Chennaiyin FC have done their homework in the transfer market, but they will have to amend some flaws tactically to overcome a disastrous season.
John Gregory has seen two sides of extremity with Chennaiyin FC. The Englishman has tasted a fair share of criticism and success for disparate outcomes, where the club once finished as Champions and procured the last position in the succeeding season.
The two-time Indian Super League (ISL)) champions appointed the Englishman in 2017 after the club mutually agreed with Marco Materazzi to bring his managerial career to an end in India. Since the Italian walked away from his regular duty, Gregory had a plan to strengthen key areas and the inducement helped him to land a league title during his first season.
Despite the reaping success, what came next was a baffling move. The ISL side lost their standout players, including Henrique Sereno, Bikramjit Singh, Jaime Gavilan, and Rene Mihelic. Additionally, the linchpin in the midfield, Dhanpal Ganesh, ruptured his knee ruling him out for at least seven months.
Their replacements couldn’t put a foot right from the first day and failed to create an impact. To pile misery on Gregory, Jeje Lalpekhlua misfired and struggled for goals, while Gregory Nelson was kept out of the matchday squad often for unknown reasons. The whole defence and midfield malfunctioned which created total chaos amongst the club and fans.
They finished last in the domestic league and headed into the continental group stage exit door. The Blues were capable of securing qualification to the AFC Cup knockout stages, but their underperformance in a group consisting of Abahani Dhaka, Minerva Punjab, and Manang Marshyangdi wasn’t just a bruise. It was a lesion – solely due to incoming players with less quality failing to match their predecessors.
At the back of a poor season, the Blues management handing out a new contract didn’t arrive as a good piece of news for the supporters. But, the board had full trust on their manager to deliver results and backed him to an enormous extent in the transfer market. Raphael Augusto, Mailson Alves, and Chris Herd are the notable departures from the club.
We shall look at the possible starting lineup and how Gregory must measure his squad to play to their strengths.
Karanjit Singh’s season was marred with errors in numerous games. The shot-stopper failed to rectify his mistakes and he’s likely to demote himself to the bench. Young Vishal Kaith will start in between the sticks under the guidance of player-cum-goalkeeping coach Karanjit Singh.
With thorough analysis, Chennaiyin roped in two experienced centre-backs in Lucian Goian and Masih Saighani. Last season’s top-performer Eli Sabia is likely to retain his place with Goian at the back. New signing from Chennai City FC, Edwin Sydney, will register his name in the starting lineup through the right defensive flank. Jerry will be the left-back for the third consecutive season.
Last season was evidential of poor midfield play. But, the backline was also catastrophic by committing plenty of silly errors. Edwin Sydney has a perfect balance in the defensive and offensive department. Jerry had an off-season last time, but he’s capable of delivering. The experience of Lucian Goian and Eli Sabia will be crucial.
Rafael Crivellaro, Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Dragos Firtulescu have been signed for the attacking midfield and wing positions respectively. Out of these three, Rafael Crivellaro is likely to spend more time on the bench. The other two will start through either of the wings.
Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh will occupy the other two midfield positions. The Indian duo hasn’t proven yet and it’s pivotal for them to make a mark in the league. Thapa makes plenty of forward runs and could prove to be the goalscoring midfield. Germanpreet is not agile as his fellow colleague, but he can move the ball tidily in the midfield department. And Saighani will play in the defensive midfield position.
Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis are the attacking reinforcements and it is likely that Schembri starts ahead of Valskis.
The players have already been tested in the pre-season games. The Blues played four games, shipping nine goals and scoring nine goals in the process. The goals leaked is still a worry, but the experience in the backline could help at some point.
Since taking over the club, John Gregory has deployed 4-2-3-1 formation. However, 4-3-3 would make perfect sense to get the best out of the current lot.
There will be huge expectations for the upcoming season. John Gregory will be hoping to deliver attractive football and secure results and the least will be anticipated to sneak into the playoffs round. On paper, Bengaluru and FC Goa look far away, but Chennaiyin can be dangerous as any other side on their day.
If the players perform up to their scratch, taking part in the playoff shouldn’t be a problem. From then on, it depends on grabbing the moment and a fair share of luck. The Blues were head and shoulders above the other three during the 2017/18 playoffs round and will be hoping for the same should they finish in the top four. The best outcome will be triumphing the league once again and the least is taking part in the Playoffs round.