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We aren't defensive team, maintaining order & being defensive not same, asserts Manolo Marquez

Published at :December 23, 2023 at 1:11 PM
Modified at :January 14, 2024 at 12:31 AM
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Riddhiman Sarkar

The FC Goa coach feels Mohun Bagan’s game against Mumbai City wont affect their preparations.

A buoyant and table-topping FC Goa side will look to return to winning ways against third-placed Mohun Bagan Super Giant on Saturday in the ISL 2023-24. Although they are third, Bagan only have a points difference and, like the Gaurs, two more games in hand in comparison to second-placed Kerala Blasters.

This game is a decider for the eventual trophy as winning it will grant either side a performance as well as a morale boost. Manolo Marquez’s men have been heralded as the more defensive side compared to fellow Spaniard Juan Ferrando’s attack-heavy performances.

However, the former ISL trophy-winning manager’s side has managed to accumulate more resolute displays and gather much-needed points. The mentor sat down with the media ahead of the game in a pre-match press conference alongside star defender Sandesh Jhingan to attend to their queries.    

On Mumbai City-Mohun Bagan match affecting preparations

Mumbai City and Mohun Bagan Super Giants played out a nail-biting thriller with end-to-end heated action that saw the home side concede four and the away side concede three red cards. Although crucial players like Ashish Rai, Liston Colaco and Hector Yuste won’t be available during the Gaurs visit to Kolkata, head coach Manolo Marquez is not willing to treat their opposition lightly. Speaking with an experienced perspective the tactician remarked,

“No yesterday’s game changes nothing for us. Before the game, we already prepared some aspects that maybe we will find on Saturday. We have to be focused on our game. Of course, you have to know which players are available and not in your team. But I had a very similar experience last season. I played in Kolkata and they had a lot of injured players and bans but they still beat us 1-0. I think they didn’t play better than us but we are facing one team, in which all 11 players are starters so they will be very strong. As usual, they will have chances but so will we, to win on Saturday.”

On FC Goa looking and shaping up like a defensive team

As mentioned earlier FC Goa have morphed into a side that doesn’t go all guns blazing always. Instead they hold their horses and strike when the opportune moment arises as can be seen in their wins against Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters and Punjab FC. In all three of those games they won by a goal and kept a clean sheet. Additionally they have conceded only thrice and are on an unbeaten streak, but they have only scored more than twice without reply only once in the 3-0 victory over Chennaiyin FC. On being asked whether this is a trademark approach and whether he prefers a defensive mentality, the manager replied,

“No, we are not a defensive team. It’s true that I like order but maintaining order and being defensive are not the same thing. Except the last game; in some moments Mumbai pushed up high. In the other games, more or less we had more clear chances to win the game with more than one goal. Even against Jamshedpur, we scored very late. They played very good (football) but we had a lot more chances than them.

“Even in the first game against Punjab, we didn’t play a good game but we created a lot of chances. I think if we are more clinical with more calmness, as I reiterate in all my press conferences, our season will be very good. I’m very satisfied with the performances of not only the players playing during training sessions. I try to remember that there are players who are not playing in these sessions because they are key members in the squad and you need them to have a good season.”

On playing away to Mohun Bagan who will have the crowd backing them

Mohun Bagan Super Giants will have one of Indian football fraternity’s revered fan bases cheering for them. Amidst the roars of applause, the Gaurs might find it daunting to display their usual prowess but Manolo Marquez said otherwise. According to the Spanish coach there won’t be too big of a difference. He further added,

“I know that there are coaches who say that. For me in I-League the difference between home and away games is big. In ISL my experience isn’t that. It’s similar (home and away matches). You don’t change too much. At least my teams here we don’t change too much if play at home or away. It’s more about the qualities of the opponent. For example the other day we play at home, in the last 10 minutes, they pushed and were attacking more than us. I don’t know why, maybe they finish better or they are a very very good team. But in Kolkata we will try to play a game similar to the one we play at the Fatorda.”

On performing consistently for the national team and the club

It is impossible to overstate the contribution Sandesh Jhingan has made to this FC Goa arrangement. With Jay Gupta and Seriton Fernandes on either side, he has partnered brilliantly with Odei Onaindia in the back, and the combination has helped FC Goa achieve great success thus far. In his eight appearances thus far, Jhingan has averaged 32 passes at an accuracy of 80%, 1.1 tackles, and 5.5 clearances per game. On being asked whether this has been a standout season for him, the seasoned veteran quipped,

“See the way I look at it; what I’ve done in the last 12 years in the ISL and for the national team, I praise myself a lot. Personally, I love the way I play but I am also my biggest critic. But I always want to look a year ahead. Some say, last year in Bengaluru FC (BFC) you had the best year. Some say, before that when I went to Croatia or all these years they say ‘That was your best year’ and that’s the way it’s been since season one. But my target’s always been how good I can be in the next game that’s gonna come. That’s when I sit to pray before the game, and I tell myself (to have) the best game till date. It’s gonna be the best game I ever played. So that’s the approach I have. 

I never put so much emphasis on whether I’m having a great season or not, it’s more about the team. Like, am I helping the team the way I can to my full potential which will help the team get the points. I’m always looking at the guy in front which is the future me. I’m always interested to be proud of the guy I am today, so it’s all about the next game or the season that is ahead. So I won’t sit now in the present and start praising myself and criticizing whether I have had a good season or not. We go game by game and yeah that’s it. 

If I am starting in all the games and the coach is picking me, it means I’m doing something good. I’m contributing in the clean sheets but it’s a team effort and everyone chips in. It’s not just about the clean sheet; the whole point is to get the result and improve as a team day by day and game by game. That’s the target and that’s what we focus on in training and on match days. ”  

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