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ISL 2018-19: Carles Cuadrat scripting his own legacy at Bengaluru FC

5:38 AM WAT 06/03/2019
Carles Cuadrat Bengaluru FC
The manager has been able to maintain the same level of performance in spite of several key players leaving the club...

In the very first match of Bengaluru FC's campaign in the Indian Super League (ISL) season 5, a banner unfurled from the stands with 'Lead us Carles' written on it in big, bold and blue.

It was a plea mixed with apprehensions of a fan base which had seen key players like Subhasish Bose, John Johnson and Lenny Rodriguez leave the club in the summer transfer market. Edu Garcia had left midway through the previous season for China.

The Bengaluru FC management had taken a bold step in promoting Cuadrat to the hot seat instead of roping in a high-profile candidate after Albert Roca parted ways. And at the end of the league stage, they stand vindicated.

With 34 points from 18 matches, Bengaluru FC have once again topped the league table and this time with a new manager who has inherited a side bereft of four players who were irreplaceable in their respective positions from last season.

In Edu Garcia, Bengaluru lost a player who can single-handedly change the complexion of a match. Whereas Bose and Johnson were the two defensive stalwarts who weathered opposition attacks with aplomb.

The manager has shown the tactical flexibility to work around a number of formations and yet the team did not lose the fluidity that is commonly associated with Bengaluru. He started in a 4-3-3 with Sunil Chhetri, Miku and Udanta Singh upfront, shifted to a 4-4-2 when the Venezuelan striker got injured and has not hesitated to even resort to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Chencho Ghyletshen as the lone striker occasionaly. However, that plan suffered an early demise when the club opted to let go of Chencho midway after he failed to adjust to the coach's style of play.

In the reverse fixture against Goa, the Blues were the second-best side in the first half. A second yellow to Nishu Kumar further complicated matters for the hosts. Circumstances demanded that Cuadrat must think out of the box and the tactician did not disappoint.

He changed the shape to a 4-4-1 and instructed his men to hit Goa on the counter; a style that Bengaluru has resorted to a lot this season. And at the final whistle, the scoreline read 3-0 in favour of his side with Miku putting in one of the best displays of for the Blues. The 33-year old brilliantly held up the long balls from Xisco and Dimas Delgado while Udanta used his pace to run riot.

Cuadrat must also be given credit for bringing out the best from his players even when they are not playing in their usual position. When Miku was injured, apart from using Chencho as a solitary striker he went ahead in deploying Xisco in a false nine with Chhetri and Udanta in the wide areas. Now, in the absence of Erik Paartalu, it is Harmanjot Khabra who slots in as a defensive midfielder.

It is not easy to fill the boots of the likes of Garcia, Rodrigues and others but the 50-year old manager squeezed the best out of his resources available to stitch a formidable unit. His predecessor too had a pehomenal debut season in the ISL but failed at the final hurdle. Now it remains to be seen whether Cuadrat is the Moses who will 'lead' Bengaluru to the coveted ISL trophy.