Mohun Bagan is looking all set to bounce back from their disappointment of last season after employing new coach Steve Darby and signing the likes of Odafa Okalie and Sunil Chhetri. Asia’s oldest club suffered the shame of going an entire season trophy less last season and has invested heavily in transfers this season. With a squad good enough to challenge the best in Indian football, the Green and Maroon fans will be looking forward to a silverware laden season.
Mohun Bagan Season 2011-12 Squad Analysis
Goalkeepers: Shilton Paul, Sangram Mukherjee, Souvik Mondal,Sudipta Banerjee
Young Shilton Pal has made improvements by leaps and bounds last season and dished out some outstanding performances in I-League. However, he is still mentally fragile and is prone to make errors in high profile matches. He has often conceded cheap goals in the Kolkata Derby – most notably in last season’s high profile Kolkata League encounter as well as Mohun Bagan’s famous 5-3 win over East Bengal few seasons back. Once Shilton get tougher mentally he will be an asset to the club.
Sangram Mukherjee, hero of Mohun Bagan’s Federation Cup victory two seasons back, was also very inconsistent last season. In some matches he stood like a wall saving everything with confidence but in some other matches he made rookie mistakes. He might be the backup to Shilton Pal once the season starts.
Sudipto Banerjee and Souvik Mandal are part of the squad as backup goalkeepers.
Defence: Anwar Ali, Sourav Chakraborty, Rakesh Masih, Simon Storey, Surkumar Singh, Dhanarajan, N. Mohanraj, Kingshuk Debnath.
“Great attacks win matches but great defence wins trophies”, so goes the conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, for the second season running Mohun Bagan recruiters have missed a trick or two in assembling a stubborn defence. It will not be fair to blame the officials completely as they did try to sign Gourmangi Singh but was turned down by the player who wanted to see out his contract with Churchill Brothers which ends in 2012. Under such circumstances, the onus will lie with for JCT central defender Anwar Ali. Anwar’s form was very shaky last season for both club and country as he looked out of fitness. Few months back he went to English club Coventry City in order to have some practice sessions. Mohun Bagan fans will be hoping that Anwar regains the form he showed few seasons back.
Anwar Ali is most likely to be partnered by Kingshuk Debnath or Rakesh Masih in heart of the backline. Neither of these defenders is consistent, which can cause Mohun Bagan problems during long drawn I-League campaign. Bagan did make a late attempt to sign veteran Deepak Mandal but eventually failed to get his signature.
The full-back situation looks much more stable with Surkumar Singh, Mohanraj and Dhanrajan adding both quality and depth on the wings. New Player of Asian Origin recruit Simon Storey is also a full-back while Syed Rahim Nabi has played as a left-back for both club and country in last few seasons. Simon Storey started his career as a left wing back but gradually shifted to right side. He is a versatile defender with experience of playing in Scotland as well as Australia. He is well known for being a bundle of energy and plays a crucial part in his teams’ attacking play with his frequent overlaps. The 29 year old Australian defender can be an invaluable addition to the squad and can properly complement Surkumar Singh’s marauding runs on the opposite wing.
Midfield: Sk. Jewel Raja, Snehasish Chakraborty, Manish Maithani, Souvik Chakraborty, Dipendu Dowary, Gouranga Dutta, Bungo Singh, N. P. Pradeep, Satish Kumar Jr., Murali Joseph, Rahim Nabi, Sakatar Singh, Hudson Lima Silva.
Syed Rahim Nabi is easily one of the most important transfers for the Mariners this season. Nabi has been making headlines ever since he was a U16 player – excelling for Bengal as well as India. He is undoubtedly the most versatile player in Indian football right now with an ability to play as full-back, defender or striker. Snatching Nabi away from arch-rivals East Bengal was one of the biggest highlights of Mohun Bagan recruiters in last few months.
Another crucial acquisition was former Viva Kerala hotshot N Pradeep. During Asia Cup, Pradeep who gained national fame with his performances in Nehru Cup, looked horribly out of shape. At one point it looked like he wouldn’t be able to find a club after the Asia Cup ended. Eventually he joined relegation threatened Viva Kerala and revived both his and club’s fortunes. Pradeep was one of the main reasons behind Viva’s brilliant turnaround in second half of I-League as the club comfortably staved off relegation. HAL’s J Murali showed glimpses of brilliance last season – including a virtuoso performance against Bagan in first leg of I-League. He can play both as an attacking midfielder as well as supporting striker.
Green & Maroon legend Jose Ramirez Barreto brought Hudson Lima from Brazil while returning from his country during pre-season. Lima instantly impressed coach Steve Darby with his delicate skills and ability to cut back from wings. Hudson Lima can add more flair to a midfield already bristling with creative energy.
