As part of our series, we would be taking a look at all the 10 ISL teams, where they stand at the moment and what should be the way forward for them going into the next season.
First up on our list is Chennaiyin FC.
Performance in previous season– 4th in league / Runner’s up
Chennaiyin FC had a season to remember last time. Finishing 4th in the league and qualifying for the final, Chennaiyin FC were in for their 3rd title in the Indian Super League, but as fate would have it, that honour went to ATK.
And here Chennaiyin are, looking to forget the highs of last season and starting from scratch again, come the new season.
But do Chennaiyin actually need to start from scratch? Or can they just continue from where they had left last season. According to us, it would be best for Chennaiyin FC to maintain continuity and just take it forward from the last season with as minimal changes as possible. After all, why fix something that’s not broken, right?
So let’s start with our analysis of how Chennaiyin should approach the next season.
RETAINING OWEN COYLE.
It was one heck of a roller coaster ride for Chennaiyin FC last season. From lying at the bottom of the table after 4 games to almost reaching the pinnacle of success by winning the Indian Super League, Chennaiyin’s season came a long way. Not discounting the players in anyway, but the most important factor in this turnaround was the man who came in mid season and changed the course of the entire season. Yes, we are talking about Owen Coyle here. It was nothing short of magical to see a team change so much with just a change in the coach. For a team which struggled to find the back of the net in the opening three games under John Gregory, scoring 39 goals by the end of the season was no mean feat. And it was all down to the tactical brilliance of One Man- Owen Coyle. Chennaiyin’s players took to Owen Coyle like a duck takes to water and there is no reason as to why Chennaiyin should look anywhere else for the next season.
So the very first and the most important decision that Chennaiyin have to take is to retain their coach. We have seen Owen Coyle getting linked to a few other clubs but Chennaiyin would fare well if they can manage to lure in their tactician for at least another season.
RETAINING THEIR CORE SET OF PLAYERS
Chennaiyin FC made some shrewd foreign signings last season. They signed Lithuanian Nerijus Valskis, who was playing in the Euro Cup qualifiers. Valskis turned out to be the Golden Boot winner last season. Soon came in Rafael Crivellaro from the Primeira Liga, the highest system of Football in Portugal. They also signed Maltese legend Andre Schembri to go in with the centre back pairing of Lucian Goian and Eli Sabia. All of these foreigners turned out to be the architects of their glorious run upto the final. The linkup between Valskis and Crivellaro was sublime to say the least and the centre-back pairing of Goian and Sabia hardly gave the opposition attackers any joy. Thus, there is absolutely no reason to not retain any of these players apart from Schembri, who has retired from the game.
But if recent reports are to go by, Chennaiyin don’t seem to be interested in retaining Valskis and have not offered him a contract extension. This makes Crivellaro’s retention all the very important and Chennaiyin need to make sure that they do not part ways with their most prized possession, or else the shoes of Rafael Crivellaro could turn out to be too big for anyone to fill.
With Anirudh Thapa having already signed a contract extension, Chennaiyin would further look to keep their Indian core intact by giving extensions to Lalinzuala Chhangte, Vishal Kaith, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and Germanpreet Singh. Should they manage to do it, they would not need to worry about their Indian roster anymore.
Continuity looks like the best way forward for Chennaiyin FC and they should leave absolutely no stone unturned to retain as many players as they can.
Now, lets take a look at the changes that Chennaiyin should look to make in their arsenal.
GETTING A SOLID FOREIGN RIGHT WINGER
Chennaiyin were well stacked on the right wing in the last season. Andre Schembri put in some solid shifts day in and day out and got his name on the scoresheet for a good 5 times apart from registering 3 assists as well. But the Maltese Marksman’s retirement from the game has left a gaping hole in the Chennaiyin attack and they would do well to bridge that gap. Romanian Dragos Firtulescu acted as a backup to Schembri last season but failed to live upto the billing. So Chennaiyin need to dig deep into the market and find a quality replacement for Schembri. Incase they want to go in with an Indian name on the right wing, they should look no further than Thoi Singh.
Although Thoi was a tad disappointing last season, but he has loads of experience playing in the ISL and had even got 4 goals to his name in the 2018-19 season. A bit of trust and regular playing time could work wonders for Thoi Singh as well as Chennaiyin FC.
FIXING THE RIGHT BACK CONUNDRUM
Edwin Sydney Vanspaul started at right back for the better part of Chennaiyin’s last season. But Germanpreet’s injury paved the way for him to play as a central midfielder and he duly made the position his very own with some starling performances. As a result of Edwin’s switch to midfield, Laldinliana Renthlei slotted in at right back. Though unspectacular, he did his job efficiently. But if recent reports are anything to go by, Renthlei has all but made the switch to Jamshedpur FC. This move can have some serious complications for Chennaiyin FC until they can find a good Indian replacement. Edwin can again be moved to right back but given his performances in midfield, he should be given a longer rope in his newfound position. Thus, it is of paramount importance for Chennaiyin to sign a good Indian replacement for Renthlei.
Now, let’s have a look at some of the players whom Chennaiyin FC can target in the market.
It seems like a shocking decision on the outside to not offer Nerijus Valskis a contract extension but no one knows the actual reasons behind it. But if Chennaiyin is to succeed, they need to sign a quality striker and they should look no further than Kerala Blasters’ Bartholomew Ogbeche. Although reports initially stated that Kerala have offered Ogbeche a new contract, it does not seem the same case anymore. It looks like Kerala are in a financial turmoil at the moment and have asked Ogbeche to take a pay cut but Ogbeche does not seem very pleased with the idea. This is where Chennaiyin can swoop in and offer Ogbeche a contract. Ogbeche comes with tons of experience and is one of the deadliest poachers the ISL has ever seen. Signing a player of Ogbeche’s calibre would guarantee goals for Chennaiyin and Chennaiyin’s fans would be over the moon, for its against them that Ogbeche is at his destructive best. Who can forget his hat-trick against Chennaiyin playing for Northeast United? And so, in case they are unable to retain Valskis, targeting Ogbeche should be of primary concern to them.
BORIS SINGH THANGJAM
A player with massive potential, Boris Singh is one of the finest young players in the country. In the two seasons that he played at the Indian Arrows, he showed his potential to one and all. ATK were quick to swoop in on the 20 year old and even paid a handsome transfer fees for him. But the re-emergence of a certain Prabir Das meant that Boris got no playing time whatsoever last season. We, at IFTWC, exclusively reported that ATK is looking to offload Boris and Chennaiyin would welcome Boris with open arms. An outstanding player in his own right, Boris will improve any team he goes to and Chennaiyin need a right back at the moment. Joining Chennaiyin would also mean playing time for Boris and it could turn out to be a match made in heaven for both the parties.
The only hindrance in the move is that Chennaiyin would have to pay a hefty transfer fee for the player as ATK would not release him cheap. But signing of player of Boris’ calibre would surely be an upgrade on Renthlei and even the mere thought of Boris Singh Thangjam bombarding down the flanks would surely please the Chennaiyin faithful.
Chennaiyin FC could also look at some other options in the market such as Miku who has spoken about his desire to return to India again and again. In case Kerala Blasters retain the services of Ogbeche or Mumbai City manage to lure him, Miku remains another solid option. As far as right wingers are concerned, Chennaiyin should dig deep into the market and look to sign an Asian player, maybe someone from the A-League.
If everything goes to plan, this can turn out to be the Starting XI of Chennaiyin FC next season. Excited Chennaiyin fans?
But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we?
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