BY AYUSH SRIVASTAVA Follow @ayush_sri on twitter
Performance in the last season: (Finished eighth) - After having narrowly escaped relegation two seasons ago, Mumbai FC surprised everyone with their strong form last season, hob-nobbing with the heavyweights of the league in the top half of the table for most of the campaign. They eventually finished a very creditable eighth, and Khalid Jamil perhaps did not receive the amount of praise that he deserved, for taking a side on such a limited budget, to such a good finish.
| THE COACH
Khalid Jamil is again at the helm of Mumbai FC, and his primary task shall continue to be to keep the club in the I-League, and everything thereafter being a bonus.
The former Indian International employs a safety first approach, with his defense being very hard to break down. The coach came under increased criticism from coaches of other I-League teams last season, as he was deemed to be adopting an increasingly negative philosophy, with their time wasting histrionics particularly coming under the scanner.
That unfortunately hid the fact that the club punched well above their weight in the league, with the coach primarily responsible for it, having unearthed some unknown gems like Gabriel Fernandes and getting the best out of Yusif Yakubu, whom many deemed as being past his prime.
TRANSFERS IN:Like every summer, the Mumbai FC squad has seen plenty of upheaval, with players who established themselves in the league leaving for greener pastures. However the club has surprised many by their ability to attract the likes of Climax Lawrence to the club. He has been joined by former Dempo team-mate Valeriano Rebello, while former Indian International Anwar Ali has also been recruited. Star performers from last season, Nicholas Rodrigues and Haroon Amiri were retained.
Branco Cardozo has also been signed from Air India, to add further impetus to the team’s attack, while former Mohammedan Sporting midfielder Alfred Jaryan has signed on as the club’s third foreigner.
SAFF champion Sandjar Ahmadi set to add to the Afghan flavour
Afghanistan’s SAFF Championship hero, Sandjar Ahmadi, is expected to be the fourth foreign signing of the club, provided he can sort out issues with his German club.
TRANSFERS OUT: N.D Opara and Evans Quao were released, after having an in-effective season, with rumours of a bust-up with the coach towards the end of the campaign also coming out.
Justine Stephen, who resurrected his career at the club, also left for Mohammedan Sporting, while Gabriel Fernandes, who made a great impact as a wing-forward last term, returned to Goa with Dempo SC.
The likes of Abhishek Yadav and Luis Barreto, who was on loan from Dempo SC, decided to switch to the IMG-Reliance league, while midfielders Darren Caldiera and S. Kuttymani moved on to Bengaluru FC.
|FORMATION AND TACTICS
Khalid Jamil likes to experiment with a 3-5-2, but generally starts the season with a 4-4-2 formation, with two deep walls of four players, with the strikers looking to profit on the counter-attack.
Anwar Ali and Valeriano Rebello add some top class experience at the back, though it remains to be seen, if they are still able to deliver at the top level, with Anwar’s mobility in particular, under the scanner.
Climax Lawrence though, still has plenty left in the tank, and Khalid Jamil will be grateful to have a playmaker of his quality and experience, pulling the strings in the middle for him. Alfred is likely to get a spot next to him, and he shall be expected to provide the energy in midfield.
With an U-23 player required to start, Jayesh Rane is likely to profit, with the attacker having shown great signs of promise last term, and will look to step-up to the big stage this campaign.
With the likes of Yusif Yakubu and Sandjar Ahmadi also likely to be available, Mumbai FC definitely have good options upfront.
Man to Watch - Climax Lawrence
Many observers have written off the former Indian International, who has left Dempo SC, after a trophy laden spell with the club. Deemed as being too slow and past his prime for Arthur Papas’ revolution at Dempo, Khalid Jamil, a former midfielder himself, is just the right person, to get the best out of him. While definitely not as mobile as a couple of years ago, the Goan still has a great vision, and can definitely pick a pass.
With Mumbai FC largely dependent on hitting sides on the counter-attack, his ability to find a team-mate in dangerous positions with pin-point passing, shall be invaluable to the squad. With the chance to prove his detractors wrong and show he still has the hunger to succeed at this level, his association with Mumbai FC could be a win-win situation for both the parties.
| SEASON'S TARGET
With experienced heads like Climax, Valeriano, Anwar, Nicholas and Yakubu in the side, the squad is definitely not lacking in experience and class.
It would be a surprise if the side would be involved in a relegation scrape, and a mid-table finish seems likely, while a possibility of a top half of the table standing being a possibility.
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