In terms of success, Chennaiyin FC has been triumphant since the right from the birth of the ISL. In the following 7 campaigns, the Marina Machans reached the playoffs on four junctures, the final three times and claimed the crown twice.
However, performances and results have turned out quite rocky for the side in the previous 4 editions. But, the upcoming season hands them a shot at rekindling their past greatness and stand tall once again.
Here is a look at the Chennaiyin FC profile ahead of ISL 2021/22.
ISL 2020/21 performance
The Marina Machans suffered a humbling run and were far from their usual selves. Serious injuries sidelining their players added to their problems. The Csaba Laszlo-led side slipped down the rankings and were unable to make the playoffs.
Chennaiyin stand as the 2nd-highest scoring side ISL history, but bagged the lowest number of goals last term. They were left wanting in terms of consistency and creativity in their attack. They managed to register just 17 goals in 20 matches, faring poorer than the bottom three sides.
The side recorded only 3 wins and broke the record for most draws, at 11. Csaba Laszlo prefers to play it safe and somewhere that approach hampered Chennaiyins’ attacking threat. In no time, they were edged out of the race to the playoffs.
With a host changes, the team has taken on a new look. Led by new boss Bozidar Bandovic, the club has been busy with preparations for the new season.
Chennaiyin FC played their first exhibition against Bengaluru FC, grabbing a 3-2 win. They went on to lose their next two exhibitions against Odisha FC and Kerala Blasters by 1-2 each. On November 12, they played one more exhibition against FC Goa.
The Marina Machans kicked off their pre-season training in September in Goa. Gaffer Bozidar Bandovic stated that an 8-week pre-season campaign would do nicely to prepare the squad and increase their understanding. This statement comes in light of the changes made to personnel.
The club reinforced existing ranks by successfully offering Rahim Ali, Rafael Crivellaro, Edwin Sydney and Reagan Singh new contracts.
Bozidar Bandovic took charge of Chennaiyin FC as the new boss on 10 July 2021. The Montenegrin penned a 1-year contract to assume his 9th managerial job.
Bandovic has had his fair share of coaching experience. He has managed sides like Olympiacos, where he also operated in the role of assistant coach and technical director. His most triumphant chapter came in his spell with Thai outfit Buriram United.
During his two stints with the Thai side, Bandovic claimed the league titles twice and the Thailand Champions Cup in 2019. He led Buriram United to the Round of 16 in the AFC Champions League. Thus, he possesses the experience of coaching in both the UEFA Champions League (Olympiacos) and the AFC Champions League.
Assistant Coaches: Bojan Ofenbeher (Foreign), Sabir Pasha (Indian)
Goalkeeping Coach: Milorad Nikolic
Reserve and Academy Coach: Santosh Kashyap
Head Physio: Rajiv Kumar Singh
Team Manager: Arihant Jain
Chief Scout: Pratham Basu (also Chief Technical Officer)
Chennaiyin had a fruitful off-season. They almost overhauled their foreign unit and added a decent mix of Indian players. However, a major pitfall, occurring in the 2021-22 season, would be the loss of Deepak Tangri to ATK Mohun Bagan.
Bandovic’s side brought in 5 new foreign players to complete their foreigners’ requirement. New signings include Ariel Borysiuk, Vladimir Koman, Mirlan Murzaev, Lukasz Gikiewicz and Slavko Damjanovic. Thus, these players from abroad will bring experience and energy to the club.
The club have also managed to balance a mix of Indians into their contingent. They have brought in veterans like SC East Bengal’s Narayan Das and Debjit Majumder. Following them are ATKMB’s Salam Ranjan Singh and Jobby Justin. Starring in Gokulam Kerala’s I-League winning season, Deepak Devrani joins Chennaiyin.
Ninthoi Meetei, a very promising young talent, has also for Chennaiyin FC. Ninthoi made 24 appearances for NorthEast United in the ISL and bagged the “Best Player” award at the 2019 U-18 SAFF Championship. Syed Suhail Pasha, son of Chennai City’s assistant coach Syed Sabir Pasha, will also don Chennaiyin colors.
The 2-time ISL winners completed their window with the signing of goalkeeper Devansh Dabas (from Lonestar Kashmir) and midfielders Melroy Melwin Assisi, Subhadip Majhi and Johnson Joseph Matthews from Hyderia FC, Kalighat FC (from the Calcutta Football League) and Bank of India respectively.
The club bid farewell to a couple of key players from last term and prior. These players were either let go or departed on a free transfer.
Aside from skipper Rafael Crivellaro, the club let go of all foreign players. This included the likes of Eli Sabia and Enes Sipovic, who moved on to Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters respectively.
The club had to give up promising center-half Deepak Tangri. His departure probably hurt the Marina Machans the most, given that he was a bright spots for Chennaiyin FC last season. Tangri also featured in India’s U-23 Asian Cup Qualifying run. Another well established player who hung up the Chennaiyin shirt was Thoi Singh. Thoi departs the club after a 5-season spell, moving to Real Kashmir.
Indian players to leave were Lalchhuanmawia, Karanjit Singh, Abhijit Sarkar and Sinivasan Pandiyan (free transfers).
The Montenegrin favors to employ the 4-2-3-1 setup. Given his possession-focused style, this formation is quite beneficial. The gaffer’s playstyle stresses on possession, while looking to maintain flexibility. He chooses to use a more compact playstyle.
Thus, Chennaiyin seem stronger in attack under his guidance. Given the club’s poor goal-scoring form, this could be crucial. High possession implies that Chennaiyin will require more boldness on the ball.
Adding depth in the middle of the park is Ariel Borysiuk. With his experience, he will have the duty of controlling the game. He combines Thapa and Crivellaro in midfield and will be important in moving up the pitch. Thapa, Crivellaro and Chhangte take charge of the attack and bringing creativity. Polish striker Lukasz Gikiewicz is anticipated to be first-choice.
Formation 2: 3-5-2
This formation might be similar to the 4-2-3-1, but it would add more width to Chennaiyin’s game. The defence gets an extra player, with Narayan Das filling in as the third centre-back. Edwin Vanspaul switches to an attacking wing-back. A midfielders can be swapped for a striker to partner the forward upfront.
A 3-man defence allows the wing-backs to be adventurous and push ahead, adding to the attack. Such a setup aids the team add width, create attacking overloads and pushing back opposition defences. However, to make this formation work, wing-backs Jerry Lalrinzuala and Edwin Vanspaul require to be quick in getting up and down the pitch.
With this formation, a second striker joins the attack while allowing the side to keep possession in defence. Rafael Crivellaro will be crucial to the setup, him being creative player in the formation.
What to look forward to
When it comes to table-toppers, Chennaiyin FC are ever present. Their 2 ISL crowns stand as proof of their capability. Following a torrid campaign last year, the side will be looking to new coach Bozidar Bandovic to reshape them into their winning selves.
Starting out, they would need to explode out of the blocks. Csaba Laszlo chose a safer approach and this retranched Chennaiyin FC’s attack. Nonetheless, their displays in pre-season showcased the untapped attacking prowess. They must now carry this into the the new season.
Minimum, qualification to the playoffs would be necessary. The Marina Machans boast one of the competition’s top Indian squads and these players will be vital in leading the charge. Bandovic mentioned that the side possess a fine core of youth and experience. Hence, considering their squad depth and potential, they will be among the playoff favorites.
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