ISL 2019-20: The case for Sunil Chhetri to be Bengaluru FC's frontman
After a slow start to the Indian Super League season, the disquiet in Bengaluru FC fans is understandable. With three draws in three games, the reigning champions are in danger of losing further ground on the teams above them.
It is not just the consecutive draws but their lack of efficiency in the final third, which is the real worry. From 33 attempts, Carles Cuadrat’s men have only produced one goal, which begs the question as to why there’s a lack of attacking vigour in the Blues' game this time around.
While new signings Raphael Augusto and winger Ashique Kuruniyan have added bite to their attack, another new arrival Manuel Onwu has flattered to deceive so far this season. Onwu was brought in to take over the goal-scoring duties from Miku but his sterile performances thus far have left fans disillusioned.
Undoubtedly, the departure of Miku has left a gaping hole in Bengaluru's side. The Venezuelan hitman scored 20 goals and had four assists in 32 appearances for the Blues, forming a lethal partnership with Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh.
Speaking on the absence of his star hitman this season, Cuadrat earlier said,
“Miku is always going to be a big miss for any team because he is a very special talent. But I think the team was able to create a lot of chances without Miku. We have been working on a lot of different things. We can manage the situation of creating chances with or without Miku.”
In fact, many expected Chhetri would be allowed to have a leading role in the team as the striker and Bengaluru’s front line would consist of a very fluid, very speedy trio of Ashique Kuruniyan, Chhetri and Udanta Singh. However, Cuadrat put his faith in Onwu to lead the line, using Chhetri on the left-wing.
Onwu’s sub-par performances might force Cuadrat to rethink his combinations in attack and allow Chhetri to play in his preferred position. The star striker has scored 30 goals in 60 appearances, making him the second-highest goalscorer in ISL history and the Indian with most goals in the competition.
Chhetri’s incredible dribbling ability and quick feet has made him one of the feared strikers in the league and therefore Cuadrat’s decision has left many football pundits bemused.
Over the last few seasons, Chhetri featured as a left-winger, with Albert Roca and then Cuadrat being intent on playing Miku as the sole striker. However, with Miku’s departure and Onwu misfiring, playing Chhetri up top could be the solution to the Blues' current crisis.
It would also allow Ashique Kuruniyan to move to his preferred left-wing position from left-wing back. In fact, the attacking trio of Kuruniyan, Chhetri and Udanta possesses the incisiveness to destroy any kind of opponent on their day.
Therefore, it is safe to state that a little tactical tweak from Cuadrat could determine how their season pans out.