Bengaluru FC have been serial winners since 2014 but for the first time, they have fallen short in the 2019-20 season and it has been an unremarkable campaign for the Blues, with very few positives to take away.
However, as is the case with every failure, questions will be raised. And one major question about Carles Cuadrat's team, after their semi-final exit from the ISL, would be, if the team had enough firepower in them to power through and defend their title.
There were even questions asked of the competence of the coach on social media among the fans and pundits alike. However, it feels a bit harsh on the Spaniard, given the fact that he has managed to overachieve with what he had at his disposal.
Cuadrat has, more than once, brought up the departure of Miku in his pre-match and post-match press conferences. After suffering a 1-3 loss to ATK in the second leg of the semi-final on Sunday, Cuadrat reasoned, "You have to pay for goals. This is football. My suggestions were to maintain the team (from last season). But for business decisions, we lost Miku and Xisco (Hernandez)."
The Blues faced a huge struggle to score goals throughout the season - only Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United, the two teams who finished at the bottom, have scored fewer goals than Cuadrat's team.
They brought in Manuel Onwu who struggled to fit into Cuadrat's system and later found success at Odisha FC in the second half of the season. Onwu's success at Odisha should be something that concerns the team management. The Spaniard was brilliant when he was afforded proper service at Odisha while he didn't fit in to Cuadrat's system. It begs a question why he was recruited without ensuring his style of play matches what the manager was looking to implement.
Then came Jamaican duo Deshorn Brown and Kervaughn Frater who failed to solve the scoring woes. You can't fault the duo too much since they had very less time to adapt. Even then, they were not entirely convincing. Highest scorer Sunil Chhetri, in one of his worst campaigns as a Bengaluru forward, scored nine goals from 17 starts.
Cuadrat isn't faultless. He was exposed tactically more than once during the league campaign.
In fact, once Cuadrat felt his team was not performing in attack, he went back to his plan B which was set-pieces. It can be said that he was forced to resort to plan B from the very beginnning of the season. From this point of view, it is commendable that the Spaniard managed to drag the club into the play-offs.
The scatter-gun approach to recruitment by the club in the transfer market certainly backfired while the form and fitness of the players they signed did not help matters.
While Udanta Singh's lack of improvement in the final third can test Andromeda's patience, newly-signed Ashique Kuruniyan, added to the attacking woes from the opposite flank. Safe to say, the young Indian duo didn't play well.
There were a few injuries that did not help Cuadrat too. Albert Serran was injured in the middle of the season, Chhetri missed a few key games and Erik Paartalu was injured at the start of the season. Raphael Augusto looked like he could make a difference before he was ruled out for the season with an injury. Also hitting the injury mattress in between was Thongkhosiem Haokip and Rahul Bheke.
Bengaluru signed just six foreigners out of their quota of seven at the start of the season before these issues forced them to sign a total of nine foreigners through the season. Which begs the question why they did not sign seven at the beginning which would've given Cuadrat more options.
Bengaluru also paid a transfer fee for Ashique and back-up goalkeeper Prabsukhan Gill. While Ashique had a horror season, Gill was brought in for just one season and played just two games. The former Indian Arrows keeper has decided to join Kerala Blasters on a free at the end of the season.
Now Bengaluru have to search for a new back-up to Gurpreet which throws light on a poor management decision. For once, the club's policies also needs to share the blame for the 'debacle' this season.
When you have a 20-goal striker (Miku) in your arsenal and you let him leave, you are bound to suffer quite a bit. When their replacements aren't of the same level, the impact is doubled. Did Bengaluru FC think their 35-year-old topscorer could manage on his own this season?