Owen Coyle will no longer be in the dugout, Nerijus Valskis will no longer lead the attack. Instead, this time, the onus is on new head coach Csaba Laszlo to lead the Marina Machans and to deliver — because, unlike many other teams, Chennaiyin didn’t make any fancy signings in the window.
In an exclusive interaction with The Bridge ahead of the season opener against Jamshedpur FC, the newly-appointed coach Lsazlo opens up on his team’s preparations, the squad’s strengths, and more.
Following are excerpts:
Q> How have the training sessions been going and how prepared is your team?
Laszlo: Very good. The players, staff, fans on social media and everyone else associated with the club have been very welcoming. We have wasted no time in getting down to work on the pitch. With blinkers on, we’re only focused on our first game, and hopefully starting on a positive note with a win.
Q> Looking at the squad, almost the entire foreign department is new..and interestingly, Chennaiyin are the only team which has not taken a player from A-League..what are your thoughts on your foreign strength?
Laszlo: It is a mere coincidence. Moreover, we have done the research, scouting and identification of players that fit the mould at our club, while also bringing versatility. Look at all our foreign signings, they can operate in different roles with ease.
— Chennaiyin FC 🏆🏆 (@ChennaiyinFC) November 12, 2020
Q> Rafael Crivellaro was very impressive last season, what role do you expect him to take up this season?
Laszlo: He will play a key, pivotal role for us this season. He was the fulcrum of the team’s creativity, driving the play forward last season, and we expect him to pick up from where he left off quite seamlessly. Not just that, I expect him to be the leader that he is, and be the beacon that our Indian players learn and get inspired from.
Q> On the positive side, the star domestic players have been retained. Do you think that gives some balance? How important do you think are domestic players to a team’s success in the ISL?
Laszlo: Very important, this is the Indian Super League and it is our responsibility to improve the Indian players, before anything else. While success and silverware is the objective, it is more important for us to develop and improve our young Indian talents. We have six such players in our ranks who are below the age of 20. And the potential they have along with the other domestic players is incredible, I see it in training. We need to help them achieve that potential, and that comes with practice and hard work. And match time, which will bring them the much-needed match sharpness.
Q> You only have a few days to get your thoughts into action..on contrary, teams like ATKMB have been training for a while now…How much do you think this might affect your team’s results, at least during the initial stages of the season?
Laszlo: We are not focusing much on other teams. Yes, they may have had a few more days of training than us, but it is not going to matter much in the grand scheme of things. Our entire squad feels good, feels vibrant going into the first match of the season. So it is important for us to carry that mood and team chemistry into the matches. The number of days of preparation won’t really matter.
Q> Given the circumstances, with players having to stay in bubble, getting a much shorter pre-season after no football since March (for Indian players). How important is the mental side of the game this season?
Laszlo: Very important. We are in a bio-secure environment, so with time the mental aspect and mental side of the game will surely play a huge role. As of now, everyone including me is just waiting for the first game. Just very eager to get into the thick of things and start playing football and challenge. It will be important for the team to create a strong bond, for us to be responsible to each other and for each other like a family. Only then will we be able to overcome the mental aspect and be positive going into every single encounter.
Q> Obviously, no coach would want to give out his plans before the ball has even started rolling, but what brand of football can we expect from your team this season?
Laszlo: An attacking and attractive brand of football. And one that helps our Indian players improve and gives them the platform to express themselves. We have to adapt ourselves to every challenge, because this is a very competitive league. As much as enforcing our brand of football is important, we can’t impose it every time. We will have to adapt.
q Looking at the other teams, everyone looks stronger on paper than last season. How competitive do you think it will be this time?
Laszlo: Very, very competitive. I think there is very little margin for error between teams this season. ISL has been getting more competitive over the years. The quality of Indian and foreign players is incredible. But I believe the Indian contingent of each team could go on to decide the outcome of the tournament. We will be prepared, having done our homework on other teams, however our focus will always be on ourselves to excel and realize our potential.
Q> Chennaiyin have been one of the successful teams in the league, two-time winners, last season’s runners-up…and the fans have high expectations.. How best do you think you can match up to these expectations, what according to you will be a successful season?
Laszlo: To begin the season well, to get a few wins at the outset will be a huge boost to our confidence and momentum. The first point of success will be to finish in the top four and qualify for the play-offs. And to give our fans enough reasons to cheer back home, in a season where they cannot be with us. That will be our true measure of success, as much as the silverware.