SC East Bengal are currently rooted to the bottom of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 points table, having amassed just five points from nine matches so far. Although winless this season, the Kolkata giants showed resilience in their previous two outings against Hyderabad FC and Bengaluru FC, with both fixtures ending 1-1.
With the winter transfer window now open, most ISL teams have been busy looking for reinforcements. SC East Bengal are no different. While they are yet to sign any new players this month, the club’s recruiters have identified positions that need strengthening.
Sportskeeda can confirm that SCEB are on the hunt for players in the following positions for the remainder of the season.
As was the case last season, the defense continues to be SC East Bengal’s Achilles' heel. They hold the worst defensive record in ISL 2021-22, having conceded 19 goals in nine matches.
Some of East Bengal's poor defensive performances include their defeats against ATK Mohun Bagan FC (0-3), Odisha FC (4-6) and FC Goa (3-4). The likes of Tomislav Mrcela, Raju Gaikwad and Joyner Lourenco have looked out of sorts this season. 25-year-old left-back Hira Mondal has been SCEB’s only beacon of light at the back, while Adil Khan and Franjo Prce have shone in patches.
Considering East Bengal's defensive frailties, it’s a no-brainer that the team management is looking for ways to solidify the backline. The question is, which players are they targeting?
A reliable source at SCEB management told Sportskeeda on Thursday:
“We’re looking for an overseas centre-back, an Indian centre-back and an Indian left-back. Bubble-to-bubble transfers will be ideal.”
“Although other clubs have shown interest in some of our defenders, we’re not releasing anybody. Hira has been performing well; we’re very happy with him. We also hope that Ankit’s [Mukherjee] return will solve some of our fullback problems.”
Mukherjee made his first appearance this season against Bengaluru FC on Tuesday. He came on as a substitute for Mrcela in the second-half to mark his return from an injury layoff.
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Injuries to Jackichand Singh and Darren Sidoel have left East Bengal struggling in the middle of the park. While both players are expected to return to action later this month, the Kolkata giants are in dire need of some midfield reinforcements to stage a quick turnaround.
Rumors of Joseba Beitia joining the club have been doing the rounds for the past couple of days. The central midfielder, who starred in Mohun Bagan’s I-League triumph in the 2019-20 season, is currently plying his trade for RoundGlass Punjab FC. The ongoing edition of the I-League has been postponed by at least six weeks owing to a spike in COVID-19 cases in West Bengal.
When asked about the veracity of these rumors, the source at SCEB management revealed:
“Even if we want to sign him [Beitia], his club won’t release him. It’s difficult for the club to release him because then they’ll have to pay him a huge compensation. Moreover, the I-League might resume after six weeks. If the player signs for us, his current club won’t get him back before June. They don’t want to risk losing him before the resumption of the I-League.”
Sportskeeda understands that the East Bengal think tank is not satisfied with Amir Dervisevic’s performance. The Slovenian midfielder is the club's highest-paid footballer this season and arrived in India with a big reputation. However, he has failed to prove his credentials as East Bengal's midfield mainstay so far, mainly due to his slow movement.
The source said:
“We had a lot of expectations from Amir. He’s a quality player, but seems rather slow at the moment. He’s competent in set-piece situations. We don’t know why he hasn’t clicked for us.”
Incidentally, Dervisevic was an unused substitute in East Bengal's previous match against Bengaluru FC. He has registered two goals, 260 passes, five interceptions and eight clearances so far.
Sportskeeda can also confirm that left-winger Songpu Singsit and forward Subha Ghosh, who were sent home by former East Bengal head coach Manolo Diaz in November last year, have been recalled to the squad.
They are currently undergoing mandatory quarantine in Goa and are likely to be available for East Bengal's reverse fixture against FC Goa on January 19. However, the club's hierarchy has no intention of recalling right-winger Romeo Fernandez. Instead, they are actively searching for a central defensive midfielder.
As far as their attack is concerned, it's still unclear whether East Bengal will sign a new foreign striker. However, it's evident that Daniel Chima Chukwu has come under the scanner. The former Molde FK striker has so far failed to make any significant impact other than bagging a brace against Odisha FC. An acid test awaits him in SCEB's next fixture against Mumbai City FC tonight.
The source said in this regard:
“We recruited [Daniel] Chima after thoroughly analyzing his match videos. He’s a flexible striker, but he can do much better. His first touch needs to be better. Let's see how he performs against Mumbai."
The source added:
“We’re missing [Antonio] Perosevic and Darren [Sidoel] badly. Once they return, the team will do much better. We don’t need any new Indian strikers because goals are coming. Mumbai City FC wanted Jackichand back, but we won’t release him. Darren should return for our match against Jamshedpur FC on January 11. Franjo [Prce] is also recovering fast. His return will solve some of our defensive woes. Hopefully, our new head coach Mario Rivera will manage the players better.”
Croatian forward Antonio Perosevic is currently serving a five-match ban for his “violent conduct towards match official” during East Bengal's clash against NorthEast United FC last month.
The East Bengal management has already lodged an appeal with AIFF’s Disciplinary Committee. It now remains to be seen if Perosevic’s ban is reduced to four matches.