Bengaluru FC had its worst year in top-flight football in the 2020-21 ISL season, finishing in 7th place in the table and missing out on the semi-finals for the first time since joining the league. After a disappointing season start and some questionable tactics from Carles Cuadrat, the Blues sacked him midseason and replaced him with reserve team head coach Naushad Moosa. However, one cannot always expect a fairytale turnaround. Naushad could not cause any miracle when he took over Bengaluru’s wheels, as the team continued to struggle and finished the season in seventh place.
The club was quick enough to start planning for the next season, as they announced Marco Pezzaiuoli as their new head coach soon after. Under Marco, the club has already played one AFC Cup Qualifier match against Nepal Army. This article analyzes the Bengaluru FC squad and suggests sensible transfers for them.
Activity in the transfer market so far
In addition to Rahul Bheke, Harmanjot Khabra, Xisco Hernandez, and Fran Gonzalez leaving the team, Bengaluru has also released Dimas Delgado and Kristian Opseth.
With his omnipresence at the backline for Bengaluru FC, Rahul Bheke has been one of the most important members of the squad for the last few seasons.
Harmanjot Khabra was Bengaluru’s undisputed right-back for the past four seasons. Khabra’s physicality and defensive capabilities helped Bengaluru achieve the right balance in their squad. His exit will be a major loss, not only in terms of squad depth but also in terms of leadership for BFC.
Bengaluru FC has been pretty active in the transfer market compared to other teams so far, signing as many as four players. In signing Danish Farooq, Bengaluru has added much-needed versatility to their attacking line. The centre-forward joins from Real Kashmir FC. The Kashmiri forward can also play as an attacking midfielder, giving coach Marco an Indian option. Read more about the signing of Danish Farooq here.
The Blues has also signed Jayesh Rane from ATK Mohun Bagan, who has struggled for playing time since the last two seasons. Jayesh can play both in midfield and on the wing, providing backup to Suresh and Udanta. Additionally, Bengaluru FC has acquired Rohit Kumar from Kerala Blasters, who can offer a physical option in the midfield.
Sarthak Golui will also be playing for the Blues this season after being signed from East Bengal. Golui will be the first choice centre-back for Bengaluru, with Pratik acting as his backup, and he can also provide cover at right-back when required. Looking at the signings, one can conclude that BFC has done well to get good Indian recruits from the market. While in Golui, they may have got a like to like replacement for Rahul Bheke, but there’s still much to do before the team can be declared as a champion squad.
Current Squad Analysis-
Cleiton Silva is expected to be extended by Bengaluru FC, and it’s also expected that Sunil Chhetri will sign a new contract with the club. While both provide Bengaluru with options at left-wing and striker, Udanta Singh is expected to start at right-wing. Bengaluru will also be able to tap into the versatility of Danish Farooq and Jayesh Rane at the top, while young talents such as Thoi Singh, Edmund Lalrindika, and Leon Augustine will serve as backup options. Alternatively, they can look into their reserve team if they need, with young talents like Sivasakthi and Arshdeep Singh waiting for a chance. It’s probably safe to say that Bengaluru FC has their attack sorted with so many options at the top.
Darjee and Wungngayam Muirang are the other midfielders in the Bengaluru squad. Even though the latter two can play as centre backs, one cannot ignore how good they have been as midfielders for Bengaluru FC reserves. Danish Farooq will further provide them with a solid Indian option at the attacking midfield position. Even though the Indian contingent of midfielders looks sorted for Bengaluru, they will be looking for some foreign players to strengthen the squad.
With the exit of both Harmanjot Khara and Rahul Bheke, the Bengaluru defense will undergo a major transition. BFC has signed Sarthak Golui, but the club will surely still be in the market for a new right-back as Sarthak is likely to play centre-back. However, with Ashique Kuruniyan, Parag Shrivas, and Ajith Kumar in the left-back position, the position looks settled. Bengaluru FC will need a backup defender for Juanan, but with Pratik Choudhary, Sarthak Golui, Biswa Darjee, and Wungngayam Muirang, the Indian centre backs should be sorted.
What they need?
Based on a quick review of Bengaluru’s squad, the club has three more foreign players to sign before they finish their foreign quota; one can expect them to sign a forward, a midfielder, and a centre-back to fill those three positions. However, when it comes to Indian recruits, Bengaluru has already filled most of the gaps, apart from the signing of a solid right back to fill the void left by Rahul Bheke and Harmanjot Khabra.
IFTWC Choices –
1. Reagan Singh
Reagan Singh, a well-known name in the Indian football circuit, is out of contract this summer with Chennaiyin FC failing to renew his deal. After four years with Northeast United, he had signed with Chennaiyin last year. The 30-year-old was a regular in Csaba Laszlo’s side, making 17 appearances for the Supermachans in the previous season. A right-back like him will offer great value to any ISL club, and Bengaluru FC should be on the lookout for him, as he can prove to be an ideal replacement for Khabra.
2. Jishnu Balakrishnan
Kerala Blasters had signed two players before the 2017 season, Jishnu Balakrishnan and Sahal Abdul Samad. While one of them has become one of the biggest names in Indian football, Kerala Blasters have failed to see Jishnu Balakrishnan break into the first team in 2017. He spent the following season on loan with Gokulam Kerala FC as he navigated an injury-struck first few seasons with the Kerala teams. The 24-year-old right-back joined Chennai City FC in 2019 and has rediscovered his mojo since. The wing-back enjoyed an excellent season in the I-League in 2020-21, and his dribbling ability and speed have undoubtedly attracted many admirers. If Bengaluru FC intends to invest in a right-back with tons of potential, then Jishnu is the best choice.
3. Vanlalzuidika Chhakchhuak
Lalzuidika was named the best defender in the Mizoram Premier League while playing for Chhinga Veng FC, following which he had signed for Aizawl FC in the I-League. It was not surprising to see him conform to the expectations as his performances in the I-League continued to impress everyone. He played 11 times for Aizawl, keeping a clean sheet in five of them. He forged a formidable partnership with PC Laldinpuia at the back as well. Bengaluru FC can take advantage of the versatility of Lalzuidika as he can also play as a centre-back.
Overall, the management has done a good job in getting reinforcements to date, but there are still some holes to fill before going into the ISL.
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