ISL: A game of two halves for Chennaiyin FC

Another Owen Coyle magic helps the two-time champions, Chennaiyin FC, make a comeback to the playoffs after 4 years.

Update: 2024-05-19 18:27 GMT

Chennaiyin FC made a return back to playoffs after 4 years. (Photo credit: ISL)

Chennaiyin FC, the two-time ISL champions, have struggled to find their champion form in the past few seasons due to numerous changes in the team's roster. This season was no exception, as they experienced both highs and lows, but failed to maintain consistency in their style of play.

However, a late surge in form helped them qualify for the playoffs after a four-season wait. Their coach, Owen Coyle, known for orchestrating comebacks in the latter half of the season, once again guided the team to grind out results and secure the final playoff spot.

Although the Marina Machans made it to the playoffs, they suffered a close defeat to FC Goa, ending their season on a disappointing note. Throughout the league season, they won 8 matches and drew three, accumulating 27 points and finishing in sixth place.

Poor Defensive play

Chennaiyin FC faced their biggest challenge with their defense, conceding the second-highest number of goals (36) during the league stage this season, while managing to keep clean sheets in only three out of 23 matches. Additionally, they allowed the second-highest number of chances (234) throughout the season.

Their away games proved particularly troublesome, with 22 of the goals conceded occurring on the road, contributing to their poor away record of only 8 points from 11 games. This defensive vulnerability significantly impacted their overall season performance.

Sweet Comeback for Rafael Crivellaro

The return of star player Rafael Crivellaro after a lengthy injury layoff was a major positive for the team. Crivellaro played a pivotal role in Chennaiyin's success during the 2019-20 season, the last time they qualified for the playoffs.

This season, he made a significant impact on the team's attacking front, contributing to 11 goals (4 goals, 7 assists). Additionally, he created the sixth-highest number of chances (42) on goal throughout the season.

Crivellaro's dominance in midfield, characterized by his solid physique and ball control, was instrumental for the team. He also played a key role in winning crucial fouls and set pieces, totaling 40 fouls won, which ranks sixth among all teams this season. His presence significantly bolstered Chennaiyin's performance on the field.

Lack of support in midfield

Chennaiyin FC has indeed faced challenges in finding a suitable replacement for Anirudh Thapa in midfield since his move to Mohun Bagan SG. Despite creating numerous crosses inside the box, they have struggled to capitalize on second-ball opportunities.

With the third-highest crossing rate this season, totaling 482 crosses in 23 matches, players like Rafael, Jiteshwor, and Akash Sangwan have been instrumental. However, the team only managed to produce 201 shots, indicating a lack of effectiveness in converting these crosses into scoring opportunities.

Furthermore, the inconsistency of Indian wingers and forwards such as Rahim Alli, Vincy Baretto, and Farukh Chaudhary has been disappointing, as they have not made the expected impact for the club. Addressing these issues will be crucial for Chennaiyin FC to improve their performance in future seasons.

Emerging Stars

Chennaiyin FC has a history of nurturing young talent, evident from past stars like Lallianzuala Chhangte and Jerry Lalrinzuala, and current prospects like Jiteshwor Singh and Rahim Ali. This season, they've continued this tradition with promising young players like Bikash Yumnam Singh in defense and Irfan Yadwad in attack.

Both Bikash and Irfan have showcased their skills on several occasions, earning spots in the India U23 team. Bikash, in particular, has been a standout performer, making crucial interceptions in defense and providing valuable support to the forwards with his well-placed crosses from the back, contributing to quick counter-attacks. Their emergence highlights Chennaiyin's commitment to developing young talent for both the club and the national team.

Verdict: 7/10

The 2023-24 season for Chennaiyin FC was indeed full of ups and downs, starting with three consecutive losses but ending on a high note with four wins in their last six matches to secure a playoff spot. Their limited number of draws suggests a defensive vulnerability that needs addressing.

Despite the challenges, the club unearthed promising young talents towards the end of the season, hinting at potential success in the future. However, a key area for improvement in the upcoming season is strengthening the midfield to provide better support for Rafael Crivellaro, the team's playmaker.

Additionally, while they made it to the playoffs of the Durand Cup by topping their group, a disappointing loss to FC Goa in the knockout round highlighted areas for improvement. Strengthening the midfield could be pivotal in addressing these shortcomings and enhancing their overall performance in the coming season.


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