Why Mumbai FC have had a topsy-turvy start to the season
Written by: Sourav Neogi
Santosh Kashyap's Mumbai FC have been pegged back by five defeats on the trot...
Mumbai FC embarked on their I-League journey this year making all the right noises in pre-season. However, the Yellow Submarines quickly went out of their voice following five straight defeats in their seven league games this year.
With former coach Khalid Jamil’s departure from the club in the previous year and losing key players like Jayesh Rane to Aizawl FC, one might have thought the Mumbaikars would face a blow in their performances but the recruitment of Santosh Kashyap as the head coach and signing several quality players had led to a sense of optimism around the club.
Considering the above factors, one can’t possibly help but wonder, why the Mumnbaikars have flattered to deceive?
A deceptive start?
The Mumbai-based club began their league campaign with two wins, one in the Maharashtra derby against DSK Shivajians and another against Goa-based side Churchill Brothers. Though Kashyap’s men won both the games, both the outcomes saw the team facing a lot of criticism from the Mumbai faithful.
The Maharashtra Derby might have been painted Yellow but Shivajians dominated the entire game yet Thoi Singh’s individual brilliance resulted in a great goal and ultimately got the three points for Mumbai.
Similarly, Churchill Brothers were defeated by Mumbai FC, however, Brandon Fernandes hogged the limelight in that game. The Goan side led the match 1-0 in the early minutes until the equalizer from Victorino Fernandes in the 34th minute. Mumbai had to wait until injury time after the end of the second half in order to seal the win with a winner scored by Karan Sawhney.
Since then, they have played against Bengaluru FC, Aizawl FC, Shillong Lajong and East Bengal FC and have been defeated in each fixture.
Lack of a distinct style of play
When appointed, Santosh Kashyap promised an attacking brand of football to the fans. However, his promise hasn’t been seen in his team’s gameplay till now. The Mumbaikars have been over-dependent on skipper Steven Dias and midfielder-turned-forward Thoi Singh to get the goals in the league matches.
Strikers such as Farukh Chowdhary, Victorino Fernandes and Karan Sawhney too, have been toothless at their best and the decision to not sign any foreign players, more specifically attackers in the team before the start of the season has cost Mumbai FC dearly in the league. Densill Theobald, who has been brought in since, is getting on in years and is yet to have an impact.
Add to that, Santosh Kashyap is currently having a dilemma choosing his best striker at this moment as the coach seems clueless of the identity of his best striker. Without a focal point in attack, Mumbai FC will continue to find it hard to score important goals and win matches as the league approaches mid-season.
Mumbai FC XI before start of an I-league game.
Reluctance to recruit foreigners
At the start of the season, a lot of the Mumbai faithful and Indian football fans thought Mumbai FC would not sign any foreign players for the 10th season of the I-League. Lack of foreign players brought a certain lack of experience and ability to the team which later crippled them against Bengaluru FC.
However, with consecutive defeats for the club while at the helm, Kashyap was forced to sign two foreign players, who still are getting used to Indian football. Not bringing in foreign players before the start of the season meant they would take longer to settle and with results on the the slide, the Mumbaikars seem to have been forced into panic-buying in the foreign market.
Lack of local talents in the team
Despite being a young squad with huge potential, it is strange for the Mumbai-based club to pick up talent from outside the state. The number of local talents and players in the Mumbai team has been minimal this season which has led to the scenario of players not having enough pride or passion for the shirt. The lack of local lads has also led to widescale disillusionment among the club's fans who have always taken pride in having a strong core of homegrown players.
Paradigm shift in Kashyap’s attitude
The newly appointed Mumbai FC coach was making all the right noises in the pre-season and even at the beginning of the season. Kashyap, who promised the fans an attacking brand of football this season also revealed that his priority for this season’s I-League was to get into the top 3 in the standings which made him look content and strong at the same time.
However, with four straight defeats under his belt, the Mumbai FC oach has suddenly softened up as he said, “the League is still not finished,” when a reporter asked him for his comment based on him saying top 3 was his objective this season. Kashyap, who arguably sounded the most enthusiastic coach in pre-season, also excused his team's defeat against defending champions Bengaluru FC saying, “you can’t win every game,” – which clearly shows a change in attitude for the Mumbai FC gaffer.
The Mumbaikars had finished in the fifth position in I-League last year but only avoided relegation on the final day of the season. With all the hype and managerial change, if they can’t get back to winning games soon, they could once again find themselves in the thick of a relegation battle.
However, the irony will not end there as this will also cement Santosh Kashyap’s reputation as a journeyman manager, with the tactician already having been at seven clubs in the pasrt seven seasons.
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Published: Sun Feb 05, 2017 12:14 PM IST