The 51-year-old played a role in most of Buriram United’s successes in recent years.

With a managerial career spanning over 15 years and with the experience of managing teams from Olympiacos in Greece to Buriram United in Thailand among others, Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Chennaiyin FC‘s newly appointed head coach Bozidar Bandovic brings a wealth of experience and proven quality to the club.

Prior to kick-starting his career as a manager, the Montenegrin turned out for various top clubs in Eastern Europe and the Balkan region like Red Star Belgrade and Olympiacos. A defender by trade, Bandovic was a part of the Yugoslavian First League-winning Red Star Belgrade team in 1994-95. After retiring from the game at quite a young age of 33, the Niksic-born tactician began his career as an assistant coach at Akratitos FC. He then worked up his way to become the manager of his former club Olympiacos in 2010.

It was in 2014 when Bandovic decided to try his luck in Asia, joining Thai club Buriram United. He left in 2015 and had two short spells at BEC Tero Sasana and Sisaket before returning to United in 2017. 

His second spell at Buriram United shines the brightest on his managerial CV, winning two league titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18. In these two years, Buriram broke national records, recording league-high finishes in terms of points scored. Two runners-up finishes followed in the next two seasons. He will now lead Chennaiyin’s charge after a mediocre 2020-21 ISL, where the club under-performed across various departments.

So how do Bandovic’s teams play?

Firstly, Bozidar Bandovic sets his teams up to play direct football. His teams aim to carry the ball into the final third as quickly as possible by using long balls. Chennaiyin FC lining up with a three-at-the-back formation with two wing-backs will be a common sight in the upcoming season. This is because he insists on playing three centre-backs with an intense man marking system. This also aligns with the club recently signing Indian defenders Salam Ranjan Singh, Narayan Das and Deepak Devrani.

The central midfielders should provide ball-winning ability and work-rate rather than aiding in possession. However, as Buriram are one of the best teams in the Thai league, teams often tended to sit back. This means that some level of technical security would also be needed at Chennaiyin FC. As such, the Marina Machans will be looking to rope in some central midfielders in the ongoing transfer window.

Despite playing a somewhat pragmatic style, Bandovic’s Buriram United were comfortable in possession as well. The wide players will get more freedom comparatively. They are also the ones who would keep the game flowing in the final third. It will be interesting to see how Lallianzuala Chhangte performs this season, as he looks well-suited to the new coach’s style. How Rafael Crivellaro adapts himself to this approach is also going to be interesting. The Brazilian is a natural attacking midfielder who likes to express himself in the final third. 

Strikers who play under Bandovic are conventional target men with physical ability, hold-up play and aerial prowess. Chennaiyin do not have a player in that mould for now. Hence, there are going to be new additions here. 

At Buriram United, Bandovic employed a low-to-mid block, while pressing at an above-average rate compared to the rest of the league. So, tactically, despite being a pragmatist, his teams were comfortable passing their way to goals. They were among the league’s best for shots, key passes, crosses, touches in the box. However, player quality at United was much higher to the rest of the league, so that also needs to be kept in mind. 

To sum it up, Buriram were comfortable both with and without the ball. They knew how to play well in both situations. This comfort could come in handy for Chennaiyin.

Other observations

One exciting aspect of Bandovic is the number of chances he gives to youngsters and the trust he places in them. 

But, there have been a few criticisms too. Buriram United are one of the best teams in Thailand and they have elite foreigners going by the league’s standards. In the absence of these foreigners, the club have struggled.

Bozidar Bandovic has proved that he is a result-oriented coach who needs less time to implement his ideas. His record in Thailand serves as proof for that. And with a manager of such pedigree, Chennaiyin look good to make the playoffs once again with a few additions to the squad.

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