The new coach has his task cut out in his newest assignment as the Marina Machans will see their credentials of finishing in a playoffs spot tested again.

Chennaiyin FC announced former Lithuania and Dundee United manager Csaba Laszlo as their head coach for the new season last month. The Romanian-Hungarian possesses experience of over 15 years managing across clubs and countries and would perhaps see the assignment of leading the Marina Machans to be one of his toughest so far.

The 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League (ISL) is slated to begin in two months’ time and the coach has laid out his objectives and aspirations with the Southern club. Chennaiyin FC had a memorable yet topsy-turvy campaign last time out, but eventually made it to the final, where they were comprehensively beaten by record champions ATK.

The new season has brought in fresh hopes and objectives to teams who have strengthened their causes with recruitment of players and personnel and Chennaiyin FC have done so as well. But, this time out, it could be a tougher campaign in store for the Marina Machans. So, we look at five challenges that Csaba Laszlo could face at his new club:

5. Adapting to the new league

As for any coach anywhere in the world, changing leagues in different countries and continents is a daunting prospect. Laszlo will find it tough and would require time to adapt to the nature of play in the ISL. This was something that Laszlo himself admitted to being a big challenge for him in his exclusive interview with Khel Now.

He said, “It will be a new challenge for me. Many people asked me why to move to Asia and India particularly, but I follow my heart and figured also in my mind that this will be a fantastic opportunity for me. I coached in many different countries, but the biggest challenge is to face a different and upcoming football culture in India, at one of the most successful clubs in the league’s history.”

4. Getting to know and coach the squad (pre-season)

The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the entire planet. A very important industry that it has hurt the most is travel. Currently based in his homeland, Laszlo is yet to report to India for pre-season training. Moreover, it will also take time for him to get to know the players.

Laszlo will be itching to work with the players for ample time before the season begins. During the interview, he had mentioned a requirement of six weeks prior to the campaign for apt preparation for the league.

3. Getting the best out of Indian players

There’s no doubt that Chennaiyin FC possess one of the best Indian contingent of players in the ISL. Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Edwin Vanspaul, Vishal Kaith are few names who form an extremely talented bunch of Indian players.

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In his interview, Csaba Laszlo pointed to the duo of Anirudh Thapa and Jerry Lalrinzuala as players with huge potential. He admitted that having a strong group of local players is important to the team’s cause. The way Laszlo utilizes his Indian players and gets results out of them could make or break his season.

2. Matching up to the legacy of his predecessors

Csaba Laszlo is taking up the reigns at Chennaiyin FC who are two-time champions, have four appearances in the playoffs, out of which three were finals. They have also made it to continental competitions like the AFC Cup. Achievements like these merit a good showing from the new coach.

He will be particularly assessed based on the club’s finish last season, where they went from bottom-placed to finalists in a miraculous story that unfurled under the stewardship of Owen Coyle. Coyle has since joined Jamshedpur FC and the onus is now on Laszlo to lead them deep into the tournament.

The tactician has set lofty ambitions for himself and comes with a good season on his back in the Romanian league, where he led his side Sepsi Sfantu Gheorghe to ninth position and to their first-ever appearance in the final of the Romanian Cup. These are feats that set a good example of his capability and he will be looking to do better with the Marina Machans once the new season begins.

1. Replacements for the mass exodus of players

Perhaps the biggest challenge that lies ahead for Csaba Laszlo and Co. is to repair the damage that could be caused by the mass exodus of players from the team this year. Laszlo stressed on having a core group of players who remain unchanged and that Chennaiyin can work their transfers around the rest.

The club have been dealt several blows to the squad with the exit of influential figures like Nerijus Valskis, Lucian Goian, Andre Schembri (retired), Tondonba Singh and most importantly Jeje Lalpekhlua.

The exit of the latter would’ve hurt Chennaiyin FC and their fans a lot. But, the club have gone on to sign some talented players, chief among whom is Enes Sipovic, who has been brought in to fill Goian’s shoes at centre-back. The club also signed Reagan Singh and Chhuantea from NorthEast United and Odisha FC respectively to fill the wing-back slots, as competition for Jerry Lalrinzuala and Edwin Vanspaul.

However, there is a lot more to be done to strengthen the squad and to keep Chennaiyin FC fighting for the title this season. Either that or they will have to trust in the youth to shore up the void left by their influential predecessors.

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