There is no doubt that Churchill Brothers the defending champions, is one of the best teams in I-league. They won the I-league crown last season with 55 pts, 3 above the second place finishing Pune FC. The main reason for their success last season was that they had the highest goal difference in the competition of +34 and that they lost only 3 matches in the entire season, and had an impeccable record outside Goa. Three of their players, Henry Antchouet, Beto and Akram Moghrabi scored 10 goals or more in the season, vastly contributing to their success in toppling defending champions Dempo.
Before the 2013-14 season began, expectations were sky high and Churchill Brothers had been billed as the favourites to retain the title. But after a string of disappointing results in the 1st 7 game weeks consisting of 3 losses and 3 draws and only 3 goal scored, the Red Machines look like a shadow of the team that won the 2012-2013 crown with ease. They currently sit 12th in the league table with just two points. They have the same number of points as league bottom side Rangdajied United and already 10 points adrift of league leaders. They have the second worst goal difference of -4, only better than bottom placed Rangdajied United’s -12.
Churchill’s woes started with the Goan derby and a shock loss to Salgaocar. A goalkeeping error by Arindam Bhattacharya allowed debutant Daryl Duffy to score the winning goal. The champions also managed only one shot on target. Mohun Bagan was next as the two teams played out a 0-0 draw. Poor finishing was once again the problem in a dour match.
Mumbai FC handed them their 2nd defeat of the campaign when they were comprehensively beaten 2-0. Henri Antchouet missed a penalty in the 40th minute and managed to miss the target on the rebound also. Against newly promoted Rangdajied United Churchill had a significantly better outing, even though they conceded first on 25th minute. They equalised two minutes later, with Balwant Singh scoring the goal. Churchill were unlucky not to take a well deserved lead when Machado’s free kick beat the wall and the keeper but stayed out after hitting the post. They almost conceded a late goal which would have seen them suffer another loss, Ngaihte’s attempt on 89th minute also slamming off a post. Based on form, Churchill Brothers’ loss to title pretenders Pune FC in the last round was nothing but expected. Their most recent clash against Lajong also ended in a 2-2 draw and Churchill Brothers could have easily lost that game if not for a late equalizer.
Reasons for A Slump in Form
Not creating enough chances seems to be the main problem with Churchill Brothers in recent games. They have had to be content with the half-chances that fall their way as they have been unable to get the killer pass in the final third. They did look threatening from free-kicks though. Lack of creativity has further been compounded by the awful finishing of their strikers.
Defensive errors have come regularly and the defence has often looked shaky. Lack of communication among defenders and the goalie has allowed strikers of the opposing team to cash in and get goals at crucial times. Also, keeper Arindam Bhattacharya has not been in the best of form and his handling must improve as the season continues.
Beto had been an integral part of the Churchill squad since joining from Dempo in 2011. His free-kicks are one of the best in the league and he is capable of picking out killer passes which lead to goals. Since joining he scored 21 goals for Churchill, being their standout player on many occasions. He was Churchill’s second highest goal scorer last season, with 13 goals, just 1 goal behind the side’s top scorer Henry Antchouet and also picked up a number of assists. Even in Dempo the Brazilian has showed glimpses of his genius as his stand-out performances helped the five time champions thump East Bengal at home. Without Beto, Churchill are looking insipid upfront.
Churchill Brothers have made 8 managerial changes in the last 6 years which equates to each manager lasting only 9 months in charge. The most recent change was the introduction of Mariano Dias and Sukhwinder Singh before the start of the season. But ever since they joined, the team has been going through a rough patch. It seems as if the players have been unable to adapt to the most recent change in tactics and playing philosophy.
Ways to improve season
The tactic of tightening defence almost never fails. Southampton, who play in the EPL employ this tactic to good effect. They are currently third in the EPL just 4 points behind Arsenal because they have the best defence in the Premier League, having conceded only 3 goals in 9 matches. Churchill, who are currently dealing with defensive problems of their own, should take inspiration from Southampton’s style of play and plug up the defensive gaps.
Foreign players can still be inducted if they are free agents and Churchill Brothers, who has often brought the best foreigners in Indian football, need to make use of their scouting to bring in players who can finish clinically. A suitable replacement of Beto is also highly essential.
The season is still in its early stages and if Churchill Brothers’ season was to take a drastic turn, they could still be looking at a potential championship. But for that they need to start scoring more goals and taking all 3 points from upcoming fixtures.
Written by Guest Author Kanvar Kohli