With every team in the Indian Super League completing 10 games so far this season, we've arrived at the halfway point of the 2022-23 season.
It's been an eventful, if predictable year, which has seen Mumbai City FC top the table midway through the season - not exactly a surprise given they added the league's best player, Greg Stewart, to the riches within their squad. NorthEast United have yet to earn a single point, leading to the league's only managerial departure, Vincenzo Annese replacing Marco Balbul. Last season's league shield champions, Jamshedpur FC have endured a torrid campaign, but Kerala Blasters and Hyderabad FC have continued their excellent form, in the title race mix alongside ATK Mohun Bagan, which has the top six teams separated by just six points.
After ten weeks of non-stop action (not even for the FIFA World Cup), we take a breather to assess each team, look at what makes them tick (or doesn't), and grade them (A+ being highest, F being lowest)..
Biggest strength: Their attack - 30 goals is double that of closest title challengers, Hyderabad and ATK Mohun Bagan. Double.
Biggest weakness: Des Buckingham seems to have ironed out his defensive issues, but Mumbai's goalkeepers continue to not inspire confidence.
Best player: For multiple seasons, we could simply copy and paste the same line about Ahmed Jahouh here, but it's Greg Stewart that's simple elevated Mumbai to another realm this season. With 10 G/A so far, he's well on his way to replicating his tally from last season.
Watchability: 10/10 - Mumbai score an average of three goals every game - not the same kind. There's the team goal, full of intricate passing; Stewart's solo runs followed by an eye-of-the-needle pass; Lallianzuala Chhangte's screamers from range; a delicious set-piece from Jahouh that's nodded in. Oh and just to make it interesting, they concede an average of a goal every game.
What they must improve: They've been unbeaten all season - there's not a whole lot left to improve. Even Apuia's added goals to his game now. Maybe the defence?
Biggest strength: Their defence -- they have conceded both the lowest goals (6) and the lowest xGA (8.6) in the league.
Biggest weakness: Last season Bart Ogbeche had 17 goals from 7.8 xG. This season he has 2 from 3.8. The drop-off in efficiency of Ogbeche and strike partner Javier Siverio has been stark.
Best player: Mohammad Yasir. With 3 goals (all screamers) and 2 assists he and Halicharan Narzary (same numbers) have stepped up their productivity big time.
Watchability: 7/10. A lot of possession, which is at times stale. But always good for a screamer or two.
What they must improve: The strikers need to start converting chances before it becomes a problem, especially in the crunch games to come.
Biggest strength: Digging out a result they don't deserve? Juan Ferrando's stamp on this side is gradually evolving into that of Antonio Habas'. They've kept four consecutive clean sheets most recently, three of which were 1-0 wins, and only two where they won the xG battle..
Biggest weakness: Their Indian forwards, Liston Colaco and Manvir Singh, aren't firing like last season.
Best player: Hugo Boumous, when he's in the mood. Otherwise, Joni Kauko, when he's fit. And when neither are around it's Dimi Petratos, who tops the team with 5 goals and 4 assists.
Watchability: 4/10 or 8/10 - ATKMB have been a bit Jekyll and Hyde all season, some games have been humdingers, like the 5-2 win over KBFC and the 2-2 draw vs Mumbai. Of late, they've been an absolute snoozefest.
What they must improve: Their consistency. And maybe feed Colaco whatever Goan fare he was having last season?
Biggest strength:The relentlessness of their tempo. It can unsettle teams from the first whistle.
Biggest weakness: As good as their attacking transitions are, the defensive ones are always susceptible to be exploited.
Best player: Ivan Kalyuzhnyi has been a revelation. But as long as Adrian Luna is there, it'll always be Adrian Luna.
Watchability: 9.5/10. Goals and big chances are guaranteed - often at both ends.
What they must improve: Defence needs shoring up. They are almost naively open at times, and that can cost them towards the end.
Biggest strength: Their intensity - which aids them in their penchant for comeback wins.
Biggest weakness: The lack of a truly consistent player at the back (and possibly no star name).
Best player: Nandhakumar Sekar, but he can be peripheral at times.
Watchability: 8.5/10. Who doesn't love old school wingplay? Odisha lead the league in winning the ball back in the final third and sending in accurate crosses from wide.
What they must improve: Their tendency to concede in spells.
Biggest strength: Their attacking flair. No team in the league has created as many 'big chances' (26) and their xG (16.3) is only lower than the Mumbai City juggernaut.
Biggest weakness:The defense and midfield can often look lightweight when put under pressure.
Best player: Edu Bedia. Noah Sadaoui grabs headlines with the goals and assists, but Pena-ball flows through Edu.
Watchability: 8/10. There is a lot of stale possession football at times which can put off the neutral, but on the front foot they are a joy to watch.
What they must improve: Finishing off chances. Alvaro Vazquez finally finding his shooting boots should help in that regard.
Biggest strength: Surprisingly, their attack - which has the second highest number of goals after Mumbai (20) and the third highest xG in the league (13.5)
Biggest weakness: Themselves, they lead the league in penalties conceded and red cards.
Best player: Nasser El Khayati. He leads the league in goal involvements (11), but five of those came in one game. A magical player to watch - when Thomas Brdaric affords him time on the pitch.
Watchability: 6.5/10. Despite El Khayati's magical feet and being involved in 10 games that have yielded 41 goals, Chennaiyin are a strange watch: when the ball is not near the box, nothing much is happening.
What they must improve: A defence that's conceded 21 goals in 10 games has undermined their shot at the playoffs.
Biggest strength: Their defending. Their xGA of 10.8 is the third lowest in the league.
Biggest weakness: Their attacking. Only Jamshedpur have scored less than their 7 goals and only JFC have created less than their xG of 9.4
Best player: Javi Hernandez. The lone creative outlet in what is a rather dull-looking side these days.
Watchability: 2/10. Improves to a 4 or a 5 when Javi gets on the ball more regularly.
What they must improve: Their chance creation. BFC's defense usually ensures that they are rarely completely out of games, but that counts for little if they can't create - and take - chances at the other end.
Biggest strength: Er... their fans?
Biggest weakness: Stephen Constantine.
Best player: Naorem Mahesh Singh - his ability to thread a pass is divine, which has afforded Cleiton Silva the highest xG in the league.
Watchability: 1/10. It's usually torturous football, which is an absolute crime given the names in that squad.
What they must improve: The first step of solving a problem is acknowledging that it exists. It does seem that East Bengal are blind to their problems, which begin right with the man at the helm.
Biggest strength: Their aerial prowess. If they use it.
Biggest weakness: Cohesion. There's a lack of it in defense, and there's a distinct lack of it in attack; moves breaking down before they even begin.
Best player: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. But that's only because he's been a touch above par compared to the rest. It's not a high benchmark to clear.
Watchability: 0/10. From Owen Coyle's swashbuckling entertainers, it's been quite the fall.
What they must improve: How do we put this politely... everything. Failing that, at least go old-school 4-4-2 and fling in a few crosses for the big guys?
Grade: F (the effiest F in the history of Fs)
Biggest strength: Yeah, there's none.
Biggest weakness: Their attack is incoherent, their midfield cannot compete, their defence is porous, their keeper is less than stellar. Maybe pick one?
Best player: Romain Philippoteaux, at a pinch, but he's the best of a bad bunch.
Watchability: 2.7/10. Those 2.7 points are for the number of goals they concede on average.
What they must improve: Vincenzo Annese is a record-breaking, title-winning manager in Indian football. Yet, his chances of turning around a side that's lost all their league games so far is a tall ask. Maybe a back to the basics, defence-at-all-costs approach?