A Look At How The Managers Fared This Season…..

The Exciting season of the I-League might have ended about a month ago, but the season will be remembered for a long time for what transpired throughout it. In what was a season of the underdogs, Aizawl FC triumphed over everyone else to lift the I-League trophy aloft and become the first NorthEastern club to have the honor of doing so. But Aizawl’s incredible season was mostly due to their outstanding manager Khalid Jamil, who revolutionized things at the club and struck gold in his first season with them.

Jamil was sacked by Mumbai FC before arriving at Aizawl in the Summer, where he proved how much of a sensational manager he is in Indian football right now. But it wasn’t only Jamil who made an impact in the league, as the managers of the other competing I-League teams also played their part in helping the league become more exciting to watch. They brought in brilliant players from around the country and other countries, also helping Indian Football grow as a whole.

So Let us take a look at how the various managers fared in this season of the I-League.

Mumbai FC:

Santosh Kashyap:

Santosh Kashyap’s start to Mumbai FC looked great when they started the I-League season with a bang, winning the Maharashtra Derby kick-off by defeating DSK Shivajians and later also defeating Churchill Brothers away from home. But things started to go horribly downhill from that point, as they lost 6 matches on the trot when they got into the business end of the season. Kashyap’s signings turned out to be utter failures, as the Brazilians Alex Willian and Anderson Silva couldn’t do anything. A string of draws would follow, as Kashyap was finally sacked after being humiliated by DSK in the reverse fixture and his terrible management led Mumbai to get relegated after Khalid Jamil’s departure.

Rating: 2/10

Oscar Bruzon:

It was a case of too little, too late once Oscar Bruzon came into taking over as Mumbai FC manager. The Spanish manager would salvage some points for them as he re-constructed their defense and midfield which allowed them to get 3 draws in their final 4 games, which included them getting 2 clean sheets as well. Mumbai FC were relegated for a terrible season, as their horrible falter in mid-season under Kashyap where they conceded 23 goals in 14 games and lost around 8 of those games spelled the beginning of the end for the Blues.

Manager Rating: 6/10

Minerva Punjab FC:

Surinder Singh:

Surinder Singh’s Minerva Punjab looked to be in complete disarray in their first season in the I-League, as they had no wins in their first 5 matches and went through some crushing losses to bigger oppositions as well. Punjab’s attacking threat was close to none, as they got a crucial win against fellow minnows Mumbai FC to give Singh some breathing room. 

This gave a lot of confidence to the team, as they later drew against the dangerous Bengaluru FC away from home and got all 3 points in a thrilling 5-4 away win to Churchill Brothers in what was their best performance of the season. They began to falter again in the final stages of the I-League and only survived thanks to goal difference, but Singh’s resilience and never-say-die attitude were visible in his team at times as they succeeded in their expectations in staying alive in the I-League.

Manager Rating: 6/10

 Singh rallied Punjab towards survival in the I-League

Chennai City FC:

Robin Charles Raja:

Robin Charles Raja had the chance to prove himself in the big leagues when he brought Chennai City FC to the I-league this season, but he crumbled under the massive pressure of the league. Chennai City were absolutely dismal in the first half of the season, only getting 1 win in their first 7 games and getting absolutely dominated in every game they played against a stronger opposition. Raja couldn’t seem to settle his troops together as Chennai’s awful defending and unconvincing attacking couldn’t get them any results as management took the decision to sack Raja for sending the club into absolute disarray.

Manager Rating: 3/10

V. Soundararajan:

Chennai City were a complete mess once V. Soundararajan took the helm of the club on 9th February, but the intelligent manager got the most out of his players in the final few months. Soundararajan changed up their play-style and got the best out of their attacking stars in Nandhakumar and Charles de Souza. Chennai started to play with a positive vibe and got 3 wins in their remaining games, which included home wins against Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

He turned Chennai into a formidable side who survived relegation easily and Soundararajan definitely worked to expectations. Soundararajan also had a compelling outing in the Federation Cup, where Chennai finished 3rd in a tough group and ended their season with a stunning 3-1 win against Churchill Brothers to instil much hope into their fans for next season, where Soundararajan will hope to take them to newer heights.

Manager Rating: 7/10

DSK Shivajians:

Dave Rogers:

DSK Shivajians decided to shake things up in their 2nd season in the I-League when they brought in former Liverpool Academy Coach Dave Rogers as their manager for the season. Rogers wasn’t helped by DSK’s rather hapless condition but decided to make some intriguing signings and also promote many players from their youth system. After a shaky start to the season with 2 losses, Rogers got an important win against Chennai City to kick things off. 

It was a shaky season for DSK where they lost many points due to individual errors but showed their full potential in a 5-0 mauling off Mumbai FC. Rogers gave a lot of opportunities to youth as well as giving full debuts to u-22 players, as DSK finished the season at a disappointing 7th place. They had a decent Federation Cup run where they exacted revenge against Bengaluru FC in the group stages and Rogers will hope to prove his worth next season when he has a rejuvenated set of players and brings in some quality during the transfer window as well.

Manager Rating: 6.5/10

Rogers promoted youth well in his first season at DSK

Churchill Brothers:

Alfred Fernandes:

Alfred Fernandes might’ve been the man to bring Churchill Brothers back to the I-League, but he found it very difficult to get them back to their glory days in the I-League. Churchill began the season in a dismal way under Fernandes, only winning a single game halfway through the season. They lost 5 games out of their first 9, playing some terrible football and looking horrible defensively under Fernandes. Alfred was unable to turn it around after a bad star for Churchill and was duly sacked for producing bad tactics and being unable to grind out results with his team who laid down in the dump at the bottom of the I-League standings.

