The 2019-20 season was not a particularly happy one for Bengaluru FC. For the first time since they were formed in 2013, the Blues finished a season without a trophy, after they were dumped out of the ISL in the semifinal by ATK, following a 3-1 loss at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Additionally, embarrassment was in store for the Blues in the AFC Cup as well. In a competition that the club prides itself on, Bengaluru FC were eliminated before the group stages, losing to Maldivian club Maziya in a penalty shootout at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
Head Carles Cuadrat has kept his job for the new season though, as Bengaluru FC typically decided to keep the faith in their man, and decided that continuity would be a crucial factor for the club.
Cuadrat, though, knows that he needs to get better performances and results out of his team than he managed to last season. In an interview to The Bridge recently, Cuadrat had said that the Bengaluru FC squad are still hurting within, from what transpired last season, and that they are determined to set that right.
The problems were laid bare for Bengaluru FC and Cuadrat to see last season. In 20 games, they only managed to score 24 goals. Only the league's bottom three teams last season - Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United FC, and Hyderabad FC - scored less than them.
Manu Onwu was signed at the beginning of last season to replace the prodigious Miku, but the Spaniard's time at Bengaluru FC was ravaged by injuries, before he was loaned to Odisha FC in the January transfer window.
Jamaican strikers Deshorn Brown and Kevaughn Frater played for Bengaluru FC in the second half of the season, but failed to make a telling impact for the Blues. Frater even missed a sitter against ATK in the second leg of the semifinal last season - a goal that would have sent the Blues through to yet another ISL summit clash.
Raphael Augusto's Bengaluru FC contract was mutually terminated, with the Brazilian having to stay back in his homeland due to personal reasons.
Bengaluru have kept Brown in their ranks for the season, but they have added strength to their attack in the form of Cleiton Silva and Kristian Opseth. The Brazilian, Silva, is the all-time leading goal-scorer in the Thai first division, while Opseth comes in with a reputation of being a clinical striker from his stint in the A-League with Adelaide United.
Alongside talismanic club captain Sunil Chhetri, Opseth and Silva will be expected to share the burden of making Bengaluru a more free-scoring side than they were last season.
However, Cuadrat has another big dilemma to resolve?
Can Bengaluru FC see best of Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan?
When Bengaluru FC signed Ashique Kuruniyan before the start of last season, much excitement was centred around the dual threat from the wings, with the deadly pace of the Kerala winger and Udanta Singh.
However, in what was a disappointing season for both of them, they each ended up just one goal and one assist.
Udanta admitted in a chat with Sportskeeda that he realises that Bengaluru FC need to see better performances from him, but it is an interesting puzzle for Cuadrat.
With Sunil Chhetri set to start the season on the left flank, there seems to be only one spot for Udanta and Kuruniyan to fight for, unless of course Cuadrat decides to use the latter as a left-back.
One thing is clear though, Bengaluru FC cannot be as reliant as they were on Chhetri last season to get them the goals. If not Chhetri, who? Maybe Udanta and Kuruniyan.
Bengaluru FC need to add open play goals to set-piece prowess
Bengaluru FC had a freakish record from set-pieces last season, with 14 of their 24 goals coming off dead-ball situations. Cuadrat prides himself on his team being strong from set-pieces at both end of the pitch.
It is the work on the training ground that helps Bengaluru master these situations. As Erik Paartalu described in a chat with Sportskeeda, Bengaluru FC are not a team that just whips the ball into the box and hopes for the best. There is meticulous planning and attention to detail in every movement made by a Bengaluru FC player during a set-piece.
Fran Gonzalez's addition only makes Bengaluru stronger in that department.
However, for a team to have 60% of its goals coming through set-pieces is simply unsustainable in the long run. Bengaluru need to find goals from open play as well.
That is where the likes of Silva, Opseth, Udanta and Kuruniyan need to step up and back up the numbers that Chhetri puts up.
If Bengaluru start scoring more from open play, then they will be a strong force this season. The set-piece threat will remain, and the defence hasn't changed and will be a tough unit to breach. So if Bengaluru can sort out their sources of goals, who would bet against Cuadrat's side competing near the top again?