With the signing of Dudu Omagbemi, East Bengal now boast of one of the strongest strike forces amongst the Indian clubs. The Nigerian goal-poacher will be playing alongside his compatriot and prolific goalscorer Ranti Martins upfront as the Red and Gold supporters are already drooling at the prospect of watching the pair tearing up the rival defences.
Dudu first came to India as a youngster to play for Sporting Clube de Goa in 2001, but failed to make his mark initially. He spent loan spells at fellow Goan clubs Dempo and Salgaocar during his stay at Sporting and returned to the Flaming Orange as an improved player. Dudu helped Sporting to win the second division league title in the 2002/03 season and therefore gain promotion to the National Football League (NFL), now rechristened as the I-League. The striker then forged a formidable partnership with Edeh Chidi, who incidentally he is replacing at East Bengal, and was top scorer of the NFL in the 2004/05 campaign with 21 goals. His goalscoring exploits were however not enough for Sporting to win their maiden league title as they finished runners-up behind Dempo. The Nigerian then spent another loan spell away from Sporting in 2005, this time with Malaysian club Penang FA. He returned to Sporting later that year before joining Polish outfit Wisla Krakow in 2007.
After spending a season in Poland and helping Wisla Krakow to win the domestic league title (Ekstraklasa), Dudu was snapped up by Hungarian club Debreceni VSC, for whom he played in the Champions League, in 2008. It proved to be a fruitful year for the forward as he won the league and the Hungarian Super Cup. However, the Nigerian’s stay at the club was short-lived as he joined Debreceni’s rivals Kecskemeti TE the following season. Dudu then went on to ply his trade in Finland with Kuopion Palloseura and then FC Honka before returning to India earlier in the year. The 29-year-old was roped in by Salgaocar in the winter transfer window as he went on to score five goals in 10 I-League appearances for the club. The striker’s neat finishes proved he was far from finished and prompted East Bengal to sign him up on a one-year deal this week. Dudu, who won three consecutive man of the match awards while playing for Salgaocar, has never won the league title in India and will be hoping to break his duck this time around. He could not have joined a better team to pursue his dream as East Bengal are a very well balanced side with five-time I-League winning coach Armando Colaco at the helm. The Red and Gold are also desperate to win the domestic league title, having last won it in the 2003/04 season.
With the All India Football Federation (AIFF) implementing the marquee player signing rule from this season, East Bengal are now the only Indian club to have two marquee players in their ranks. Apart from New Zealand international Leo Bertos, who played at the 2006 World Cup in South Africa, Dudu also qualifies as a marquee player due to his involvement in the Champions League with Debreceni. The signing of Dudu has significantly enhanced the Kolkata giants’ strike force and boosted the morale of the club’s fans, who were a bit apprehensive after Mohun Bagan signed Pierre Boya and Sony Norde to play alongside the already impressive Katsumi Yusa. And it goes without saying that adding a decent foreign defender in the mix will make East Bengal the heavy favourites to win the Federation Cup and the I-League in the upcoming campaign.
Colaco will be looking forward to playing with both Dudu and Ranti upfront which is sure to give the rival defences a nightmare. Be it a 4-1-2-1-2 or a 4-2-2-2 formation, the Nigerian duo are expected to spearhead the team’s attack, which is the strong point of East Bengal this season. However, the only concerning factor is that both the strikers have similar playing styles. Dudu and Ranti are both goal-poachers and like to be the furthest man on the pitch. So, it will be interesting to see how Colaco operates both the foreigners together without disrupting the harmony between them.
In the 4-1-2-1-2 system, the full-backs are expected to play vital roles by overlapping from the back and whipping in crosses for Dudu and Ranti, who are both good in heading. Bertos will also be a key factor in this formation as the attacking midfielder’s darting runs towards the goal and his through passes for the strikers will be crucial for the success of East Bengal. Lalrindika Ralte and Harmanjot Khabra will drift in towards the centre of the park to join in attack and also occasionally fall back o help out the defence when the full-backs sprint down the flanks.
Mehtab Hossain will marshal the area just before the back-four of Deepak Mondal, fourth foreigner, Arnab Mondal and Robert Robert Lalthlamuana, while Abhijit Mondal will stand between the sticks.
The goalkeeper and the defenders remain the same in the 4-2-2-2 system, but Khabra falls back to join Mehtab as the second defensive midfielder. Cavin Lobo and Bertos will be the two out and out wingers in this formation, who will be expected to feed the strike force of Dudu and Ranti. This is a slightly more defensive formation than the previous one and the runs of the full-backs will be checked. The likes of Deepak and Robert are likely to hold their position and only join in attack in case of sudden breaks. Colaco in all probability will employ this system in away games and high profile fixtures like the Kolkata derby to withstand the initial burst from the rival teams.
Note – The above mentioned potential formations are for the I-League and the Federation Cup and not for the Kolkata League.
With such a prolific goalscoring duo and strong bench-strength, East Bengal will look to win at least one national tournament, with the I-League being the preferred target.