The mighty SC East Bengal played their maiden Indian Super League season last year and it went from bad to worse through the course of the league. It took them around eight games to register their first ISL win and ended the season at the ninth place, finishing just over Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC.
Post the season, flaws in East Bengal's gameplay were quite visible. They needed an out-and-out striker, a good goalkeeper, a strong core of domestic players, and a manager who they could trust. Although the Red and Gold have had a history of jumping from one coach to another and it is necessary for them to end this toxic habit now.
They have parted ways with their manager, Robbie Fowler, and have appointed Manuel Diaz. The Spanish tactician, commonly known as Manolo, brings in a wealth of experience having worked at Real Madrid Castilla and taking care of their youth development for years. He is known for his approach and developing young players.
Correct use of Foreign recruits
One of the biggest tasks for Manolo and East Bengal would be to stick to a set philosophy and style of play. Like the majority of ISL teams, it is a good sign that East Bengal has trusted a Spanish tactician to take the team forward. Although Manolo has hinted that his style would vary depending on his opponents throughout the season and the way East Bengal has recruited in the transfer window, the notion is stronger than ever.
One interesting fact is that none of the six players is from Spain. So, it wouldn't be wrong to consider a direct footballing philosophy, something similar to what Antonio Habas has produced at the other end of the city.
Indian mixture of youth and experience
Since there can only be just four foreign players in a game for a team, the quality of the other seven players is crucial. Last year highlighted the issues in goal for East Bengal, here comes the ISL Golden Glove winner - Arindam Bhattacharya. They had a weak domestic core? Now the squad has players like Adil Khan, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Jackichand Singh, and Thongkhosiem Haokip.
The management has gone out to try and fix the issues. Although the job isn't complete but ignoring the intent behind those trades would be an injustice.
Manolo has the challenge to field a team with the current roster, especially one which lacks an experienced and proven central attacking midfielder. The foreigners need to click together with Manolo's style and the Indian contingent.
The squad possesses a lot of experience in Raju Gaikwad, Adil Khan, Mohammed Rafique, Bikash Jairu, Balwant Singh, Jackichand Singh, and Arindam Bhattacharya. If we take that expertise and fuse it with the energy and raw talent of Amarjit Singh, Saikhom Goutam Singh, Songpu Singsit, Lalrinliana Hnamte, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Subha Ghosh, and Siddhant Shirodkar, East Bengal could surprise everyone in the league.
Choosing the right style of play
Manolo's arrival is complimenting the presence of Darren Sidoel, the Dutch central midfielder who was with the coach at Hercules, earlier this year. Darren, along with left-footed ball player defender Franjo Prce and defensive midfielder Amir Dervišević, are vital for anything and everything Manolo decides to do with the squad.
Should Manolo decides to transition between his preferred 4-4-2 to a three-man defense, the duo of Prce and Dervišević would be the key.
One interesting thing is that a fair majority of the squad can excel in more than one position on the field and it speaks volumes of what Manolo has in mind. Although it's a no-brainer that players like Arindam, Adil, Amarjit, and Jackichand could be the very first names on the team sheet. Thus choosing the right style of play will be crucial for SC East Bengal to make a mark in the league this time.