Unlike last year where they finished among the play-off positions, Mumbai City FC looked to be in limbo during the course of the season. Let’s take a look at what changed this season.
Shift in Jorge Costa’s tactics
Having confidently claimed that he had figured out how to gain success in the ISL, Jorge Costa shifted from a direct counter-attacking setup to a more patient possession oriented setup.
Unfortunately, his plans were not immaculate as a few key players looked like square pegs in round holes. The idea was to play a wide 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 with Diego Carlos and Modou Sougou on the flanks, while Mohamed Larbi had license to roam and link up play. Meanwhile, Amine Chermiti seemed to resemble a false 9. In midfield, Rowllin Borges held his position, focused on winning the ball back and recycling possession, whereas the other midfielder in the double pivot would carry the ball forward or give penetrative passes into the final third.
The flaw in this system was that the primary mode of creation was whipping crosses into the box. Clearly, this did not work well for the 5 foot 9 inch Tunisian hitman. Full-backs also remained fairly conservative, thus isolating wingers up front with very few attackers in the box.
Big chances missed!
However, it is unjust to single out Costa for Mumbai’s failure. Players are equally responsible. The Islanders topped the charts with 27 big chances missed. Serge Kevyn (8), Amine Chermiti (6), Mohamed Larbi (6) and Modou Sougou (4), contributed to an embarrassing 24 big chances missed. On the other side of the pitch, Souvik Chakrabarti’s error-proneness also furthered Mumbai’s reasons to lament.
Injuries were aplenty from the very beginning. Sourav Das, Davinder Singh and Anwar Ali were out of contention before the campaign started, with Davinder Singh and Anwar Ali out for the entire season. Soon after, Mato Grgic, Modou Sougou and the talismanic Paulo Machado joined them in the hospital. Over the course of the season, Mohamed Larbi was the only foreign player to have not been injured. The pain was not over for the Indian contingent either, as Raynier Fernandes, Sarthak Golui and Subhasish Bose faced spells on the sideline.
What’s in store for next season?
With Costa’s departure and the recent acquisition of the club by City Football Group, the manager merry-go-round could see some interesting options come next season for Mumbai City FC.
The City Football Group has a tendency to appoint coaches from clubs they already own. For example, Domènec Torrent who was assistant coach at Manchester City moved to New York City FC. Melbourne City FC’s current coach Erick Mombaerts moved over from the Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos.
While an assistant coach from a sister club could be a viable option, popular names from the Indian circuit such as the former FC Goa Head Coach Sergio Lobera and former Chennai City FC assistant coach Jordi Vila have also been doing the rounds.
Jordi Vila has worked with Guardiola at Manchester City and has scouted players such as Mauro Icardi. After coming to India, he was responsible for the signing of Pedro Manzi, Sandro Rodriguez and Nestor Gordillo. The trio were instrumental in Chennai City FC’s title winning 2018-19 season.
Obviously, Sergio Lobera needs no introduction after two successful seasons at FC Goa where his attacking style of play brought about a glut of goals. However, there was some behind the scenes talk of dressing room discord which contributed to his controversial exit with three games to go in the season.
All things said, the Mumbai City FC faithful can leave a tepid season behind and look forward to a new manager and some hustle and bustle in the transfer market ahead of next season.