The Islanders’ boss also revealed that the most important thing for him is to improve the level of Indian players at the club.
In what was his first press conference as the head coach of Mumbai City FC, Sergio Lobera addressed the press on Tuesday. The Spaniard talked about a host of topics, right from the pre-season preparations to the strength of his squad, living in a bio-secure bubble and the increasing competition in the Indian Super League. With the Islanders slated to play their campaign opener against NorthEast United FC on November 23, the group has had little time to prepare for the campaign.
Addressing that issue, Sergio Lobera said, “It is a very different preseason and we need to work in a short time and prepare well the team for the first match, it is not easy, there are lot of (factors) quarantine, a lot of players arrived later but this is a challenge and we have to (do it in) two ways – complain or adapt quickly in this situation and if you complain maybe you have all the problems, few time to adapt to this situation and challenges and I want challenge, it is important for us to work in best ways as possible, we are working very hard and I’m happy with the professional attitude of my players, it is not easy and is a big challenge.”
Mumbai City FC created waves in the transfer market by signing multiple prominent players such as Adam Le Fondre, Hugo Boumous, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Ahmed Jahouh, Mandar Rao Dessai among others. The City Football Group’s financial backing has resulted in the creation of a formidable squad, worthy of being called one of the title-contenders.
Speaking on the benefits of working with CFG, Sergio Lobera explained, “It is impossible to explain you the benefits for me working with the CFG. Lots of support and advice of the City group is very important for me. There are a lot of people with big knowledge about football and when you are working in this way, it is amazing. Because, you can grow as a coach when you speak with these people with big knowledge about football. You don’t need to waste a lot of time explaining what is necessary as a coach, what is necessary for my players because they know this obviously because they have big experience in the world of football.”
Despite the brief pre-season, the tactician can benefit from the fact that he has coached multiple players from the squad previously. The familiarity factor can enable him to implement his philosophy properly, and Sergio Lobera seemed to agree with that thought too.
“The same situation happened in FC Goa last season. When you have some players you have worked with before, it is easier to implement our idea in a short time. But, it’s not easy. Because I need to build a team, it is not about individualities. I think this is a collective sport. We need to work as a team,” he shared.
“With very good 11 players does not mean you have the best team. You need to be a team and it is helpful to me as a coach to work with players who played before with me because it is easier to try to implement our idea and style of play. But, we need to work with 28 players and we need to try (and get) the best from the team and not only from some players,” the Spaniard added.
Mumbai City FC have two prolific, high-profile strikers in Le Fondre and Ogbeche. There is some suspicion whether the duo will play together or whether they will be fielded on a rotational basis. Lobera remained non-committal on that, but he assured that he can be flexible with the formations during the season.
“The formation is possible to change, because finally you want to play with the best players. Our style of play, philosophy is non-negotiable. We can change the formation. You can play 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, but the most important thing for me as a coach is the way it is possible to play and the players understand and believe in this,” he revealed.
Sergio Lobera further elaborated that man-management is going to be key for him in this season as the squad is comprised of numerous prominent individuals. He believes that maintaining a fine balance between collective and individual aims is critical with respect to any football team.
“I think during my career over a long time, the most important thing as a coach is to manage the group well. Everybody needs to know what is the collective objective. The first is always the team and second thing is the individual situation. But I need to find balance between individual targets and collective targets as a coach because both things is possible. This is my job and I try to manage these kind of situations the best way possible,” the Mumbai City head coach mentioned.
His success at FC Goa was also defined by the emergence of multiple startling domestic talents like Mohammed Nawaz, Seriton Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Brandon Fernandes and Jackichand Singh amongst others. He has pinned his hopes on the Indian players at Mumbai City FC too and aspires to work cordially with both them and the overseas contingent. The 43-year-old even termed the foreign players crucial for the development of the domestic footballers in the roster, but implied that it is impossible to succeed without the latter’s contributions.
“The most important thing is to improve the level of Indian players. Me as a coach, I need the help of foreign players. It’s not easy to play in India. You need to adapt quickly to different situations. Foreign players have a big role to improve the level of Indian players. It is impossible to win a trophy if the level of Indian players is not good. It’s impossible to improve the level of Indian players when the foreign players don’t understand well the situation in India and the way they need to work to help the team and to help to improve the confidence and obviously the Indian players-tactically and technically. This is a part of my job as a coach but the foreign players play a big role on the pitch and off the pitch,” he signed off.