Mumbai City FC ended their wait for a trophy last season after they won the ISL League Shield and the ISL Trophy. In doing so, they created history, becoming the only ISL team to win the double.
Finishing the regular season at the top of the table qualified the Islanders to represent India in the AFC Champions League 2022, which will commence after the end of the ISL 2021-22.
Sergio Lobera's side had everything going their way last season, where they dominated most teams. They scored the most number of goals in the season and defeated rivals ATK Mohun Bagan three times, two of them winning them silverware.
However, fans were in for a shock when the club announced that Lobera would leave the club to pursue better opportunities within the City Football Group. He was replaced by Des Buckingham, who was the assistant coach at sister-club Melbourne City FC last season.
With a new coach and a lot of new faces, we analyze the defending champions for this season of the ISL.
ISL 2021-22 Analysis: Mumbai City FC
Being owned by City Football Group has its own set of advantages. Mumbai City FC have the best training facilities in the league, and have focused a lot on keeping the players mentally fresh during the season. A lot of players accredited this aspect for the success last season, which was also played in a bio-bubble.
Adding to that, Des Buckingham's style of play is similar to what Sergio Lobera went with. The team's core Indian contingent is familiar with this gameplay, helping them to get used to Buckingham's system quickly.
The Islanders also managed to sign one of the best Indian talents right now, Lalengmawia Ralte, commonly known as Apuia. The coach now has a lot of options in midfield with Rowllin Borges, Ahmed Jahouh and Raynier Fernandes available for selection too.
One glaring weakness for Mumbai City FC seems to be their defense. The team has gone with just one foreign centre-back, Mourtada Fall and haven't signed a second foreign centre-back. This is an unusual sight in the ISL where most teams prefer having two foreign players guard their defense.
Other defensive options include young and inexperienced players as well, something which could backfire this season. Also, losing out on goalkeeper Amrinder Singh would be a big blow to deal with.
With Mumbai City FC's depth in midfield already talked about, a look at their attacking options paints a rosy picture too. With Igor Angulo, Brad Inman, Cassio Gabriel, Ygor Catatau and young Indian forward Vikram Partap Singh in their ranks, the Islanders have a lot of depth in attack.
This depth will come in handy when the team faces different opponents as the coach can choose to strengthen the defense or attack looking at the situation and the opponent.
Mumbai City FC will look to perform well in the ISL and retain their title. A strong ISL campaign will ensure the team heads into the AFC Champions League brimming with confidence and belief.
ATK Mohun Bagan will continue to be the biggest threat to Mumbai City FC this season. After providing tough competition to the Islanders last season, ATK Mohun Bagan added reinforcements to their team in the form of three players from Mumbai City FC, including their captain Amrinder Singh and star midfielder Hugo Boumous.
Apart from the Mariners, FC Goa will also look to avenge the semi-final defeat and reclaim the ISL League Shield which the Gaurs won in the 2019-20 season.