It was Sahal Abdul Samad's second start for Kerala Blasters when he took the field against Odisha FC on Friday in Kochi. For a player who started 16 matches under David James last season and became the brightest spark of the team's disastrous season, the start of the sixth season has not been ideal.
He came off the bench in the first two matches and in the second game, against Mumbai City, Blasters boss Eelco Schattorie claimed that he had made a mistake placing Sahal on the left flank late in the game. Incidentally, it was from that flank that Mumbai initiated the move that resulted in a late winner by Amine Chermiti.
The young midfielder made his first start of the season against Hyderabad and picked up an assist for Rahul KP's debut goal. However, the team conceded two goals, including a late free-kick by Marcelinho, to make it two consecutive defeats.
While Eelco Schattorie's Twitter continues to get flooded by online coaches with their opinion on team selection, Sahal says he has been told by the Dutch coach to step up his efforts on the field and improve.
"The coach knows how to judge players. He says I have not reached the level that I need to be at to play in his system, I am working to reach that level. He style of play is a bit different. It will take me some time to reach that level," the Kerala-born midfielder told Goal.
He added, "I can't go against the coach's decision. He is giving me chances and I want to perform well. Every player will go through this in his career. This season, the play starts from the keeper. Every coach has his style."
The 22-year-old. nicknamed 'Indian Ozil' by the fans, is a creative player but will need to develop a more rounded skillset to continue starting for Schattorie's team.
"We have to defend also in football. Some players can attack, some can defend, I need to improve on the weaknesses. I have not reached Mario Arques' level but a player needs to be ready to play in a different position and when the coach asks me to do that, I am ready to play in Mario's role."
As for fans waiting to message the coach about tactics and team selection, Schattorie has this to say, "If I think Sahal (Samad) has to be on the bench, he will be on the bench. I know how to handle young layers. He was fantastic today. I will stand behind my players."
Will he check your messages? Maybe. Will he consider your opinion? Fat chance.