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ISL- Indian Super League

ISL 2023-24 season review: Mohun Bagan Super Giant

Published at :May 8, 2024 at 10:09 PM
Modified at :May 8, 2024 at 10:09 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL)

Uttiyo Sarkar


Mohun Bagan finished at the top of the league stage

To use the word ‘rollercoaster’ would be an apt description of how the 2023-24 Indian Super League (ISL) season went for Mohun Bagan Super Giant. The Mariners experienced the biggest of highest and the most crushing low in a highly eventful season but ultimately came out at the back of it satisfied and with their heads held high.

After winning the 2022-23 ISL title, the pressure was on the Kolkata heavyweights to do even better. They did end up doing so, clinching the ISL shield on the final day of the league stages. Despite looking down and out of the shield race at the end of the first leg of the ISL, they came roaring back under Antonio Habas in the second leg.

Buoyed by their faithful fans, they booked a place in the AFC Champions League 2 for the next season and had a lot of things to be joyful of despite losing in the ISL final at home to Mumbai City. Here, we look into how Mohun Bagan’s ISL campaign went and what helped them stand out.

Fact Sheet

Season Finished: 1st

Games Played: 25

Won: 16

Lost: 6

Drawn: 3

Goals For: 51

Goals Against: 31

Win %: 64%

Top performers

Dimitri Petratos

After shining in the 2022-23 season, Dimitri Petratos came roaring back for Mohun Bagan in the 2023/24 season. He had an interesting campaign, having a relatively quiet first leg of the ISL before his ultimate potential was unleashed under Antonio Habas. Petratos was a tormenting factor for opponents, troubling teams with his clever off-the-ball running, his clutch passes into the final third and his excellent set-piece delivery.

He scored 10 goals and provided seven assists in 23 ISL appearances – standing out, particularly in the biggest matches. Petratos was particularly charged up for most important matches, scoring or assisting and running riot over the opposition’s backline. He ended the ISL campaign with the ‘Best Player of the League’ award – a deserved recognition for an excellent personal campaign for the Australian.

Manvir Singh

Manvir Singh was finally able to tap into that decisive nature in his gameplay and excelled in an unconventional role for the Mariners. He was mostly played as a right wing-back by the Mariners, but had no complaints and was a standout in that position. Manvir showcased admirable drive and determination by running his socks off every game. He improved his defensive attributes, tracking back persistently to help provide cover and also put in important challenges to neutralize the threat of the opposition wingers.

But Manvir truly excelled in the counter-attacks, using his impressive speed to wreak havoc on opponents and significantly improving his final delivery to set up big things. Manvir scored four goals and provided seven assists in the ISL, setting up more goals than any other Indian player in the league.

Subhasish Bose

Heading into the 2023/24 campaign, Mohun Bagan decided to give Subhasish Bose the captaincy and solidify his major role in the squad. The 28-year-old, rather than buckling under the pressure, only became more motivated and led from the front by featuring in every match in the 23/24 ISL campaign. He was only substituted three times in his 25 appearances and became one of the most trustable players in the squad.

Bose helped Mohun Bagan keep nine clean sheets and fit into the role of a left-sided centre-back perfectly. He repeatedly kept producing proactive, hard-working performances in which he tried out-working his teammates and almost always getting in the right positions or areas to cut down opponents’ attacks. Bose made 77 clearances, 33 interceptions and won 145 duels in the 25 appearances – also averaging 48 passes per game – one of the highest for any defender in the ISL.

Under-performer

Hugo Boumous

Hugo Boumous actually had a pretty impressive Durand Cup campaign for Mohun Bagan, contributing two goals and playing an influential role in helping them clinch the title. But the 28-year-old was held back by inconsistency in his performances once the ISL began. Boumous just couldn’t seem to crack the opponents’ backline, not being able to be the dangerous magician he was last season in terms of creating chances or scoring goals.

In eight ISL appearances, he only scored one goal and produced a plethora of disappointing performances – which collided with Mohun Bagan’s downfall in the final phase under Juan Ferrando. Once Antonio Habas took up the job, he was not impressed with Boumous’ work in training and decided to withdraw him from the squad – registering Joni Kauko in his place instead. Boumous did not get to play a single minute in the second half of the campaign, which turned out to be an absolute nightmare for him.

Top Performances

1. Mohun Bagan 2-1 Mumbai City

2. East Bengal 1-3 Mohun Bagan

3. Mohun Bagan 2-0 Odisha FC

Manager’s Report Card

Mohun Bagan definitely had an interesting campaign when it came to their head coach(es). Juan Ferrando, after helping them win the 2023 ISL final, was given the helm to do one better. The Spaniard managed to inspire them to a dominant start to the 2023-24 ISL campaign, winning six of their first seven games. The Mariners played an entertaining brand of football under him, sticking to a 3-4-3 formation that allowed them flexibility in attacking in numbers and also defending deep.  

But the cracks began developing and colliding with the horrific AFC Cup group stages elimination, Mohun Bagan lost three games in a row to end the first leg of the ISL campaign. The upper management saw that the team was only getting worse and Ferrando’s failure to showcase a Plan B or improve his tactics cost him his job.

Since the beginning of 2024, Antonio Habas has been in charge. He only brought little tweaks to the system, changing the 3-4-3 system to a 3-1-4-2 – hence bringing more cover for the backline. But it was his man-management ability and ability to play his players in their best roles that helped Mohun Bagan unleash their utmost potential. He rotated the squad smartly, using strikers Jason Cummings and Armando Sadiku efficiently to get the best out of them both – as well as giving Petratos and Kauko freedom to control things and create chances for his side.

In the end, Mohun Bagan regained their confidence under Habas and were able to pip Mumbai City to the ISL shield. The Spaniard seems to have the utmost trust of his squad and the players have a genuine liking of playing under his system, which could look defensive on paper – but has allowed Mohun Bagan to play some of the most thrilling attacking football in years.

Habas has voiced a desire to stay on as the Mariners head coach for another season – and going by the results he produced and his surging popularity – the Spaniard is unlikely to be denied.

Lessons to be learned

The 2023-24 ISL season was a really dramatic one for Mohun Bagan, but ultimately a successful one as well. However, despite winning the ISL shield and reaching the final, there are a few warning signs they’d need to heed for the next campaign.

For one, the Mariners will need to significantly improve their quality in some positions – especially in the defensive midfield role. There is probably a need for more defensive cover, with the Mariners forced to play youth academy graduate Dippendu Biswas at times this season. Cover for the wing-back roles are also necessary, especially as they lack proper left-footed wing-backs. Mohun Bagan needs a bigger squad to avoid an injury crisis next season that threatened to derail their momentum in this campaign.

There is also a need for the team to be equally comfortable in playing in another formation/system apart from the 3-4-1-2 – especially when their opponents know how to neutralize this system – as Mumbai City did in the ISL final. Mohun Bagan seemingly have a bright future ahead, but with a few necessary upgrades and tweaks, they could strongly compete on all fronts and win the ISL shield again in the 2024-25 season.

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