The arrival of Lima and Nabi means that Snehashis Chakravarty, one of the better performers for Bagan last season, will have to warm the bench. However he is a highly competent player to have a backup along with Gouranga Dutta. Young brigade of Jewel Raja (impressive for both Indian Arrows and India U23 team recently), Manish Mathani and Souvik Chakravarty will add more depth to midfield and can be used frequently during KFL matches.
Attack: Odafa Okolie, Jose Barreto (Captain), Sunil Chetry, Jagtar Singh, Ashim Biswas.
On paper, Mohun Bagan possesses the most dangerous forward line in Indian football right now. In one of the biggest, most high profile and most expensive transfer in Indian football history, Anjan Mitra and Co. roped in Odafa Okalie from Churchill Brothers. Odafa is undoubtedly the most lethal striker in Indian football in last half decade. He has top scored in I-League in four out of last five seasons and would have done the same last season had Ranty Martins not ran away with the honours among bizzare circumstances towards the end.
Along with the most dangerous striker in Indian football, Mohun Bagan has also successfully snared the most successful Indian striker in recent times – Sunil Chhetri. Sunil had donned Mohun Bagan’s famous Green & Maroon jersey some years back, with little impact. Now he is a matured striker and will be a huge upgrade over Bagan’s recent crop of Indian strikers.
The most dangerous striker in India
Last but not the least; the name of Jose Ramirez Barreto needs to be mentioned. The Brazilian, one of the best foreigners to ever kick the ball in India will be playing his last senior season and has been made the club captain as a mark of respect. He looks determined to turn on his magic one last time – so that he can lead Mohun Bagan to glory.
Ashim Biswas and young Jagatar Singh will act as back up players to the explosive trio of Barreto-Odafa-Sunil. Biswas can also double as a right winger.
Coach and Possible Tactics
Steve Darby, who possesses experience of coaching and winning titles in multiple countries, has been roped in to coach the star-studded lineup. The former Liverpool youth product has made a cautious start to his career and asked Mohun Bagan fans to be patient. Officials in Kolkata clubs are often notorious for their interference in activities of a coach and Mohun Bagan officials need to ensure that Darby is allowed to work on his own terms. Injuries wreaked havoc on Mohun Bagan’s campaign last season and Darby has been quick to bring in professional fitness trainer Jonathan Corner to fix that issue.
Mohun Bagan can play a classical Christmas tree formation to maximize the squad strength.
Surkumar Singh will start as right-back with Simon Storey as left-back. If Storey is benched to use three foreigners in other positions then Dhanrajan will start as left-back. The central defence will be marshaled by Kingshuk and Masih.
Rahim Nabi on left wing will be a sure starter in the three man midfield while N Pradeep is also an assured started as creative central midfielder. Hudson Lima will play as right winger with Ashim Biswas deputizing him when needed.
Five Key Targets
1) Winning I-League: Mohun Bagan, the first team from Kolkata to win NFL three times, has not captured the national league title in 10 years. This is an embarrassing record for a club which considers itself as a national institution. This season Mohun Bagan has the right set of players to emulate what Subrata Bhattacharya’s band of merry men did 10 years ago. With a high-caliber striker force and a technically proficient midfield, the Mariners are one of the favourites for the title. However, Steve Darby would need to sort out his defence.
2) Durand Cup, IFA Shield: Let’s face it; these tournaments only have historical importance these days and nothing else. Indian football calendar is rarely made scientifically and the new 40 match rule means clubs need to be extremely careful about choosing their tournaments. Mohun Bagan has rightly declined to play in Durand Cup and should be prudent to send a reserve team to IFA Shield. The club needs to pool its resources and seriously target I-League this season.
3) Federation Cup: Mohun Bagan is the only club in India which has double figured numbers of Fed Cup titles – keeping it miles ahead of the chasing pack. Federation Cup has long been touted as Bagan’s lucky charm. Even last season, Mohun Bagan’s performance in Fed Cup was a rare moment of brilliance in an otherwise abysmal season. Mohun Bagan would be looking to recapture the Fed Cup title this season.
4) Kolkata Derby: One of the things that made Mohun Bagan’s 2010-11 season nightmarish was failure to defeat East Bengal even once in the Kolkata derby. This is one record which Mohun Bagan fans would be relishing to change this season. Steve Darby has never lost to Trevor James Morgan when these two met in Far East – Darby would be hoping that this record remains unchanged.
5) Kolkata Football League: Kolkata Football League’s ever changing and bloated format has made it very unattractive in recent times. However, it will never be wise to ignore the local league as it involves pride and prestige. Instead of using the likes of Odafa and Chhetri in KFL, Bagan should try to incorporate players from Mohun Bagan-SAIL Academy for KFL games against smaller teams. The likes of Sonu Kumar should be given a shot at first team football during KFL. This will help the club in long run.