The Mariners are currently rebuilding their squad from scratch for the upcoming season.
Mohun Bagan are heading in a new direction next season after announcing their next coach in Spaniard Jose “Kibu” Vicuna. A surprising addition to replace Khalid Jamil, Vicuna has quite a colossal task on his hands to undo the Mariners’ recent failures. Boasting an impressive CV which has seen him manage Spanish side Osasuna and most recently Polish first division outfit Wisla Plock, he brings tons of experience to the Kolkata giants.
There are changes set to take place after Vicuna takes over the helm, but he has some holes to fill at the club. If last season’s disappointment in the I-League proved anything, the Mariners are horribly lacking in multiple departments. He needs to look into the positions they’re lacking in and bring in appropriate reinforcements to get them playing vibrant, attacking football once again. So, here are five players he should aim to sign this summer.
The 27-year-old Mizo striker had quite a season with Aizawl FC, making the most use of the little game-time he received. Mapuia was their super-sub on multiple occasions, most notably netting the winner in the memorable win over East Bengal. He scored six goals in nine appearances, showcasing terrific ability in front of goal and linking well to create chances.
The inconsistency among their forwards dented Mohun Bagan’s season last time around and Vicuna could do well with a vibrant, Indian striker like Mapuia. He can fit into a possession-based style thanks to his distribution skills, while his lethality in the final third is quite an asset. East Bengal allowed an Indian striker in Jobby Justin to lead their line, so Vicuna can pull off a similar move with Mapuia.
4. Bazie Armand
Armand was one of the best midfielders in the I-League last season
Once a heavily-mocked player in Indian football, Barzie Armand rose through the pressure to produce some astounding performances for Dave Robertson’s Real Kashmir last season. In the Snow Leopard’s inaugural I-League campaign, Armand acted as the engine keeping their midfield going. He not only did his defensive duties well, but displayed impressive energy in taking the ball forward to create chances. The dynamic midfielder bulldozed past many opposition to help the Snow Leopards dominate games.
As their midfield is currently understaffed, Armand could be a valuable option. Kibuna can make good use of his impressive distribution ability as well as his relentless energy. The Spaniard can rely on him to be the link between defence and attack, making him a key piece in winning the midfield battle. Armand’s physicality and drive can help fix the Mariners’ frailties in midfield and allow Kibuna to integrate his style easily.
3. Arjun Jayaraj
The reason for Bagan struggling for goals was the lack of a proper creative outlet from the middle. Now that Omar Elhusseiny’s left the club, there’s a need for a more compatible replacement. The Mariners can’t rely on Sony Norde to do everything, which was the reason for their disappointments last season. Arjun Jayaraj fits the description, possessing the ability to stitch together attacks with his incisive creativity.
He assisted quite a few and scored two goals in 11 appearances last season, but can definitely improve that at Mohun Bagan. If he operates under an encouraging coach who instils a more possession-based style, he can thrive. Jayaraj can operate as a central or attacking midfielder, making him adaptable to the situation. He can add defensive solidity along with the missing spark to ensure goals for the Mariners.
2. Aryn Williams
Williams was one of the best performers for NEROCA FC last season
After spending a few seasons with NEROCA FC, Williams finally left the club in search of a new adventure. Over the years, he’s proved himself to be quite an asset thanks to his versatility. The 25-year-old revelled in a more attacking role under Manuel Fraile last season, scoring two goals and assisted many as well. He can definitely fit into Vicuna’s system, having the capability to operate in an attacking or defensive role in midfield.
Williams‘ impressive distribution ability and hard-tackling demeanour can help add much-needed bite to the Mariners’ midfield. He can also slot into the centre-back role whenever needed, whilst also acting as their creative beacon thanks to his array of talent. Vicuna can really benefit from such a complete midfielder with prime knowledge of the I-league, who can also fit into the Spanish philosophy really well.
1. Chencho Gyeltshen
Chencho could turn out to be a masterstroke for Kibu Vicuna at Mohun Bagan
The “Bhutanese Ronaldo” is now a free agent having left Bengaluru FC after the season, but what’s the ISL champions’ loss could be Bagan’s gain. The Mariners lacked a proper top-quality striker last season, with Asier Dipanda Dicka being too inconsistent to win them matches on the trot. In his five appearances fpr NEROCA last campaign, Chencho bagged two goals and acted as a whirlwind in their attack.
Leading their line, Chencho’s incisive movement, impressive pace and cunning finishing ability showcased how great a striker he is. With Kibuna needing a complete frontman to lead his line, Chencho’s his perfect man. The 23-year-old can also fall back deep and help stitch together moves with his creativity. He can also run at defenders, dribble past players and link up well to create beautiful goals.