The Red and Gold Brigade have endured their worst-ever finish to a league campaign.

What happens when you dive into the unknown without any preparation? You are bound to look absolutely clueless. Clueless. That’s the perfect word someone who just started watching football can use to describe the performances of SC East Bengal in ISL 2021-22. The team which entered the star-studded and well-funded Indian Super League last season seemed to have ignored the learnings from the past.

As compared to three wins under erstwhile head coach Robbie Fowler in the 2020-21 season, the Kolkata-based side could only muster a solitary win in 20 matches this time. The club started the season with Manolo Diaz at the helm, who succeeded Fowler after the ninth-place finish last time out. Different starting XIs, asking players to start in different roles and three coaches later, SCEB got their first and only win of the season against FC Goa on January 19, two months after the season had started.

Fact Sheet for SC East Bengal in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22

SC East Bengal Fact Sheet, ISL 2021-22

Top performers:

Antonio Perosevic

Antonio Perosevic

The Croatian forward was undoubtedly SC East Bengal’s best player this season. The Red and Gold midfielders would always look up and search for the lively player on the field. Despite being unavailable for five matches due to disciplinary lapses on his part, he emerged as the club’s top goalscorer with the most assists.

Perosevic netted four times and provided once throughout the season. His best individual performance came in the 3-4 defeat to FC Goa, where he scored a brace. It’ll be interesting to see if the club manages to retain the marksman for the next season. Needless to say, any team would love to have him in their ranks.

Hira Mondal

Hira Mondal

The 25-year-old left-back has to be one of the best performers in a Red and Gold shirt this season. The defender might not have much to show in ways of goal contributions, but his immaculate tackling and interceptions caught everyone’s eye. Whichever flank he played on, he made sure that the opposition winger did not go past him. Hira Mondal is what you would call an “old-school” defender who does not shy away from making that sliding tackle.

The Kolkata native averaged almost two tackles and two interceptions per game for SC East Bengal. He also has two clean sheets under his name. Some of the memorable moments from his defensive exploits include those heroic goal-line clearances against arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan and Odisha FC.

Naorem Mahesh Singh

stat Naorem Mahesh Singh

An example of a ‘late bloomer’ would certainly be Naorem Mahesh Singh. After a string of unimpressive performances during the beginning of the season, Singh became an integral part of Mario Rivera’s attacking force. The speedy winger could leave defenders in his wake with quick feet and be lively on the counter.

His best outing has to be when his brace gave SC East Bengal their solitary win of the campaign against the Gaurs. Another interesting fact surrounding the player is his 84 tackles in 18 games, ninth-highest amongst those with the most number of tackles. This proves that apart from having a proclivity for scoring, Naorem also keeps up the press against the opponents.

Under-Performer of the season:

Arindam Bhattacharya

Arindam Bhattacharya

Talk about a fall from grace! Skipper Arindam Bhattacharya arrived at the SC East Bengal camp after winning the Golden Glove with their rivals from across the city in the previous season. The same form was not maintained, unfortunately. He did miss a major part of the season owing to injuries, but his performances significantly underwhelming for a seasoned custodian like himself.

Bhattacharya’s worst outings have to be both the games against ATK Mohun Bagan. He conceded three goals in each match, something that is not accepted in this age-old rivalry. He did manage to keep one clean-sheet, which came against the Islanders. Last season, the goalkeeper conceded 19 goals in 23 matches. On the other hand, he conceded the same number in only 11 appearances this time around!

Top Performances

1. FC Goa 1-2 SC East Bengal

Watch: FC Goa 1-2 SC East Bengal

2. SC East Bengal 2-2 Chennaiyin FC

Watch: SC East Bengal 2-2 Chennaiyin FC

3. Hyderabad FC 1-1 SC East Bengal

Watch: Hyderabad FC 1-1 SC East Bengal

Manager’s Report Card

The club went through a lot of chopping and changing when it came to the coaching staff. It saw three different coaches be in-charge during the ISL 2021-22 campaign. They started with Manolo Diaz, who looked as confused on the sidelines as the players on the field. Due to unsatisfactory results, he was sacked after just eight games.

For the next three games, SC East Bengal looked somewhat stable under interim coach Renedy Singh. They churned out two well-earned draws and one closely-contested defeat. For the remaining matches, a familiar face in Mario Rivera took the reins of the squad.

Under the Spaniard, SCEB improved by leaps and bounds but were nowhere near the standards a club of their stature demands. The beleaguered outfit were only frequenting between the 10th and 11th place. Rivera did give the fans their first and only win of the campaign against FC Goa and a couple of spirited performances as well. However, the results were not desirable and the Red and Gold Brigade had to finish the season at the bottom.

What we could understand from Mario Rivera’s nine games in-charge is that he heavily depends of counter-attacking football. Moreover, he stresses the importance of maintaining the defensive shape when on the back foot.

Lessons to be Learned

While talking about SC East Bengal, the yardstick has to be ATK Mohun Bagan and their rise to the top. Currently, that top is a long way to go for the Red and Gold side of Kolkata. Finishing last in the table in ISL 2021-22 should be a big wake-up call for the people at the top to remedy the crisis at the club at the earliest.

Time is something that the coach and the staff were not given prior to the ISL 2021-22 season. Now is the best time to forget this shambolic campaign and think ahead. A re-build is required at the club, right from the officials to the players. This chopping and changing is not good for any football club, let alone an unstable one like SC East Bengal. If they wish to go back to their glory days once again, the club will have to press reset and build from the ground up.

Fan View

Jayajit Biswas
Jayajit Biswas

To be very honest, I had a very mixed reaction (to SC East Bengal joining the Indian Super League). On one hand, I sincerely felt that SC East Bengal was not ready to compete in ISL. Since SCEB are a fan and member-based club, and due to the pressure from the fans, they were compelled to take part in the league.

There’s an old English proverb, “As you sow, so you reap.” You enter at the fag end of the start of the tournament, where are you supposed to find all the good players? If you look at the other teams who have played well, you will find that their national, as well as their foreign recruits, have been great. With SC East Bengal, like last season, they were unsure whether they would take part in the league. They were also unsure whether they would get an investor. Once they did get one, it was too little too late.

It’s not good (on the numerous managerial changes throughout the season). You had time to pick your coach. Once you do, you have to give them some time as well. You just cannot hire and fire. It’s not a corporate world. Now if you don’t have enough quality players, how will the results come? The coach is as good as the players he has.

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