Khalid Jamil's appointment as Mohun Bagan coach received a lukewarm response from fans. The Mumbai-based coach was not fortunate enough to be welcomed amidst fanfare from the airport (a common practice for both the Kolkata Giants) and instead might go down in history as the first coach of Bagan who was trolled by his own fans on social media even before his first training session.
Jamil has a two-front war ahead of him, one on the pitch and one off it. And the result of the next two on-pitch battles will have a seismic effect on both the war fronts.
Mohun Bagan has been a rudderless ship under the aegis of Shankar Lal Chakraborty with minimum cohesion and fluidity among the three departments. The Mariners have been leaky in defence and wasteful in front of goal.
They have won just one out of their six home games this season and their backline has looked like a fish out of water at the mammoth Salt Lake Stadium. Their centre-backs were out of position (an oft-repeated occurrence this season) during Real Kashmir's opening goal last week. Also, Arijit Bagui was no match for Mason Robertson's aerial abilities.
Jamil has to mend the fractured defence as quickly as possible before turning his attention to other pressing concerns. Minerva Punjab might not be one of those sides who are known for their goal-scoring prowess but their ability to hit on the counter through the likes of William Opoku and Akash Sangwan is definitely a reason to worry about.
Whereas, NEROCA FC have been a completely different outfit since Katsumi Yusa has returned from injury. The attacking trident of Yusa-Subhash Singh-Odili Chidi has scored 10 in their last five outings and has enough firepower to turn the 90 minutes into a nightmare for Eze Kingsley and co.
Bagan boasts of the most fearsome (at least on paper) attacking quadrant in I-League but their frontline players have been a mere shadow of their former selves. Apart from Sony Norde, the rest of the contingent have been plagued by sloth, inaccuracy and recklessness. Even Norde has been injured quite a bit and has not been involved much. Henry Kisekka has struggled to get past his markers whereas Aser Dipanda has missed schoolboy chances in front of goal. And although Omar Elhuseinny has shown flashes of brilliance, he has been inconsistent.
Jamil is often criticised for being a defensive coach which is possibly the right antidote for Bagan's woes, given the current circumstances. The need of the hour is to string together an organized backline and the former Mumbai FC coach is known for his defensive organisation. Both Aizawl and East Bengal had the second-best defensive records in the league during Jamil's tenure as head coach. His teams can score a goal or two as well since East Bengal netted the most (32) in the previous edition of the I-League.
The next two counters are crucial for Jamil's fortunes at Bagan as his third game is against his former employers East Bengal. It is of utmost importance to win over the fans before a derby and only six points from the next two fixtures can ensure that for the I-League winning coach.