2013/14 was a forgetful year for Pune FC as the club finished 7th in the I-League, despite featuring in the AFC Cup. Having finished 2nd in the 2012/13 season, the Red Lizards failed to match up to the expectations and subsequently Mike Snoei was released. Karim Bencherifa has been appointed by the club for the upcoming season with the expectations of an improved showing.
2013/14 Season – A Recap
The 2013-2014 brought lot of expectations from the fans given the fact that the Red Lizzards had finished second in the I-League last season. A lot was expected from Mike Snoei, who became the third foreign coach since 2007 and the club was considered to be a top contendor for the title. The season however was one of the worst season in the Club’s history since its induction to the I-league in 2007. The Pune based club were knocked out of the group stages of both Federation Cup and the Durand Cup, finished at the bottom of group H in AFC cup and ended in the seventh spot in the I-League.
The Red Lizards got off to a flying start with 5wins of the first seven games, but their inability to build on this solid lead, has cost them the I league and led the club to one of their worst finishes in the league table. A 7th place finish in the I league with a win less streak of 12 games and a bagging just a mere of 3 wins out of the remaining 17 games, after such a dream start showed that the club was in complete disarray.
What Went Wrong For The Club
The season displayed clear signs of lack of motivation, tactical failures, ineffective squad rotation and a wrong mix of players in the team. The squad often consisted of youth players coming from the academy. Some of their performances were stellar, but their lack of experience was evident. There was no right balance between experience and youth. This resulted in conflicting team chemistry and players were confused. Playing players out of position, was a common sight in the Pune based club and experimenting the back four, the front two and even the midfield, well into the latter stages of the season, clearly showed that the manager did not knew his best XI.
With the AFC Cup, Federation Cup and the I league a positive squad rotation was equally important in the long season ahead but Snoei failed to deliver on this front. Tactical Failures were a bi-product of failed team chemistry mixed and players were seen behaving as headless chicken. Moreover the Press conferences and interviews given by Snoei were almost hilarious. He sidelined himself from the picture and blamed his players for not giving their so called “everything”. Hiding himself behind a bad mouth was evident to all, plus the blaming and comparison to modern day legends sarcastically, was to much for the players to take who already lacked morale. Comparing Mirjan Pavlovic to Lionel Messi, sarcastically, for loosing the ball which led to the winning goal and blaming him for the defeat against Churchill Brothers wherein conceding 2 goals in the last five minutes, clearly reflects how poor man manager Snoei was.
The 2013-14 season was a season to forget in the club’s history, credit mostly to Snoei who was unable to manage the resources that were given to him averaging a 50% win record in his tenure. The ideology of Snoei to build a club around youth was his biggest asset, unfortunately he could not achieve the right balance between the youth and the experienced, resulting in a dismal campaign. Mike Snoei was removed from his position ,and on June 9th 2014 Karim Bencherifa was appointed as the head coach of Pune Fc.
What Bencherifa Brings To The Club
Karim Bencherfia is a well versed tactician, a better player manager and an excellent coach, having tons of experience. Bencherifa, who started his playing career from the Moroccan side Club ASMF Rabat in 1987 moved swiftly into coaching in 1994 managing the same club that he started playing from. Having coached twelve different teams in five different countries from three continents in a career spanning over two decades, Bencherifa brings along a wealth of experience to the ‘Red Lizards’ who finished a disappointing seventh with a mere 29 points, 14 points behind champions Bengaluru FC.
Bencherifa, like Snoei intends on developing youth and creating a structure like Ajax, the difference being the Becherifa has accomplished this successfully in the past with different teams, in different countries. This makes him well versed with the the team chemistry and the experience needed for blending youth into the senior team and leading them to win matches. Having worked at Mohun Bagan, wherein he used a lot of young players and successfully transited them into well established players like Pritam Kota;, Ram Malik, Shouvik Ghosh and winning matches along the way, shows how much steel and experience as a man manager Bencherifa has. Similarly he led Salgaocar to I league nurturing players like Gilbert Olievera , Anthony D Souza in the winning campaign, again shows the youth development qualities of Bencherifa.
With players such as Amrinder Singh, Salam Ranjan Singh, Fanai Lalrempuia, Dhanpal Ganesh, Nikhil Kadam and Thongkhosiem Haokip in the team, who have raked up some important minutes under their belt under Snoei, and displayed potential , it would ideal for Bencherifa to blend in with the youth system at Pune FC. Bencherifa, can lead these products of the academy and transit them into well developed players who will excel in tactical as well technical qualities, Plus the age of these players gives Karim, a base ground to lay the foundation of the “style of play” and create a winning team with a winning mentality. Looking into the next season, “the red lizards” can hope to capitalize on the progress made by the youngsters under Bencherifa.
Clearly, Bencherifa and Pune FC are a match made in heaven. Karim will be an excellent fit for the Club playing who will play in their eighth I-league season. The experience he has bagged is more than impressive, and his knowledge of the Indian league is second to none. Moreover the winning mentality that he would embed into the team is highly regarded. We can expect a Formidable Pune FC with Karim as the head, given that he gets his tactics and his team chemistry right, and the experience he has shows that he will deliver what is expected of him.