Mumbai City FC’s head coach Sergio Lobera is a strong advocate of an attacking brand of football, but the Spaniard wants his new team to strike a balance between attack and defence in the upcoming Indian Super League.
“My philosophy as the coach is to take care of the football as well as the supporters. They need to enjoy the game during the 90 minutes. So, it is very important to play attacking football,” Lobera said at the virtual pre-season press conference ahead of the ISL, which commences on Friday.
“Obviously we need balance. In football, it’s not possible to only attack. You need to balance between attack and defence. For Mumbai City, our style of play is very important. It’s not about just winning but winning by playing beautiful football.
“When we have the possession we need to keep the possession. We need to quickly recover the ball when we lose the ball. Try to play in the opponent half and try to score as any goals as possible. And for me it’s important to keep clean sheets as well.”
Mumbai, who have never won the coveted ISL, have signed 19 new players this season and start their campaign on November 21 against NorthEast United FC. The overhaul is the first step of the club’s makeover under City Football Group, the entity that owns Premier League side Manchester City.
The CFG impact
Lobera felt the knowledge possessed by members of the group have made his task easier.
“The benefits of having the CFG advise us are plenty - the advice we get and the support is very important for me. I think there are a lot of people with great football knowledge at CFG, and as a coach, you can improve when you work with such people,” Lobera said.
“I speak every day with different departments, who provided us with a lot of things including analysis, and the different learnings from their 10 teams around the world, especially lessons learnt under these unique circumstances,” he added.
“We are working together with big ambitions and also keeping our long-term plans in mind. In my 25-year career, I have worked at some great clubs including Barcelona, but I can tell you that I have never worked before in this way and it is amazing to be working with Mumbai City and CFG,” Lobera continued.
Having joined Mumbai after three seasons with FC Goa, Lobera is no stranger to ISL and Indian football. The Spaniard thus feels the upcoming season will be more intense as all the teams have made good signings.
“I think this year is going to be a more competitive season. There are very good teams. There are very good signings. I think the teams have done a big effort to build a good team. I think it’s good for everybody, very good competition with strong teams and very competitive situation,” the former Barcelona assistant said.
Speaking about his team he feels his players have worked very hard in the pre-season, which was different because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is important for us to work in the best ways possible. We are working very hard and I’m happy with the professional attitude of my players, it is not easy and is a big challenge,” he said.
I think we have special players and I am trying to get the players to play in our style and hopefully, we can perform when the season gets underway,” he added.
‘Improving Indian players a priority’
At Goa, Lobera improved the level of several Indian players like Brandon Fernandes, Seriton Fernandes and Manvir Singh that led to Indian national team coach Igor Stimac calling up many FC Goa players to his squad. At Mumbai, Lobera hopes to achieve a similar result.
“The most important is to improve the level of Indian players,” the 43-year-old said.
“For me, as a coach, I need the help of foreign players to improve the Indian players. It’s impossible to win a trophy if the Indian players aren’t at the level, and it is also impossible to win when your foreign players do not gel with the Indian players. So as the coach, I need my foreign players to play a big role on and off the pitch,” he added.
Lobera welcomed the addition of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal into the ISL but refused to be drawn on his opinion about the favourites for this season.
“In my opinion, it is going to be the most difficult and competitive season till now. I want to respect all teams, and obviously, if I say we are favourites, maybe it’s not respecting the other teams and maybe it is not true,” the Spaniard said.
“We have some great teams who have great players and have won the titles. Our dream is to work hard and to try to finish in the best position that is possible, and the best position is number one. We need to keep working and at the end of the season, we will see,” he added.
However, Lobera said he relishes the pressure that comes with heightened expectations. Unlike previous seasons, Mumbai City will be expected to at least reach the semi-finals this season.
“I love this type of pressure. It means you are at a good football club with great players at staff around. This is where I want to be,” he said.
Mumbai City FC begin their campaign against NorthEast United on November 21.