With the calm leadership of Alexandre Guimaraes and key players peaking at the right time MCFC have their eyes set on the big prize…
A couple of defining matches can change the course of the league. If Arsenal felt it last season in the English Premier League, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid also know how it feels, surrendering the league to Barcelona on more than one occasion after leading the table for long. In the Indian Super League, there’s no dearth of excitement on this front.
Delhi Dynamos FC, who has been a perennial mid-table club, have seen a change in their fortunes ever since the arrival of Gianluca Zambrotta. The former Italian World Cup winner is a shrewd tactician and the team already looks very potent under him. While the Lions actually set the pace in the league, leading the table in the mid-stages, it has been another debutant manager who’s making the right noises at the business end of the league.
With the final stages of the league approaching, Mumbai City FC are showcasing their best on the field. Firing on all cylinders, Mumbai are probably the only side which has a good mixture of quality in every department of the game. For a team which finished its last two seasons on the 7th and 6th spot on the league table, it is a welcome change. Alexander Guimaraes, a former Costa Rican footballer who represented his country in the 1990 World Cup, took over the reins of the club this season and has impacted this wonderful turnaround.
Playing a crisp-yet-safe brand of football, Guimaraes has seen Mumbai City dominate teams in the league. While the absence of key players like Diego Forlan and Sunil Chhetri due to injuries and club duty did take a toll, their return has easily seen the effect on the pitch. Playing at a good pace in the attacking third, Mumbai City also have composed midfielders and defenders who always step up and deliver the goods.
In the last two games, Mumbai have been both clinical and dominating. The team has been easily capable of replicating their ideas on the pitch, which is a great sign of their team’s mental strength. The team, wonderfully led by marquee player Diego Forlan, defeated Kerala Blasters 5-0 and Chennaiyin FC 2-0 at home. With such performances Mumbai City have risen to the top of the league table and deservingly so.
What is interesting and morale-boosting for the team is their ability to link-up play in the attacking third. With India’s best centre-forward Chhetri joining hands with Forlan, it arguably is the most dangerous Indo-foreign attacking pair in the league. Matias Defederico took a lot of responsibility in the absence of these maverick strikers, scoring thrice himself. The Argentine has gone back to his favorite left-wing position and is firing on all cylinders.
Taking about numbers, there is another interesting stat. Forlan has had 16 shots on target, scoring 5 goals. Having played 10 games, the Uruguayan has also assisted twice, which shows how effective he’s been on the field in not just scoring, but also in the game-play. These numbers show exactly why such a huge amount was spent on acquiring the services of the former Manchester United man.
In the centre of the pitch, Brito Alves and Krisztian Vadocz have made a terrific impact. While Alves has been the box-to-box midfielder, Vadocz has taken the role of the playmaker pretty nicely. The Hungarian midfielder has played in all games for Mumbai City FC this season, scoring three crucial goals. With such contribution from the midfield, it is easy to see why Guimaraes rates him so highly.
Mumbai City have their strength at the back. The coach has setup the side brilliantly in the defensive field. The team has been well led by Lucian Goian conceding the least number of goals, even after playing the highest number of matches. 8 goals in 13 matches show the brilliant job the defence has done, Goian contributing with 63 tackles himself, the highest in the league. Credit must also be given to Roberto Volpato, who stands at fifth in the standings with 19 saves. Sena Ralte and Sehnaj Singh have always given praise-worthy performances, which bodes well for the side. It is interesting to see that even after a high number of tackles, the team does not feature in the top five for fouls committed, which shows the timing and defensive technique has been thorough.
Earning 1.7 points every game this season, Mumbai City FC can be proud of their achievements so far. Scoring 16 goals, MCFC have also proved that bulk-scoring is not important, scoring at critical junctures is. With a guaranteed spot in the knockout stages, they can now set their eyes on the big prize.
For a team which has Chhetri and Forlan as strikers, Defederico and Sony Norde on the wings and Lucian Goian and Gerson Vieira as defenders, success can’t be very far away. The team management and the coach are showing that on the pitch, too. For perfect cinema, there’s always a thinking director in the background. F or perfect drama, there’s always a theatre expert and for football, there’s always a silent coach.
With a well-rounded working towards a clear plan and with key players peaking at the right time there is little doubt that the men from the metropolis are one of the strongest contenders for the title this season.
Editorial by Punit Tripathi Khel Now Correspondent from Delhi – A sports enthusiast. Freelance writer on football and cricket. A die-hard Manchester United follower. You can Follow him on twitter .