Santosh Kashyap joined Mohun Bagan over the summer after cutting his managerial teeth at Air India, where over two seasons he steered the Airmen to respectable positions on the league table, with a modest budget than their rivals.
One of his prime qualities is his ability to get the best out of previously underperforming players. With the Mariners often being accused of not playing to their potential, Kashyap should relish the challenge he faces with the Kolkatan giants.
The squad is not lacking in star quality or depth...
Santosh Kashyap is content with his side’s moves in the transfer window this summer and commented, “I am happy with the squad at my disposal. We have a very balanced squad and it shall help us this season. We have bought good players and have some very good junior players in our ranks too.”
Unlike last season, when the Mariners focused on marquee signings leaving their squad undercooked in several areas, on this occasion the squad seems to have good strength and depth in all departments.
While Anwar Ali and Kingshuk Debnath, who more often than not were a liability at the back, have been released, Mohun Bagan have bought in solid defenders like Nirmal Chettri and Khelemba Meitei to replace them, with Mehrajuddin Wadoo adding depth to the squad. The Kashmiri had a poor season last time round, and it remains to be seen if he can resurrect his career in Kolkata.
Further up the field, N.P Pradeep has moved on, with Denson Devadas replacing him.
It is upfront that the Kolkatan outfit pulled off their biggest coup, as Tolgay Ozbey shall now turn out for the Mariners this season, after the long running tussle for his services with arch rivals East Bengal was finally resolved.
In defender Echezona Anyichie and striker Stanley Okoroigwe, Santosh Kashyap’s side have resolved their issues related to their foreign quota earlier than last season, meaning that they head into the season with no problems regarding the composition of the squad.
The former Air India coach, though happy with his side’s performances in pre-season, lamented the fitness issues surrounding his squad.
“I am happy with pre-season but there have been lots of fitness issues, as players have been ruled out of practice due to a bout of dengue, while several other players have viral fever, which is causing problems. Otherwise we have had good match practice, playing against several Kolkata based sides like Southern Samity, George Telegraph, and we have just returned after playing two games in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Mohan Bagan won their first match 4-0 and lost the second 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 scoreline at full time against J&K XI.
TACTICS AND FORMATION
Giving an insight into how one can expect Mohun Bagan to play this season, Kashyap revealed, “As you know from my time at Air India, I always look to play an attacking brand of football. We have a great set of players and they shall suit my style.”
“We have tried lots of different formations over the pre-season, starting from 3-5-2 to a 5-3-2, as I want my players to be comfortable in all set-ups. However I generally prefer a 4-4-2,” the Mohun Bagan coach added.
Goal.com View – As Kashyap mentioned, the Mariners are likely to line-up in a 4-4-2, with Odafa Okolie being joined by his new strike partner Tolgay Ozbey in attack. Unlike last season, the squad has good quality and depth in all departments, hence it will not be surprising to see Syed Rahim Nabi return into midfield for the Mariners, where he could add greater thrust and width to their game.
Denson Devadas, Jewel Raja and Rakesh Masih provide good quality in the centre of the park, while Khelemba Meitei and Echezona Anyichie should add solidity at the back, with Arindam Bhattacharya likely to be in between the sticks.
Mohun Bagan should have no problems finding the back of the net, next season...
The former Air India coach was quick to stress that his team is full of top players, and as such, he could not single out just one or two as key players. He stated, “We have a very good squad and it is a long season ahead of us. Plus I like to rotate my squad and hence we shall see all our players making a good impact this season.”
The Mariners coach though revealed that Syed Rahim Nabi might play a more prominent part further up the field. He commented, “I would like to play Nabi further up the field. He is a player who can be vital in midfield or even as a forward and we have other good left backs in the squad."
Goal.com View – As stated by Kashyap, Nabi should grow into being a more influential player for his club this season, and has the ability to make a mark further up the field.
Although it will be hard, even for him, to displace the strike duo of Tolgay Ozbey and Odafa Okolie. Last season, Odafa single handedly kept the Mariners in the reckoning for the title for most of last season, and with Ozbey alongside him, he will only get better.
The Australian too has a lot of pressure on him, heading into the season. Having left East Bengal in such an acrimonious fashion, he will be expected to deliver the goods to show he is worth the money Mohun Bagan have spent on him.
At the back, Khelemba Meitei will be tasked with bringing some of the solidity seen in Salgaocar's defense last season, to the Mariners, who leaked in goals by the bucket last campaign.
FEDERATION CUP HOPES AND GROUP RIVALS
Kashyap shall be up against his former side in the Federation Cup...
Kashyap is bullish about his side’s chances in the Federation Cup. He told Goal.com, “Our aim is to definitely win the group. While we have a tough group featuring Air India and Churchill Brothers alongwith a qualifier, we will try our best to win the cup.”
Goal.com View –
With the fans giving a mixed response to his joining the Mariners this season, the former Air India coach knows that he cannot afford to slip-up in the Federation Cup. Steve Darby was sacked by Mohun Bagan for a poor showing in the tournament, and if the Kolkatan outfit’s results do not improve from last season, then Kashyap might also be left sweating over his future.
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