The Islanders let go of the Romanian defender in the summer ahead of the ISL 2019-20 season.

After letting go of long-time defender Lucian Goian in the summer, Mumbai City FC haven’t exactly commenced their season in the way that they would have preferred to, after a third-placed finish in the last campaign of the Indian Super League. Jorge Costa had gotten the team to a commendable finish last time around, despite the debacle in the first leg of the semi-finals against FC Goa. However, with them losing out on several key players in the break, it was bound to have an adverse effect upon the side, regardless of the fact that Mumbai have recruited a fair number of notable talents to boost their roster as well.

But, with successive 2-4 defeats, only a single victory that too by a margin of a single goal and an eighth-placed position after four games, are they actually missing the enigmatic influence of former skipper and crowd-favorite Lucian Goian?

Lucian: Leader At The Back

In the five years of the ISL, Mumbai City have often been a team that have flattered to deceive, even though surmounting expectations accompanied them every season. It is very important for clubs to find an identity of themselves, through a player, a chant or even a manager. But, it is crucial that they find a particular entity with whom the fans and supporters can relate and become synonymous with the club. Lucian Goian, throughout his three seasons with Mumbai City, became one such personality.

Firstly, he brought in lots of experience. Lucian Goian remained a battle-hardened individual at Mumbai City, making 50 appearances and aiding their defensive improvement by leaps and bounds. He had a very vocal demeanor and the way he carried himself on the field emanated a sense of attachment, responsibility and passion with which he played for the team. The fans developed an instant liking for the Romanian, mainly due to his on-field abilities, but also because of his off-field character as well.

ISL 2018-19 Lucian Goian Mumbai City FC

Lucian Goian was appointed captain of Mumbai City in the 2017-18 season

Goian was the appointed captain in the 2017-18 season and he did a pretty good job at that. However, with Costa taking over the reigns last time around, the Portuguese decided to implement a rotational captaincy system, with Goian being one of the players in the pool. The 36-year-old detested the idea and opted out of it. One can argue that the fiasco laid the seeds for quite a rocky start to Goian’s eventual last season with the club. However, later on, he performed consistently well, as Mumbai even went on a nine-match unbeaten run in the course of the campaign.

ISL 2018-19 Mumbai City FC captain Lucian Goian

Mumbai City let Lucian Goian go in the summer of 2019

However, Goian’s contract expired at the end of the season. It was a time to renew and prolong the stay of one of the team’s most loyal servants. In fact, the management had initially promised him an extension in principle, but failed to come good on their word. Goian understandably felt cheated on this and he even claimed in an interview with Khel Now, that he was deserving of a little bit more from the club with regard to this situation. After being a free agent for a while, courting other clubs as his contract impasse with the Islanders dragged on, Goian finally signed for Chennaiyin FC, who themselves have been in a spot of bother for quite some time now.

Are Mumbai Missing Lucian Goian?

The intentions behind Mumbai’s plan of action to solidify their backline after Goian’s departure were apt on paper. Mato Grgic was roped in to serve as a replacement and the Croatian came with a complete package to be regarded as a suitable alternative too. He is 32 years of age, so he arguably has a good 3-4 years of football left in him and already has experience of having produced a stellar season with NorthEast United FC last time around. Additionally, Sarthak Golui was also recruited from the now defunct FC Pune City.

ISL 2019-20 Sarthak Golui with Rahul KP in Kerala Blasters Vs Mumbai City FC

Sarthak Golui (R) is one of the newest defenders at Mumbai City FC

Golui is young, but has delivered solid performances in addition to bagging a goal in the defeat against FC Goa a few days ago. The rumor mills were strong ahead of the season, that Golui and Grgic would partner each other at the heart of the backline and they looked a formidable duo, with experience, youth, exuberance and composure combining with each other in the exact fine proportion. In addition to that, the inclusion of Rowlin Borges meant that they had a vital, reliable shield in front of them, which is a bonus for any central defensive pairing.

However, with Grgic limping off in the first half of the first game itself and Borges pulling out during the warm-up of the match against Odisha FC, it has become clear that the primary plan from Costa has taken a major hit, at least for the first phase of the league. Golui needs time to adapt and settle in properly. Meanwhile, Pratik Chowdhary is also not a authoritative figure at the back and cannot be completely depended upon throughout the course of the season. In addition, Sourav Das also picked up an injury ahead of the first match of the season as well.

Das is renowned for his incredible tenacity as a defensive midfielder and he along with Borges would arguably have been banked upon as the two integral shielding midfielders of the side. On numerous occasions this season, particularly in the last two games, there has been an overwhelming sense of disorganization in the Islanders’ backline, once the opposition mounts incessant waves of offensive moves and pressure. Surely, Goian’s presence would have been priceless in solving this dilemma.

However, it would be silly to assume that the head coach would not have drawn out multiple choices and alternative scenarios to prepare for Lucian Goian’s departure from the club. Admittedly, the team have been a bit unlucky to be facing such troublesome injury worries right at the start of the season. Hence, giving them some time to recover their full-strength squad and then assessing whether or not they are bewailing the loss of one of their most crucial players, would be the more plausible and rational thing to do.