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ISL: Analysing the Indian contingent of Bengaluru FC ahead of the Indian Super League 2021-22 season

There are a lot of new arrivals, a lot of key departures but the club is in a phase of transition, and the young Indian contingent under the guidance of Chhetri might just deliver what the club is targeting.

ISL: Analysing the Indian contingent of Bengaluru FC ahead of the Indian Super League 2021-22 season
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By

Siddharth Mishra

Published: 21 Oct 2021 12:12 PM GMT

Less than a month to go for the new Indian Super League season, and Bengaluru FC have assembled a squad that is ready to compete for the top prize in Indian football. The Blues finished a dismal 7th last season and will be aiming to bounce back under new coach Marzo Pezzaiuoli.

The squad has seen a myriad of departures of key players like Rahul Bhekke, Harmanjot Khabra, Semboi Haokip, Dimas Delgado, Erik Paartalu, and Juanan Gonzalez. This will also be the first time Bengaluru FC will have five new foreigners in the team, unlike where the core foreigners were retained every year. The club has made notable signings in Iman Basafa, Prince Ibarra, Musavu King, Alan Costa, and Bruno Ramires, but what stands out is the new lot of young Indian players who have come in, and shown glimpses of what they can achieve in the AFC Cup.

Jayesh Rane, Danish Farooq, Rohit Kumar, Bidyashagar Singh, Sarthak Guloi are the notable names that have been transferred in, while under the guidance of Naushad Moosa Ajith Kumar, Roshan Naorem, Leon Augustine are slowly transitioning to become first-team players.


STRENGTH

The presence of the Indian Football team captain Sunil Chhetri. Chhetri is a player who is synonymous with Bengaluru FC, and his presence in the team as a player and a leader makes a lot of difference to young players play, and stay focused. Chhetri is the highest Indian goalscorer in the ISL and is only a few goals away from being the all-time goal scorer of the league. The impact he has on and off the field is unmatched, and he is the captain who takes responsibility to make the difference when required.

The presence of Indian internationals like Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Suresh Wangjam, Ashique Kuriniyan, and Udanta Singh. These three players have the potential to step up and take the responsibility off Sunil's shoulder to impact results on the pitch. Suresh, Ashique, Udanta may be young but they have experienced a lot in the last two-three years, because of their consistent presence in the ISL, and the national team.

New signing likes Danish Farooq, Rohit Kumar and Jayesh Rane looked very impressive in the AFC Cup, and it looks like they have started to settle in the team like the coach would have wanted them. Apart from the squad depth that BFC possesses with players like Bidyashagar Singh, Leon Augustine, Sivasakthi, Ajith Kumar, Parag, and Roshan Naorem shows the overall balance of the squad. These players showed in the AFC Cup and Durand Cup their capability to step up and take command to get results.

The young fire-power amongst the Bengaluru FC squad shows that the club has started to identify the players who will lead the club in the next era for them, and they also have a coach who is known for working with youngsters in Germany, and someone who has been a key figure in the transition of many youngsters to become first-team professional footballers.


WEAKNESS

Whenever there is an influx of new players in the squad the time taken by players to settle in, and get along takes a lot of time. Bengaluru FC have ten new players this season, and some of them have played in the ISL before but there is always a shadow of doubt about the relationship between the presence and performance of players.

The lack of experience is an exciting thing because the players can be open to more learning but if it goes wrong it may impact the course of a season for the club. The form of Udanta Singh is also a point of concern, it looks like the flash has lost his touch in the last two seasons but he showed in the last AFC Cup match what he is capable of, and the club will hope his form is back to what he was in 2018-19.

The absence of a strong Indian center back can be a spot where BFC might lose ground. They have Pratik Choudhary, and even Sarthak Guloi ideally a right-back but can center back, but we do not see them starting over King and Costa, and in case of an injury to either one of them, the club does not have players to match their performances. Pratik has not been impressive, and the departure of Rahul Bhekke leaves a lot of responsibility on Pratik. Marco would be hoping that he improves Pratik as a player, and helps him reach the top of his game.

Not enough natural wing-backs are a part of the squad. The club will rely heavily on Sarthak to be the main right-back and Parag, Roshan, Ajith, and Ashique as the main left-backs. Sarthak did not look very comfortable in the AFC Cup, while Ashique is not a natural left-back, and the other three are young players who are unexplored in that position. Parag last season did play a few matches because of the injury to Ashique, while Roshan played in the AFC Cup and impressed a lot of fans. Ajith Kumar was signed last season to replace Nishu Kumar, but he also has not made a mark the way the club would have wanted. The full-back positions look shaky for BFC but no one has seen how Marco have developed young players in the pre-season, and what is to come from them.


4 YOUNG PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT



Bengaluru FC have one of the best academies in Indian football, and slowly but steadily we are seeing how youngsters are transitioning from the reserve teams to the first teams, and then cementing their place in the line-up. Over the last eight years, BFC have developed many young players who have gone to become key players for their clubs and countries, Nishu Kumar and Daniel Lalhlimpuia are just a few of them. The club has a treasure chest of young players like Leon Augustine, Ajith Kumar, Sivasakthi, Hermanpreet(set to miss the ISL due to an injury), Wuingyan Muirang, goalkeeper Lara Sharma, and we can go on. We saw the impact a young BFC team had in the Durand Cup.

It was an incredibly difficult choice in picking up these three names from the vast pool of young talent the Bangalore-baed have.

1. Leon Augustine has to be the first name on the list. The young midfielder made his debut for Bengaluru FC against ATK in 2020 and scored his first goal for the club last season against Hyderabad FC. The player has improved in leaps and bounds, and this might just be his season where he becomes an integral part of this team. He was a regular under Marco in the AFC Cup and was one of the standout performers in the Durand Cup. The young winger can play in either of the flanks and might give Udanta a run for his money if he gets going.

2. Naorem Roshan Singh, the young left-back from Manipur has gone up the ranks from U-18 to the reserve team and is now a part of the first team. In the AFC Cup when Ashique got injured, Roshan stepped up and put in a fantastic performance at the left-back position. He was defending like a rock, pressing with hunger, and was comfortable going forward with Sunil Chhetri. The promising left-back can be the surprise package this season for BFC.

Roshan Naorem Singh in a BDFA game in Bangalore (Image Source: BFC Twitter)

3. Sivasakhti Narayan is a name that has to be present in the list. The young striker has goals in him, he has shown this in the BDFA Super Division, in the AFC Cup, and even the Durand Cup. Naushad Moosa was the person who identified his talents and helped him grow as a player and person.

4. Bidyashagar Singh, the I-League golden boot and player of the league winner might be the final piece of the puzzle for BFC. The 20-year-old striker became the first Indian after Sunil Chhetri to win the I-League golden boot award, and then he scored a brace on his debut for BFC in the AFC Cup. It would be wonderful to see how Marco uses him in the squad because he has four prominent strikers in Chhetri, Cleiton, Prince Ibarra, and Bidyashagar in the squad.

Bengaluru FC are known for two things, trophies, and comebacks. It has been two years since they won a trophy, and a come-back looms large after a disastrous season last year for their standards. It will be interesting to see how Marco utilizes this squad and leads the club to trophies once again.

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