Chennai City FC, who were granted entry into the I-League last season, surprised many by coming up with several impressive results in their debut campaign which saw them finish the league in eighth spot with 17 points from 18 games.
The highlights were their home wins against eventual champions Aizawl FC and East Bengal while they also managed to hold Bengaluru FC. That this came despite a change in coaching personnel midway through the season and other infrastructure challenges in Chennai showed the club in a good light.
With a season of top-tier league football under their belt, one would have expected Chennai City to show an improvement in their performances when the new season of I-League kicked off this November 25th.
However, all that we've witnessed has been shoddy performances from the team who shifted base to Coimbatore at the start of the season and find themselves eighth on the table with just a point from three games.
It can be pointed out that some of their regulars from last season like Karanjit Singh, Dhanpal Ganesh, Zakeer Mundampara etc have shifted allegiances to other Indian Super League (ISL) clubs. But a look at Minerva Punjab FC and that argument falls down.
They have lost some of their most promising players as well but have recruited well this time around, with the likes of Chencho Gyeltshen (Bhutan) and William Opoku (Ghana) already sparkling for the team. Currently they are top of the table with 10 points from four games and the dropped points came against Mohun Bagan.
This is where Chennai City have been found out this season. Their player recruitment has been below-par, especially the foreign contingent. When they signed an agreement during off-season with Finnish club JS Hercules, much was expected in terms of them getting good overseas players into the team.
From what we've witnessed so far, the foreign players have been a massive disappointment for Chennai City. This was something that coach V Soundararajan expressed after a humiliating 0-3 defeat against Indian Arrows, which consisted mostly of 17-year-olds.
Kyrgyz defender Venyamin Shumeyko, Slovenian goalkeeper Uros Poljanec were all disappointing in that game, with striker Lucky Kelechukwa also letting down the team.
"Our foreigners did not do well. I was expecting a lot from the two strikers. If we played 4-4-1-1 with Lucky (Kelechukwu) behind the striker then maybe we would have fared better," quipped a frustrated Soundararajan after that game.
That trend has continued and the performance of the foreign recruits has not really improved. Chennai City managed a 'not-so-creditable' draw with newcomers Gokulam Kerala FC who could and should have picked full points from that tie before falling to Minerva Punjab in their subsequent game.
Uros Poljanec was rightly slammed for his performance against Minerva where he literally handed a goal on a platter for William Opoku. Importantly, such errors are not expected of somebody you have recruited from bigger countries, in a footballing sense.
It says a lot that Chennai City's best player is currently Michael Soosai Raj, despite all these foreign arrivals. French striker Jean Micheal Joachim has already scored two goals for the team and has worked hard. But his end product has often been found wanting and needs to improve.
But at least he has made an impact. For the rest of the players, the less said the better.