Sergio Lobera once again plans to outscore his opponents in ISL…
For the seventh season of Indian Super League (ISL), Mumbai City have opted to make full use of their foreign quota of seven players.
After the takeover of the club by the City Football Group (CFG), the Islanders were on a roll in the transfer market this summer. Some of their moves include bringing in former FC Goa head coach Sergio Lobera, players like Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumous, Bartholomew Ogbeche and Adam Le Fondre.
A simple look at Mumbai’s squad list gives you the impression that they are set to go all-out for the ISL title in their first year with Lobera at the helm. The recruitment drive has been impressive but it does leave a few gaps at the back.
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While clubs such as Jamshedpur and Kerala Blasters have opted to sign two foreign centre-backs, the Islanders have only brought in Mourtada Fall and are reliant on Indian defenders to step up this season. Compared to their immense firepower upfront and in midfield, the defence could be their weak point in the upcoming season.
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It must be noted that there is defensive midfielder Hernan Santana in Mumbai’s squad who can slot in as a centre-back at times. He has played as a centre-back in the pre-season friendlies for Mumbai and provides an extra foreign defensive option for Lobera who knows him very well from his Las Palmas days.
Mumbai City’s defensive form will also be keenly observed by the other teams given how Lobera’s Gaurs were infamous for conceding goals and throwing away clean sheets. The Spanish head coach has been adamant about his focus on outscoring opponents instead of restricting their attacks in the past and based on how the squad has shaped up, that philosophy is set to continue.
In Lobera’s 60 games in charge of Goa, the team scored 128 goals and conceded 79 (more than a goal per game). In his first season with Goa, the team kept only two clean sheets (lowest tally in the league) and let in 28 goals in 20 matches (only two teams had worse defensive records).
But notably, Goa improved defensively in the next two years as Lobera brought in Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena together to strengthen the defence and the team, as a whole, grew accustomed to the coach’s style of play.
It is only sensible to expect a similar trajectory for defensive displays at his new team as well. Mumbai City have the firepower to outscore every team in the ISL this season and they probably will, barring the odd game here and there. However, there will be pressure on the Indian defenders to put on a good show.
Former Gaurs skipper Mandar Rao Dessai will have a prominent role to play at left-back. On the other flank, they have the option of deploying Sarthak Golui and former Kerala Blasters right-back Mohammed Rakip. They also have Valpuia, Tondonba Singh, Mehtab Singh and Amey Ranawade to pair with Fall and it will be interesting to see who is picked out of the available Indian options.
Sarthak Golui also can play as a centre-back but it is very clear that their Indian options in defence do not inspire much confidence apart from Mandar who is known more for his attacking traits.
As it stands, Fall will take up one of the centre-back slots in the first team and how the rest of the defensive line shapes up could also determine how far a new-look Mumbai City will go this season.