The Mariners have only lost a single game so far this season.
Mohun Bagan created history when they won against Aizawl 1-0 at the Kalyan Stadium and bagged the I-League title with four games to spare – a record only matched by Dempo SC.
Kibu Vicuna and his men are on a rampage, as they are 14-matches unbeaten since the 2-4 defeat against Churchill Brothers. Mohun Bagan have had stars throughout their lineup and therefore, we here at Khel Now take a look at the top five takeaways from this historic I-League triumph:
5. Charismatic chemistry among the players and dressing room ambience
This Mohun Bagan team had something or the other missing in the early part of the season. Sometimes, it was lack of concentration and individual errors, or a lack of a prolific goalscorer, but the team chemistry and bonding was never in question. The Spanish players gelled really well with the Indian contingent and shared a very happy and cordial dressing room environment, something which is very important for a team to thrive.
The players were so welcoming that even players like Papa Babacar Diawara and Komron Tursunov had no problem in adapting to the new team in a foreign land. This is one of the most underrated factors and Vicuna and his coaching staff have pulled off with flying colours and their effort clearly reflect on the pitch.
4. The perfect mix of youthful exuberance and experience in the squad
Speaking in terms of recruitment, the Mohun Bagan officials did a great job in holding on to some of their players and also adding some valuable Indian talent. There was a perfect blend of youth and experience. There were experienced players like Dhanachandra Singh, Ashutosh Mehta, VP Suhair, Debjit Majumder and so on. They also had talented stars like Nongdamba Naorem, Sk. Sahil, Subha Ghosh and Romario Jesuraj. Even foreigners like Diawara, Fran Gonzalez and Daneil Cyrus added a lot of experience to the whole outfit.
Vicuna also deserves full credit for how he has used his resources and the way he has managed his team even during pressure situations. He showed utmost trust in Sk. Sahil, called him to the senior team and then transformed him into a midfielder from a centre-back. The youngster also showed immense courage and determination and did not let his coach down. Similarly, Subha Ghosh has also proven himself whenever he has taken the field and the 19-year-old has shown his mettle by scoring some crucial goals after coming on as a substitute.
Experienced players have also improved under the Spaniard’s tutelage and the team overall has shone brightly.
3. Opportunistic January signings which tilted the league in their favour
The Mariners were swift to react in the January window, as they needed reinforcements in attack. While Salvador Chamorro struggled with poor form in the early parts of the I-League, Vicuna was eager to bring in more quality upfront. Also, one of the star players, Julen Colinas ruptured his ACL and hence could not continue.
In came Diawara as Chamorro’s replacement, while a young Tursunov was brought in to replace an injured Colinas. Both the players have left an everlasting impression on Indian football this season. When Diawara’s signing was announced, people said a lot of things about him, mainly regarding his injury during his time at Adelaide United. However, the Senegalese proved everyone wrong with his performances and showed why exactly he was touted as one of the brightest prospects in Maritimo. Diawara has scored ten goals from a consecutive nine matches at the point of writing. His ability to finish chances, coupled with his work-rate and dedication for his team are second to none.
The signing of Tursunov did not raise many eyebrows, but some Bagan fans were disappointed, as they thought they would see Sony Norde back in their colours, However, in some time, the youngster from Tajikistan made a very strong bond with the fans, with his impactful performances. Tursunov may not have got as much playing time as Diawara, but the 23-year-old Tajikistan international showed immaculate control with the ball, coupled with his pace and vision to pick out forward moving players. Two goals along with two assists in 219 minutes for a youngster who mainly had to play a supporting role for Vicuna’s men shows his credibility as a player.
2. Kibu Vicuna: The Mastermind
Kibu Vicuna’s welcome was cherished by the Green and Maroon fans as they thought it was a beginning of something great at their beloved club. But, the ride was not smooth sailing for the Spanish tactician. He started brightly with a comprehensive win in the mini derby against Mohammedan Sporting in the Durand Cup opener. But, things got dodgy from there. His team struggled in the Calcutta Football League and eventually picked up pace when the league was already out of their hands and ended as runners-up. Similarly, despite performing well in the Durand Cup, the Mariners lost out against Gokulam Kerala in the final.
Then Vicuna’s men went to Bangladesh to feature in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup, where they lost to an inexperienced Young Elephants side from Laos. They clawed their way back with successive wins against TC Sports and Chittagong Abahani to reach the semi-finals. On the big stage, they fizzled out again and bowed out of the tournament after losing to Malaysia’s Terengganu FC.
The same thing happened in the I-League as well, as Mohun Bagan suffered a heavy 2-4 defeat against Churchill Brothers in their second match at home. While there were doubts over his future, Vicuna got going when it was tough and eventually implemented his ideas through his players on the pitch.
- The poignant gameplay of press, pass and score
Kibu Vicuna’s men have been praised heavily for their possession-based attacking football, which has also helped them dominate the league and win the title with four games to spare. The Spaniard kept it simple and jumped between 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. When their Caribbean defender Daneil Cyrus was fit, the Mariners played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Gonzalez and Sahil playing the double pivot allowing Joseba Beitia the full freedom he requires. While VP Suhair played on the right flank, as an inverted winger to support Diawara upfront.
Vicuna had to change his formation to 4-4-2 when Cyrus got injured and Gonzalez had to play in defence alongside Fran Morante. Here, Sahil and Beitia both had equal duties in attack and defence. The onus of slipping into the open spaces was given to Komron Turusunov, while Suhair stretched the opposition defenders as he acted as a pendulum, going wide and coming inside and disrupting defenders.
In both the styles Vicuna’s men played the ball out from the back and Fran Gonzalez and his versatility was a huge factor in making the process a success. While Beitia held the position of being the creative nucleus, as Sk. Sahil showed immense maturity in his first season to play in different styles. VP Suhair, who is not known for his pace, played on the right flank with aplomb and did pretty well, while the full-backs were top-notch for Mohun Bagan this season.
Ashutosh Mehta has been one of the most consistent players in the league with his exceptional overlapping runs and tremendous work-rate. Dhanachandra has also added more steel in defence, coupled with his exquisite long throws which have led to crucial goals.