ISL 2019/20: Can Lucian Goian fix Chennaiyin FC's defensive issues?
Chennaiyin FC had a catastrophic season after their defence was found out time and again. The Marina Machans leaked as many as 32 goals during the campaign under John Gregory in contrast to the 19 goals they conceded en route to the title in 2018.
These statistics enforced the necessity to bolster their backline. Chennaiyin worked uninterruptedly in the transfer market, bringing in players with previous Indian Super League experience and new faces looking to break through. One of their signings who is no stranger to the league is former Mumbai City FC defender, Lucian Goian. The Romanian international spent three years with the Islanders before joining the two-time ISL champions this summer.
Mumbai City FC are one of the clubs to have underperformed since the inception of the Indian Super League in 2014. The Islanders have reached the play-offs twice in the space of three years. Goian was part of the defensive structure on both occasions and garnered attention from other clubs.
On the other hand, Chennaiyin FC encountered a difficult season in both attack and defence. Despite their struggles, their tendency to bounce back to the winning ways after an off-year has made them a real force in the past. Hence, Goian didn't have second thoughts about the possibility of Marina Machans for the next part of his career.
Upon his move, the former Cluj defender will be a regular starter under John Gregory. The experienced Goian is anticipated to partner Eli Sabia in the back-line, while new signing Masih Saighani, will occupy the defensive midfield position with Dhanpal Ganesh. Edwin Sydney and Jerry Lalrinzuala will get deployed through the right and left defensive flank, respectively.
The predicted back-four has ample experience to overcome last season's shortcomings. Lucian Goian is returning for the fourth straight year to the sub-continent. Eli Sabia is currently into his third season with the Blues. Jerry Lalrizuala will be playing in his third season since Marco Materazzi handed him his debut in 2016. With Chennai City FC, Edwin Sydney had the experience of overcoming the ISL sides in the Super Cup.
While there are no doubts about Goian's aerial prowess and physicality, the Romanian is quite the opposite of the former skipper Mailson Alves. As a defender, the Brazilian was more of a reactor than a reader of the game. Mailson was the second-best defender after Henrique Sereno in 2018. In Sereno's absence, it wasn't smooth sailing for him the following season. Mailson's performances were marred with errors and led to him being demoted to the bench.
Lucian Goian is a step ahead of the opponent attacker, always aware of his surroundings to protect his team from possible danger. His game doesn't limit to muscularity as he's renowned for timely interventions. As a defender, tackling will be the last option and the former Mumbai City FC man doesn't take too many risks. He likes to force the attackers wide and reduce their offensive threat.
John Gregory will have an opportunity to set his team up defensively because of the availability of players in the current squad. Masih Sainghani and Dhanpal Ganesh add the required steel in the midfield department. The back four looks settled and if they perform up to their expectations, soaking up pressure while defending high might not be an issue.
Ever since the impact of Sereno's absence came out in the last campaign, the club sought an able replacement for him going into the new season. The Portuguese international was an excellent defender while his leadership skills came to the team's aid frequently. Lucian Goian is no stranger to leadership, having been Mumbai City's captain in the past.
During the majority of the last season, the team shipped too many goals because of concentration lapses and lack of positional awareness. Lucian Goian, as a defensive general can marshal the back-line by being the brigde of connection between the others.
The expectations among the Chennaiyin faithful are high as the season beckons. Lucian Goian could prevail as a back-line anchor and with his experience and quality, bring Chennaiyin FC nearer to the ISL summit.