ISL 2018-19: Lack of quality in final third the reason for Chennaiyin FC's poor start according to John Gregory
The beginning to the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) season has not been a good one for defending champions Chennaiyin FC as they’ve lost both their games thus far.
They’ve conceded four goals and scored just once. After opening their season with a 1-0 defeat away against Bengaluru FC, they lost 1-3 at home to FC Goa.
On Thursday, the two-time champions have a chance to get their campaign back on the right track with a home game against NorthEast United FC.
Last season too, Chennaiyin FC lost their home game to Goa and in their next game, at home versus NorthEast United FC picked up their first win to kick-start things. Coach John Gregory is hoping for something similar this time around too.
“We’ve lost two matches, there’s no denying that”, said Chennaiyin coach John Gregory speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game.
“You can draw all the analogies from last year. Even in 2015, during the first title, we had lost our first game. But I believe we’ve had unbelievable effort in both matches. When you give the effort as my players have given, the results are sure to come.”
The lack of end-product is what has doomed the team to defeats according to Gregory:
“We’ve just lacked quality in their third of the pitch. Along with that we’ve made mistakes at the back. Barring Miku’s goal which was a fantastic strike, the goals we gave to Goa came from defensive errors and we got punished.”
He felt that the defensive setup was crucial as it proved to be the cornerstone of their title-winning campaign last time around.
“The back-four along with Karanjit Singh, our keeper, performed miracles through last season. Our championship was built on it”, said Gregory.
As champions, Chennaiyin’s poor start to the season has received much of the attention around the country, but Gregory still believes it’s not a “desperate” situation and wants to take the pressure off his players.
“We’ve got people talking about us in a negative way. It’s definitely not enjoyable. But it’s my job to deal with all that. I’m looking to protect my players, tell them to get on with their game while I handle all this outside stuff.”
Gregory alluded to a point during last season as an example of how the team won’t be forced into knee-jerk reactions.
“We’ve been here before, my players have been here before. Last year, we went to NorthEast United FC and got our backsides kicked when we lost 1-3. And everyone thought it was the end of the world”, Gregory mentioned.
“But then we came back, calmed down, talked it over and after that our season went quite well.”
One of the main talking points has been the form of Jeje Lalpekhlua, the Chennaiyin FC forward, who has looked off-colour in both their matches.
He was guilty of wasting two excellent goal-scoring chances in the game against Bengaluru while against Goa, he was ineffective and was replaced before the end of the game.
Gregory defended his striker, referring to past lean phases, saying,
“He has 10-12 goals a season in him. I believe it’s a question of him getting his first goal, after which I feel he will settle down. Just like a win; you always want to get that first win of the season after which the team performs better.”
When probed on if we can expect changes for tomorrow’s game, Gregory seemed to hint that there would be some.
“Possibly…. Yeah”, Gregory said.
“Look, I’ve got about 10 players waiting on the bench who are dying to get on the pitch and play. That’s one of the downsides to picking an eleven, who to leave out. The boys in the shirts have to perform because otherwise there are some other boys, senior boys, who are desperate to get in”, concluded the Chennaiyin FC coach.