Indian Football Season 2018-19 Review: Mumbai City
Written by: Shivam Tiwari
The Islanders reached the knockout stages of their league, relying heavily on their foreigners.
Mumbai City FC finished seventh in the 2017-18 Indian Super League season before bowing out to a young Indian Arrows side in the Super Cup. After the torrid season, the Islanders were reportedly looking to merge with the then ISL semi-finalists FC Pune City. Now, 12 months later, the Islanders' fans would be thankful that the talks of the merger didn't work out.
2018-19 wasn't the Islanders' best season by any means - they couldn't eclipse the performances of the first season under Alexander Guimaraes, but the fans of the city of seven islands have gotten their confidence back into the team, under Portuguese coach Jorge Costa. Jorge Costa, a disciple of the former Real Madrid tactician Jose Mourinho and a Champions League winner with him captaining FC Porto, has got his team to learn the art of churning out results against the toughest of teams.
The Islanders recorded the best winning streak of their history, finishing third on the table. They remained unbeaten against defending champions, Chennaiyin FC - winning both the games. On the other hand, their derby-rivals have been on a downturn, in both footballing and economic terms - double delight for the Mumbaikars?
Fact Sheet For Indian Season 2018-19
Season Finished: 3rd
Games Played: 21
Win %: 47.62
Mumbai City FC started preparations for the fifth season of ISL on a positive note. They signed some of the best foreign and Indian talents that would go on to play in the league and brought in charismatic Portuguese gaffer Jorge Costa. The Islanders traveled to Thailand for the pre-season where they would go on to play against Chiangmai FC, Maejo United, Lampang FC, and Bangkok United.
The Islanders came back to the country with as many as three wins and a draw against the Thai sides, apprising others with the qualities the side has. The likes of Modou Sougou, Bipin Singh, Rafael Bastos, and Pranjal Bhumij impressed everyone returning with multiple goals from the fixtures.
Underperformer of the Season
Bipin Singh was uninspiring for the Mumbai-based side
This wasn't an easy one to pick out, and for multiple reasons. One is Costa didn't rotate the players much, sticking with the fifteen-sixteen players he trusted. Two is Bipin, whenever played, was played with the 'weaker' set of front-line. And three is that Bipin wasn't even asked to come out as a substitute for most of the games, having very little game time from the immediate preceding games, whenever he stepped on the pitch.
But above all, what has made the 24-year-old be the underperformer of the season for the Islanders is the uninspiring way the former ATK man faded away constantly from the games after starting well. Bipin being young, pacy and full of trickeries in his gameplay was supposed to take on the baton from the midfield, be the creative spark and cross the baton in the box for his teammates.
What happened with Bipin throughout the season was that he would start really well but soon lose the intent somewhere in between the game becoming dull and losing impact, and would finally get subbed out. Pranjal Bhumij had more impact than Bipin, scoring one long ranger and assisting another.
Top Three Performances
1. Bengaluru FC 1-1 Mumbai City
2. Mumbai City 6-1 Kerala Blasters
3. Delhi Dynamos 2-4 Mumbai City
Coach's Report Card
Jorge Costa is a winner, but also someone who was as realist as one could be. The manager always had his feet on the ground, even during the unbeaten run and was the first to point out that a comeback wasn't on the cards for the Islanders after the first leg loss to FC Goa.
The Portuguese tactician was short on players who could impact the game, and yet he managed to get results out of the toughest of the fixtures he had at his hand. But what might have gone against him is perhaps the fact that he used the Indian forwards to a very little extent. The names like Alan Deory, Pranjal Bhumij and Bipin Singh deserved game time more consistently.
What also wasn't convincing of the Mumbai tactician was the fact that he was stubborn with the way he wanted his side to play. Costa refrained to change his style or system even after getting defeated multiple times against similar oppositions.
Some even went on to alert the Portuguese through the pre-match talks, opinionating that they know how the Portuguese would field his team and how they will have to play against them. But all of those talks or the results had no effect on Costa. Hopefully, he will get the issue fixed now that he has committed himself for another season with the Islanders.
The Islanders were pitted against the former ISL champions and eventual finalists, Chennaiyin FC in the pre-quarters. Mumbai, without the foreign bigwigs from their usual starting XI, fell short in the very first stage.
Goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua and C K Vineeth ensured that the men in blue bow out of the tournament after losing 2-0.
Lessons to be Learned
Mumbai's team had unprecedented defensive stability when their first choice players started. The likes of Goian and Subhasish were some of the league's best. But when one of the starting defenders were out due to a suspension or an injury, the team were left begging for solidity. Especially when Joyner and Subhasish were both unavailable, Jorge Costa had a hard time making Vignesh Dakshinamurthy play as the left-back.
Could that situation have been avoided? Yes, had the Islanders not loaned out Shouvik Ghosh, that situation would have been avoided. The Mumbai management would be needed to take such decisions before analysing what options they would be left with when such circumstances arise. Not to forget how difficult it was for Goian, someone who loves going forward, to play his natural way with someone as immobile as Anwar Ali as the partner.
Also, the Islanders heavily rely on their foreign talents for goals and assists. The foreigners accounted for all but three goals scored by the Islanders and the Indian contingent could offer only four assists throughout the season. With now the number of foreigners in a line-up to be decreased, this over-dependence on the foreign talents for finding the back of the nets has to be reduced by the Islanders. Maybe a certain Bipin Singh could help?
As a Mumbai City FC fan and supporter, ISL 4 was a season that I've always wanted to forget and get over.
The transition from season 4 to season 5 was a smooth sail, especially considering that both the Indian contingent, as well as foreign signings were themselves willing to play for the club, as compared to season 4's draft system (which btw, was a disaster).
Given the amazing Preseason that we had before Season 5 begun, we were optimistic right since the very start, and our faith in Jorge Costa, unshakable.
And rightly so. Despite one or two down moments in the season, we stood strong and managed a top 4 spot comfortably.
What was the standout point for me this season was the coming together of the fans, as one huge West Coast Brigade Family, who didn't just rock the Fortress back at Mumbai Football Arena with banners, tifos, drums, chants and flares, but even made their presence felt even in many away games, the Maharashtra Derby Away obviously being the highlight.
Published: Fri May 03, 2019 06:17 PM IST