Mumbai City have in-form Indian players on both the flanks…
Mumbai City boss Sergio Lobera has, in the past, said that he believes in the football that Pep Guardiola’s teams play.
There are common points that can be spotted when you compare the style of play that Lobera and Guardiola swear by and one of them is the usage of wide players.
While the actual method of execution may wary, wide players are often crucial elements in the domination that Lobera eyes over all his opponents. And it has been the same with the Islanders.
Mumbai City defeated ATK Mohun Bagan 2-0 in their final game of the season to finish at the top of the table, clinch the ISL League Winners Shield and book their place in next season’s AFC Champions League group stage.
The Islanders picked up 40 points from 20 matches and qualified for the playoffs with four league games to go. Lobera’s side also had broken Bengaluru’s record for ISL’s longest unbeaten run (11 games in ISL season 5) after the Islanders went unbeaten for 12 games (W9, D3) during the season.
Wide players have always enjoyed playing under the tutelage of Lobera, be it at Goa or Mumbai City. The Spaniard wants his wingers to not only cut in and join the central attackers but also stay wide at times and stretch the game. He also wants his full-backs to make runs into the final third and attempt combinations with teammates before opting to cross into the box.
At Goa, Seriton Fernandes, Mandar Rao Dessai, Brandon Fernandes and Jackichand Singh made a name for themselves. In fact, Brandon excelled under Lobera and soon established himself as one of the most creative players in the Indian football circuit.
Jackichand moved to Jamshedpur and for one reason or the other, he failed to live up to the expectations. He came back to Mumbai City to play under Lobera and made six appearances.
Bipin Singh has dominated Mumbai’s left flank like no other Indian winger has in the recent history of Indian football. The 25-year-old, who is enjoying the best season of his career, has five goals and four assists in 19 matches. He also became the first hat-trick scorer in this season’s ISL with three excellent goals in Mumbai’s 6-1 win against Odisha.
In three seasons that Bipin played in the ISL at ATK and Mumbai City, he never breached the 600-minute mark per season. In 34 appearances in the last three campaigns, he only had three goals to show. He was more of a squad player as opposed to someone who was expected to light up their season. But under Lobera, he has thrived.
On the opposite flank, Cy Goddard has showcased his quality on the ball and has three assists to his name.
Amey Ranawade made the right full-back position his own ahead of the more established Mohammed Rakip. While defensively he remains suspect, his forward runs have certainly added versatility to Mumbai’s attack. Ranawade was seen only as a squad player prior to this season is the fact to be noted.
Another wide player who has announced his arrival under Lobera at Mumbai is young defender Vignesh Dakshinamurthy. The tall and strong lad has been incredibly hard to beat all season down the Islanders’ left flank and he has made quite an impression with his performances.
To top it all, Vignesh’s only goal of the season so far was a screamer and a Goal of the Season contender that came about as a result of an adventurous and clever run into the box from the flanks.
Ahmed Jahouh and Hugo Boumous have been integral components in the midfield. Adam Le Fondre has been scoring goals for fun upfront. But wide players have been just as important for Mumbai City to function and exert dominance over their opponents as they have done so far this season. And having in-form Indian wide players will be one of their biggest strengths going into the playoffs.