Going by Mumbai City’s start to the Indian Super League last season under new coach Jorge Costa, one would have wondered if they would ever manage to make it to the top four. They had a shaky start before an embarrassing 0-5 loss to FC Goa at Fatorda sparked an incredible turnaround, leading them to a nine-match unbeaten run (first time in history) and reaching the playoffs for just the second time.
But bolstered with a star-studded attack this year, Jorge Costa’s side have the ability to go one step further. Despite losing some experienced foreign players like Lucian Goian, Arnold Issoko and Rafael Bastos, the Islanders have made some equally brilliant additions this summer. Tunisian striker Amine Chermiti, who has played in the Bundesliga and the Europa League, is the biggest signing.
His countryman Mohammad Larbi, Diego Carlos and Serge Kevyn are other attacking options present – with all three wingers having the pace and skill to hurt any team. The signing of India internationals like midfielder Rowllin Borges and right-back Sarthak Golui also offers depth to the squad while former NorthEast defender Mato Grgic will be tasked with filling Goian’s boost in defense.
Joyner Lourenco, Milan Singh, Sehnaj Singh, Anwar Ali Sr and Matias Mirabaje are among the other big names to make an exit.
What’s changed for 2019-’20:
Arrivals: Mohammad Larbi, Amine Chermiti, Diego Carlos, Serge Kevyn, Mato Grgic, Pratik Chaudhari, Anwar Ali Jr, Valpuia, Sarthak Golui, Rowllin Borges, Bidyananda Singh, Surchandra Singh and Sourav Das.
Departures: Lucian Goian, Arnold Issoko, Rafael Bastos, Joyner Lourenco, Milan Singh, Sehnaj Singh, Anwar Ali Sr, Matias Mirabaje and Marko Klisura.
The additions of Chermiti, Kevyn and Carlos alongside hitman Moudou Sougou should signal danger for other teams. While they have enough firepower in attack, Borges’ arrival adds steel to the midfield, the absence of a pure defensive midfielder being one of the concerns for the team last season. Costa’s side were one of the meanest defenses in the ISL last season, keeping the joint-highest clean sheets alongside FC Goa and NorthEast United, so the addition of Borges should come as a huge boost.
While they have strengthened the attack, they lack experience in defense. Other than centre-back Grgic and left-back Subhasish Bose, it is not sure who will occupy the other positions in defense. Souvik Chakrabati played regularly last season but was error-prone and inconsistent, Furthermore, the departure of Goian – a leader at the back and also an attacking defender – leaves a big gap.
Costa, a former Champions League winner, built a counter-attacking team that was hard to break down last season. Under pressure to deliver results last season, the Portuguese has promised to change his style with more midfield options available this time around. Mumbai City were one of the teams with the lowest budgets last season but they still made it to the semi-finals, all due to Costa’s philosophy.
Player to watch out for: Rowllin Borges
The Goan was was one the vital cogs behind NorthEast United’s run to the semis last season, thriving in a box-to-box midfield role under Eelco Schattorie. He made an impact on both ends of the pitch scoring four goals and two assists alongside registering 53 tackles, 27 interceptions, 29 clearances, and 20 blocks. His ability to control the tempo of the game alongside shielding the defense will offer midfield partners Raynier Fernandes and Paulo Machado the license to attack.
Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Ravi Kumar, Kunal Sawant.
Defenders: Mato Grgic, Souvik Chakrabarti, Subhasish Bose, Pratik Chaudhari, Anwar Ali, Valpuia, Sarthak Golui.
Midfielders: Paulo Machado, Raynier Fernandes, Rowllin Borges, Serge Kevyn, Mohamed Larbi, Diego Carlos, Sourav Das, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, Bipin Singh, Bidyananda Singh, Surchandra Singh, Pranjal Bhumij.
Forwards: Amine Chermiti, Modou Sougou.