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ISL: SC East Bengal is the oldest — Every squad profiled, Part 1

ISL: SC East Bengal is the oldest — Every squad profiled, Part 1

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 5 Nov 2020 9:16 AM GMT

With the transfer window out of the way, all the Indian Super League (ISL) clubs have released their full squads and are going through the final preparations before the tournament begins on November 20.

The season is going to be extremely hectic for all involved due to the condensed fixture list that sees matches every 3-4 days for all teams and in such a situation, squad depth becomes crucial.

Additionally, with increasing focus on roping in young Indian players from local leagues and top-of-the-line academies, one would assume that teams that have more youngsters would recover faster, enabling them to compete better over the course of the season.

Although older players do not necessarily mean less agile players, the fixture list, playing conditions and the fact that a lot of teams have foreign players who will be playing for the first time in India should mean that this season’s ISL is going to be kinder to sides that have a lower average age.

Here, we take a look at the depth that each club has in different positions and try to figure out which teams are younger overall and which ones have put their money on experience over youthful exuberance.

To avoid any debates with regards to an age (he is 22 until he is 23...), and to make the calculations easier, player ages have been rounded down. Positional roles have been assigned according to the information provided on the official ISL website.

# ATK Mohun Bagan FC

(Squad Average - 25.25)

(Gk - 22.20, Def - 25.50, Mid - 25.91, Att - 26.75)

The Mariners have an average squad age of 25.25 which is somewhere in the middle of the pile, but a closer inspection of their depth in different positional units reveals a slightly skewed statistic.


While they have three goalkeepers who are 20 or under, their defensive unit features just one U23 player in the form of Sumit Rathi with all of the others aged more than the cumulative team average. Add to that the injury worries that Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan have been plagued with recently and the Green and Maroon fans might have a few sleepless nights in the latter stages of the competition.

It’s a similar story in midfield — just three players out of 12, Ningombam Engson Singh, Sk Sahil and Boris Singh Thangjam are aged 20 or under. The rest of them are all above the squad average with the Spanish duo of Edu Garcia and Javier Hernandez being the only ones above 30.

In attack too, Jobby Justin’s late replacement Md Fardin Ali Molla and Manvir Singh are the ones below the squad average and although star forwards Roy Krishna and David William are 33 and 32 respectively, their experience in Indian conditions and undoubted quality should see them through in terms of productivity despite the busy fixture list.

Bengaluru FC

(Squad Average - 25.72)

(Gk - 23, Def - 25.30, Mid - 25.67, Att - 25.88)

Carles Cuadrat’s Bengaluru side are somewhat consistent in terms of the average age across all departments. With Gurpreet as the preferred custodian in goal, he is backed up by younger options in Dipesh Chauhan and Lara Sharma.

The defence too has a nice mix of experience and youth. The likes of Juanan, Fran Gonzalez, Rahul Bheke and Pratik Chaudhari will count on the energy and legs provided by Ajith Kumar, Biswa Darjee, Joe Zoherliana, Wungngayam Muirang and Namgyal Bhutia who are all aged between 19 and 21.

chhetri Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri training at IIS Bellary (Source: BFC Media)

In midfield, the presence of experienced older heads like Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Cleiton Silva and Harmanjot Khabra is balanced out by youngsters like Ajay Chhetri, Amay Morajkar, Suresh Wangjam and the two teenagers Huidrom Thoi Singh and Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha.

Lastly, the attack led by the experienced Sunil Chhetri, Deshorn Brown and Kristian Opseth is perfectly counterbalanced by newcomers like Naorem Singh, Edmund lalrindika and Leon Augustin while in Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan, The Blues have two wide attackers who are well established and sure-shot starters but at the same time, are well below the squad’s average age.

Chennaiyin FC

(Squad Average - 25.29)

(Gk - 24.50, Def - 24.55, Mid - 26.36, Att - 24.75)

Chennaiyin, like Bengaluru FC have a consistent age demographic across all areas on the field. The defence is an area that new head coach Csaba Laszlo has addressed immediately after being appointed, with Reagan Singh (29), Enes Sipovic (30) and lalchhuanmawia Fanai brought in for their experience and composure at the back alongside the ever-dependable Eli Sabia who is also 32.

That is not to say that they do not have young legs in their defensive ranks. In Aqib Nawab and Balaji Ganesan, Chennai has two highly rated Reliance Foundation Young Champs academy graduates who are still just 18.


