The legendary Sporting Club East Bengal are all set to make their Indian Super League (ISL) debut in the 2020-21 edition. The upcoming league season will be the longest in the history of the ISL. While most of the teams have gone with the Spain-based management and playing core due to its success and better transfer market prices, SC East Bengal chose Great Britain to form the core of their squad.
British influence in the foreign contingent of East Bengal
#1 Scott Neville
SC East Bengal's first foreign signing was Australian-English centre-back Scott Neville. The 31-year-old was the key man in Brisbane Roar's defense during the reign of current East Bengal manager Robbie Fowler. Neville essentially was used as a right-back due to his excellent ability to contribute in attack and deliver some fantastic crosses from the right. Neville's British roots were not a mere coincidence as Fowler's scouting team then went on a signing spree in the British Scouting Network.
#2 Daniel Fox
Scott Neville's partner in defense, Daniel Fox is expected to be the leader of the pack at the back. The Scottish international with an English passport is essentially a left-back but can play as a centre-back, similar to Neville's defensive skill-sets. Fox has vast Premier League, Championship and League One experience. He has played for clubs like Coventry, Celtic, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Burnley, and Wigan Athletic. This will be Fox's first playing opportunity outside the Isles of Britain.
#3 Anthony Pilkington
Anthony Pilkington has penned a deal with the Red and Gold brigade after playing all his life in the English football league system. His last club was Wigan Athletic where he played beside Daniel Fox. Pilkington has a vast Premier League, Championship and League One experience as well. He has played for the likes of Huddersfield, Norwich City, Cardiff, and Wigan Athletic. Pilkington mainly plays as a left-winger but can play as a right-winger as well. The Irish international with an English passport can also play as a second striker if required.
#4 Jacques Maghoma
A wolf in himself with the mentality of a lion, Jacques Maghoma is perhaps SC East Bengal's biggest signing of the season. Despite being a Congolese, Maghoma holds an English passport as well. He has a vast playing experience in the Isles like others. After graduating from the esteemed Tottenham Hotspurs Academy, Maghoma went on to play for Burton Albion, Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City. Maghoma is essentially a left-winger and will be pivotal to leading SC East Bengal's midfield throughout the campaign.
#5 Aaron-Amadi Holloway
Aaron-Amadi Holloway rejoins Robbie Fowler from A-League side Brisbane Roar. The Welsh-Nigerian forward resembles the Newcastle United striker Andy Carroll and French international Olivier Giroud in terms of approach to play. He is good in the air and can use his physique to his advantage in the typical English football style. Holloway has massive playing experience in League One and League Two and will be a handful for East Bengal's opponents.
#6 Matti Steinmann
The only foreigner in the squad with non-British roots is German central defensive midfielder Matti Steinmann. He has experience in playing in the Bundesliga for Hamburg. His brilliant stint at Wellington Phoenix in the A-League could perhaps be one of the reasons for him being called up by Robbie Fowler.
East Bengal's seventh foreigner is also expected to be a forward from the Isles of Britain. Israeli striker Tomer Hemed from Charlton Athletic, English center forward Duncan Watmore from Sunderland AFC and English winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from Cardiff are in the fray to join Robbie Fowler's SC East Bengal.
Also read: ISL 2020-21 SWOT Analysis: SC East Bengal
Significance of the British style of play for East Bengal
Robbie Fowler's support staff is entirely British with few of them boasting of working in the technical department of top teams in the Premier League. With such outspread presence of British football in the squad, it is only natural for Robbie Fowler's SC East Bengal to resort to the no-nonsense approach of play as practiced in the English football league.
Robbie Fowler's go-to formation has been a 3-5-2 approach, involving a lot of physical battles over second balls. However, given the squad at his disposal, it may be fundamentally dangerous to go with a three-man defense which would require a lot of movement for the wingbacks to drop. SC East Bengal's defensive line-up is marred with lack of excellent man-marking skills but is overloaded with defenders with a knack of moving upfront with the ball and contribute in the attack. The likes of Abhishek Ambekar, Lalramchullova, Scott Neville and Samad Ali Mallick are all excellent crossers of the ball.
The Red and Gold brigade may take the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation but is expected to shift to 4-5-1 in defense and 4-1-4-1 in attack. Mirshad will start at the goal for East Bengal. The defense is expected to be laden with the experience of Daniel Fox and Scott Neville in the central positions. Lalramchullova's versatility in both the wings may push him ahead of Abhishek Ambekar. Samad Ali Mallick is expected to go in the right wing.
Matti Steinmann will pivot the East Bengal midfield with a versatile role. Steinmann, being a good distributor of the ball, will be key to setting up the likes of Jacques Maghoma and Jeje Lalpekhlua for the goals. He will need the assistance of Eugeneson Lyngdoh in the midfield in attack but will partner Mohammed Rafique while the team sits back to defend.
Jacques Maghoma will take the left wing and will be expected to cut in to provide support for lone striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. Anthony Pilkington is also expected to be shouldered with the responsibilities of handling the right wing and also combine with Jeje Lalpekhlua in attack.
The sturdy Aaron-Amadi Holloway can be used in the latter stages of the game to use his physique and aerial capabilities to win second balls on the run and score goals. Mohammed Irshad's versatility can also be used to cover the defensive midfield, if needed, as a change in tactics. Abhishek Ambekar can act as a change for Lalramchullova.
SC East Bengal begin their ISL campaign in a Kolkata Derby against ATK Mohun Bagan on 27 November at the Tilak Maidan.
(Heat Map and Tactical Table Credits: SofaScore, Tactical-Board)Published 06 Nov 2020, 12:58 IST