The Blues were favourites to take the ISL title but the wheels came off during the final against Chennaiyin FC.
When Bengaluru FC moved into the Indian Super League (ISL), they were expected to meet their match as they would be up against clubs which were nearly as well funded and organized as they are. Few could predict the run that the Garden City club would end up having over the course of the ISL season.
What set them apart from the remaining teams was the presence of a solid core group of players that were around since the club’s inception in 2013. Albert Roca’s insistence on a style of play that was centred heavily on team dynamic over individual skill saw them finally hit top gear considering that the Blues had a poor I-League season prior to this. Roca’s men were a treat to watch and set the standards on how clubs should be run in India. They set records on the way to the final in Bengaluru where they uncharacteristically succumbed to a superbly organized Chennaiyin FC side. With AFC Cup and Super Cup honours still to play for, Roca will hope that the ISL episode does not define the season.
Fact Sheet for Indian Season 2017-2018
Season Finished: 1st
Play-offs: Runner Up
Games Played: 23
Win %: 80%
Goals For: 46
Goals Against: 18
The Steelmen travelled to Murcia in Spain for the pre-season games which were followed by their AFC Cup game against North Korea’s April 25 SC. While they disposed off the North Korean club with ease, they could retain the same form in their friendlies in Spain as they lost all 3 of those games scoring twice and conceding 10 in the process.
They returned to India where they took on the India U-19 team, East Bengal, Chennai City FC, Gokulam FC and Minerva Punjab winning 5, drawing 2 and losing just once.
Flop of the season
Lenny Rodrigues: Was bought to be the midfield lynchpin for Roca. The former Churchill man’s performance was often aided by superior performances from Erik Paartalu or Dimas Delgado who made much better use of the ball and were better readers of the game. Although fans will point towards the purple patch he had in the playoff stages, he would need to be more consistent across the length of the season to be remembered truly as one of the greats for both club and country.
Lenny’s Performance in ISL 2017-18
Pass accuracy: 79.32%
Top 3 Performances
Kerala Blasters 1-3 Bengaluru FC (Report and highlights)
Bengaluru FC 4-1 Delhi Dynamos (Report and highlights)
Chennaiyin FC 1-3 Bengaluru FC (Report and highlights)
|Manager’s report card|
Albert Roca’s domestic record in India was not something that he would be proud of prior to Bengaluru joining the ISL bandwagon. The club had a sub-par I-League season in which they finished 4th in the league where they won only 7 of their 18 games played. Their play was predictable at times and teams were able to figure out Roca’s system and punish them.
The ISL season saw a different approach altogether as the team focussed on possession but also quick transitions from defence to attack supplemented by intelligent runs and greater width. Roca’s insistence that the team should be fluid enough to switch systems during a game seamlessly was seen during the league. When they needed to play an open game like in the narrow 4-3 loss to FC Goa they could or when they needed to play a conservative game like the one against Northeast United, they could.
Roca’s revival in the Indian football scene does warrant a rating of 9 on 10. It could have been a perfect 10 for the Spaniard if he had overseen the last hurdle of the ISL journey but he would no doubt return next season with greater resolve.
Lessons to be learned
While Bengaluru’s attack saw them plunder over 35 goals in the ISL season, it was often left at the hands of Miku or Chhetri. If an opposition defence found a way to keep these two quiet, the Blues were often seen running short of ideas. The backup attack of Braulio Nobrega, Boithang Haokip, and Daniel Segovia were unable to share this load equally.
In addition, contributions from the midfield would also have helped the team’s cause when Miku and Chhetri did not fire. This would be an area that Roca will need to address before ISL 2018. What would also concern Roca is that he would need to bring a set of younger legs to the team as the core of the squad is slowly moving into the wrong side of 30. One could argue that the pace of the league would suit older players, but it would still remain in the best interests of the club and for Indian football if the team moves towards bringing down the average age of the squad.
“Considering that we played our very first ISL, I thought we had a really good season. Our I-League performance was not that great, but each ISL match just gave us more reasons to love this club. I was gutted like any other Bengaluru fan when we lost the final, especially at our Fortress. But we were beaten by a genuinely better team on their day”
I would point to Rahul Bheke’s development as a player to be the biggest positive this season. Of course you can’t ignore our legend Sunil Chhetri ever. He is just the heartbeat of this team and the best connect between the club and the fans. We lost a good player in Edu Garcia midway through the season. Yes we felt sad that he left, but I know for sure that we have enough resolve and resources to bounce back from any situation. We still have the AFC Cup and Super Cup to compete for. So we hope that we do get some silverware from this season”