“Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson’s quote has been given the green tick by the 2018/19 season of the Indian Super League. Four of the best defences in the league in Bengaluru, Goa, Mumbai City and NorthEast United have progressed to the play-offs. The four teams have conceded 17, 20, 18 and 18 goals respectively and no other team in the league have conceded fewer goals.
Additionally, Goa, Mumbai and NorthEast are tied at the top of the clean-sheets chart with seven clean-sheets each. Bengaluru is next in line with five clean-sheets.
Custodians Gurpreet Singh sandhu, Mohammad Nawaz, Naveen Kumar, Amrinder Singh and Pawan Kumar naturally deserve credit for all the times they helped their team get through ninety minutes without letting in a goal. But the defensive lines ahead of them have had a major role to play in whatever defensive milestones the teams have achieved.
Carlos Pena and Mourtada Fall have been outstanding for Goa ever since the international break. Major credits should be directed towards boss Sergio Lobera for ensuring that his teams worked on their weaknesses and eventually converted themselves into one of the best defences in the league. Prior to being battered by Bengaluru last week, Goa had kept five clean-sheets in a row – an incredible achievement for a defensively fragile side mid-way through the season. Consequently, they eased into the play-offs.
As for Bengaluru, new-signing Albert Serran and unsung hero Juanan Gonzalez have been great. But their defensive success has majorly been factored by boss Carles Cuadrat’s defensive system which relies more on a high-line and intelligent positioning of the players.
At one point, Mumbai City were home to arguably the best defence in the league – but much like Bengaluru – they failed to replicate their pre-international break performances post January.
NorthEast coach Eelco Schattorie has never shied away from showering praises on Mislav Komorski, a player he considers vital for the tea’s success. Mato Grgic has provided him with able support at the back.
One should also note that none of these teams have compromised on their attack despite being defensively solid, a balance that ATK had trouble finding.
Clearly, a solid defence is vital to succeed in the ISL. Something to invest upon in the seasons to come?