They also have the exciting Deepak Tangri (21), Jerry Lalrinzuala (22) and Reamsochung Aimol (20), all of whom featured for the side last term in varying degrees and who will be looking to impress right from the outset this season.

Their midfield has the highest average age amongst all, owing mainly to Rafael Crivellaro, Thoi Singh, Memo Moura and Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev. However, that is compensated for quite well by potential game-changers like Germanpreet Singh, Anirudh Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte, all of whom are under 25. Further forward, they have Aman Chhetri and Rahim Ali to learn from and combine with Esmael Goncalves and Jakub Sylvestr.

All in all, the team has a very good balance of experience and youth and shouldn’t fall short of legs in the latter half of the season.

Kerala Blasters FC

(Squad Average - 24.87)

(Gk - 22.50, Def - 27.71, Mid - 23.40, Att - 27.20)

The Tuskers have assembled quite an impressive line-up of domestic and foreign stars under Kibu Vicuna with a strong focus on experience in the attacking and defensive positions along with a number of youngsters in midfield.

They also have the third youngest goalkeeping unit in the league, putting faith once again in 26-year-old Albino Gomes who will be supported by two 19-year-olds and another 26-year-old in Bilal Husain Khan. Standout defensive additions include Bakary Kone and Costa Nhamoinesu who are both well-established defenders with admirable stints in Europe to boast of. However, with this being their first season in Indian conditions, they will require help from younger players like Nishu Kumar, Lalruatthara and Sandeep Singh.

nishu kumar Kerala Blasters signed Nishu Kumar from BFC in the summer (Source: ISL)

Arguably one of the best signings in the league this season, 32-year-old Spaniard Vicente Gomez will be lining up alongside compatriot Sergio Cidoncha, as well as a whole host of promising youngsters. Led by Indian national team regular Sahal Abdul Samad, they include Givson Singh, Ritwik Das, Nongdamba Naorem, Jeakson Singh, Rahul KP and Rohit Kumar.

Indeed, the Blasters’ midfield is chock-a-block with rising Indian stars and should provide constant food for thought regarding how these boys can mould themselves to suit Igor Stimac’s preferences in the national setup. Up top, the team would be banking on Gary Hooper and Facundo Pereyra for the goals, but the coaching staff would also keep a keen eye on the development of Naorem Mahesh Singh and Shaiborlang Kharpan. Then there is the 25-year-old Australian Jordan Murray, who is somewhat of an unknown commodity as of now but could prove to be the trump card for Kibu Vicuna following his exploits in the A-League.

SC East Bengal

(Squad Average - 27.29)

(Gk - 26.25, Def - 26.15, Mid - 27.46, Att - 29.75)

anthony pilkington Anthony Pilkington in East Bengal training (Source: Pilkington/Twitter)

At 27.29, the Red and Yellow brigade have the oldest squad in terms of average age and also have the oldest goalkeeping, midfield and attacking units (counting out MCFC since they have only two strikers listed on the ISL website). The ISL new entrants also have just five players under the age of 23, with one of them being a backup goalkeeper.

Having had the least amount of time to assemble a squad amongst all teams owing to their late entry into this season’s tournament, head coach Robbie Fowler and the club management have chosen to bank on the experience of domestic players like Debjit Majumder, Gurtej Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, Mohammed Rafique and Bikash Jairu.

To complement this domestic core, Fowler has made some very interesting acquisitions like Aaron-Amadi Halloway and Matti Steinmann who, at 27 and 25 respectively, are still comparatively young, as well as experienced heads like Anthony Pilkington, Scott Neville and Danny Fox.

However, it’s not as if they will lack youth and exuberance going into the business end of the tournament. In Yumnam Gopi Singh, the Kolkata giants have a hidden gem who wowed everyone with his ability and maturity in the recently concluded I-League qualifiers.

Winger Loken Meitei, central midfielders Surchandra Singh and Wahengbam Luang and attacking midfielder Girik Khosla are a few of the other names to watch out for in what is going to be East Bengal’s debut ISL season.

(Note, East Bengal are yet to complete their squad with at least a couple more new signings expected to join)

Part 2 of this story will be published on Friday, November 5th, 2020. Stay Tuned to find out which club has the youngest squad.

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