Team is only as good as the coach: Sunil Chhetri heaps praise on Bengaluru FC manager Carles Cuadrat
"If we score an own goal, it's no problem. But if we concede off a set-piece, Carles [Cuadrat] goes mad," laughed Sunil Chhetri as he spoke about the ISL-winning Bengaluru FC manager's obsession with detail, especially when it came to dead-ball situations.
At the post-final press conference in Mumbai on Sunday, Chhetri explained that a lot of work goes behind the set-piece situations that Bengaluru draw out.
"We really have worked hard there. There are charts in the bathroom before we go to the match and it takes 20 minutes to memorise those," Chhetri said.
Chhetri praised Cuadrat's attention to detail and his focus on preparation, especially during set-pieces. "We've got four different routines for a corner from each side, then four different free-kick routines from each side. Then defensively, also. We forget easily," Chhetri said.
Udanta Singh who was sat right beside Chhetri also chipped in, saying that sometimes Dimas Delgado, who was taking those set-pieces, would also forgot what signal to use for what routine.
"At those times, I just turn to the coach, and he says exactly what we should do," Udanta said.
Chhetri said centre-back Juanan Gonzalez was his go-to man. "Juanan remembers everything, he's the most studious, so he tells all of us," the captain joked.
And Cuadrat's attention to the set-pieces has paid dividends, especially defensively. The only non-penalty goal they conceded from a dead-ball situation was Carlos Calvo's free-kick in the away game against Jamshedpur FC, when most of the first-team regulars were rested.
Westwood, Roca, Cuadrat - Bengaluru FC have been lucky - Chhetri
What makes Bengaluru so consistent? What makes them so hungry? Chhetri was quick to put all that down to the coaches that the club has had.
"We've had superb coaches, right from Ashley Westwood, to [Albert] Roca to Carles now, and the team is only as good as them," Chhetri said.
The skipper joked that the influx of the Spanish style was tough on some of the players, especially goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Not one to be left behind, Sandhu took the question head-on, and said, "My kicking wasn't great at all when I joined BFC, but it's improved now. I want to keep getting better at it, but I'm also happy the coaches give me the freedom to kick it long sometimes."
Chhetri also said that team completely surrendered itself to Cuadrat's methods. He said that the team can only be as good as its coach, and that Cuadrat was as good a coach as any he's played under.
But that didn't mean he agreed with everything the manager did. "Of course, sometimes I would wonder why he was doing certain things, but when you want to do well, you have to fully trust the coaches," Chhetri said.
Was it a conscious decision from the staff to let Bengaluru play a lot more physically than they did last year? Chhetri agreed, but with a few conditions.
"Carles always told us that unless we fight, our quality won't come through. If we have to get in people's faces for our quality to come through, we'd do that. But not for one moment has anyone on my team played to deliberately injure anybody, we would never ever do that"
Carles wanted wingers to track back in the final - Chhetri
Chhetri also said that, in the final, it was important that Udanta and he tracked back to defend on their flanks.
"It was important we did. More me, than Udanta, because [Harmanjot] Khabra [at right-back] is more seasoned than Nishu [Kumar]. Jacki[chand Singh] has had such a good season for Goa, and I knew I could not let him go one-on-one with Nishu."
Want to win every tournament we play - Chhetri
Chhetri said that the team ethic and hardwork would never stop, and that this season, Bengaluru want to do something they've never done before, which is to win two trophies in a season.
"We want to win as many games, as many trophies as we can, so we'll take everything seriously, for sure. On to the Super Cup now," the captain signed off confidently.