Kolkata Giants East Bengal concluded their season with a 5-1 loss at the hands of Shillong Lajong, their worst defeat in the last few years. The loss in many ways highlighted a below par season for the Lal-Holud brigade where the team often looked unsettled and tired.
A lot was expected from the club in this yeara s I League and AFC Cup campaign. When Colaco took the job at the end of last season, he inherited a squad which was almost built on the policies and techniques of Trevor Morgan, but this season he molded the team in his own style. He brought in Ranti Martins and Dudu Omagbemi up front and bought veteran defender Deepak Mandal in defense along with Sukhwinder Singh and Antony Soren in Midfield, signings who had proven their worth over the years playing for other clubs but from some reason nobody was able to roll back the years and produce the performances that everyone raved about. The Goan was replaced halfway down the season by Dutch coach Eelco Schattorie but the move failed to work and the team finished fourth in the I League. Here are the main reasons why the Kolkata Giants struggled this season
The fans of the red and gold brigade were ecstatic before the start of the season, when they came to know that KEB had signed Subhashish Roy Chowdhury. Subhashish was one of the standout performers in the inaugural season of the Indian Super League for the Champions, Atletico de Kolkata and after Gurpreet Singh Sandhu left for Europe last season, he was all but destined to be EBa s savior at goal this season. Sadly, that wasna t meant to be. Even though he only had a n average start to his season, his chances were soon cut short after a season ending knee injury, That meant that the goalkeeping duties were back with 40 year old veteran keeper, Abhijit Mondol.
Even though hea s considered a veteran, Abhijit is still prone to rookie mistakes, one which he cana t afford to make at this level. He often fumbles the ball at crucial moments and is quite indecisive while coming out for the ball at corners and other set piece routines, which costed East Bengal more often than not. Luis Barreto was the third goalkeeper in the squad but he has hardly used by the coaches.. The goalkeeping woes for the club went from bad to worse as the season progressed, costing some vital points. East Bengal should start their search for a deputy to Roy Chowdhury for next season, as they cannot afford to have another season like this one.
East Bengal could easily boast of a cracking defence line, one which has both experience and youth. The Kolkata outfit had among them, the likes of Saumik Dey, Deepak Mandal and Gurwinder Singh defenders who have vast experience along with the youthful exuberance of Abhishek Das and Robert. They even have Arnab Mondol, one of the best defenders in the country at the moment. But even with such a lineup their defense stood almost clueless all season.
The management wasna t able to fill the boots of Uga Okpara who left last season, as they brought in Serbian-Australian Milan Susak just a few days before the transfer window closed. Susak was an outright flop, and wasna t able to fit into the teama s mentality, as he lacked the vocational leadership qualities that the team needed. Susak was frequently injured throughout the cluba s league and AFC Cup campaign, and was barely able to play three matches in a row. But it wasna t only Milan who fell prey to injuries; a lack of proper pre season became evident as most players became injured in patches throughout the season. Arnab Mondal a too wasna t able to keep up with his responsibilities as the East Bengal defence ran clueless like a headless chicken, without a fixed back four.
Armandoa s Failed Coaching Antics
For someone who has won the National League 5 times , former Dempo and India Coach Armando Colaco can be said to have crumpled under the pressure of managing a side from Kolkata. Pressure, both from fans and the regional media were too much according to him, something he knew and was expected when he took up the East Bengal job. Armando inherited a team which was almost molded under the tactics and strategies of Trevor Morgan, but as this season commenced he was given the power to re mould it according to his choice. But, the Goan coach spent most of his preseason time at his home in Goa, home sick. While other sides like Bengaluru and Mohun Bagan had a rigorous pre season in training, East Bengal lacked the same intensity as their coach was at home rather than with the team. But that didna t stop as the season commenced, the coach was absent throughout whenever he got the opportunity, citing various reasons. His man management policies were questionable to say the least, as the players werena t able to buy into his philosophy. The brilliant passing football that became his trademark during his time at Dempo was nowhere to be seen as he wasna t able to revamp a Morgan built squad.
Faulty Long Ball Tactics
A common and disappointing sight throughout the season was that of balls being launched almost haplessly from midfield, in vain attempts to find either Dudu or Ranti Martins; balls which would lead more often than not to the opposition defenders through sheer misdirection and too much power on the ball or the striking duo being unable to control the ball. It can easily be made out that Kingfisher East Bengal lacks a player who can create chances on his own; someone who can dribble past defenders and slot one at back of the net. Both Dudu and Ranti Martins were bought for the same purpose as James Moga was released. But sadly, Dudu who once dominated the I League with Sporting Clube has lost both his pace and the ability to turn quickly with the ball at his feet, reflected by his number of goals this season. But the striking pair cana t be blamed for all of East Bengala s misfortune. Ita s the midfield battle which the club lost drastically. Both Mehtab and Didika werena t able to replicate last seasona s form, moreover the club were in the dire need of an attacking midfielder, a role in which Cavin Lobo was supposed to flourish, but unfortunately a knee injury got the best of him this season. Leo Bertos, who came in with a huge reputation, is now a deadweight in the team, he never fitted in and slowed the game down as he turned towards his own goal when receiving the ball, earning the tag of Back Pass Bertos. It was surprising to see Colaco not use Baljit Sahni to the fullest, as the player was excellent during his time with ATK. A failed midfield was the main reason behind East Bengala s fall this time around.
Coaches came and coaches went, but none made the same impact on the hearts and minds of the players and fans like Trevor James Morgan, and it is he who is the main cause for concern at the club. You ask any East Bengal fan who they would like to see as their club coach, they would say Trevor Morgan without even blinking. Under Morgan, East Bengal played fast paced attacking football, the type the fans and the players loved. The squad was built around his policies so well, that the new coaches have a hard time re adjusting. But one cannot hold on to the past so tightly that their future seems dark. The club needs to sort out its coaching priorities, time should be given too each coach rather than the hire and fire policy they have adopted. The players need to buy into the new philosophy and that takes quite some time. The frequent change at the helm makes it difficult for the players to adjust, which is evident as the playera s have yet to change from Morgana s tactics.
Ita s not all dark and gloomy for the Calcutta giants, they are still the Champions of their city and the colts have reached the U19 IFA shield final. Young talents are in abundance at the club and raring to go, with Prahlahd Roy and Avinash Ruidas being striking examples of players coming from the youth system into the senior side. Both the youngsters have made quite an impact and are surely destined to have a place in the first team for the years to come.