Perhaps one of the best pieces of business done this summer across the ISL was FC Goa keeping hold of their head coach, Sergio Lobera. As I alluded to in their season review of the last season, they very nearly completed the double. Sort of. In both the Super Cup and the Super League playoffs, they flopped in the semi-finals. In the playoffs, I think it could be argued that John Gregory got the better of him after Lobera got one over the Englishman on the opening day of the season More on that shortly. Despite not winning anything, FC Goa were the most attractive side to watch last season and that was predominantly down to Lobera. Yes, he had the players at his disposal, but once more, the likes of Jahouh and Boumous, later in the season, only joined because of the topic of this conversation, Lobera.
It All Started Rather Well
Lobera’s first senior managerial position saw him take the reigns at Terrassa FC in Segunda Division B. This was after spells with Barcelona’s youth & C sides which had varying degrees of success. He took charge of Terrassa for the last few games of the 2007/08 campaign with the side embroiled in a relegation battle. Somehow, he steered the Catalonian side to safety, finishing above the relegation playoff spot by just a solitary point.
The following season, Lobera’s first full one, it was not quite as good. Regardless of which way you look at it though, he managed to keep Terrassa in the division after winning the dreaded relegation playoff. It’s then unclear whether Lobera left Terrassa on his own terms or if he was dismissed. Either way, without him, they finished bottom and got relegated to Spain’s fourth tier. We would have to wait almost twelve months for Lobera to resurface in the managerial world.
CD San Roque de Lepe came calling for Lobera and he had his work cut out from the very start. The season which preceded Lobera’s maiden and only campaign with San Roque was the best in the Andalusian club’s history. No pressure, then? Not for Sergio, not at all. The Spaniard was shrewd in the transfer market as he acquired players such as Zouhair Feddal, who now plays for Real Betis and Fernando Rodriguez who now plies his trade in Indonesia. To cut a long story short, Lobera guided them to fifth in the league and to this day, that remains San Roque’s best ever season.
Ceuta Was A Time Best Forgotten
From San Roque, Lobera didn’t move too far at all. He moved to AD Ceuta, a side in the same division as his former employers. It’s quite the mystery, what happened at AD Ceuta, however, one thing is for sure, the league descended into a farce. Two sides, Poli Ejido and Sporting Villaneuva were disqualified for playing unregistered players on more than one occasion. It gets worse. Lobera’s side were one of three teams who got relegated from the division for failing to pay their players. In total, EIGHT teams were relegated. Crazy.
A Chance At The Second Tier
Finally, in the 2012/13 season, Lobera was given a chance with Las Palmas in La Liga 2. Prior to Lobera taking over, Las Palmas finished thirteen points adrift of the playoff spots. Lobera’s objective was clear. Reach the promised land of La Liga. Once again, smooth work in the transfer market meant that Lobera’s side were well equipped to launch an assault on the top six. Lobera managed to do just that as they finished sixth and above Ponferradina by virtue of a better head to head record. Second-placed Almeria were the opponents and in rather devastating fashion, they saw off Lobera’s side in extra time of the second-leg. Las Palmas lost out 3-2 on aggregate. To make matters worse, Las Palmas were close to reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, only to be knocked out by a late Ruben Castro goal.
Following on from the disappointment of losing out to Almeria, it would have been easy for Lobera to chuck the towel in. Not on this occasion. Yet again, Lobera drove Las Palmas to the end of season playoffs. Lobera strangely left Las Palmas after losing to Real Madrid Castilla with only three games left. It was all Lobera’s work that got Las Palmas there, let’s make no mistake about that. Unfortunately, Las Palmas ended up losing in the final to Cordoba, a stoppage time away goal proving the difference. If Lobera was there, maybe it would’ve been different?
Off To Morocco
Joining in the winter of 2014, Lobera took a position at Moghreb Tetouan. He finished fourth in his first season and was unlucky not to progress to the CAF Champions League knockout stages from the group. An impressive win over Al-Ahly in the qualifying stages rose the expectation levels a tad, but it wasn’t meant to be. In his first full season, Lobera finished sixth. The season after saw Lobera finish twelfth. Not good. Unsurprisingly, that was the end of Lobera’s tenure in Morocco. He was then off to FC Goa.
The Moroccan Influence
Sergio Lobera recognised the ability of Ahmed Jahouh whilst in Morocco and got him in from FUS Rabat. Later in the season, Lobera went back to Moghreb Tetouan to sign Hugo Boumous. Before we come onto Lobera’s acquisition this season in the transfer market, let’s see how Lobera got FC Goa playing last year. Throughout Lobera’s coaching career, he has tended to favour a 4-2-3-1 formation and the beginning of last season was no different. Here you can see the average position of each player when they lined up on the opening day against Chennaiyin.
As you can see, Narayan Das (3) & Seriton Fernandes (20) maintain the width. The aforementioned Ahmed Jahouh (5) & Edu Bedia (23) sit deep to essentially form a four-point defensive shape which gives Narayan and Seriton the freedom to roam up and down their respective channels. The front four, if you want to call them that do all stay rather narrow which allows the full-backs to drive down the wings. It’s also rather interesting that Mandar Desai (17) is the furthest player forward, admittedly only just, ahead of Coro (8).
That was the first game of the season, though. Let’s see how they set up in what was arguably their best performance of the season. A 5-2 mauling of Kerala Blasters. You can see that the shape is slightly different this time.
Jahouh The Pivot
Edu Bedia plays a more advanced role in this instance as Jahouh acts as a pivot ahead of Bruno Pinheiro (16) & Mohamed Ali (37), so it’s more a central defensive triangle rather than a four-point shape that was demonstrated in the opening day win in Chennai. From the same game, let’s take a look at Jahouh’s stats as he really is the main focal point of Lobera’s Goa.
By his high standards, Jahouh will probably be slightly disappointed by the 84% passing accuracy, nonetheless, it certainly gives you some idea of the level he plays at. Five interceptions also gives you some idea of Jahouh’s footballing intelligence and his long ball accuracy some idea of his vision. I’m conscious that this isn’t all about Jahouh, so I will turn it back to Lobera and his decision making to initially bring in the players.
With Boumous in the side, Coro plays further up the pitch as it allows Boumous to dictate the play. Again, another brilliant acquisition made by Lobera in the transfer market. Now, this season has seen Manuel Lanzarote depart to ATK which means that Lobera had a rather sizeable gap to fill. Miguel Palanca has been brought in from Anorthosis Famagusta and Jackichand has made the move from Kerala. The new pair and Boumous will do more than enough to fill the void left by Lanzarote, who had a frighteningly good partnership with Coro.
If we look away from the personnel side of things for a second and again revisit the tactical element of it all, it’ll be extremely intriguing to see how Lobera accommodates everyone. Coro is definitely going to start, that’s a given. As will Jahouh. Those two aside, it’s not that easy to second guess the midfield onwards. Who will partner Jahouh in central midfield? The obvious answer is Edu Bedia as it worked so well last season. Where does that then leave Lenny Rodrigues? So many questions, not enough answers! Lobera will certainly have his work cut out to keep everyone happy this year.
One More Thing
If I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing Lobera to inspire this season. Here’s something. I bet that they have the majority of the ball in EVERY game they play. Watch this space.
Until the next time.