The Blues take on NorthEast United in their first fixture of the new season on 21st October at home.
With the sixth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) having kick-started, last term’s champions Bengaluru FC begin their campaign to defend the title. Quite interestingly, the Blues have built up a mighty squad for the campaign, despite the departures of key players like Miku and Xisco Hernandez. Here, we take a look at the concerns that the team faces and how it needs to be prepared to overcome them to see off another successful season.
1. New Orchestrator
Dimas Delgado has often proved that age is just a number, as he runs the show for the 90 minutes with his “Midas Touch.” It’s fair to say that the Spanish midfielder is the brain of the team and one of the most important players in the setup.
He controls the pace of the game and always has something to offer in attack and has been doing so consistently for the past few seasons. But, with just one year of his contract left and the future in mind, BFC might have to look for alternatives.
Fan-favourite Eugeneson Lyngdoh might have the right temperament for this role. However, he has lost out on playing time over the years and looks to bring back the form of his glory days, as he returns to the club where he was once hailed as “The Midfield Magician.” It would indeed take a spell of good games to showcase his wizardry yet again.
2. Arrival of Manuel Onwu
Miku’s departure seems to be the first hurdle in Bengaluru FC’s title defence. After two stellar seasons with the club, the striker has left a void in attack, which the club might struggle to fill. Given the club’s depth in attack it shouldn’t be a concern, but the elements that Miku brought into the game is something they would surely miss.
Bengaluru were kept busy in the transfer window, as they replaced Miku by signing Spanish international Manuel Onwu who has big shoes to fill.
Onwu is an amazing goalscorer, but is yet to adapt to the new league and conditions. He hasn’t made much of an impact in pre-season and will definitely look to get on the scoresheet as the season begins. Will he live up to the expectations?
3. Bench Strength
Bengaluru FC have retained the core of the team so well over the years that they have failed to add more players to the first-team. Any injury or suspension this season might feature a player who is not very comfortable with the first-team role.
Bengaluru FC might have one of the best medical units, but definitely not the best disciplinary records, as they have often had players suspended. This puts them in a spot of bother, as they have often found it difficult to maintain rhythm when they field someone from the bench into the starting XI.
The Blues have more than half of the first-team squad regularly called-up for the national team camp, which is great. But, it is also a matter of fatigue and injury concerns. They have stuck with the same combination with minimal rotation and this season will be a challenge, as there are plenty of new roles and responsibilities.
4. Defensive Depth
Bengaluru have a solid defence and a brick wall between the sticks, but there aren’t many players from the bench or reserves that could step up to the same level as the regulars. This is probably the only department that BFC are lacking in as they prepare their title defence.
Almost every other club in the league has an experienced second-choice goalkeeper except Bengaluru FC, who have to make do with youngsters who have never featured in the ISL before. Although, the question of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s replacement may never arise, it would be a big task for the youngsters, if they ever have to take up the gloves during this campaign.
The defence is stacked with strength and skill, yet lacks depth. The bench is filled with players who haven’t featured regularly in the senior squad. Bengaluru FC have often managed to overcome such situations with makeshift defenders. Yet, there exists a need for a conventional centre-back with the right experience to take up the task when needed.
5. Youth Development and Squad Rotation
Bengaluru FC have a great balance of players from different age-groups contributing equally to the betterment of the squad. However, there are a bunch of players that haven’t performed consistently.
Players like Thongkosiem Haokip, Kean Lewis have been given a good number of chances, but haven’t impressed to be earning a start over the first-team regulars. This is surely an area of concern, as there hasn’t been much development within the squad.
With the arrival of Ashique Kuruniyan, the competition has just got tougher for the wingers to grab a spot in the team. Club prospect Edmund Lalrindika would also look to get some game-time with the senior squad and adds to the coach’s long list of probable’s for a role in the attacking third.