ATK Mohun Bagan put an end to the Bengaluru FC juggernaut with a slender 1-0 win over the Blues at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao. Until then, Carles Cuadrat's side was the only team to have been undefeated in the 2020/21 Indian Super League (ISL). Several old problems surfaced for the Blues in the defeat, the most glaring of the lot being their inability to find impetus in the final third.
This has been an issue for Cuadrat since the departure of Miku ahead of the 2019/20 ISL. Of course, there was a lot that went wrong against ATKMB, especially with the likes of Dimas Delgado and Udanta Singh not being able to find their best form. But sitting in third place, the Blues are in an exciting position, and they should be expected to address these issues soon.
While they still have a few creases to iron, there is no doubt that Bengaluru FC have a spring in their steps this season. Carles Cuadrat has used only 18 players so far this season. The Spaniard is close to finding the best XI for the club, something that most other teams haven't managed to do so far.
Rotation options and squad depth a boon for Bengaluru FC
The 1-0 loss against ATK Mohun Bagan saw Bengaluru FC lack the necessary cutting-edge, something that they showed in the victories against Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters. Ashique Kuruniyan, who suffered multiple facial fractures in the previous game, proved to be a huge miss as Rahul Bheke slotted into the unfamiliar left-back role.
Cuadrat was reluctant to give youngster Ajith Kumar a debut against ATKMB, and rightfully so. But Ashique's absence was felt right through the match. The youngster's work-rate on the left-flank was phenomenal in the last few games and his absence meant that Sunil Chhetri had to fill in. This was the reason why Chhetri couldn't take up central positions in attack, as he so often does.
Dimas Delgado wasn't allowed much time on the ball by the likes of Roy Krishna and Pronay Halder. So he had to play the role of a quarterback by slotting in between the two center-backs, Juanan and Pratik Chaudhuri. He eventually had to play the long ball from the back that would find either Cleiton Silva or Deshorn Brown. But neither of them could influence the attack.
All these aspects will be taken into consideration by Cuadrat while working out the correct tactics for Bengaluru FC's upcoming game against Jamshedpur FC. What will encourage Cuadrat is the fact that he has options on the bench as well as a much-needed squad depth. Most of them indeed have little or no experience playing in the ISL, but there are options to choose from, nonetheless.
Fran Gonzalez would be the favorite to replace Dimas in a holding midfield role for the next game. The former was an integral part of the Mohun Bagan side that lifted the I-League title last season and scored 10 goals from 16 games. Cleiton Silva can play in a front-two alongside Sunil Chhetri and Ajith Kumar or Joe Zoherliana can occupy the left-back role in Ashique's absence.
These options reinforce the claim that things can only get better from here for Bengaluru FC as the second half of the season looms over the horizon.
As well-documented, set-pieces are perhaps the best way to score goals for Bengaluru FC. Their reliance on set-pieces in the past has proved to be a bane, at times. But for a side like Bengaluru FC, it would perhaps be the best way to score goals.
In addition to this, the likes of Deshorn Brown, Cleiton Silva, Juanan, and Erik Paartalu are lethal in the air. Bengaluru FC center-back Juanan has two goals to his name so far, both of which have come from set-pieces. Erik Paartalu also has a goal to his name.
With players who can tower over defenders easily in the squad, set-piece plays are an important part for Carles Cuadrat, without a doubt.
Chhetri and Cleiton getting goals for Bengaluru FC
Although it took some time for them to click, Sunil Chhetri and Cleiton Silva have begun finding the back of the net for the Blues consistently. Chhetri got on the scoresheet for the first time this season when he converted a penalty against Chennaiyin FC.
He went on to score against Kerala and Odisha as well, both from open play. Cleiton Silva, on the other hand, has made just a handful of appearances but has already become an integral part of the Bengaluru FC unit. The Brazilian scored the first goal of the season for the Blues against FC Goa.
Clearly, both players are far from finished when it comes to scoring goals. The momentum is certainly with the attacking unit of Bengaluru FC as they are set to face off against Jamshedpur FC, Mumbai City FC, and SC East Bengal to complete the first leg of the ISL 2020/21 season.Published 22 Dec 2020, 16:11 IST