I-LEAGUE SPECIAL | BY KAUSTAV BERA
Ahead of the new I-League season, Goal analyses the teams in India's top flight and in this piece, we focus on the Mariners from Kolkata.
|MOHUN BAGAN AC|
Last season’s performance: Finishing Position - 2nd
Mohun Bagan had already accomplished their goal in 2014-15 when they finally managed to win the I-League, after eight seasons of trying and failing seven times.
Yet, last season was all about trying to prove that it was not a fluke as they looked to defend their hard-won title. While they eventually failed in their bid with Bengaluru FC back with a vengeance, they did give it a shot with only two points separating them from the summit.
If one had to find out the reason why they lost the trophy, the answer is simple enough - too many draws. In the 16 matches, Bagan drew six while Bengaluru were only held twice. If they had successfully converted even one of these draws to a win, the title would have been theirs.
For first 11 matches of the season there was no stopping the Sanjoy Sen-led juggernaut as they were undefeated with seven wins. Just when it seemed that they were running away with the title, two defeats in a row against Aizawl and East Bengal really knocked the wind off their sail. Thereafter, they stuttered to two draws in a row which was where they lost the title as Bengaluru picked up pace. Interestingly, Sen missed the four matches where Bagan struggled after being suspended from the touchline by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Their thumping of Bengaluru 5-0 in the season-ender was a dead rubber with Bengaluru already having sealed the title before their journey to Siliguri.
|THE COACH - SANJOY SEN|
When Sanjoy Sen was brought in after Mohun Bagan removed Subash Bhowmick, no one, let alone Sen himself, had any inkling of the things to come.Everyone expected the usual, a stuttering finish and the coach gone before the next season starts. However, it was a fairytale finish as Sen managed to win the title in his very first season in-charge dismantling the mighty Benglauru FC.
With precious little experience at the top level, the former United SC coach is not known hide his thoughts which also resulted in the touchline ban that derailed his last season as Mohun Bagan failed to defend their title.
He did manage to claim some glory as he added the Federation Cup title after the I-League challenge went bust.
Known for his man management skills, Sen is not the best tactician in the fray. But he makes up for that with his motivational skills which several of his players have commended as the reason for their success.
The Green and Maroon haven't seen any mass movement unlike their city rivals and have opted to make minimum changes by retaining the core of their squad.
While Katsumi Yusa and Sony Norde will continue, the aging Luciano Sobrosa and Cornell Glenn have been axed and rightly so.
Centre-back Eduardo Ferreira who had turned out for FC Pune City in the Indian Super League has been brought in. He could prove to be a good addition as he was probably the only good thing about the terrible Pune defence this year. Anas Edathodika too has been drafted in and would have no problems fitting in, especially after his commanding performances with Delhi Dynamos. The other addition in defence is the promising Subhasish Bose from Sporting Goa who can play as a full back on either side.
In attack, Darryl Duffy who plied for Bagan in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) will complement Jeje Lalpekhlua upfront. Balwant Singh will be an option from the bench with the Punjab striker looking to prove himself all over again.
Sehnaj Singh, who had jumped ship to East Bengal last season, has curiously been re-drafted.
Otherwise, Sanjoy Sen has also brought into the senior team a clutch of academy kids with the likes of Raynier Fernandes and Sourav Das waiting in the wings to make their mark.
Goalkeepers: Debjit Majumder, Shilton Paul, Pawan Kumar, Shibinraj K
Defenders: Sarthak Golui, Eduardo, Raju Gaikwad, Anas Edathodika, Shouvik Ghosh, Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das, Kingshuk Debnath, Subhasish Bose
Midfielders: Katsumi Yusa, Souvik Chakraborty, Bikramjit Singh, Pronay Halder, Sehnaj Singh, Kean Lewis, Sony Norde, Pankaj Moula, Robinson Singh, Sourav Das, Raynier Fernandes
Attackers: Darryl Duffy, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, Azharuddin Mallick,
Sanjoy Sen will not change much as he would look to play with his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 formation.
Debjit Majumder will be the number one between the sticks with Shilton Paul his deputy.
Anas Edathodika would line-up with Eduardo in the heart of defence with Raju Gaikwad and Kinshuk Debnath as backup. In the fullback positions, Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das would be the coach's first choice with the likes of Shouvik Ghosh, Subhasish Bose doubling up as options. The versatility of Gaikwad and Debnath too will come in handy as they are handy to play wide in defence.
Sen does have a plethora of options in central midfield and will be spoilt for choice between the likes of Pronay Halder, Sehnaj Singh, Bikramjit Singh and Souvik Chakraborty. In tight matches where he would require two hard-tackling midfielders, Sehnaj and Pronay will be the choice while ball-players like Souvik and Bikramjit too will come of use.
The two wing positions would have Bagan's two talismanic players occupying them - Sony Norde and Katsumi Yusa with both crucial if Bagan were to win the league this time around. However with Kean Lewis having a terrific season with Delhi Dynamos, there is every chance that Sen moves Yusa centrally to accommodate the winger.
The two striking positions would be occupied by Darryl Duffy and Jeje. The Mizoram striker had a standout season for Bagan last time around and even though he did not light up the pitch with Chennaiyin FC, he will look to be back with a bang.
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Sony Norde - Arguably the best player in the league for the last two seasons, the Haitian dynamo will again need to hit peak form if Bagan are to reclaim their lost title. Possessing everything, including pace, trickery as well as goals, Norde is every defenders' worst nightmare.
Kean Lewis - The Indian winger would be Bagan's dark horse as he seems bustling with energy as was evidenced in his brilliant performance in the ISL. With a knack for cutting in and going for the kill, Bagan certainly will have the best wingers in the business if Sen decides to play him.
Katsumi Yusa - The Japanese playmaker has really thrived in Kolkata and has grown in confidence as time went on. He now looks to shoulder increasing responsibility by almost steering the team along. A tireless player, Yusa has also bettered the defensive aspect of his game.
The Mariners are hell-bent on proving that their title win was not a once in a blue-moon event and they would look to reclaim their crown which they lost narrowly from the clutches of Bengaluru FC.