Chennaiyin FC are in total disarray and the board needs to wake up to escort the club to well-being.
A year ago, a 64-year-old hailing from Scunthorpe, England was spotted wearing a half-jacket, donning blue – with a traditional dhoti, which is formally known as Veshti in Tamil. He was posing with the Indian Super League (ISL) trophy and the official announcement broke to supporters euphoria. Manager John Gregory penned a one-year extension with Chennaiyin FC following a title-winning season.
There were no lesser signs of backing from the supporters, giving credence to their gaffer – who brought AFC Cup football for the first time in the club’s history. As days passed by, the Blues faithful were conscious of bemusing business in the transfer window. That is mainly owing to the fact that the club was not able to keep the players who were core to that triumphant system.
Skipper Henrique Sereno was the bulwark for the Blues, helping them with solidity. He formed a formidable partnership with Mailson Alves, and the Brazilian succeeded his former teammate to the captain’s armband. Make no mistake, Mailson is resolute, yet is not ingenious as Chennaiyin’s former skipper.
Mailson’s compatriot Eli Sabia endured a defective season under the management of Marco Materazzi. For all that torrid displays, he was told to reunite with his former teammates and fill the void left by the mighty Sereno.
Jaime Gavilan and Rene Mihelic played bit-part roles, and most importantly, shaped up the side to cross the line on many occasions – coming on as a substitute throughout the season. New signing Andrea Orlandi, who operates in attacking midfield position, was told to step up his plate, but he failed miserably.
Defensive midfielder Bikramjit Singh was a cardinal player of team’s structure, but he was allowed to leave the club. The midfielder owned a fantastic record, despite featuring in 13 games. When he has featured in the eleven, Chennaiyin have gone on to win 11 games and draw one. The only loss came against FC Goa in the opening day, when the Blues were trailing by three goals during half-time.
Bikramjit and Dhanpal Ganesh did not put a foot wrong and eased the work for the defenders. The latter’s knee injury put a full stop to the whole season. Knowing the unavailability of those the former Chennai City midfielder, the club shipped out Bikramjit which turned out to be a hilarious decision. Young Sinivasan Pandiyan was plucked from the hands of Chennai City FC, but he was loaned back to his former club after making nil appearance during the first part of the season.
Barring the lousy signings, the retainment of Inigo Calderon came as a piece of huge news for the club. Going into the next season, expectation bar was set high, rightfully after the league triumph.
The Blues played out a decent game against Bengaluru FC in the first game of the season, but crumbled to Miku’s wonder strike in the first half. Hankering for the first victory, the team fell short of confidence during the first part of the season. Finally, the depleted Pune City was taken out by Chennaiyin in the seventh game, but the damage was already done, putting their playoff hopes in a shabby position. It took another eight games for the victory to beat Bengaluru FC in front of the home crowd and register second win of the season.
Skipper Mailson Alves was like a man with the broken leg, without his partner Sereno. The whole team malfunctioned along with Jeje Lalpekhlua, who failed to score a break the deadlock throughout the season. The incomings of CK Vineeth and Chris Herd ameliorated the side, but the team was far from all right.
Goalkeeper Karanjit Singh was in the debate for the best goalkeeper in the league during the title-winning season, but was quite the opposite in the successive season. The change in goalkeeping coach disrupted his dynamic – an element which he had with Tony Warner.
The former Millwall goalkeeper confirmed that the club turned his request down when he wanted to work with the Indian International for the second successive season. The absence of assistant manager Mark Lillis has taken a hit too. As John Gregory is handed over a new one-year contract, he needs those two assistants, for sure.
It would be too harsh to point out a linchpin in the whole squad, as the system functioned immaculately during Gregory’s first season at the club. But, the team has too many holes in the starting lineup last ISL campaign. It has come back to haunt the club as they mustered out only nine points, which is the poorest point-tally in the Indian Super League history.
Adding more misery to the ISL season, the Blues look likely to bow out of the AFC Cup Group Stages with one game to go. Irrespective of the result in the crucial encounter, replacements are compulsory for this club.
There are upgrades needed in numerous positions. Edwin Sydney will prove to be a good buy, but this squad requires at least six players after Jeje’s Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury, which will keep him out for most parts of next season. Centre-back, striker, defensive midfielder, and a winger should be a priority for the club. Apart from the incomings, the outgoings needs to happy in order to balance the books and avoid financial trouble.
Chennaiyin FC need to show ambition and splash the cash on quality signings to escape from jeopardy, once again. It should be essential, and not just an option.