Since 2017, not many football fans have given Mumbai City FC a chance to be contenders for the Indian Super League (ISL) title. Of course, the Islanders did win the League Winners' Shield under Alexandre Guimarães, but since then it has been a case of so close, yet so far for them.
Jorge Costa's Mumbai City FC came close to making it to the playoffs in the 2019-20 season. But a 5-2 loss to FC Goa at the Fatorda ended their hopes as Chennaiyin secured the fourth spot on the table.
The need for change was imminent. Sergio Lobera's appointment at the start of the 2020-21 season saw the club management opt for a new direction. By recruiting the man who had vanquished their hopes last season with FC Goa, the Mumbai City management officially launched their push for the 2020-21 title.
And it paid off. The Islanders are currently on top of the ISL 2020-21 table with five wins, a loss, and a draw. They are also one of the two teams to have scored more than 10 goals this season.
Mumbai City FC seem invincible at the moment. Of course, they still have to play against the likes of Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan. But as things stand, they are expected to complete the first leg of the season atop the ISL table.
Whether they manage to go all the way and finish on top remains to be seen, but they certainly are the favorites, and the team to beat.
A very strong and seasoned squad
The appointment of Sergio Lobera not only saw the Spaniard stamp his own authority on the playing style, but also on the composition of the squad. Lobera began his recruitment by dipping into his old stomping grounds — FC Goa. His move from the Gaurs to Mumbai City FC ignited an exodus with Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, and Mourtada Fall arriving in Mumbai.
Mandar Rao Dessai, the captain of FC Goa, and youngster Amey Ranawade also arrived from the Gaurs soon after. It seemed as though Sergio Lobera had built the core of his squad. However, he still needed someone like Coro with a killer instinct in front of the goal.
Adam le Fondre's name had been doing the rounds in the A-League as someone who scored goals for fun. He helped Sydney FC win silverware in his two seasons at the club. The 33-year-old arrived on loan, followed by Bartholomew Ogbeche.
Hernan Santana and Cy Goddard rounded off the overseas roster. Amrinder Singh, Mohammad Rakip, Sarthak Golui, Rowllin Borges, and Raynier Fernandes were already part of the squad, most of whom are fully capped Indian internationals. On paper, Mumbai City FC quite clearly have the strongest squad in the current season of the Indian Super League.
Responsive to Sergio Lobera's system
Sergio Lobera has been known to employ an attacking system. Therefore, it was massively helpful to him that several attackers from FC Goa followed him to Mumbai City FC. And, with Bartholomew Ogbeche and Adam le Fondre combining rather well, the attacking unit seems to be on song.
Before the start of the season, there were a few concerns about the defenses in place. Of course, the likes of Sarthak Golui and Mohammad Rakip were in the squad. But Mourtada Fall has been known to make the odd mistake while Hernan Santana was a completely unknown commodity.
However, all these fears have been put to rest in the seven games played so far. In fact, the Mumbai City FC defensive unit has managed to keep three clean sheets so far — the second-highest in the league this season. It seems as though Sergio Lobera has taken little time to implement his philosophy on the squad.
Mumbai City FC - A well-oiled machine
A glance at the statistics of the 2020-21 ISL tells one exactly why Mumbai City FC are on top of the tree. Hugo Boumous and Bipin Singh top the charts for assists this season. Adam le Fondre is right up there when it comes to scoring goals with five for the season, and Amrinder Singh has three clean sheets so far.
While it is premature to look only at stats, it illustrates how lethal Mumbai City FC have been this season. The addition of Sergio Lobera and several other players in the squad has given the club an additional dimension to how they play.
Needless to say, Mumbai City FC are the favorites to claim the League Winners' Shield. Despite less than half of the season played, this prediction does not really seem presumptuous at the moment.Published 21 Dec 2020, 16:59 IST