The Super Machans have impressed in patches but have struggled to put together a run of form…

Chennaiyin sit second from bottom in the Indian Super League standings having mustered 10 points in eight outings. Although they command a fair chance of making the play-off stages of the showpiece football tournament, it is high time they established themselves in the league before it is too late.

Akin to Chennaiyin’s first two campaigns, they have gotten off to a rather poor start, with a humiliating home defeat to Delhi Dynamos following a 2-2 draw with Atletico de Kolkata. They offered the Marina Arena faithful a glimmer of hope when they emerged victors twice in quick succession in mid-October although the wins came against bottom team Goa and a NorthEast United side who remain winless in four games. However, they now find themselves without a win in four games – following another humiliating defeat at the hands of the Dynamos.

Given the erratic nature of their performances, it is arduous to brand them title favourites, let alone any other category of teams. However, their coach Marco Materazzi shall know what needs to be worked upon to qualify for the knockout stages for the third consecutive season.

Debuts of defensive talismen

Whilst Kerala Blasters boast a rock-solid defense and and Dynamos vaunt a dynamic frontline, Chennaiyin, have neither a strong attacking unit nor a splendid defensive record. They have averaged just a little above one goal per game whilst conceding one goal per game.

However, the numbers are undeniably skewed by their opening two games – they conceded five in two matches – that saw the Chennaiyin manager fail to utilize Eli Sabia Filho and Jerry Lalrinzuala in favour of accommodating marquee player John Arne Riise, fan favourite Bernard Mendy and local hero Nallappan Mohanraj, respectively.

Their defensive record has improved leaps and bounds since the incorporation of the duo into the starting eleven, with the Super Machans conceding just two goals in five games since. Their defensive resurgence does not only reflect in terms of statistics as Eli Sabia’s height and knack for tackles and Lalrinzuala’s pace render Chennaiyin’s defense hard to get through.

Top notch midfield options

In addition, with Hans Mulder, Baljit Sahni, Siam Hanghal, and most importantly, Player of the Season hopeful Raphael Augusto all impressing and Thoi Singh making himself available again, the manager shall have little concern about his midfield. The depth and the players’ arsenal place Chennaiyin’s midfield among the best in the league.

The weak link

However, their striking woes continue with the manager seemingly unable to identify the striker who suits his system impeccably. The arrival of Davide Succi, Maurizio Peluso and Dudu Omagbemi married with the retention of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Jayesh Rane was touted to belie Stiven Mendoza’s absence but, being rotated vigorously, the star-studded frontline looks a bit short of teeth.

31-year-old Peluso has been impressive in the few chances offered to him and, given his ability to cut even stubborn defences open, he should nail a starting berth, with Succi, Dudu, and Jeje rotating based on the demands of a particular game.

“Marco is using him in a great way; he knows when to put him and when to get his best out. Whenever Marco fields him, you see that he performs,” announced Syed Sabir Pasha in a press conference recently. Perhaps, the 2006 World Cup winner’s constant changes to the starting line-up are well calculated, but his personnel are largely failing him.

The invigoration of the frontline is the need of the hour as the Blues strive to find their feet in the third edition of ISL.

But, with games running out every match and point matters that much more. As such, though Materazzi’s constant rotation is well-intentioned in terms of trying to keep the players fresh, perhaps,, the time is now ripe for the Italian to identify a first choice eleven and stick with it for a run of games so as to find some consistency in results.

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