Six games into the season, it has been quite a dramatic start to the season. 3 coaches have been shown the door, big spending Prayag United have hit ten past a listless United Sikkim FC while ONGC stunned what was a formidable Dempo SC side at Delhi.
However while all the teams around them have been making all the noise, East Bengal have slowly and steadily risen to the top of the league and are the only unbeaten side in the competition.
That East Bengal are an efficient unit under Trevor Morgan is no secret, with the club being in contention for silverware in every season since the Englishman has joined the club.
But having spent the summer embroiled in the Tolgay Ozbey transfer saga and eventually having left their Asian quota slot vacant, one could have been forgiven for thinking that the Kolkatan side could suffer from a blip. Especially since their forwards are either out injured or often blow hot and cold.
East Bengal though showed they meant business by winning the Federation Cup. Trevor Morgan has since shown that good organization trumps star power in the marathon that is the I-League season.
Unlike other title contenders, the Kolkatan outfit have not set the charts on fire, scoring just nine goals this season, with Chidi Edeh and Manandeep Singh being far from spectacular. With Robin Singh and Baljit Sahni not available for selection, Morgan has stuck with the duo, but they have not really formed a very formidable strike-force.
Penn Orji has yet again be a vital player for East Bengal this season...
Their strengths though, lie elsewhere though. Penn Orji has continued to develop into one of the most talented playmakers in the game. His mobility, touch and vision are what drives East Bengal forward, and which has seen them go 30 games unbeaten in the domestic circuit, beginning from last season.
However it is their defensive record which is truly jaw-dropping. The Red and Gold have conceded a solitary goal in six games so far, which considering the high-scoring nature of the I-League this season, is simply unbelievable.
It should come as no surprise then, that they have amazing depth at the back, with the likes of Raju Gaikwad struggling to get a game as Arnab Mondal and Gurwinder Singh also vie for a starting berth alongside possibly the best defender in the league in Uga Okpara.
Of course, immense credit has to go to Trevor Morgan. While the other two big Kolkatan sides, Prayag United and Mohun Bagan have splashed the cash out, East Bengal could have been tempted to spend lavishly.
And though the Red and Gold are amongst the bigger spenders in the league, they have definitely spent much more wisely than their rivals. Now with the club set to round up their foreign quota with an Australian striker Andrew Barisic reportedly to be roped in, they could only become stronger.
Morgan is looking to fill-up his foreign quota...
Especially if the new striker fills the void left by his fellow countryman and Robin Singh and Baljit Sahni return to the team, it shall certainly help improve the potency of the squad upfront.
Perhaps the club board also deserves some plaudits for sticking with Trevor Morgan when a section of the fans wanted him out last season. A trait some other clubs have failed to show.
The result is there for all to see. Continuity in philosophy and personnel under the Englishman has seen a disciplined and organized side rise to the top of the table. And the onus is now on other teams to displace them from the top.
With management instability, squad indiscipline and lack of depth holding back their immediate rivals, one has to wonder whether this is the season when Kolkata finally brings the elusive and much coveted league title to their shores.
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