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Why slow start could hamper Mohun Bagan's bid to retain Calcutta Football League title

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The Mariners are winless in the league heading into the second phase of fixtures.

Mohun Bagan ended their long drought and won the Calcutta Football League last season after eight years, undefeated in the whole campaign under the tutelage of former coach Shankarlal Chakraborty. The Mariners outwitted their rivals, East Bengal last year, who are the record champions of the league. But a drab I-League season meant Chakraborty had to resign in the middle of the season and the club was asking for a total turn over in different areas.

In came, Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna along with his Spanish armada as they started brightly against Mohammedan Sporting with a 2-0 win in the Durand Cup opener. However, the team succumbed under difficult conditions and the pressure of the domestic league and lost to Peerless 0-3 in their CFL opener.

The humiliating defeat for last year's champions in their very first match in the league was a wake-up call for the new Spanish coach who according to a lot of people failed to anticipate the weight of his opponents. Adding to it the players are still struggling to get to their optimum fitness and despite having a proper pre-season it is simply disappointing from their physical trainer, Michael Abotsi.

Up until now, Joseba Beitia has been the driving force in the Mohun Bagan midfield. The former Real Sociedad man also struggled to play his natural game in the wet patchy conditions, which is synonymous to the Kolkata Maidan. However these Spanish players are new to India and after watching them play at the Salt Lake stadium against the Black Panthers in Durand, the side that turned up for the CFL match against Peerless looked a completely different side. Yes, there were changes in personnel but the team completely lost its shape and coordination.





The Mariners have had a busy transfer window where they have made amends to their side which was not up to the mark in the I-League last season. Hence some of the Indian players who have joined the fray like Romario Jesuraj, Nongdamba Naorem, Ashutosh Mehta have never played in Kolkata during this time of the season and hence they will take time to adjust to the conditions as none of them has performed to their true potential in Mohun Bagan colours.

The whole set up is new and it will take time for the squad to gel better and understand each other's way of playing and developing strong coordination. Also this season the mid-table teams in the CFL have prepared themselves well and have reduced the gap in quality between them and the three Kolkata giants. The results are evident as other than Mohammedan Sporting, both the other clubs started their campaign with a loss.

Teams like George Telegraph, Bhawanipore FC, Peerless SC, Southern Samity cannot be taken lightly by any of the three giants. These teams are led by coaches from the local scene and them along with their players have a burning zeal to prove their doubters that they are good enough to survive in this rat race of Maidan. Hence the task becomes even more difficult for a new coach who came to Kolkata a few months ago and despite having tons of experience he stills needs to adapt himself to the conditions and secondly needs his players to tweak their style of play just to compliment the conditions.

But the main question which arises is the amount of time Kibu and his men have. CFL is a fast-paced league and with the Durand Cup running parallelly makes it even more difficult for the 47-year-old tactician. In this case, the other teams in the league have got a headstart, at least their coordination and understanding are in place and the players have adapted to the demands of the situations.


Watch: Mohun Bagan 1-1 Calcutta Customs


With fitness also an alarming concern, this does not look like the year for the Mariners at least up until now. If they want to get back in the running for the CFL title, they need to be more efficient in possession. Vicuna's men need more dynamism up front and just because Salva Chamorro is a huge presence in the air, crosses throughout the ninety minutes won't work always.

Hence they need to chalk out different tactics where they can use Chamorro's physical presence in the final third without losing that element of surprise. Also, Indian players also need to step up big time, players like Dhanachandra Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Gurjinder Kumar, Romario Jesuraj, Ashutosh Mehta are players from whom a lot is expected and it is time for the Indian brigade at Mohun Bagan to get going.

If Kibu Vicuna and his support staff manage to address the fitness issues and make some necessary tactical tweaks, Mohun Bagan can get back on track in their title defence this season. With only a game down, the Mariners will have their chances to redeem themselves as the league still in its early phase. However, the former CA Osasuna assistant will look to rectify the mistakes from the past as things will only get tougher from here for the Mariners.

Published: Mon Aug 19, 2019 04:36 PM IST

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