Why Bengaluru FC should focus on improving their attacking game in ISL 2020/21

Bengaluru FC striker Deshorn Brown has been quite ineffective this season.
Bengaluru FC striker Deshorn Brown has been quite ineffective this season.

The current season of the Indian Super League has witnessed Bengaluru FC, as a team, find the back of the net on four occasions. This isn't a bad output by any stretch of the imagination, especially after a shortened pre-season.

Historically, the Blues have generally started ISL campaigns with a bevy of drawn games and the odd win thrown in. The current season seems to be no different as Carles Cuadrat's men have begun with three draws and a win in four games.

At the moment, they are expected to claim all three points in their upcoming game against the Kerala Blasters on the 13th of December at the Fatorda in Goa.

The average Bengaluru FC fan won't be worried at the moment, as this has been a regular occurrence in the past few seasons for the club. However, the last two games have seen an increasingly animated Carles Cuadrat on the Bengaluru FC touchline, something that players, fans, or pundits have not seen before.

Since taking charge of the club at the start of the 2017 season, Cuadrat has led the Blues to unprecedented success. Having made it to the playoffs in all their campaigns in the ISL, Cuadrat led Bengaluru FC to glory in the 2018/19 season, where the Blues became the first club to claim the League Winners' Shield and the ISL title.

However, since then, things have gone downhill for Bengaluru FC. It is quite evident that Bengaluru FC has a problem scoring goals this season.

The departures of Miku and Xisco Hernandez

Comparing Bengaluru FC's 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons illustrates the problem the club has in front of the goal. The 2018/19 season witnessed a total of 29 goals scored, 22 of which were scored by the attacking unit.

The goalscorers in the team's attacking unit that season were Miku (5), Sunil Chhetri (9), Udanta Singh (5), Chencho Gyeltshen (2), and Semboi Haokip (1).

In contrast, the 2019/20 season witnessed only 24 goals scored with the attacking unit accounting for only 16 of them. Sunil Chhetri scored 9 for the team while Deshorn Brown contributed with 3 goals. Semboi Haokip, Kevaughn Frater, Udanta Singh, and Ashique Kuruniyan all scored one goal each.

The departure of Miku was most certainly felt as the incoming Manuel Onwu failed to integrate into the team. His replacements Kevaughn Frater and Deshorn Brown also failed to perform consistently, which led to a goal drought.

However, the biggest miss for Cuadrat was the creativity of Xisco Hernandez. The void left by the Spaniard was meant to be filled by Dimas Delgado, Nili, and Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Dimas is the only player among the three who is still at the club.

Carles Cuadrat had little choice but to opt for a set-piece based style of play to score goals. This worked well for the team until the 3-1 loss to ATK in the semifinals of the 2019/20 ISL.

Over-reliance on set-pieces

Juanan is the top goalscorer for Bengaluru FC this season.
Juanan is the top goalscorer for Bengaluru FC this season.

The 2020/21 pre-season saw Carles Cuadrat looking for the best attacking talent that money could buy. Having retained Deshorn Brown, Cuadrat brought in Kristian Opseth and Cleiton Silva into the side. Semboi Haokip was on the road to recovery from a knee injury, and with Udanta and Chhetri fit, the attack unit looked stronger than ever.

However, Bengaluru FC's first game of the 2020/21 ISL saw the club draw 2-2 against FC Goa. Although they went 2-0 up, defensive errors cost the side. Cuadrat's men once again resorted to set-pieces as their primary source of goals.

If the club wins a throw-in and around the final third, Harmanjot Khabra or Rahul Bheke will come across for a long throw-in to find Erik Paartalu, Juanan, or Kristian Opseth. Cleiton Silva's first goal for the club came from a throw-in set-piece.

Juanan has scored from two set-pieces and Chhetri has scored a penalty with the only goal from open play this season coming from Udanta Singh against NorthEast United FC. These are certainly worrying signs for Cuadrat, who is under tremendous pressure from the Bengaluru FC management to win a trophy this season.

Opseth and Brown not having much of an impact

In the four games that have been played so far, Kristian Opseth and Deshorn Brown have been isolated in attack. It almost seems as though Bengaluru FC are playing with just 10 men when either Brown or Opseth are playing as lone strikers.

A case can be made for both players since they have generally played just one half before coming off for the other, something that has probably upset their rhythm as strikers.

However, neither player has come close to scoring in the past few games, and Cuadrat's decision to bring them off during games may very well be justified. Going forward, Cuadrat may be tempted to play Cleiton Silva as a center forward in a front-three alongside Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh.

Set-pieces will no doubt play an important role in Bengaluru FC's ability to win games, but sorting out their attack and scoring goals consistently will be a top priority for Cuadrat as the 2020/21 ISL season goes on.

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Edited by Ritwik Kumar
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