Manager Rating: 4/10

Derrick Perreira:

Former DSK manager Derrick Perreira was appointed by Churchill to solve their infinite problems and things looked really bad when Churchill lost his first match in charge in a thrilling contest. But Perreira soon weaved his magic around the club, as Churchill showed some powerful attacking intent and won their next 3 matches including crucial wins against Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to instill confidence into the squad again.

They rode on this momentum and only lost 2 games in their remaining games in the season, finishing an impressive 6th in the end, scoring 18 goals in 9 games under their new manager. Perreira also made them play some really good football during the Federation Cup, where they gave much competition to Aizawl and East Bengal in their group and fought till the end and Perreira brought a winning mentality to the club and rejuvenated them in the 2nd half of the season.

Manager Rating: 7.5/10

Shillong Lajong:

Thangboi Singto:

Thangboi Singto remained on as Shillong Lajong’s manager after a successful campaign last time out, but his team didn’t really get off to the best of starts. They were really slow early on which hampered their title chances, losing their first 3 games in the league. But Singto’s tactics came along pretty well as the season wore on, as his masterclass and trump card proved to be new signing Asier Dipanda.

The powerful striker won Shillong many points with his amazing goal-scoring season, where he finished top scorer with 11 goals for Lajong. Singto’s side were brilliant on their days as his players thrived in his attacking nature and provided many glorious memories throughout the season. Singto’s side was put in a difficult group in The Federation Cup and couldn’t do so well because of it, but he displayed how his positive, attacking style can triumph yet again this season and unearthed a devastating striker in Dipanda.

Manager Rating- 7/10

Singto’s Shillong played some thrilling attacking football

Bengaluru FC:

Albert  Roca:

Bengaluru FC were shocked when Ashley Westwood left the club after winning them their 2nd I-League title last season, with the management bringing in Spaniard Albert Roca as his successor. Roca brought in a lot of talent with him, including some prominent foreigners in Jon Johnson and Cameron Watson. Even though they started with a blast, Bengaluru really fell through in the mid-season this year, failing to get a win in the league for almost two months. 

Roca’s tactics couldn’t seem to get them wins when it mattered, but they picked up again late into the season to finish 4th(the worst in their history). But Roca redeemed himself with a spectacular Federation Cup victory which salvaged some pride for the Blues, but Roca will need to improve his tactics in the league next season to bring the trophy back to the city of Bangalore.

Manager Rating: 6/10

East Bengal:

Trevor Morgan:

Trevor Morgan hoped to finally break East Bengal’s jinx in the I-League and bring the trophy to the Red and Gold Brigaders, as Bengal came into the I-League after a dominant showcase in the Calcutta Football League. After signing some prominent attackers in Wedson Anselme, Willis Plaza and Chris Payne, East Bengal looked a well-oiled machine in the first few months and were heavy favorites for the title because of their dominating performances. 

But things started to go very wrong for Morgan towards the end, as his players faltered in the business end and a few bad decisions on his side didn’t help either. A crushing Derby defeat to Mohun Bagan ended their hopes of winning the I-League, and Morgan was sacked despite having a really good season. East Bengal then hired Ranjan Bhattacharya as their new coach, as he helped to end their I-league season on a high and took them to the semi-finals of the Federation Cup in what was a disappointing end to a  frustrating season.

Manager Rating: 4/10

Morgan was unable to win the I-League despite dominating early on

Mohun Bagan:

Sanjoy Sen:

Sanjoy Sen’s Mohun Bagan were forced to go through the agony of losing the I-League title by 1 point to Bengaluru FC last season but were focused on reclaiming their title this time out. Sen made some really good signings which included getting striker Daryl Duffy which turned out to be an exceptional buy for the club. The Mariners were consistent throughout the season, but a few hiccups cost them the title as they couldn’t bring their A-Game in the title decider against Aizawl and lost the I-League to the NorthEastern club. 

While Sen’s tactics were great, he couldn’t sort out Bagan’s poor midfield problem and that cost them the title in the end. The Mariners had a  dominant display in the Fed Cup, winning their group and marching onto the final where they lost to Bengaluru FC. Despite it being a really good season for Bagan game-play wise, they didn’t have any silverware to show for it as Sen needs to re-evaluate his team and bring back that x-factor which helped the Mariners lift the I-League a few years back.

Manager Rating: 8/10

Aizawl FC:

Khalid Jamil:

When Khalid Jamil was sacked by Mumbai FC after holding the club together for almost a decade, many were surprised and anticipating what he’d do after moving on from a club close to his heart. Jamil took over another “small club” in Aizawl FC where he showed the world just how good of a manager he was, completing changing up Aizawl FC’s reputation. With some important signings made before the start of the season, he rallied his troops to give it their all in every match and grind out results.

Jamil proved himself to be the best manager in the country with Aizawl’s historic triumph

Aizawl didn’t play the most “beautiful” of football under Jamil, but they definitely played the most effective one losing only 3 games in the entire season. Aizawl did not falter in the season despite critics predicting otherwise and completed the ultimate underdog story when they lifted the I-League trophy at the end of the season. Jamil had completely revolutionised the club and Indian football as a whole with his immaculate management and showed himself to be a level above other managers in the country.

Manager Rating: 9/10