I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: Mohun Bagan
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
The Mariners will look to regain the title they narrowly missed out on last season.
It's going be a defining season for Mohun Bagan, who will have to stand up to their critics and show that they are still well and capable of winning the I-League which kicks off in just over a week's time. The Mariners' had been engulfed in an attempt to gain a place in the Indian Super League after the season ended, but were unable to do so and they'll have to fight it out in India's "premier" football league for at least one more season.
Bagan will aim for the I-League trophy this season which has evaded them ever since their miraculous win in 2014 and it'll be a new dawn for them now with a changed squad and a newlook to their team. It'll be a season for Bagan to prove their case of being one of the best football clubs in the country right now.
Last Season's Performance
Mohun Bagan had another case of so close, yet so far last season when they again missed out on the I-League trophy and finished in 2nd place. The Mariners had a great start to the season but started to stutter towards the end and lost the crucial league-decider to Aizawl in the penultimate gameweek. They missed out on the I-League title by a single point in the end, similar to the 2015/16 season when the Mariners finished two points behind winners Bengaluru FC.
The Mariners started their pre-season by participating in the Calcutta Football League this season. Many stars were missing from the team as assistant coach Shankarlal Chakraborty took helm of the club during the tournament. Bagan looked pretty dominant throughout theleague, not losing a single game and giving stiff competition to East Bengal at the top of the table. But, in their final match which was a title-decider against EB, they could only draw and finished on the same points as the Red and Gold Brigade, who won the CFL thanks to their superior goal difference.
Despite the crushing end to the CFL season, The Mariners kept on preparing well for the upcoming I-League and participated in the Sikkim Gold Cup. They won their first trophy of the season by defeating Partha Chakra in the final thanks to a goal from new signing Ansumana Kromah. They also defeated FCI 3-0 in another pre-season match and are scheduled to face FC Goa and FC Pune City just before kicking off in the league.
Sen will look to bring back the I-League trophy to the Mariners
Sanjoy Sen will be at the helm of Mohun Bagan yet again this season and will hope to lead them to glory this time out. Sen narrowly missed out on the I-League once against last season, but will hope that the improvements to their attacking lineup will help them convincingly win the I-League this time out. He was criticized by some for not taking the AFC Cup seriously last season which saw Bagan failing to make it out of their group and will look to improve on that front this season as well.
Sen has lost quite a number of players due to them opting to play in the ISL and has a rather new look to his squad. He'll also be tangled in a rivalry with Khalid Jamil, who has now become the coach of East Bengal and and since things have gotten quite personal due to the clubs' rivalry, Sen will look to prove himself to be the better coach by leading his side to glory ahead of their city rivals.
Mohun Bagan have made quite a lot of changes to their squad from last season, releasing a few players who were deemed surplus by the team and gaining a lot of precious players in the squad which can help them lead a title charge in the I-League in the upcoming season.
Ins: Mohun Bagan have signed a lot of players in the summer to completely changed up their squad from what it looked like last season. They signed young goalkeeper Soran Anganba to boost their goalkeeping department. The Mariners also made a big defensive signing in getting I-League winner Kingsley Obumneme from Aizawl FC as well as Gurjinder Kumar from Minerva Punjab. Bagan also signed Australian midfielder Diogo Ferreira who brings in a lot of experience with him to the middle of the park.
The Mariners also acquired the services of Japanese midfielder Yuta Kinowaki, who had a great season for Shillong Lajong. They also signed Chesterpaul Lyngdoh and Beikhokhei Beingaichho to add to the home-grown talent in their squad. But, the biggest coups for them in the summer were the signings of Ansumana Kromah from Churchill Brothers and last season's I-League top goal-scorer Asier Pierrick Dipanda who will definitely help boost their attacking prowess this season.
Outs: The Mariners really suffered from the ISL taking place simultaneously and lost out on some of their bigger players to the ISL clubs. Debjit Majumder decided to play for ATK, while they also lost out on some big defenders like Anas Edathodika, Prabir Das and Pritam Kotal and they released Eduardo Ferreira. Bagan also lost their midfield crop as Kean Lewis, Pronay Halder, Souvik Chakraborty, Sehnaj Singh and Robinson Singh all left. They shocked many by releasing captain Katsumi Yusa, who joined rivals East Bengal. The Mariners also lost top scorer Daryl Duffy who signed with Scottish club St Mirren, while both Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh were snatched up by ISL clubs.
