The two-time Indian champions and the capital outfit will both expect to contend for the title in the new season of the cash-rich league…
Bengaluru FC, one of two new entrants into the Indian Super League (ISL) this year are determined to bring their winning mentality into India’s biggest footballing spectacle and show that they can cut it in the cash-rich league. The Blues will be led by the astute Albert Roca and Carlos Cuadrat who led the southerners to the final of the AFC Cup in 2016 and see them going strong in the continental competition this year. While they had a relatively poor I-League campaign this year, there was some reason to rejoice as the Steelmen took home the Federation Cup.
With all the clubs involved in the ISL having relatively greater financial clout and technical strength compared to the clubs in the I-League, it would be interesting to see how BFC can cope with this in their debut ISL campaign.
One of the key reasons for Bengaluru FC’s success since 2013 can be attributed to the stability in the personnel in their ranks. The club have had a strong spine in John Johnson, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Sunil Chhetri being a regular feature in all of Bengaluru’s winning exploits. However, with the ISL allowing only two senior players to be retained from their current squads, it saw the draft taking away a vast portion of the team that had brought many a title to the Garden City club.
Retaining Chhetri was a no-brainer for the Blues
The club opted to retain Captain Fantastic Chhetri along with highly impressive youngsters Udanta Singh, Nishu Kumar, Daniel Lalhlimpuia (for the AFC Cup) and Malsawmzuala. They were also allowed to retain defensive lynchpins John Johnson, Juanan and have brought in foreign reinforcements in the form of Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado and Antonio Dovale.
However, they were determined to buy back as many players from their I-League squad as possible and this was evident when the club drafted Lenny Rodrigues, Harmanjot Khabra, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Alwyn George and Calvin Abhishek for a combined outlay of Rs 169 lakhs. Bengaluru FC fans will sadly have to say a tearful farewell to Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Rino Anto, Sandesh Jhingan and CK Vineeth, all of whom are firm fan favourites and were plucked up by the remaining clubs in the ISL roster. With a healthy mix of star power and young talent, Roca has assembled a squad that is more than capable of challenging for the ISL title in their debut campaign.
TACTICAL SYSTEM (PROBABLE)
Hailing from Barcelona, Roca will no doubt look to stick to his idea of how football should be played i.e possession based. The Spaniard structured his Bengaluru side to be comfortable in systems with both a 3 man and 4 man backline. The Southerners focussed more on possession as opposed to the counter attacking and direct approach adopted by former coach Ashley Westwood. While the approach was easy to the eye, results spoke otherwise.
The Blues were observed to adopt a 3-4-2-1 system when going forward but dropping back into a 4-2-3-1 when defending during the I-League campaign.
Roca will look to alternate between 3-5-2 and 4-2-3-1 during games
The defence with talented goalkeeper Lalthuammawia practically picks itself as this is the same backline that started nearly every game in the I-League. Khabra and Nishu Kumar’s energy down the flanks will be of vital importance to provide width and overlaps with Davale and Udanta when the Blues go forward. The absence of Cameron Watson who played a pseudo centre half along side Johnson and Juanan will most likely see Erik Paartalu or Lenny playing that role.
With Eugeneson’s departure, a large portion of the creative burden will lie on the shoulders of Sunil Chhetri who came into his own when he was moved into the No.10 role as opposed to cutting inside from the left. Watson’s absence will see fellow Aussie Erik Paartalu filling in the midfield vacancy alongside Lenny Rodrigues. Veteran Dimas Delgado may also be used if Roca seeks a greater degree of control in midfield or when he would like to shut down games by monopolizing possession.
The front 3 will see a change with CK Vineeth’s departure. However, Roca has brought in a handy replacement for the 31-year-old Kerala man in the form of Antonio Dovale who played for Rayo Vallecano last season. The striker will play on the left with Daniel likely leading the line. He will for sure need to hit the ground running in his new adventure as he has stiff competition Chhetri.
Tactical flexibility has been the bedrock of Roca’s football philosophy during his time with the Blues and it would no doubt continue with Bengaluru FC 2.0 as well.