The Hero ISL kicks off its fifth season on 29th September 2018, as two-time champs Atletico de Kolkata will take on Kerala Blasters in a mouth-watering fixture. However, the game on the next day has caught the attention of all the fans around India. Bengaluru FC takes on defending champions Chennaiyin FC in a repeat of last year's finals at the Sree Kanteerva Stadium in Bangalore. Bengaluru FC will look to avenge their defeat in the finals on the very ground they lost.
As Bengaluru FC have brought in various new players and ammunition for the new season, they have also brought in a new coach. After the departure of the highly successful coach, Albert Roca, Carles Cuadrat takes over from the Spaniard and will hope to bring league success to the fortress once again, both on the Asian front as well as the domestic front. With the new season with new challenges and a new manager ahead, let's take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Bengaluru FC.
Strength: Strong, cohesive attacking unit
BFC were no strangers in front of goal last season. They scored 40 goals in their 2017/18 Hero Indian Super League campaign. 29 of these goals came from the duo of Sunil Chhetri and Miku with the Venezuelan scoring 15, 'Captain, Leader, Legend' scoring 14.
The strength of BFC to outscore their opponents on various occasion is mainly due to this consistent duo. These two strikers will be joined by Kean Lewis or Haokip on the left and youngster Udanta Singh. This is a lethal level of pace on the flanks which could end up in a lot of chances created in the final third.
This season also sees the likes of Chencho Gyelshan on the bench and raring to go as and when the team needs him. With the extremely high work rates of Sunil Chhetri and the stable hold up play from Miku, the front four of Bengaluru FC can strike the right balance and provide a huge goalscoring threat against any top team.
#2 Flexibility in formations
Bengaluru FC preferred to play a 4-3-3 formation last year. The highly rotational and proactive three-man midfield of Lenny Rodriguez, Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado. While Paartalu and Delgado will remain in the club this season, the 31-year-old Indian midfielder has joined Goa FC. However, Bengaluru FC was quick to replace him with the signing of Xisco Hernandez. Although it might not be seen as a like-for-like signing, Xisco Hernandez has comfortably adapted into the midfield role and has already shown the West Block Blues his creative and game-changing side in his performance against Altyn Asyr.
However, Cuadrat prefers a 4-4-2. The 4-4-2 formation was used in the game against Altyn Asyr at home as well as away. Whilst the attack from the flanks is a clever option in a league which is not fully adapted to big pitch matches and high level of pace and strength on the flanks, dominating the midfield could prove to be highly useful as well. In games against the likes of adventurous midfielders and playmakers like Raphael Augusto of Chennaiyin FC, Hugo Boumas of Goa FC and Jonathon Vila of Pune City FC.
Luckily, for BFC, they have a squad capable of doing both as not only can many players of the squad play in various positions, but a decent squad depth can see various formations and players in every match till Carles hits the perfect note.
#3 A new manager who is well-versed with club policy and previous philosophy
When Albert Roca announced that he would leave the club after the 2017/18 season, Bengaluru FC took little-to-no time to hand the reins to the second-in-charge, Carles Cuadrat. The Spaniard worked with Albert Roca as the assistant coach since 2014. The duo arrived in Bengaluru FC from the El Salvador national football team. They were quick to gain success as they guided Bengaluru FC to the AFC finals against Air Force Athletic Club of Iraq. Bengaluru FC was the first team of India to do so. They also won various accolades like the Federation Cup in 2016/17 and the Indian Super Cup in 2018. A disappointing 3-2 loss in the finals of the Hero Indian Super League last year meant that they couldn't add the elusive trophy to their cabinet. However, Carles will hope to avenge the 'Super Machans' this year and win the league.
Unlike most managerial changes, the change from Albert Roca to Carles Cuadrat won't be a massive shift in terms of philosophy. The transition will be quick as Carles knows the players from before and understands how they played under Albert Roca. He is aware of their strengths and weaknesses and will know how to groom young players as well as bring in the experience required to win matches.
#1 Susceptible Defence
Bengaluru FC has taken a huge hit in their defensive backline with the departure of John Johnson and Subhasish Bose to Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC respectively. This void has been filled by Rahul Bheke and Rino Anto. However, in the AFC inter-zonal semifinals against Altyn Asyr, Bengaluru FC conceded five goals in total and three of these goals were conceded in the home fixture. This effectively killed the fixture as the Turkmenistan team now had three away goals.
One performance that would have been highlighted would be that of Rino Anto. The former Atletico de Kolkata right back had a terrible game as he struggled to defend and was not providing width as well. Carles moved him from the position of right back to centre-back but with little to no effect as he failed to impress and was the reason behind the concession of two goals. Although Carles Cuadrat has addressed the problem with the signing of Albert Serrán, only time will tell how effective the 34-year-old will prove to be.
Bengaluru FC has been at the peak of the mountain for the past five years. Since the club was established, they have won at least one trophy every year. They have always been a confident team and often demolished teams with sheer superior quality. However, with confidence comes complacency, the Blues could potentially be prone to shocking losses and poor games due to overconfidence.
For example, when Bengaluru FC topped the league going into the playoffs and thereafter won the semifinals in emphatic fashion, they expected nothing but the title in the finals. The confidence rose in the finals when Sunil Chhetri scored a goal in the 8th minute and the Bengaluru team were on the road to victory. But this lead to complacency as they conceded two goals in set pieces and one stunning goal from Raphael Augusto took them out of the game. The game ended 3-2 which was a disappointing end to a superb campaign.Published 27 Sep 2018, 21:07 IST