The southerners have moved base to Coimbatore following a respectable first season in the top flight.
For the football crazy fans from this part of the region, there’s good news coming your way as the City is all set to host the prestigious Hero I-League football at the Nehru Stadium here. The credit must certainly go to the Chennai City Football Club (CCFC).
The Chennai-based outfit has moved to Coimbatore with a greater focus on not only promoting the sport but also to inject a fresh lease of life. Football was once the most sought-after sport in Coimbatore. Fans from in and around the region and from the neighbouring States of Kerala and Karnataka used to throng the Nehru Stadium just to have a glimpse of their favourite stars in action. Not anymore.
From being the most popular, the sport has now sort of faded away. CCFC’s entry into Coimbatore has now given the sport that extra flip. The team chose the City with the hope of bringing back the fans and with it the lost glory.
It was not an easy task though for the team. It had to cough up quite a few crores just for bringing back the weary-looking Nehru Stadium to life. The renovation work, such as laying the grass, setting up media boxes, doping control and dressing rooms, are on at full throttle and it is expected to be ready before mid-December.
Last Season’s Performance
Chennai City FC had an above expectation but a below-par season in the last edition of the I-League. This may sound contradictory but the truth is, many people counted the newbies out and did not consider them to be a real challenge but they came out and surprised everyone, finishing 8th and booked their spot in the Federation Cup. They made their home ground a fortress and they got three out of their four wins at home.
Chennai played former I-League participants Bengaluru FC on the 4th and 5th of November, drawing one 2-2 and losing the other one 1-6. Three players, Soosairaj, Edwin and Beautin travelled to Finland as a part of their partnership deal with JS Hercules earlier this year.
Having taken over from Robin Charles Raja in the middle of last season, Soundarrajan stayed true to the club’s motto and trusted in the local talent that the previous coach failed to do. This trust helped him develop the team as one unit and they put together a string of good performances that helped them secure the 8th position.
Soundarrajan engineered a turnaround at Chennai City
Soundarrajan is a very orthodox coach who sticks to the basics. He made the players’ fundamentals strong, a trait that played a big part in grinding out results at home.
Ins: Chennai City have coped well with the loss of key players. Their scouting department has done a marvellous job with respect to recruiting players for various positions. The club has tapped into their local reserve to get players like Alexander Romario (ST), Pandian (AM), Rajapandi (CM) and C.Anandraj (CM). They’ve also recruited players from other state leagues. Players like Henry Monsang (RB) and Gaurav Bora (CB) were picked up from the U-19 league where he lead Pune FC and Gaurav Bora from the Sub-Junior National Championships respectively.
A number of foreign signings were also made. Players from the Kyrgyz Republic, Illdar Amirov (ST) and Veniamin Shumeiko (CB) were brought in to give the squad some much-needed experience. Other foreign signings include former Carlisle United man, Junior Joachim (ST), the duo of Baafi Jackson (AM) and Michael Lucky (ST) who have previously played in India. They’ve also signed a Slovenian goalkeeper, Uros P and they’ve re-signed Dharmaraj Ravanan who was their captain in the last season.
Outs: Like the other I-League clubs, Chennai City too have been hard hit by the Indian Super League draft. Chennai have lost six players who were starters for them last season. Charles D’Souza, their top scorer, moved to East Bengal, Dhanapal Ganesh who was instrumental in midfield and Karanjit Singh moved to Chennayin FC, Abhishek Das, the right-back was picked up by Mohun Bagan, Nandakumar, the breakout player last year in the team has been sent to Delhi Dynamos on loan and finally Zakeer Mundampara was drafted by Mumbai City.
Formations and Tactics
Soundarrajan is a big fan of the 4-4-1-1 and the 4-5-1 formations. The former had been used for the majority of the season where Charles would play upfront and Marcus Tank would play right behind him as the shadow striker. Charles was Chennai City’s top scorer with four goals and he was relentless in putting pressure on the opponent’s centre-backs.
How Chennai City could lineup this season
Another strategy that they followed was overloading the wings. They had the right support with the likes of Nandhakumar and Soosairaj offering a lot of pace and swerve on their crosses which was a constant threat for the opposition. Come the new season, they are without both Charles and Nandhakumar. The team will now look upon Soosairaj and the new signings to hit the ground running and help them better the performances from the last edition.
This season looks like they have their strength in the midfield and the coach will be fielding a 4-5-1 formation. The wingers M. Lucky and Soosairaj will look to capitalise on their pace and feed Joachim, their new star striker who was brought in to replace Charles.
Chennai City’s strengths lie in their young talents running down the wings. Last season, it was Nandhakumar and Soosairaj who ran the show for the newcomers. One of the most underrated elements of the team was the partnership between Ravanan and Celestine at the back which enabled them to keep a lot of opposition at bay at home. In order to have a successful season, it is extremely vital for the team to play to their strengths and that is to defend with utmost patience and discipline and hit teams on the counter.
The inability of the team to grind out results away from home is the standout weakness in them. Chennai won only one match away from home in the last edition. With the main core of their team missing from last season, they will have to make sure that the new signings acclimatise to their surroundings quickly.
Top 3 Players To Watch
Soosairaj will be the key player for Chennai this season
When Nandhakumar was absent towards the end of last season, Soosairaj stepped up and carried the team’s attacking front single-handedly. His swift feet and his ability to pick a good cross will add to the team’s attacking quotient massively.
The French International comes with bags of experience that he’s picked up from Ligue 1. Joachim has scored 27 goals in 64 games for his first club Nancy B. He is a big name signing by the team and he will be seen as a good replacement for Charles.
Edwin Sydney Vanspaul
The 25-year-old midfielder featured only twice in the previous edition but packs a punch. In the two appearances, he showed a lot of promise and will look to break into the first team this season. Edwin offers so much at both ends of the field; his gameplay will bring a good balance to the side.
What To Expect
Chennai City have done a fair bit of rebuilding from last season. Even though they’ve lost a majority of their big players from last season, the new signings do show a lot of promise and if they were to click, we could see them finish higher up the table.