Mumbai City FC narrowly missed out on the ticket to the playoffs for the 2019-’20 Indian Super League season after losing to Chennaiyin FC in their final league match. Odisha FC’s thrilling 4-4 draw with Kerala Blasters meant that the Islanders finished fifth in the league standings with a total of 26 points.

After qualifying for the playoffs the previous season, Mumbai City FC were expected to do the same this year despite parting ways with key players such as Lucian Goian, Arnold Issoko and Rafael Bastos during the summer.

However, despite what has been a disappointing season compared to last year, there were plenty of positives for coach Jorge Costa and his team. They became the first side to beat Bengaluru FC twice during a season and the Islanders embarked on on a six-match unbeaten streak away from home before they failed to deliver results on a consistent basis.

Mumbai City stats 2019-'20

Team Matches played Goals scored Goals conceded  Goal difference Clean sheets
Mumbai City FC 18 25 29 -4 4
League's best 18  46 (Goa) 11 (Bengaluru) +23 (Goa) 10 (Bengaluru)

Weak defence

Replacing a player of Goian’s calibre, a backbone of their defence for three seasons was always going to be a tough task and Mumbai City FC missed him dearly this season. Ironically, it was the Romanian himself that denied Mumbai City the final playoff spot after scoring against his former team in Chennaiyin FC colours.

Most of the goals Mumbai City FC conceded were down to individual mistakes and Costa did not have a stable backline throughout the season. Last season, Mumbai City had one of the strongest defences in the league, conceding a total of just 20 goals all season whilst registering eight clean sheets – joint-highest alongside NorthEast United and FC Goa.

However, this season they looked a shadow of their former selves, registering just four clean sheets in all while conceding 29 goals, the fourth-worst in the league.

Summer signing Mato Grgic couldn’t replicate the same form he showed while guiding NorthEast United to the playoffs last season and the centre-back failed to fill the boots of former Mumbai City FC captain and predecessor Goian.

An injury to right-back Sarthak Golui midway during the season also derailed their campaign after they sold backup Souvik Chakrabati to Hyderabad FC, meaning Costa had to field midfielder Mohammad Rafique in that position.

Meanwhile, left-back Subhasish Bose endured a poor start to the season but regained his confidence once the season progressed.

Failure to replace Machado

Paulo Machado established himself as a midfield linchpin during the Islanders’ run to the playoffs last season. The Portuguese was expected to play a bigger part again if Mumbai City had to do it again but he was ruled out for the remainder of the season after an ankle injury late December. There are very few box-to-box midfielders in the league who can match Machado’s quality and after losing him, the responsibility fell on Rowllin Borges to fill up his void.

Costa revealed the club was very close to signing a replacement for him during the January transfer window although the deal fell through as the deadline came to an end.

“Losing Machado is like Barcelona losing [Lionel] Messi and Juventus losing [Cristiano] Ronaldo. He’s one of our captains and someone we will miss a lot. We tried all solutions to find his replacement but it was not possible,” Costa had said during a press conference.

Eventually, it was midfielder Sourav Das who took Machado’s place in the starting eleven and he soon formed a good partnership Borges but was not consistent enough as Mumbai City struggled to open up opposition defences.

Key player: Rowllin Borges

The Indian international has was not only the best midfielder for Mumbai City but arguably one of the best box-to-box midfielders throughout the season, chipping with two goals and two assists.

No Indian player registered more tackles than the Goan (103) and Borges also ranks second in the list for most interceptions, only behind Chennaiyin FC’s Anirudh Thapa.

Borges was not only effective in doing the dirty work and shielding the defence but he played a crucial role in their build-up during counter-attacks with his varied range of passing and his ability to provide pin-point diagonal balls on the wings.

It has been another fine season for him, carrying on from where left at NorthEast United next season.

What next for Mumbai City FC?

Having already revamped their squad in the summer, Mumbai City don’t need to make too many changes but instead, add depth to their squad for next season. Costa has already said he is ready to stay with Mumbai City as long as the club need him, however, his contract is yet to be discussed.

Despite not being able to make the playoffs, the Portuguese tactician has done a decent job and it is time the club management provides him with a better budget to bolster the squad for the next season.

Their defence seems the weakest link in their squad, so adding some extra cover might help them tighten up at the back.

Mumbai City have had 14 different goalscorers in the 2019-’20 season, and no team has had more goalscorers involved. Guess how dangerous they could become if they invest a little more money in signings.