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Goal.com analyzes the red and gold brigade as they prepare for the season ahead...

LAST SEASON

The season which started with so much promise and the rare air of invincibility eventually turned out to be a tale of a 'late season hiccups' as East Bengal succumbed to Salgaocar SC in the race for the coveted I-League title.

And despite their early season exploits which saw them retain the Federation Cup, the failure to win the I-League have certainly left behind a sour ending to the season, especially when it has been a trophy that has eluded the club for some while now.


I-League Loss Was Certainly A Dejecting One

Indeed, a lot were expected of the team as the boys under the new coach Trever Morgan were virtually knocking apart every opposition that came their way early into the campaign. However, as things stood, expectations did not quite fall into the right places. Something that the club and it's management would look to rectify in the coming season.

However, having said that, the season was by no means disastrous, one where they also ended up with the traditional Calcutta Football League, overcoming arch rivals Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, and despite not progressing far in the AFC Cup.

TRANSFERS

In: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Debjit Majumder, Robert Lalthlamuana, Sunil Kumar, Raju Gaikwad, Abhishek Das, Khemtang Paite, Milan Singh, Subodh Kumar, Alan Gow, Charan Rai, Branco Cordozo. Out: Syed Rahim Nabi, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Sushil Kumar Singh.
High Profile Signing Alan Gow Could Be The Transfer Of The Season
It has indeed been a very calculated dip by East Bengal into the transfer market. While all eyes will be on the high profile new signing of Alan Gow, who in fact has played his trade in several notable clubs including Rangers, the transfer of full back Robert Lalthlamuana from Churchill Brothers will further strengthen the defence.

Last but not the least, the arrival of five youngsters from the formerly Indian Arrows team will further rejuvenate the team with young legs and most importantly will add depth to the line-up. Special Mention to a certain 'Indian Rory Delap' Raju Gaikwad.
The core of the team has basically remained the same with only notable departures of Nabi, Wadoo and Sushil. Hence, unlike many of their rivals in the I-League, East Bengal will have a fairly settled squad. An advantage might well help them to find their feet earlier in the season, thus giving then a head start.

PRE-SEASON

East Bengal have played eleven practice matches in the pre-season so far, including the 8-0 rout of Aryans, winning nine, drawing one and losing one of their encounters. Despite a few hiccups in an around the whole pre-season so far, overall they have begun to get into some sort of rhythm now.

The attacking trio of Penn Orji, Robin Singh and Tolgay Ozbey have been quite convincing so far, with previously injured players like Uga Okpara slowly but steadily finding feet.

Also, in an effort to give the players an international exposure ahead of the I-League this season, the red and gold brigade will take part in the Binh Duong Television Cup in Vietnam, and thus will skip the Durand Cup.

KEY PLAYERS

Understandably, East Bengal's forte lies in their strong forward line and hence they will be playing a prominent role. However, the players in the midfield and defence will have to ably support them so as to maintain the balance in the team.

Here is a look at the top 6 players to watch out for East Bengal.
Uga Okpara - The defender from Nigeria will have to play the pivotal role in the defence, providing solidarity as well as the much needed calming influence. A rock solid defence might well be the key to East Bengal's chances this season and hence that is what makes Okpara even more important for Trevor Morgan's scheme of things.
Tolgay Ozbey - The forward from Australia will be a constant threat for the opponent's defence and his consistency could be the difference between success and failure for East Bengal.
Robin Singh -They say centre forwards hunt in pairs and that is what will be expected of Robin Singh. He, along with Tolgay, will have to ably complement each other, if they are to harness a desire to succeed in the I-League.
Raju Gaikwad - Very much into the scheme of things at the national level, Raju Gaikwad will add a new dimension to the line-up with his dependable defensive abilities and exceptional long throwing abilities.
Alan Gow - The high profile signing from Notts County will be the man to watch out for. The Scottish, with vast experience, may well be that impact player from the midfield who can trigger the whole team up.
Mehtab Hussain - The comeback man with his impeccable all-round display at the heart of East Bengal midfield, played out a superb last season. He will again be the integral part of the team this season.
COACH

Trevor Morgan from England has a vast range of coaching experience, having had managed teams in Australia and Singapore. He started his coaching career as an assistant to Terry Cooper at Birmingham City and since then has been a fairly notable presence.

His first season at East Bengal was very commendable and had it not been for the I-League title loss, the season would have been a perfect start to his time at India.

TACTICS

Trevor Morgan is likely to field a 4-4-2 formation with a seemingly fair amount of options available at his disposal. At instances, he may be flexible enough to change it to a 4-1-3-2, especially with his vast variety of choices in the midfield.

The team mostly looks well settled in all the departments, although defence may be a worry in case of injuries and mishaps. In the midfield it might well come down between Penn and Gow to fight for places alongside Mehtab Hussain with Vashum and Harmanjot filling in at the wings. Tolgay and Robin Singh are supposed to lead the 'red and gold' attack.

The formation graphic beside the write-up is our predicted possible first choice starting eleven of East Bengal.


How Do You Think East Bengal Will Fare This Season?

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