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ISL 2018-19: Mumbai City have made the right choices in transfer market

07:08 GMT+3 15/09/2018
Rafael Bastos
Judicious additions in transfer market make Mumbai City firm favourites to qualify for play-offs...

The crisis at Mumbai City has led to a busy summer in the transfer market with the under-performers being replaced by shrewd signings who have shown consistency in the previous campaign.  

The defence was a perennial problem in the last edition as their brittle backline conceded 29 goals in 18 matches. To make things tight at the back the Islanders have raked in some of the best defenders of the previous season. Subashish Bose, Souvik Chakrabarti and Shouvik Ghosh are the notable domestic additions who were standout performers for their respective clubs in Indian Super League (ISL) season 4. 

Chakrabarti, a star alumnus of the Mohun Bagan academy, was an undisputable starter at Jamshedpur FC who reigned supreme at the right back position. He made 18 appearances and with 49 tackles and 59 clearances, he was vital for Coppell's team. He was equally comfortable in surging forward with the ball as he floated 49 crosses into the box from the wide areas. A versatile campaigner, the former Air India player can also slot in as a defensive midfielder. 

India U23 skipper Bose has been another blockbuster addition to the Mumbai defence. He was a regular at Bengaluru FC and had been impressive at the left back position. He clocked 1293 minutes under his belt in 19 appearances and made 59 clearances and 28 blocks. His superior sense of positioning and anticipation means he can also play as a centre-back if needed. One can expect a flurry of crosses from the flanks as Mumbai have roped in two of the very best full-backs in the country who are known for floating inch-perfect crosses. They also have good backups in Davinder Singh and Shouvik Ghosh.

Lucian Goian has been retained who is expected to be partnered by Marko Klisura at the heart of defence. The 25-year-old Klisura plied his trade in the Serbian and Uzbekistan first-tier and in the 2017-18 season and had been a regular in both the countries. Anwar Ali can provide the perfect cover for these two centre backs although the former Mohun Bagan defender had a sporadic outing with ATK last season. 

In midfield Raynier Fernandes, Milan Singh, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy and Mohammed Rafique have been added to the roaster. All four recruitments are well-calculated moves as each one of them had played an integral role in their former outfits. While Fernandes and Rafique put in assuring performances for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal respectively, Singh was making a name for himself with the Kerala Blasters. The Manipuri midfielder made 17 appearances throughout the course of the ISL season and became a non-negotiable starter in the David James era courtesy of his disciplined and consistent performances at the centre of the park. 

Similarly, Dakshinamurthy was the mainstay of Ozone FC's midfield in the 2nd Division I-league. His inspiring performances not only led the Bengaluru based team to the final round of the competition but also earned him a call-up for the Indian SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) squad. 

There is also Sehnaj Singh who can add some physique and steel to the midfield. 

The newly-recruited overseas contingent is equally exciting as Paulo Machado, Modou Sogou and Rafael Bastos are expected to be the trump cards for Portuguese manager Jorge Costa. Bastos is a former UEFA Champions League campaigner with CFR Cluj and has rubbed shoulders against the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Darren Fletcher which is a testimony of his class and quality. He is another versatile player who can slot in as an attacking midfielder or as a left winger with equal ease. 

On the other hand, Sougou is known for his blistering pace and ability to play on both the flanks. He has also plied his trade in Europe's elite club competition and has the experience of working with head coach Costa during his stint with CFR Cluj.

Meanwhile, Machado is expected to be the focal point of initiating attacks from midfield as he has the capability to orchestrate the rhythm of the game with his excellent passing skills. He was a regular with Portuguese first-tier side Desportivo Aves and has 1440 minutes of playing time under his belt in 23 matches in the 2017-18 season.

Both Bastos and Machado are good with free-kicks as well. 

Moreover, after an injury-plagued season with Delhi Dynamos, Matias Mirabaje will be ready to fire with all cylinders to prove a point to his ex-employers. 

The Mumbai think-tank has given a free reign to the new gaffer as far as foreign transfers are concerned. He has brought in players with whom he has worked in the past which should favour the tactician while devising a style of play. Apart from Mirabaje, all the new recruits had been a vital cog in their former teams last season. The fitness levels of the fresh faces should not be an area of concern as the majority of them have spent more close to or more than 1000 minutes on the pitch in the last season. 

After finishing at the top of the pack in 2016, it was a setback for the Ranbir Kapoor co-owned side to languish at the seventh spot in the league table. But they have made some well chalked out moves in the transfer market to ensure that there is no dearth of quality in any department. If the team can set the tone for the season with some impressive displays in the opening round of fixtures, Mumbai have the potential to make it into top-four.