A simple umbrella is often all you need to protect yourself from the rain. It will keep the droplets away, ensuring that you stay nice and dry under it, unaffected enough to carry on with your work. But sometimes, when it rains, it pours, and there is simply nowhere to go as you are washed away in a deluge once the skies have opened.
For Mumbai City FC, the first four games of the Hero Indian Super League have gone something like that. They currently sit in seventh place in the table with three points, having lost three of their four games, with only FC Goa below them.
They were part of the inaugural match of the tournament inside the famous Salt Lake Stadium against Atletico de Kolkata, which ended in a 0-3 defeat. They came home for their next game and rebounded in fine fashion with a sparkling display against FC Pune City, winning 5-0. But just when it looked like the win would kick-start their campaign in a major way, NorthEast United FC rained on their parade when they came to Mumbai and beat them 2-0.
Another away fixture lay in wait for Mumbai after that as they travelled to the east coast for their fourth game. Unfortunately for them, the result was another loss as they returned after getting beaten 5-1 by Chennai.
In the eye of the storm is Head Coach Peter Reid, of Sunderland and Leeds United fame. The former England midfielder has been witness to the action from the sidelines as he’s watched his team suffer early setbacks in the campaign.
However, he is a man on a mission. And he is keen to set right his team’s course and get them back into the thick of things.
Reid has the experience of managing in the top flight of English football and has been in situations before where he’s had to get his team out of a pickle. As interim manager of Leeds, he oversaw a difficult period trying to avoid the drop in the 2002-03 season. With Sunderland, he guided the team to promotion into the Premier League twice.
The ISL presents Reid with new challenges in a new territory, but he is determined to make his mark.
Mumbai, of course, have not had the best of times with injuries, resulting in an unsettled team. Their marquee player, Freddie Ljungberg, was not match fit for the first game and came on for a brief 25 minutes in the second game at home. He once again started on the bench in game three, but was introduced at half-time with his team needing a boost. Sadly, about 15 minutes later, he pulled up in agony with a torn hamstring and was forced off. It is very unlikely we will see him again this season for Mumbai.
“Freddie’s hamstring is gone and with my experience in football, tears in hamstrings are very difficult injuries and I don’t think it is good for us”, said Reid after the game against NorthEast United.
To go with that, the player he named as captain of his team, India international Syed Rahim Nabi, picked up an injury inside 20 minutes of the opener against Kolkata and had to be taken off. Brazil’s Andre Moritz, who netted the first hat-trick of the tournament in their 5-0 win over Pune and who has been one of the most impressive players so far for Mumbai, played with a bandaged head against NorthEast United after suffering a fall in the bathroom; he didn’t last beyond the first half.
And of course, French striker Nicolas Anelka was forced to miss the first three games owing to his suspension following a controversial celebration last season while playing for West Bromwich Albion.
All in all, there’s been a lot for Reid to contend with as far as player availability is concerned.
Discipline and concentration
Another front on which Reid has been forced to do a lot of firefighting is on the disciplinary front. That is not in reference to any misconduct on the part of the players, but merely alludes to their on-field discipline and concession of fouls and bookings.
“I am an optimist by nature, but if there is a worrying factor that I have, it is that we are putting ourselves under tremendous pressure by conceding stupid free kicks,” bemoaned Reid in a press conference before his side took on Chennai.
In the 0-2 reverse match against NorthEast United, Mumbai lost Ljungberg to a hamstring injury after Reid had made all his substitutions, thus rendering them down to 10 men. To make matters worse, central defender Pavel Cmovs went in for a rash challenge just minutes later to pick up his second yellow and he was given his marching orders, taking them down to nine men. And once that happened, they were well and truly out of the game.
“Going down to nine men against NorthEast United was the team’s own fault. We must be more disciplined in terms of not committing the fouls,” Reid said.
He has also been attempting to get his team to keep up their concentration levels throughout the course of a game; they have suffered several mid-match lapses which have cost them points.