This time last year, Jeakson Singh was enjoying a very good personal season at Kerala Blasters.
In his first full season at the club, he made 13 appearances and clocked over 800 minutes. He had quite easily become an important player for the then coach Eelco Schattorie in midfield.
Fast forward to February 2021, the midfielder is now playing in an unfamiliar role as a centre-back at the same club in a different lineup and under a different coach who prefers a different system. The team is struggling to register wins and currently has the worst defensive record in the league, having let in 29 goals in 17 matches. However, Jeakson’s importance to the team remains unchanged.
Jeakson has already played 14 games this season and his first nine appearances were as a defensive midfielder as Kibu Vicuna attempted to figure out his best starting lineup. With Blasters continuing to leak goals and the coach unable to name a consistent defensive line, the former Mohun Bagan boss turned to Jeakson to fill in at centre-back.
Since the game against Bengaluru on January 20, the former India U-17 star who scored in the U-17 World Cup, has been playing as a centre-back.
It has not been comfortable for the youngster who has struggled to keep up with the different demands of the new role but overall, the defence has not worsened.
In the 12 games which did not have Jeakson as a centre-back, Blasters conceded 22 goals – 1.8 goals per game. In the last five games wherein the Indian midfielder played in defence, Blasters have only let in 7 goals – 1.4 goals per game.
While this could also be due to the fact that VIcuna has more or less settled on his backline in the last few games, Jeakson’s defensive capabilities as a midfielder have also helped the team when he plays as a centre-back.
Only Vicente Gomez (104) and Bakary Kone (55) have recovered possession of the ball more times than Jeakson (54) in the current campaign. He has also intercepted 15 passes this season, a tally only behind that of Jessel Carneiro (25), Costa Nhamoinesu (20) and Vicente Gomez (16).
It is clear that Vicuna is reluctant to use two foreigners – Costa and Kone – together in the lineup and the alternative Abdul Hakku is both injury-prone and inconsistent. This has forced the gaffer to turn to Jeakson and it has yielded mixed but slightly better results so far.
The youngster needs more time to familiarise with his new role and the experiment should only be considered a short-term fix for now as it is clear this is not his natural position. However, Blasters being the worst defence in ISL this season has nothing to do with Jeakson being played at centre-back. It is more of a collective failure of the team.