The former Real Madrid Castilla tactician replaces Robbie Fowler as the head coach.

After a lot of uncertainty for the second successive season, SC East Bengal have decided to field a team in the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL). However a lot has changed since the last campaign – former England international Robbie Fowler will not continue as head coach. Therefore the Red and Gold Brigade have appointed Spanish coach Jose Manuel Diaz, who is commonly known as ‘Manolo’ in his native land.

The 53-year-old tactician has worked in Real Madrid’s youth system for several years and have nurtured several star players. However, managing a club of SC East Bengal’s stature will be a different experience for the Spaniard.

SCEB did not have the best outing in their debut ISL season. Now with Manolo’s arrival, expectations are high from the former Real Madrid Castilla man. However, it is a job filled with challenges and how he tackles them will be an interesting prospect:

5. Adapting to Indian football in no time

Just like last season, SC East Bengal were once again slow to get off the blocks. Although they have signed a decent bunch of domestic players and have appointed a new head coach in Manuel Diaz, they should have given him more time. The Spaniard is coming to India for the first time. Therefore, he will take time to get accustomed to the players, the way of football and culture.

A long pre-season is of prime importance for any team to perform at their best. While many ISL outfits have already started their pre-season, East Bengal are still working on their signings. This will be a major challenge for Diaz, as he will have less time to know the players and also prepare them for the challenge ahead.

4. Sticking to a set philosophy

The former Real Madrid Castilla man has a big history of nurturing young players and giving them the freedom that they need to flourish. The Red and Gold Brigade have plenty of young domestic players who will benefit from Diaz’s experience. The Spaniard has worked with star players like Lucas Vazquez, Diego Llorente, Mariano Diaz and Kepa Arrizabalaga during their initial years and has played a pivotal role in them being successful players.

Diaz needs to bring that aura to this team and help them develop a certain style of play that he prefers. Once he builds that foundation things will fall into place for the Kolkata-based outfit. Therefore, playing a set brand of football may pay dividends for them in the upcoming season.

3. Living up to his billing

Manuel Diaz has been a part of Real Madrid’s youth setup for many years. He has also earned several plaudits in Spain for his exceptional work with younger players and his attacking mindset. Apart from his time at Real Madrid Castilla, the 53-year-old has also managed clubs like Navalcarnero, Ponferradina and Hercules CF. The Spaniard has a very respectable 41% win ratio and will hope to bring that influence to Indian shores.

SC East Bengal finished in ninth position last season, only ahead of Odisha FC and Kerala Blasters. The Red and Gold Brigade managed only three wins and eight draws out of 20 matches. Diaz will look to change that predicament this term and live up to his high standards. But, the only challenge for him now is to adapt to a new environment in no time.

2. Signing the right foreign players

This is an area where SCEB went wrong last season. While they signed some quality foreigners, they failed to get the combination right. Most of the players were forced to play out of their desired positions and hence they weren’t at their best. Also, SC East Bengal did not sign a reliable striker during the summer transfer window. So, they had to field Anthony Pilkington or Jacques Maghoma in advanced positions. Later, they roped in Bright Enobakhare, but even the Nigerian was not the kind of centre-forward that they needed at that moment.

Therefore, the team management will have to be very mindful while choosing their foreign players, as they will hope that they cover all the bases. While most of the domestic players are young, Manuel Diaz may look to bring in some experienced foreigners to shoulder the responsibility and guide the Indians.

1. Getting the team balance right

Continuing from the last point, the Spaniard must get his team combination right for the upcoming season. The Kolkata-based outfit will have to evaluate the domestic signings and then bring in the foreigners, so that they can get the balance right. It is an area where they messed up last season and the results were evident.

So, the onus is on Manuel Diaz to bring in players who can fit seamlessly into his system and complement their Indian teammates. Last season, SCEB were overdependent on their foreign players and Diaz will look to change that.

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