Some shuffling in the starting lineup can go a long way for coach Manolo Diaz.
SC East Bengal seems to have started their season just where they left it last term. Despite a new and experienced coach, a brand new team and a fresh start, the Red and Golds have gone down a similar path and are winless in their first three games, two of which have been defeats. Manuel Diaz’s side started their campaign in ISL 2021-22 with a draw against Jamshedpur. Butt since then their season have gone south with heavy defeats against ATK Mohun Bagan in the Kolkata Derby and a 6-4 loss to Odisha FC.
The starting XI that head coach Diaz puts out have come under question. Perhaps the two areas where the team have shown major problems are the backline and a lack of creativity. Over-reliance on the foreign contingent can also be a contributing factor to their defeats. Talented Indians are available in the squad, but are yet to start a match.
Here are three players who, if given the chance, can improve SC East Bengal as a team:
3. Adil Khan
The Red and Golds have already conceded 10 goals in their first three outings. This calls for serious concern about the team’s defensive setup. One man, who has been warming the benches for some time is Adil Khan. The centre-back has all the goods to offer stability and sturdiness to SCEB’s defence. The 33-year-old has experience playing for the national team. Last season, he also was part of the FC Goa side that reached the playoffs.
Some players who have been getting the nod ahead of Adil Khan are Raju Gaikwad and Tomislav Mrcela. The former’s defensive frailties have come to light in their 6-4 defeat against Odisha FC. Hector Rodas strolled past Gaikwad to head his second goal of the match.
This is a situation where someone like Adil could have fared much better. He has superior aerial abilities and can be pivotal in dealing with set-pieces. Mrcela, the Australian centre-back, had a decent performance against Jamshedpur. But, in the subsequent outings, he’s seemed quite slow on the turn and is susceptible to losing possession. While Khan is not the quickest, he is not afraid to make that tackle before the forward gets behind the lines.
The duo of Prce-Khan can very well be the pairing Diaz has been looking for to strengthen their backline. With their first-choice goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya out with injury, Khan will surely herald a consistency in their defence.
2. Semboi Haokip
Another forward in SC East Bengal’s ranks, Haokip has proven his mettle after coming on against Odisha. In those 20 minutes, his goal provided some impetus to his team’s fightback. He seemed quite lively and good in the air. Haokip arrived from Bengaluru FC on a free transfer and was handed his debut during the last match.
He rose to fame back in 2015, when he scored four times in six appearances for FC Goa. This included a hat-trick against Mumbai City FC. Haokip can flourish in a 4-4-2 system having already shown good chemistry with Chima. The 28-year-old can also occupy the right channel ahead of Naorem Singh, who has been poor in his outings.
1. Daniel Chima Chukwu
The Nigerian forward played the role of an impact substitute against Odisha FC. With his two goals in a short cameo, Chima almost salvaged a point for his team. It took some time for the 30-year-old to acclimatize with Indian football, but he seems to be ready to lead the line. He has displayed brilliant hold-up play and his constant movement proves to be a problem for the opposition defence.
He is perhaps the only proper striker in the team apart from Balwant Singh, who has been out with an injury since the start of the season. Chima should start each match and not be kept in the subs to be brought on for a few minutes. If Perosevic and Dervisevic can create chances, Chima will make sure they are turned into goals.