The Mariners are one of the favorites to win the CFL title this season.
Mohun Bagan will be out there to defend their CFL title and will look to use the league as a pre-season for the all-important I-League to follow. Former Mohun Bagan coach Shankarlal Chakraborty used his resources well an had a great blend of young local players along with the likes of experienced foreigners. However, the transition from CFL to I-League was not great for the Green and Maroons under Chakraborty as he resigned mid-season following poor run on form, leaving the club in a lot of muddle.
Similarly newly appointed coach Jose Antonio ‘Kibu’ Vicuna must first get used to the conditions and allow his side to gel with each other. He can use the CFL as a ground of assessment and can also win the competition if he uses his resources properly.
5. Presence of Kibu Vicuna in the Mohun Bagan dugout
The appointment of Spanish tactician Kibu Vicuna was a new dawn for the Mariners. The Green and Maroons desperately needed someone of his calibre to steady the ship, before he can hope of taking it to greater heights.
Vicuna has been the understudy of Jan Urban for a long time and has had valuable experiences in teams like Legia Warsaw, Zaglebie Lubin, CA Osasuna and Lech Poznan. His experiences of handling pressure in crunch situation will help the Mariners in the long run, something he will like to infuse within the players as well.
His arrival at the helm of Mohun Bagan is definitely an upgrade over the coaches they have had recently and hence it gives the fans renewed hope of defending the CFL title.
4.The backroom staff are as important as the team itself
Along with Vicuna, the Mariners have also roped in his assistant Tomas Tchorz. The Polish tactician was with Vicuna at Wisla Plock, his former club in Poland. Hence Tchorz knows Vicuna well and is also adapt to his style of play. The young tactician has an impressive resume which shows his works like youth teams at Sporting Club de Portugal, Legia Warszawa and Wisla Krakow. He will definitely be a valuable addition to the dugout.
Former East Bengal assistant, Ranjan Chowdhury also joins the fray as the Indian assistant coach. Chowdhury has been working in the grassroots for a long time and has the ability to unearth exciting local talents. His views on Indian players will be crucial to Vicuna at least in the initial days. The Green and Maroons have also appointed a new physical trainer in the form of Michael Johnson Abotsi who has special expertize in strength and conditioning. The Ghanaian was with South African club Highland Park FC, he has also worked with Ghana weight-lifting team and was the conditioning coach of renowned South African side, Orlando Pirates.
Injuries are a huge factor for any team as they can hinder the whole process. However, Mohun Bagan will be hoping that the appointment of Abotsi will bore fruit later in the campaign.
3. Defence has been the point of concern for the Mariners
It is believed that the Mariners have learnt a lesson from last season’s defensive frailties and hence the first department they wanted to solidify was the backline. Experienced players like Dhanachandra Singh and Ashutosh Mehta have joined the fray and will add more stability to the backline and will also allow more width to the attack on the overlaps. Last season’s one of the better performers Arijit Bagui stays at the club which means there will be a healthy competition among top players in the club. It will allow Vicuna to assess the conditions and the opponent and use his preferred weapon.
Mohun Bagan’s first signing in the transfer window was Spanish centre back Francisco Morante. The 27-year old centre back joins Mohun Bagan from Spanish third division club Internacional de Madrid. The Spaniard has experience of featuring in youth teams of Granada and Cordoba and has played for clubs like Real Murcia and Salamanca in the past. Morante looks great with the ball and exceptional in air, becoming an aerial threat for opposition from set pieces. He looks like a vital cog in Vicuna’s team for the upcoming season.
Apart from the high profile names trusted versatile defender Gurjinder Singh and Sukhdev Singh have also held their forts for another season. Local boy Koushik Sarkar has also joined the ranks from cross-town rivals, East Bengal. The defence looks a lot better compared to last season and there is a lot of cover for Vicuna to try out different players until he finds the perfect combination to his liking.
2. A tried and tested man under the bars
One area where the Mariners were very lacklustre was between the sticks. Shilton Paul is a very experienced campaigner but his indecisiveness and inconsistency sometimes become the difference between the two sides. He lacks the pace that is required to charge out of the box and cause unwanted problems for his backline. His distribution has not been the best in the I-League last season.
Similarly young custodian Shankar Roy was also very inconsistent and lacks that commanding attitude required to marshal the backline. He definitely caught the eye last season with a few impressive performances but lost his cool in crunch fixtures. Hence the Mariners have brought back former goalkeeper Debjit Majumder from ATK to adress the issue. The 31-year old custodian had great memories in Green and Maroon as the club won the I-League and Federation Cup in successive years. Debjit was a revelation that season and will look to continue from where he left. He may not be the tallest custodian around but he makes it up with his exceptional reflexes and decisive demeanour. He also communicates well with his defenders, avoiding unwanted risks.He is surely an upgrade under the bars from last season and crucial player for the Green and Maroons.
Mohun Bagan fans will be hoping that with Debjit Majumder’s arrival their goalkeeping woes must come to an end.
1. More accustomed to difficult domestic conditions
The Calcutta Football League is tough league which runs for a long time and does not allow time for recoveries. Bundled with the busy schedule comes difficult conditions in the Kolkata monsoon. The Mariners last season has shown that they have the mental strength and grit to grind out results even in difficult ground conditions.
Mohun Bagan have been practicing in their own ground in different conditions and it will definitely give them an edge over rivals East Bengal.