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ISL 2018-19: Arnold Issoko and Paulo Machado, Mumbai City's unsung heroes

2:32 AM GMT 05/03/2019
Mumbai City Arnold Issoko Paulo Machado
Modou Sougou is the goalscorer but Arnold Issoko and Paulo Machado are pulling the strings for Mumbai City...

Mumbai City looked an unsettled team at the start of the season. They had good players in the squad but things did not fall into place immediately for Jorge Costa's team.

As the Islanders await FC Goa in the semi-final of the Indian Super League 2018-19, Costa will be extremely proud of his squad that responded well to a distress call after a 5-0 humiliation at the hands of the Gaurs earlier in the season, a result that turned their season around.

Criticised for their dire displays up until then, Mumbai City's foreign contingent, especially the trio of Modou Sougou, Paulo Machado and Arnold Issoko stepped up to the plate and delivered. It was as if these three players realized that their squad had the potential to go all the way.

A sneak peek at the Mumbai City first team will make you think Modou Sougou is the most obvious threat but midfielder Paulo Machado and winger Arnold Issoko have been unsung heroes for the Islanders.

Machado has been the lynchpin in the midfield for Mumbai City. His two goals and four assists do not paint the whole picture of his importance to Costa's style of play. He has used his experience in Portugal and France to good effect in India and has controlled matches for Mumbai almost single-handedly, with Sehnaj Singh only having to worry about the defensive side of the game.

On the right wing, very few full-backs have managed to silence Arnold Issoko. The 26-year-old Congolese has three goals and six assists to his name and has been a constant pillar of support for Sougou, the goalscorer who ends up in the limelight through no fault of his own.

Sougou has been phenomenal for Mumbai City but Issoko and Machado have not received due credit for their performances, simply because they do the dirty work and are comfortable playing the supporting role. Very often, Machado and Issoko have opted to pass rather than shoot and have preferred assists to goal and it has worked incredibly well for the greater good of the team. It is not often that a head coach manages to get players with such a mentality.

The work, however,  is not complete. These three foreign players, alongside Rafael Bastos and Lucian Goian, have gelled well with the Indian contingent to form a solid unit and project a united front this season. Against Goa, who have beaten Mumbai 7-0 over home and away fixtures in the league stage and have a solid defensive unit led by Mourtada Fall, Issoko and Machado will have to bring their A game.