The Marina Machans are the only team to have not scored a goal in the league so far this season.
Chennaiyin FC have been one of the most consistent sides in the Indian Super League (ISL) and are the joint record-titleholders along with ATK (twice champions). They have made it to the playoffs in three out of the five seasons, flexing their ability to come up trumps on the big stage.
In the last five seasons, Chennaiyin FC have scored the second-highest number of goals in the league, only behind FC Goa (160 goals in 91 games). Things were going well for the Marina Machans, but a watershed moment arose following their 2017-18 title win, that turned things into a situation that spells misery to this day.
Most recently, Chennaiyin FC have been struggling with their goalscoring ability. While many may argue that football is not always about the numbers, statistics and plenty of inflection points in Chennaiyin FC’s scoring charts, make it evident that this is a festering crisis for the southerners.
The Underlying Numbers
During Marco Materazzi’s stint, Chennaiyin FC averaged 7.5 shots/goal, a number that has increased to 10.02 shots/goal in John Gregory’s time. The fact that Chennaiyin are yet to find the back of the net this season, despite attempting 47 shots on goal, further tarnishes that average figure.
Despite being the second-highest goalscoring side in the history of the league, one interesting fact about Chennaiyin FC is that apart from Stiven Mendoza in the 2015 season (13 goals), no other player has scored 10+ goals in an ISL campaign for them. This proves that Chennaiyin have not always been a one-man band, but rather there have been a plethora of players who have come in and put their hand up when it comes to finding the net.
During Materazzi’s tenure as coach, the southerners never finished below second place for the most goals scored in a single season. Since Gregory’s arrival, that stat has seen a steady decline, with Chennaiyin ending 2017-18 with the fourth-highest number of goals (31) and finishing the next campaign at the bottom of the list.
Not Finding Suitable Replacements
A much less controversial statement might be ‘the inability of Chennaiyin FC to find suitable replacements for their departed stars.’ Indeed, this has been one of the primary reasons for their downfall.
Players like Mendoza and Elano gave Chennaiyin strength upfront, with their ability to score goals as well as be a part of the overall gameplay. Elano was the fulcrum on which the Marina Machans’ system worked. This has been a struggle in John Gregory’s reign, where the tactician has found it hard to have a solid striker and creative playmaker’s partnership, something that you may see at ATK and FC Goa currently.
Lack Of Finishing Quality
Chennaiyin simply haven’t had the services of quality goalscorers since the first golden generation left. They have got in players like Dudu Omagbemi and CK Vineeth, but neither met their expectations. This was especially true for the latter who came on a loan. Jeje Lalpekhlua, who was once regarded widely for his finishing abilities, has since been either out of form or injured, which has not helped Chennaiyin FC in their cause.
Difference In Approach
Certain observations in focus show that things aren’t going well and certain differences have emerged that don’t make for good viewing. There is a stark contrast to the figures between the time of Materazzi and Gregory, which show a world of difference in their gameplans.
Gregory’s preferred formation has always been a conservative 4-2-3-1, with Jeje playing as the lone striker. But, the forward couldn’t single-handedly shoulder the responsibility for long. The combinations with Vineeth and other strike partners also didn’t bear fruit, leaving Jeje’s form to dip, which was detrimental to Chennaiyin’s fortunes.
Gregory has reiterated in press conferences, that his objective remains to keep clean-sheets. But, that doesn’t translate into good offensive performances. This often leaves the side too cautious and struggling to get out of the back against teams like ATK and FC Goa, that press well and high up the pitch.
Now, with Lalpekhlua still recovering from injury, players like Andre Schembri, Nerijus Valskis, Rafael Crivellaro and Dragoș Firțulescu have struggled to take up the mantle, despite getting themselves into good goalscoring positions.
Materazzi employed a two-striker combination and had Mendoza and Jeje to thank, as the two found great synergy with each other and also with creative forces in behind like Elano and Bruno Pelissari. His attacking gameplan promised goals for Chennaiyin FC. They fared an average of 1.66 goals/game during the Italian”s tenure, which is a colossus compared to an average goalscoring rate of 0.64 goals/game) currently.
Things aren’t certainly going right for Chennaiyin FC at the moment. But, they are capable of reinvigorating themselves and improving on their ignominious record. They have talented players in their ranks and are capable of turning over a new leaf. Hopefully, they can find a way to stop the rut and bring back the smiles on the fans’ faces soon.