Part One : The Preparation
Mohun Bagan had their pre-Season in Goa; and their season began with the “Mini Derby” of Kolkata against Mohammedan Sporting in the opener of the age old heritage tournament Durand Cup.
Kibu shaped his team in a 4-4-1-1 formation with youngster Sk. Sahil and an experienced Joseba Beitia, as the two midfield pivots. Sahil had the task to sweep and intercept the ball from opposition’s feet and pass it to Beitia, who in turn will act as the ball carrier and dispatch the diagonal crosses or exquisite through balls to the wide area. The wingers were instructed to be available there, fire in crosses towards the on rushing Salva Chamorro.
Knowing that Keralite striker Vp Suhair is not so commanding with the ball and neither can we call him a lethal finisher, he was tasked to make in dummy runs behind the defense and try to win first balls with his speed & physicality.
It was clear that Kibu Vicuna’s vision was, on keeping the possession for longer times. But it demands less distance between the teammates which forced the defense to move out from the lines and keep a high line to support the possessional play.
It worked out excellently in the first game with Salva Chamorro nodding home two early crosses to give Mohunbagan the first win of the season. However it seemed evident that they were not at the optimum fitness level that this particular style of football requires.
But things changed from here on. Kibu started a new centre back pair of Fran Gonzalez and Fran Morante in the next game and they struggled against a smart and skillful Ansumana Kromah.
Things went hot and cold hereafter, as they secured narrow wins here and there, held for a draw against Calcutta Customs, edged past Real Kashmir in the Durand semifinal before finishing the tournament as runners up after getting knocked out by Gokulam Kerala Fc.
Supporters were heartbroken and problems were aplenty,
A style like this requires close range cohesive passing, collective movement and physical prowess while none seemed happening at that moment.
Kibu didn’t allow his fullbacks to make the overlapping runs; rather he asked them to stay in the mid block to dictate the game. This caused the wide midfielders to struggle to get in behind the opposition defense. This added to their natural intent which went against the new-found system of Vicuna. Nongdamba Naorem was not an old school touchline-hugging winger who would make pinpoint crosses. Rather he was someone who liked to cut inside and dribble past the defenders or thread a through pass for a teammate. On the other flank, Romario Jesuraj, who dazzled in the previous season of I League for Chennai City Fc, crumbled under the pressure of the fans of a big club and struggled to replicate his past performance.
They were getting hit on the break on frequent occasions by loosing the ball unnecessarily when the whole team was committed upfront. There were clear signs of miscommunications both at offense and defense.
Above all, Salva Chamorro was failing to give the required goalscoring output.
These problems caused them to end up missing out on the Calcutta Football League title. Even the addition of their sixth foreigner, Julen Colinas Olaizola didn’t help as they crashed out of a preparatory tournament in Bangladesh in the semifinals. Things looked gloomy for Kibu. They needed a change desperately.