roca is a smart piece of business by Hyderabad FC, who finished last in the 2019-20 ISL season with just 10 points from 18 outings.
Inculcating La Masia philosophy
Albert Roca was at the hotbed of Spanish football for long, having spent most of his playing career with lower-division Catalan sides before taking his first coaching assignment as a head coach of Club Esportiu Europa in the Catalonia region.
He then had brief spells at AEC Manlleu and Sabadell before joining FC Barcelona in 2003. He worked as an assistant coach to Frank Rijkaard till 2008.
The period between 2003 and 2008 saw a sudden change in Barcelona’s philosophy as several La Masia graduates kept joining the first team on a consistent basis.
The Catalan giants had a certain outlook to their game, with an ardent amount of focus on possession-based play.
As a result, Albert Roca’s philosophy revolves around possession-based play, with a massive emphasis on ball holding capabilities. Hyderabad FC showed how unorganized their gameplay was in the 2019-20 season with no team-based tactics.
The Nizams, as they are known, had to depend on individual flashes of brilliance to garner points, which did not allow Hyderabad FC to dominate their opponents at any point of time, as they finished bottom of the table.
Building tactical versatility
Albert Roca’s tactics work as subversive when it comes to approaching the game plan in a typical short tournament like the Indian Super League.
Coaches intend to have a prolonged strategy in such short tournaments to not divulge in situations where tactical changes affect their game plan.
However, Roca is not the kind of manager who sticks with a single game plan throughout the tournament.
The 57-year-old has been seen to switch between the 3-4-3 and the 4-2-3-1 formations in regular intervals, depending on the situation of the game or the league table.
Roca’s brilliant handling of the 2016 AFC Cup 2016, along with the 2015-16 Indian football season showed how versatile he could be in handling tricky situations.
Hyderabad FC looked blank on several occasions when their individuals on the pitch failed to step up their games, thus leaving the team without a second plan.
Albert Roca’s versatility and tactical awareness will be handy to HFC’s chances in the 2020-21 Indian Super League season.
Encouraging players to fight for the team
Albert Roca is known for providing chances to talented youngsters, despite having a strong main squad.
The former Barcelona assistant manager was seen switching his defensive centre-backs, John Johnson and Juanan as the season progressed during his tenure at Bengaluru FC.
Most managers, who have a certain number of set players at their disposal, would not want to change the team in fear of disrupting the consistency.
However, Roca allows younger players to try their luck in the first team as the season progresses. As a result, nobody’s spot in the first XI is guaranteed and it establishes a healthy competition within the squad.
Albert Roca does not stick with the same set of players for long and is highly likely to rotate his squad to accommodate youngsters such as Liston Colaco to feature for the first team.
The Catalan philosophy based on possession and on-the-ball capabilities takes a long time to be implemented in competitive matches.
Bengaluru FC finished fourth in the I-League in his first season with the club, but BFC bounced back by winning the Federation Cup and reaching the AFC Cup final (losing to Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya) later in the season before finish atop the Indian Super League standings the following campaign.
Albert Roca’s appointment will take time to change things at Hyderabad FC as his philosophy revolves around allowing the players to settle down.
The 57-year-old is also likely to focus on a long and structured pre-season, something which Hyderabad FC lacked in the 2019-20 season.
HFC need stability and a planned structure to reverse their fortunes in the Indian Super League, and Roca seems like the perfect guy.