The past two seasons have been extremely painful for millions of Mohun Bagan fans across the world as they had to see their beloved club go without any silverware. Worse, the supporters were witness to some truly lacklustre performances and embarrassing defeats along the way. As the new season dawns, Green & Maroon fans are yet again gearing up enthusiastically and are hoping to end the barren phase. TheHardTackle analyses Mohun Bagan squad for season 2012/13 and if they will be able to break trophy-less run of Asia’s oldest football club.
Arindam Bhattacharya, Shilton Pal, Naveen Kumar, Milton Bhowmik
Sangram Mukherjee’s inconsistency cost Mohun Bagan many points last season so he was replaced by the Churchill Brothers’ keeper Arindam Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya has been one of the more reliable goal-keepers in Indian football is past few seasons and with age on his side he is expected to lessen the number of goals Mohun Bagan conceded last season.
Another young goalkeeper, Shilton Pal has spent over half a decade with the Green & Maroons. Shilton’s flexibility is a great asset to any team but he is prone of errors and there are doubts about his positioning and command of the area. However, he is a solid back-up to have in the squad.
Two more youngsters round up Mohun Bagan’s custodian department. Naveen Kumar, the Pailan Arrows ‘keeper who was often the only bright spot in his team’s dismal campaign last season and Milton Bhowmik, the youth who created history by becoming first player for whose transfer IFA Academy received some money. These two are unlikely to get any action in major tournaments, unless injury strikes. However, we might see them guarding Mohun Bagan goal in KFL matches.
A Echezona, Khelemba Singh, Nirmal Chhetri, Aibor Khongjee, Sourav Chakravarty, Lalrozama, Mohan Sarkar, Warundeep Singh, Rajib Ghosh, Biswajit Saha, Deepak S
Defence has been Mohun Bagan’s Achilles Heel in past few seasons and this season’s defence, on paper, is not likely to given a lot of assurance of fans. Nirmal Chhetri is the star signing at the back but the ex-East Bengal player’s form in past year has been strictly ordinary. Khelemba Singh was an important part of Salgaocar’s I-League triumph two seasons back but his form was dodgy last season. Echezona, a former youth International for Nigeria has very little experience in top-level Indian football. How he deals with the pressure of ever boisterous Kolkata crowd will be crucial.
Lalrozama Fanai is an extremely interesting catch for Mohun Bagan. The speedy left-back has been one of the more consistent performers for both Indian Arrows and India youth teams. Fanai’s talent is unquestionable and he will add some much-needed pace on the flanks. Aibor Khongjee joins from Lajong FC and will add some top-level experience to the defence. Lajong’s defence last season left a lot to be desired but Aibor dished out some strong performances.
Biswajit Saha was part of Mohun Bagan’s KFL winning team three years back. Initially he was released by the club but he is back after couple of good seasons with Salgaocar. He already has the experience of playing together with Khelemba, which will be an added bonus. Mohan Sarkar did well for Aryan Club in local league last season and will add squad depth for KFL matches.
Overall, doubts remain over Mohun Bagan’s central defence but they are stronger than last season on the flanks.
S Rahim Nabi, Rakesh Masih, Jewel Raja, Manish Mathani, Snehashis Chakravarty, Lalrinfela, Nirapada Mandal, Arjun Chatterjee, Denson Devadas, Bijdendra Rai, Stanley Okoroigwe
A largely youthful Mohun Bagan midfield is an improvement from last year which contained some old legs. Mohun Bagan fans will be especially excited about the wings where youngsters like Bhargav, Lalrinfela and Chatterjee can pose a lot of problems to opponents. Lalrinfela has been particularly impressive in warm-up matches so far.
All-rounder Nabi will add experience and quality to the wings and he will be looking to get over the disappointing form he struck near end of last season. Snehashis Chakravarty has not been the same player since he suffered from an illness last season. Mariners’ fans will be hoping that he regains his best form and re-starts whipping in his venomous free kicks and corners.
Denson Devadas is undoubtedly the start signing in midfield. The former Prayag United midfielder has improved by leaps and bounds since scoring a brace in Santosh Trophy final two seasons back. The Keralite will add both experience and strength to Mohun Bagan central midfield and his box-box runs are likely to add a new dimension to the Mohun Bagan attacks. He is likely to be partnered by an ever improving Jewel Raja in central midfield. For Manish Mathani, this might be the final chance to prove if he is good enough for the Mariners. Mathani’s form had been particularly inconsistent last season.
