The I-League 2017/18 kicks off in four days and as ten teams prepare for a new season of football extravaganza, Goal takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team in their hunt for the trophy.
In this article, we analyse the squad of four times I-League champions Mohun Bagan. The Mariners were pipped to the title by Aizawl FC last season, despite being the favourite to win it going into the penultimate round of the competition. However, a defeat to the eventual champions ensured their season ended in heartbreak. Coach Sanjoy Sen will be doubly determined to ensure he gets his hands on the title this time around.
Mohun Bagan's squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Shilton Paul, Shibinraj K., Soram Poirei
Defenders: Arijit Bagui, Kingsley Obumneme, Kinshuk Debnath, Bikramjeet Singh, Suman Hazra, Abhishek Das, Bikash Saini, Ricky Lallawmawma, Gurjinder Kumar.
Midfielders: Chesterpaul Lyngdoh, Azharuddin Mullick, Sony Norde, Diogo Ferreira, Yuta Kinowaki Raynier Fernandes, Shilton D’Silva, Nikhil Kadam, Sourav Das, Rohit Mirza, Israil Gurung, Pintu Mahato.
Forwards: Ansumana Kromah, Dipanda Dicka, Uttam Rai, Beikhokhei Beingaicho, Naro Hari Srestha.
Mohun Bagan has arguably the best player in the I-League this time arund in Haitian international Sony Norde. The talismanic winger renewed his contract and extended his association with the Green and Maroons for the fourth consecutive season.
Indian football fans are familiar with the brilliance of the winger and know how he can single-handedly win matches for a team. Norde’s presence in the Bagan squad is a huge strong point for Sanjoy Sen.
Another important aspect of the Mohun Bagan is their coach Sanjoy Sen who has done wonders with this club in the last three seasons. He won the I-League in 2015 and finished runner-up by a small margin in the last two editions. He had also conquered the Federation Cup in 2016 and finished second to Bengaluru FC last season. Sen is one of the best coaches in the country right now and his experience will count for a lot.
Mohun Bagan’s strike force this season has two heavyweight foreign players - last I-League’s top scorer Dipanda Dicka and former Churchill Brothers talisman Ansumana Kromah. Both the strikers are accustomed to the Kolkata atmosphere. Dicka had played for Mohammedan Sporting in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) and was also the top scorer of the tournament with 11 goals.
Kromah was a part of the Bagan squad from the beginning of the season and impressed with his performance in the CFL. The combination of Dicka and Kromah is one of the deadliest strike forces in I-League this season.
Mohun Bagan may have recruited some of the best foreign players in I-League this season but they have failed to add quality Indian names to their squad. Unlike arch-rivals East Bengal, who have some of the biggest Indian names, Bagan are banking on unproven youngsters. They have players like Nikhil Kadam, Azharuddin Mullick, Kinshuk Debnath in their squad but these players are yet to prove their abilities as match winners on the biggest stage. Their Indian guns need to fire if Bagan want to win the coveted trophy this season.
The Green and Maroons were forced to release their best goalkeeper in the last few seasons, Debjit Majumder, who joined Indian Super League side ATK. In Debjit’s absence veteran custodian Shilton Paul will have to take the onus under the bar.
Shilton is Mohun Bagan’s first choice goalkeeper this time and they have Shibinraj K and Soram Poirei to assist him. While none of these goalkeepers are bad, we have seen in the CFL how they have a tendency to concede soft goals at crucial moments. All three custodians have to be at their best in order to help the club win the title this season.
Teenage sensation Chesterpaul Lyngdoh joined Mohun Bagan this season from Churchill Brothers. He was an instant hit at the club with brilliant performances in the CFL. His speedy runs down the flanks, his stellar crosses and flashy play were all eye-catching. Under coach Sanjoy Sen’s tutelage, the youngster has a chance to blossom and make a name for himself in Indian football this season.
Another youngster who has a chance to shine in this season is right back Arijit Bagui. Ace defender Pritam Kotal left Mohun Bagan this season to join ISL side Delhi Dynamos which left a big void in the Bagan backline. During the CFL, Bagan’s makeshift coach Shankarlal Chakraborty regularly fielded Bagui on the right side and the player impressed with his performance. Now as the stage gets bigger, the youngster needs to up his game and perform.
The Danger Man
Mohun Bagan’s danger man this season is undoubtedly their Haitian superstar Sony Norde. Since Jose Ramirez Barreto and Odafa Okolie's departure from the club, Norde has become the fan favourite player at the club. His flashy performances and the ability to win matches singlehandedly is what makes him the superstar he is. Norde is the captain of the Mohun Bagan side this season and the fans will hope that their star player fires and bring back the I-League trophy.