The Marina Machans will be hoping to pick up from where they left off last season and challenge the other heavyweights in the upcoming campaign.
An Owen Coyle-led Chennaiyin FC rose from the ruins in the second half of the 2019-20 Indian Super League (ISL) campaign, to edge their way into the playoffs of the competition and subsequently into the final. However, this time around the Marina Machans find themselves without Owen Coyle and key members of the squad that inspired the comeback. The new Chennaiyin FC head coach Csaba Laszlo has a massive job on his hands, if he is to steer the two-time champions to a third title.
We at Khel Now bring you everything you need to know about the Marina Machans ahead of the upcoming ISL season:
Last Season’s Performance: Runners-up
After a dismal start to the campaign under John Gregory, Chennaiyin FC underwent a managerial change, appointing the former Burnley boss as the new head coach.
They went on to win seven of their last eight games in the league, creeping into the final playoffs position. The Marina Machans finished the season as runners-up to ATK, losing out to the Kolkata side in a hotly-contested final.
All the football clubs involved in the Indian Super League this season will be undertaking subdued pre-seasons, being only allowed to schedule friendlies between each other.
Chennaiyin FC’s pre-season began with a 1-0 defeat to Mumbai City FC, after fielding an all-Indian side. The South Indian side will play one more friendly against FC Goa, before the start of the new season.
With the departure of Owen Coyle, CFC have undergone a major change in backroom staff. Csaba Laszlo was brought in to replace the outgoing Scotsman. The Hungarian coach’s last appointment was at Dundee United in the Scottish Premier League. Admir Kozlic has also been brought in as the assistant coach, alongside Syed Sabir Pasha. Former Czech goalkeeper, Martin Raska will come in as the new goalkeeping coach.
The final new entrant into the CFC fold is Sports Scientist, Csaba Gabris, an appointment that the club views as a foray into modernizing the way in which the team approaches games.
After losing their head coach and falling into yet another transitional period, Chennaiyin FC were always going to have a long transfer window. With the loss of Nerijus Valskis and Lucian Goian over the summer, it was of utmost importance to add to the foreign contingent at the club.
Over the course of the summer transfer window, the Marina Machans invested heavily in foreigners, bringing in five players from outside the country to bolster the depleted squad.
The club also secured the signing of former Jamshedpur FC star Memo Moura, in what was an astute move from the South Indian side. Jakub Sylvestr, Esmael Goncalves and Fatkhulo Fatkhulloev are all capable of playing anywhere along the frontline and have been brought in to add some bite to the attack. Meanwhile, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai and Reagan Singh were added from Odisha FC and NorthEast United respectively as full-back options. Aman Chetri was the pick of the players promoted to the first team from the reserves.
The departure of Owen Coyle from the club brought with it a large scale exodus of talent. ISL 2019-20 Golden Boot winner, Nerijus Valskis made the move to Jamshedpur along with Coyle. He was soon joined by young full-back Laldinliana Renthlei. Moreover, veteran striker Jeje also left the club to join ISL new entrants SC East Bengal. Goian, Dragos Firtulescu and Masih Saighani also saw their contracts terminated, while Andre Schembri called time on his career.
Tondonba Singh, Zohmingliana Ralte and Sanjiban Ghosh round out the outs for the Marina Machans.
Goalkeepers: BY Revanth, Vishal Kaith, Karanjit Singh, Samik Mitra
Defenders: Enes Sipovic, Reagan Singh, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, Eli Sabia, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Deepak Tangri, Remi Aimol, Balaji Ganesan, Aqib Nawab
Midfielders: Abhijit Sarkar, Thoi Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Memo Moura, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rafael Crivellaro, Srinivasan Pandiyan, Dhanpal Ganesh, Fatkhulo Fatkhulloev (captain), Germanpreet Singh
Forwards: Isma, Aman Chetri, Rahim Ali, Jakub Sylvestr
Formation and Tactics
Given his history, Csaba Laszlo is likely to adopt the 4-2-3-1 system at Chennaiyin FC, a system that focuses heavily on dominance in midfield and pace on the wings. With Thapa and Crivellaro in midfield, this system could be a perfect fit for the Marina Machans. Thapa’s ability to turn defence into attack will have the new Chennaiyin boss licking his lips. Eli Sabia and Enes Sipovic will most likely form the centre-back pairing, with Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and Jerry as full-backs.
Thapa will start in midfield along with the fit again, Dhanpal Ganesh or Germanpreet Singh, with Raphael Crivellaro in front of them. Chhangte and Fatkhulloev can be the options on the wings, along with new signing Sylvestr as the lone striker.
Such is Chennaiyin’s prowess in midfield that if the situation were to demand it, they have the option to slot the experienced Memo Moura into the hole in front of the two central defenders, with Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh in front of them.
While this formation affords little in the way of midfield protection, it can be a weapon against sides that Chennaiyin will have to break down over the course of the campaign.
- While the Marina Machans have seen a number of their stars depart, they have gone above and beyond to replace them, bringing real depth of quality to the squad.
- With a foreign defensive pairing in Eli Sabia and Enes Spiovic, Chennaiyin FC have one of the biggest and the most experienced defensive units in the league.
- Fatkhulo Fatkhulloev’s vast experience in the Tajik league will prove to be crucial in bringing balance to an attack missing Valskis and Schembri.
- With the glut of talent in midfield, Chennaiyin FC will likely look to pass their opponents off the park through game-changers of the likes of Anirudh Thapa, Raphael Crivellaro and the newly-signed Moura.
- When Lucian Goian left the Marina Machans, he took with him his leadership in defence. At times last season, the Romanian’s organizational talents dragged the South Indian side through matches.
- While Chennaiyin have strengthened their foreign contingent considerably, they have largely failed to address the inconsistency from their Indian performers last season. With just five foreigners allowed on the field at any point of time, a lot of the onus will fall on the likes of Lallianzuala Chhangte and Thoi Singh to perform in attack.
- Finally, with Owen Coyle leaving the club to join rivals Jamshedpur, Chennaiyin find themselves starting from scratch yet again, immediately putting them behind their competitors, especially with the shortened pre-season in this edition of the competition.
Players to Watch
The diminutive midfielder finds himself on this list every year and he never disappoints. Thapa was crucial to Chennaiyin’s success last term and his new coach will be hoping that the mercurial youngster continues to light up the Indian Super League with his performances.
Edwin Sydney Vanspaul
The Tamilian right-back was a revelation for the Marina Machans last season, following his move to the Marina Arena from Chennai City FC. Vanspaul is known for his ability to attack from the right-back spot and for his overlapping runs in support of the forwards. This trait will be perfect for new signing Fatkhulloev, who tends to drift inward from the wider positions.
The Tajik attacker has won the most international caps in his country’s history with 68, winning seven Tajik league titles and six Tajik Cups with FC Istiklol as well as making two appearances in the AFC Cup final. His experience and pedigree will be invaluable to a Chennaiyin FC squad that has lost a large number of high-quality players.
What to Expect
Chennaiyin FC have been one of the most successful teams in the short history of the Indian Super League. However, with several of the outfits considerably strengthening and with home advantage all but wiped out, Csaba Laszlo will have his work cut out if he is to make it to the playoffs of the competition.
That said, we can safely expect a fight from the Marina Machans, who will be eager to win back their crown after coming so close last time around.