Formation and Tactics
Mohun Bagan have quite the new look to their team, but Sen will mostly go with a traditional 4-4-2 lineup this season. Their midfield looks quite set with some players, in the likes of Kinowaki, Norde, Ferreira looking fixtures the team. Ferreira will hold the line in midfield for the Mariners with Kinowaki playing the role of the now gone Katsumi, while Sony Norde and Chesterpoul Lyngdoh will play on the flanks in the 4-4-2 formation. Dipanda will spearhead the attack alongside Azharuddin Mallick or Kromah.
If Sen is to change up his tactics, we may even see a 4-3-3 being played by the manager. We may see a 3-man midfield of Ferreira, Kinowaki and Raynier Fernandes along with the attacking three of Norde, Dipanda and Kromah if they are to change up their formation.
Mohun Bagan have spent big on their attack this season and that'll definitely be their biggest strength. They've got some brilliant attacking talent and more importantly retained the services of Norde, who rejected the ISL to play for the Mariners this season. The addition of the likes of Dipanda, Kinowaki and Kromah will prove to be vital as the season progresses.
Their youth talents in the likes of Mallick and Lyngdoh will give an unpredictability and pace to their attack, complimenting well with their stars. They also have a stable midfield right now with the experienced Ferreira at the helm of it.
The only rather notable weakness in this very strong Bagan team will probably be their inexperienced defense, as nobody apart from Kingsley or Kingshuk Debnath are really that experienced in defense for them. Ricky Lallawmawma showed himself to be a great left-back for Aizawl last season, but doesn't really have much experience with him. The Mariners signed some young defenders in the summer, something which could come back to haunt them. They also have a shaky goalkeeper in Shilton Paul, while the backup doesn't have much experience in the I-League either and Sen needs to be wary of training his defense properly in the season.
Players To Watch
Norde will be key to Bagan's success this season
Sony Norde has been the crown jewel for Mohun Bagan in the past few years and the Mariners showed incredible intent to retain his services, as they paid him a hefty sum to reject the ISL and play for them in the I-League. Norde will be given much of the responsibility in attack and will be key to their success in the next few months. He scored three goals in the I-League last season and was instrumental in creating many chances for the team last time in the league.
The Haitian magician can be a game-changer for the Mariners and will look to repeat his magic of 2014 which helped the Kolkata club lift the I-League. His trickery and skill on the flanks gives defenders nightmares and the winger will look to repay the faith shown in him by the club and lead them to glory this season.
Aser Dipanda: Asier Dipanda proved to be a lethal striker for Lajong last season when he scored 11 goals for them in the I-League and finished the season as the top scorer. His amazing work obviously caught the eye of Bagan, who made a move for him after the CFL ended and signed him to fill the void left in the attack by the departures of Lalpekhlua and Balwant. Dipanda can run riot in the upcoming season with the players he has to help him score and if he can create a partnership with Norde, then it could be a nightmare for the other teams.
The striker is a great finisher who doesn't let go of any chance he gets to put the ball into the back of the net and is the kind of player the Mariners needed to win the league this season. He'll hope to recreate what he did for Lajong last campaign and knowing how much support he'll get to bang goals in, Dipanda could be a menace for the opposition defenders with his movement and a terrific eye for goal.
Azharuddin Mallick: Azharuddin Mallick has proved to be the find of the year for Bagan, with the 20-year-old coming off age for the club he has been with for the past few years. Not only did he perform really well in the CFL, even scoring against East Bengal in the Kolkata Derby, but he has shown a lot of improvement on the whole. This season is the perfect opportunity for Azhar to step up and show his talent.
He may be rotated with the other attackers throughout the tournament, but if Mallick can score on a regular basis and give great performances. He has a big chance of getting a place in the starting XI for the Mariners. Mallick is a talented striker with quite a lot of pace and a stunning eye for goa and he could emerge as one of the big stars of the season.
What To Expect
The fans of the Mariners can expect a lot of fireworks this season as their team has set itself to be a real nightmare for opposing defences because of the amazing quality of their attack this season, despite losing some vital players during the break. Sen will look to break the hoodoo of narrowly losing out on the I-League and will want to lift high the trophy with the kind of a team which management has invested in this season. It'll be an entertaining season for Mohun Bagan and maybe the one where they may just reclaim the I-League glory once again.
Published: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:12 PM IST