Concerns remain at the lack of a good passer in midfield. Devadas, despite being a dominant midfielder is not a proper play-maker. Mohun Bagan is likely to rely on Stanley for that role. The Nigerian, however, played as a striker last season and it is still not sure how effective he will be as a passer in midfield.
Odafa Okalie, Tolgay Özbey, Dipendu Biswas, Anil Kumar, CS Sabeeth
Like last season, Mohun Bagan’s strength lies in the final third. Odafa Okalie showed last why he was highest paid player in India and he is likely to maintain his blistering form this season. Joining him will be one of the best strikers in Indian football right now – Tolgay Özbey.
The Australian joins Mohun Bagan from arch-rivals East Bengal after one of the biggest and most controversial transfers in Indian football in recent years. Tolgay has scored 35 goals in 48 matches for East Bengal and his ability to cut back from wings will be an invaluable asset to Mohun Bagan attack. Last season, some opponent teams managed to shut down by putting double marking on him but with Tolgay around, this is not likely to repeat.
Veteran Dipendu Biswas will be getting send off as he hangs-up his boots. Dipendu has scored over two hundred goals in Indian football and can still be a handful in KFL matches. With young wingers launching crosses from wings, Biswas can notch up some goals against less fancied opponents. Anil Kumar’s stint in Goa ended unceremoniously but he will be looking to regain his form from two seasons back which saw him emerge as one of the best Indian strikers in I-League. CS Sabeeth had a decent season in Arrows and will look to continue improving as he will be playing for a high-profile club for first time in his career.
Mohun Bagan management has been infamous for its extreme lack of patience with managers over past decade. Last season, the club started with Steve Darby, replaced him with Subrata Bhattacharya – Prasanta Banerjee team, removing the duo after season ended. Santosh Kashyap, the new coach, has never coached at a Kolkata club before which will be a big stumbling block. He was part of the Mahindra coaching team which won a NFL-I-League double in mid-2000′s and did admirably well in Air India.
Kashyap’s coaching acumen got national attention after his success with Air India last season. He took over a bunch of demotivated players who had barely escaped relegation in 10/11 season and were earmarked to go down in 11/12 season, turning them into a solid and cohesive unit. Air India didn’t come remotely near relegation most of the season and at one point it looked that they could finish in top half of the table. Kashyap deserves tremendous credit for motivating his team to perform well even when they were not paid salaries for a number of months in between.
Overall, Kashyap’s appointment is somewhat a risk, given his lack of experience in Kolkata football’s pressure cooker situation. Mohun Bagan fans will be hoping that he tides over his initial lack of experience and brings much desired success.
For a club like Mohun Bagan, winning trophies is very important and the current situation has caused a lot of discontent among the fan base. Winning I-League involves some element of luck and a deep squad which Mohun Bagan may not possess this season. It has been over a decade that Mohun Bagan last won India’s top league and it will be practical to target a top-3 finish this season.
Kolkata Football League is a different issue altogether. Mohun Bagan has enough ammunition to win KFL and the Green & Maroons will be looking to add the title which has eluded them in past 2 seasons. This season, they will have to deal with not only East Bengal but also Prayag United in KFL.
Last season Mohun Bagan didn’t play in IFA Shield and Durand Cup but the club cannot afford to let these tournaments pass this year if it has to end the barren streak. Rovers Cup is also slated to make a come-back this season – a tournament where Mohun Bagan leads the all-time winner’s list and is defending champion as well. Current Mohun Bagan team is strong enough to lift one or more among these three blue ribbon tournaments.
Last, but not the least comes Federation Cup, Mohun Bagan’s favourite tournament. Last season’s dismal failure in this season opening tournament was almost a case of morning showing the day for Mariners. Mohun Bagan will be looking to get over that disappointment and add another Fed Cup title, thus qualifying for AFC Cup.
The fans will also demand maintain the upper hand over fierce rivals East Bengal in Kolkata derby. Mohun Bagan didn’t lose a single derby last season and won twice. Tolgay’s transfer saga will add more bite to an already spicy rivalry.