Mumbai City FC, the defending champions might find themselves in a fix come the 2021-22 season of the Indian Super League. With most of their stars from the triumph last season flocking to greener pastures, the team might struggle to defend their crown.
Rising to instant success after the take-over of the Emirati powerhouses, Mumbai City FC seventh heaven feeling knew no bounds last season. However, that could well be short-lived, with the Islanders at the risk of slipping just a year after their maiden ISL trophy win. What surprised one and all, even more, is the fact that the team did not show any serious intent of keeping their core group for a successive season. The extra yards put in to establish the setup will be a waste after all.
Spanish tactician Sergio Lobera, who was hugely influential in fabricating Mumbai City FC’s dream season, will no longer ornament the dugout this season. That was probably the tip of the iceberg, as more high-profile imports have taken the exit route that includes French playmaker Hugo Boumous, who is arguably the best footballer in the league for the past two seasons.
Also making a move out were strikers Adam le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche – the duo who contributed to 19 goals last term. Skipper last season and also the golden glove winner – Amrinder Singh, missing from the contingent too. Needless to say, replacements have been enforced accompanied by a measurable amount of pocket pinch, however, it remains to be seen whether they can fill in the huge gaps!
Flagging off from the positives, the defence is pretty much the same, with the addition of Rahul Bheke adding more versatility to the squad. Meanwhile, veteran Senegalese defender Mourtada Fall will highlight the central defensive zone, with Mehtab Singh most likely to partner him. Even though Lobera played with two foreign center-backs many times in the previous season, with Hernan Santana in the mix, the tweak in the foreign player policy will now snatch the luxury.
Moving to dire straits, the playmaking zone looks bleak without the likes of Hugo Boumous in it, however, the central area will see old faces in the likes of Ahmed Jahuoh and Raynier Fernandes. It’s not that Brazil’s Cassio Gabriel will be doubted, but, with the player setting foot for the first time on Indian soil, things could be topsy-turvy in the beginning. And in a small league like the ISL, where there is minimal recovery time and the matches are played thick and fast, there would be no cushion to getting acclimatized to the conditions.
The forward line looks the most vulnerable to say the least, with the blank created by Dutch goal-machine Bartholomew Ogbenche and Spanish striker Adam de Fondre quite hard to fill in. However, Igor Angulo, not an unknown face in the circuit, has been reserved by the management to seal the tape to some extent.
With a bag full of goals from his previous season during his FC Goa days, his CV perfectly suits the role. Yet, at some point in time, there would be too many expectations mounted, while Ygor Catanu might not be in the best position to deliver the task. Mumbai City FC can expect occasional sparks from Bipin Singh!
Lastly, Sergio Lobera, the architect behind the entire project, one of the most influential coaches in the history of the ISL, is not going to strategize Mumbai City FC’s move this season. The Spaniard has been around for a long time, with him having a thorough idea regarding the football played in this part of the world. The ISL side will have to do without all of the experience he brought last season. All gone in one blow!
Des Buckingham, the successor, has also been a manager for a long time. As far as the ISL is concerned, coaches like Carles Cuadrat, John Gregory, and Antonio Lopez Habas pocketed the league in their debut seasons. That should be a big psychological relief for Englishman.
At the first glance, the Mumbai City FC might not look like a feeble unit, but the loopholes are also visible. In fact, the Indian contingent is one of the strongest ISL teams, yet, the overseas lot could well be the deciding factor between the Islanders and the rest, which is the main reason why Mumbai City FC would struggle this season.