Chennaiyin FC’s run in the ISL over the years has been a zigzag, with the team failing to replicate their strong performances in consecutive seasons. Much needs to be said on the constant shifting and changing of players in the team, which leaves them with a new look side every season.
The anchor of any team is the midfield. This is where good chemistry can be more effective than big signings that would take time to adapt. Chennaiyin were able to preserve a few key Indian players in the midfield over the past few years.
Options available –
Anirudh Thapa has been a member of the Chennaiyin FC squad for the past 5 years, and safe to say; he has his feet sorted out for the club. Much is relied upon the 23 year old for building a strong midfield.
There is considerable depth in the holding midfield position with the likes of Germanpreet Singh and Dhanpal Ganesh. Such strong options can come in handy during the middle of the season when the regulars start to tire.
Also among the options is Abhijit Sarkar, who would be expecting to make his breakthrough into the ISL. The U17 World Cup squad member had a decent outing with the Indian Arrows before joining Chennaiyin FC. The attacking midfielder could feature as the backup for foreign players, making room for a foreigner in a different position.
Local star Edwin Sydney Vanspaul can slot into midfield when required. Though he can be used as a right-back, he is more effective in the midfield.
Transfer activities so far –
ATK Mohun Bagan has signed versatile defensive midfielder Deepak Tangri. It will be a big task for Chennai to replace him as his physical presence came good for the club last season.
Arguably the biggest relief for the fans will be the retaining of captain Rafael Crivellaro. The Brazilian stays for a third consecutive season with Chennaiyin FC. There may be a revamp in other parts of the midfield, but if anyone the team could rely upon to lead the attack, it would be Crivellaro. The attacking midfielder scored 7 goals and made 8 assists in the 2019-20 season when Chennai reached the final after a shaky start.
For most of the last season, an injury kept him out of action, forcing Chennai to bring Lanzarote as a replacement. With the Brazilian back in the team, the focus will be on finding a reliable striker to create a formidable attacking partnership. The much-needed experience and technicality in the midfield will be provided by Crivellaro, which will add to the solidity in the defence with new signings.
With Memo’s contract expiring, Chennai is not keen on renewing it, and they will enter the market for an effective alternative. Memo was a lynchpin in the midfield for Jamshedpur FC, but he failed to find form during the last season and was constantly used in different positions. Shifting between the holding midfield and centre back positions, Memo was often isolated without a good partnership on the pitch. The focus should be on working to find a strong midfield duo with an Indian and foreigner combination. With the credentials of the newly signed manager Božidar Bandović, two holding midfielders will be key to his five men midfield. Chennai will have to work on finding the right combination for that.
IFTWC Choices –
The young ATK Mohun Bagan midfielder had a fruitful experience with Mohun Bagan in the I-League winning campaign under Kibu Vicuña. An agile box to box midfielder, Sahil can fit into the system of Chennaiyin FC. Despite his lack of experience, he was used regularly for Mohun Bagan in the I-League. He also had 7 appearances in the ISL last season with ATK Mohun Bagan FC. The 21-year-old has a contract till 2023, so a loan deal would be a good option for Chennai. His added versatility of playing as a lone defensive midfielder can also be key, especially if the coach plans to play a foreign midfielder further up the pitch.
Chennaiyin FC could also go for a player with plenty of experience in the ISL like Mohammed Rafique. The 28-year-old played for SC East Bengal last season. Even though he played in most of the matches, he was played in a rather unusual position at the right side of midfield. The depth and quality in the midfield become important in the new coach’s tactical approach. Having a natural central midfielder like Rafique can boost the team, not just with the ball but also with the experience he brings to the team.
Foreign Options –
One of the best players of Northeast United in the last season, Khassa Camara, was influential in the midfield. Northeast United was able to surprise everyone without any big names in the squad. Most of this success came with tactical brilliance, which its players showcased. Khassa Camara covered a large area in the pitch, and his positional sense enabled him to dominate the midfield. He made an average of 38.86 passes per game, 110 tackles and 50 interceptions.
A technically sound midfielder like Camara can be a perfect option for Chennaiyin FC, especially under Bandović, as the emphasis will prevent giving spaces to the opposition through the centre. Northeast United is also keen on retaining Camara, as he can be crucial for them in the next season.
Aitor Monroy can be another good option for Chennaiyin FC. The Spaniard is currently a free agent after spending two seasons with Jamshedpur FC. The central midfielder had a decent campaign last season in which he was the main orchestrator of the midfield. Unlike Camara, Aitor offers a more attacking option who can play ahead of the defensive midfielders. He had an average of 41.32 passes per game and also made 6 assists last season.
As the new coach also focuses on moving the ball quickly in attacks, he could link the midfield to attack. There is also an option of partnering him with a technically adept Indian midfielder to have a balanced and creative style of play.
With the arrival of Božidar Bandović, Chennaiyin FC can be expected to have a bright season ahead, given his track record. It is also expected that a few changes in the squad will be made pertaining to the different tactical approaches. In the midfield, players with good technical ability who can move about the ball quickly can be the team’s strength. With fast wing-backs or wingers, Chennai will be looking for effective strikers who can coordinate well with the midfield.
Follow our website for all the latest updates on Indian Football.