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Chennaiyin FC look to solve midfield and defensive issues with Chris Herd signing

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560   //    01 Feb 2019, 19:24 IST

New Chennaiyin FC signing Chris Herd
New Chennaiyin FC signing Chris Herd

Defending Indian Super League champions Chennaiyin FC have moved swiftly to address the departure of Inigo Calderon, one of their stalwarts in defence, with the signing of 29-year-old Chris Herd. The Australian joins the 2017/18 ISL champions after a recent spell in Thailand with Buriram United with whom he won the Thai League.

Much like Calderon, who despite being a right-back could play at centre-back or even deputize in midfield when needed, Herd’s signing seems to have been made in light of the same requirements.

Herd has featured for Aston Villa in the Premier League with whom he spent five seasons. He made 36 appearances for the Villans, the small number a result of loan spells at other clubs during that time. At the international level, Herd has 3 caps for Australia and was part of the title-winning 2015 AFC Asian Cup squad.

"Chennaiyin FC is a new challenge for me and one I am genuinely excited about. I am looking forward to help the club pick up as many points as possible in the remainder of the ISL campaign and of course there are two cup competitions to look forward to after that," said an upbeat Herd on arriving in Chennai.

Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory also stressed on the ‘versatility’ aspect of his new signing.

"In Chris (Herd), we are adding versatility to our squad with the focus being on the upcoming cup competitions. They will be our top priority and Chris will bring a lot of quality and experience in a vital area of the pitch," said Gregory on Herd's acquisition.

Herd’s signing was one that was in the works for a long time; having played majorly at right-back through his career, Herd is a natural replacement for the indefatigable Calderon. Chennaiyin’s other option at right-back is 20-year-old Laldinliana Renthlei. Herd provides an experienced hand here.

The other is the club’s upcoming AFC Cup engagements which are set to begin at the conclusion of the ISL’s group stages. Chennaiyin can name only 4 foreigners in the AFC Cup squad and one of them needed to be from Asia or Australia. Herd ticks this box as well.

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At his two most recent stops – Buriram United in the Thai League and Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League, Herd has played in midfield more often.

8 of his 9 appearances for Western Sydney came as a defensive midfielder while for Buriram he played twice as a central midfielder and twice on the right side of midfield.

Dhanapal Ganesh’s injury has forced him onto the sidelines for much of the domestic campaign and a timeline on his return is still not imminent. And it’s been a blow that has hit Chennaiyin hard as their midfield has been overrun by opponents almost every single time.

Neither of Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh or Andrea Orlandi have had the desired impact in Ganesh’s absence. Herd’s availability will likely reinforce the midfield with some steel.

Herd becomes the latest new face in the Chennaiyin ranks along with Kerala Blasters duo CK Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary who have joined on loan in the January transfer window as well.

Despite the never ending setbacks of the season resulting in them being out of contention early in the ISL, they do have the domestic cup and AFC Cup competitions to look forward to. None of the new players signed this season by Chennaiyin have had any significant impact so far and the club will be surely hoping that Herd is the one to buck that trend.

(Chennaiyin FC next play FC Pune City in the ISL on February 2)

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