The Islanders are currently on top of the league standings.

Mumbai City FC, under the tutelage of Sergio Lobera, emerged as a dominant power in the Indian Super League. Last season, the Islanders played impressive football and bagged both the League Winners’ Shield and the ISL title. This time, however, a few weeks ahead of the season, Mumbai City FC saw a new managerial appointment in the form of Des Buckingham. Needless to say, the Islanders seem ambitious to defend their title this season.

Apart from the new head coach, the club have also secured the signatures of a few stalwarts, who are making a difference during the campaign.

Mumbai City FC have already played four matches this season. They have won three, against FC Goa, ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC. However, in their second encounter, they suffered a loss at the hands of Hyderabad FC.

So, are Mumbai City an unpredictable side? Perhaps yes. They were unpredictable last season as well. They lost to NortEast United in the latter stages, when they were on a 10-game unbeaten run. Even in their second leg fixture against SC East Bengal, Mumbai City somehow managed to emerge with a 1-0 victory and struggled to stop the latter in their tracks. Sergio Lobera also went on to praise the SC East Bengal contingent.

This season, they are almost trudging along a similar path doing the same. How many people expected them to lose against Hyderabad FC after they trounced FC Goa comprehensively? Did anyone ever imagine they’ll score five against ATK Mohun Bagan, the then table-toppers?

This unpredictability can act like a double-edged sword. It has both its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

“We’ll have a different gameplay for every opponent. How we position and how we want to work will differ from team-to-team,” said head coach Des Buckingham ahead of their match against ATK Mohun Bagan. Mumbai City entered this clash on the back of a 3-1 defeat to Hyderabad FC. Their opponents ATK Mohun Bagan were then on a rampaging run and on top of the standings with two wins from two, seven goals scored and only two conceded.

The result? Mumbai City thrashed ATKMB 5-1 on the night. They outplayed, out-ran and dominated the last season’s finalists like they were some Sunday league side.

The opposition never knows what’s coming. Mumbai City FC lose one game and their next opposition thinks of adding to the damage. However, it appears that Mumbai score four goals in that match and manage to keep a clean-sheet.

Secondly, they can implement a different strategy to the game. The opposition will be clueless in this case. For example, in all the matches this season, the Islanders have played in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Now, keeping in mind the squad they possess, it may so happen that they go for a 3-5-2 against SC East Bengal (who play mostly in a 4-4-2 flat formation), with adding an extra defender and a striker and pushing up the full-backs to a wing-back position.

Hence, while the ball is on the right flank, an extra bit of space is created on the left (a major drawback of the 4-4-2 flat formation). Thus, the left wing-back can exploit the extra space available or even turn up to score a goal, like Luke Shaw did for England in the Euro 2020 final.

Lastly, reverence. The opposition will always be on their toes as they won’t be able to predict a move. It may also prevent the opponents from reading the game.

Disadvantages

Lose when you are not expected to. Win when it’s too difficult. That’s the beauty of the game, isn’t it? It’s hard to imagine Mumbai City losing against a team placed in the bottom half of the table. Similarly, it is not expected from them to harshly outdo a team sitting on the top. The second reason may not sound like a disadvantage, but the first one is surely a sign of worry to the management and the think-tank.

It may also happen that the team fails to clinch victory in a must-win match and fails to qualify for the playoffs.

But, for now, let’s focus on their next game, which is against an unbeaten Jamshedpur FC. Keeping in mind their unpredictability, it will be a treat to see if they can clinch a victory against an unbeaten Jamshedpur side and retain their superiority on the top of the table. Fun fact, Mumbai City had failed to secure a victory against the Men of Steel last season; they drew one and lost the other.

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