The club management has managed to keep on board the big guns from the previous season which is likely to be decisive…
The think tank remains the same with Antonio Habas at the helm of affairs and the management has obliged the coach by retaining all key players who had played a significant role in landing their third ISL (Indian Super League) title in six years.
To put things into perspective they have retained 21 players from the previous campaign, the most by an ISL side. Also, they have not chopped and changed in the overseas contingent as only Tiri and Brad Inman has been added to their roster, with the Spanish centre-back a direct replacement for retired defender Agustin Garcia.
In the attacking third, it will be business as usual for Roy Krishna who will continue to lead the lines with David Williams as his chief aide. In midfield, Habas can rely on his trusted personnel like Edu Garcia, Javi Hernandez, Carl McHugh, Pronay Halder, Jayesh Rane. All of them have been together for more than a year and have forged a brilliant understanding amongst them.
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However, in defence, there might be a couple of changes with Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri set to be the likely partners for Pritam Kotal in a three-man backline. Prabir Das will slot in his usual right wing-back position with either Michael Soosairaj or Subhasish Bose on the opposite flank. Arindam Bhattacharya will keep his place under the sticks.
Therefore, we find that Habas can field his strongest XI with eight players on the pitch who have been playing together from the previous season, a luxury hardly any other ISL team can afford. Barring Bengaluru FC, who have also just made three new overseas signings, most teams have made wholesale changes to their squad.
Bagan’s arch-rivals East Bengal have assembled a completely new-look unit with a brand new foreign contingent and a domestic crew with only three faces from the previous setup. Similarly, Kerala Blasters, NorthEast United, and Hyderabad FC have made six new overseas signings while Jamshedpur FC, Odisha FC, Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa have made five each. Mumbai City, on the other hand, has completely revamped their foreign contingent.
It is widely acknowledged that a team that has been together for a considerable period of time tends to be more fluid in transitions and executing training ground routines on the pitch. Moreover, the players are also in tune with Habas’ methods which is a bonus for them.
It is likely that the coach will stick to his 3-5-2 system that is well drilled into the players. Each of them knows their job and it will not be surprising if they kick-off from where they finished in the previous campaign.
However, a lack of proper pre-season and the absence of any pre-season friendlies could have an adverse impact.