East Bengal is on the pathway to pave its way back to the glory days￼
The Red and Gold Brigade has arrived at the Indian Super League 2022-23 season to forge all of their previous failures behind and write a new chapter with the new lads. The Kolkata-based outfit has finished among the bottom two of the league standings in both of their appearances and will be determined to stage a massive bounce-back this season. ‘Parimatch News‘ brings an exhaustive analysis of East Bengal for ISL 9.
East Bengal was placed in the group of death where two other ISL giants ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City were battling out to finish among the top two. The Red and Gold Brigade put up a great fight in the season’s first Kolkata Derby but eventually ended up on the losing side after conceding an own goal from Sumit Passi. The Derby defeat ensured the exit of the home team from the prestigious football competition even before their last group stage fixture.
However, the fourth and final group game of the Torch Bearers was the memorable one where they stunned the Group B table-toppers in a seven-goal thriller. A couple of braces from the skipper Cleiton Silva and the striker Passi guided them to an emphatic 4-3 victory. EB along with the eventual champions Bengaluru remained the only clubs to outwit the Islanders in 2022 of the Durand Cup.
A look at last season’s performance
The 2021-22 season was the second appearance of this Kolkata-based outfit at the grandest stage of the Indian Super League. The Red and Gold Brigade came up with an aim to overwrite their failure in their debut season but ended up delivering their worst performance in the Indian top-flight league. They finished right at the bottom of the league standings after being able to fetch only 11 points from 20 fixtures.
A 2-1 triumph over the home side FC Goa in the 13th Match Day was the only instance throughout the season when the Torch Bearers claimed all three match points. They kick-started the campaign having Manolo Diaz on the sidelines but had to cut the ties with the Spanish gaffer midway through the season after miserably failing to live up to the expectations of the EB Ultras. Mario Rivera took the charge in January 2022 but couldn’t change the fortunes of East Bengal and parted ways at the end of the season.
New signings ahead of the 2022-23 ISL season
A proven goal-scorer of the Indian top-flight league was the major missing for East Bengal in their previous ISL campaign and Cleiton Silva has arrived to fill the same void. The 35-year-old Brazilian striker had a wonderful two-season stint with Bengaluru where he struck 14 goals in 33 ISL appearances for the Blues. Silva made only one start in their Durand Cup campaign where he also wore the captain’s armband and made it memorable by scalping a brace against Mumbai City.
Another established Brazilian name who will be seen in Red and Gold colours this season is the holding midfielder Alex Lima. The 32-year-old has ended his two-year association with Jamshedpur after guiding the Red Miners to the 2021-22 ISL Premiership to move more East of India. Lima will be in charge of the midfield department of the Torch Bearers while his role in the club will be expanded to be a mentor for the young midfielders on the roster.
Eliandro has been brought from the Thai outfit Samut Prakan City to accompany his Samba countryman Silva in the forward line. The presence of the former Cyprus international defender Charalambos Kyriacou provides depth in the defense department owing to his versatility across various defensive positions. Meanwhile, the young Australian central midfielder Jordan O’Doherty has been added to the EB roster to fill the spot of the sixth foreigner from an AFC member nation.
The recipient of the 2018 ISL Emerging Player of the Season honour Jerry Lalrinzuala is the biggest domestic addition to the East Bengal squad in this summer transfer window. The Punjab-born shot-stopper Kamaljit Singh has been signed as the successor of the local legend Arindam Bhattacharja who joined the NorthEast United camp for the next journey.
Apart from them, many other top domestic names such as Aniket Jadhav, Mobashir Rahman, Souvik Chakrabarti, Mohammad Rakip, Mahesh Naorem and VP Suhair have opted to don the Red and Gold colours this season.
Predicted Starting XI
Kamaljit Singh; Mohammad Rakip, Ivan Gonzalez, Charalambos Kyriacou, Jerry Lalrinzuala; Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Souvik Chakrabarti, Alex Lima; VP Suhair, Cleiton Silva, Aniket Jadhav
The main strength of the current East Bengal roster is the quality of their domestic players as many of them are highly rated in Indian football. The lack of credibility in the domestic department was the major reason behind their failure in the past two ISL editions. Hence the newly appointed coaching staff prioritised this problem and worked out to come up with a strengthened roster.
Constantine is accommodated with a variety of options on each one of the positions while fielding the full-strength lineup for the first matchday of the season. The squad depth and versatility are the X Factors which assure the EB Ultras that their knights are capable enough to stage a turnaround from these difficult circumstances. Brazilians have a great history of establishing a fine-tuning with the Indian players in this league as three of the six foreigners come from the Land of Palms.
Stephen Constantine is a well-known figure in the Indian football circuit and his presence as the head coach will be a key factor in the forthcoming ISL campaign. The 59-year-old English professional had two broad stints with the Indian national team from 2002 to 2005 and from 2015 to 2019. Under the reign of Constantine, the Blue Tigers witnessed significant progress as they registered an escalating FIFA ranking of 97 which was 173 when he took charge.
Despite having so many domestic talents on the roster, the key positions in Constantine’s system will still belong to the foreign knights. It may force them to become over-reliant on their overseas players which can turn out to be an extensive weakness as many of them are going to be part of this club for the first time. The head coach needs to knit his blueprint for the 2022-23 campaign while keeping his Indian core in key roles to make his system a sustainable one.
A leader in each department of the field felicitates their manager with the convenience of operating the team more efficiently. Having multiple leaders on the field always provides an advantage to the head coaches by conveying their game approach and philosophy to other team members. Cleiton Silva who led the Torch Bearers in the triumph against Mumbai City is making a strong contention for the designation of the first-choice captain.
The Red and Gold Brigade showcased a glimpse of what they are capable of in the final group fixture of the Durand Cup. It is highly predicted that East Bengal’s Class of 2022-23 will be overwriting their previous failure at the Indian top-flight football league. Without being much optimistic, the playoff qualification should be the ultimate aim of the Torch Bearers as even the Top 6 finish will be quite an achievement for them.