East Bengal Team Profile For I-League 2016-17

Friday, 6 January 2017|Sarthak Mondal
East Bengal have been very active during the transfer season, having replaced their foreigners while roping in some of the big names of the country.

Year after year passes on, but East Bengal have failed to lay their hands on the coveted I-League trophy. The Calcutta Football League, oldest in the world is not a major competition anymore; so it won’t be wrong to say that the Red and Golds have been trophy-less at the national level for almost 5 seasons now,with their last trophy coming way back in 2012, having won the Federation Cup.                                                      

The Red and Gold fanatics, specially with bitter rivals Mohun Bagan claiming two trophies in the last two years, are desperate to lay their hands on the I-League trophy. They did came close on two occasions, in  2011-12 & 2013-14, finishing as runners on both occasions. And the returning Trevor James Morgan would surely like to make amends for the Bengal club.

In a teamthat already has 34 players with the Asian slot yet to be filled, considerable changes have already been made.They were shrewd with their foreign signings, roping in the likes of Ivan Bukenya, Wedson Anselmeand Willis Plaza while letting off their old guards - Bernard Mendy, Ranti Martins, Bello Rasaq and Do-Dong - go.

There were much better in the domestic market, having roped in all the big names or perhaps the players, who makes big impact. The likes of Jackichan Singh, Thongkhosem Haokip, Romeo Fernandes and Robin Gurung were signed up to drape them in the Red and Gold colour. On the other hand, they had to part with someone like Harmanjot Khabra, a seasoned India International, who has played for East Bengal since 2009. Shehnaj Singh was also released following his contract expiry.

At the managerial level, Trevor James Morgan is back, under whom they have enjoyed considerable success at both the National and Continental level, though without any trophy. He is a strict disciplinarian and authoritarianwhose principle revolves around team work.

Best XI of 2017 I-League (expected 4-4-2): Rehenesh TP; Rahul Bheke, Gurwinder Singh*, Ivan Bukenya (F), Narayan Das;  Romeo Fernandes, Cavin Lobo, Mehtab Hossain, Lalrindika Ralte; Wedson Anselme (F), Willis Plaza (F)

Best XI of 2016 I-League (4-4-2): Rehenesh TP; Rahul Bheke, Arnab Mondal, Bello Rasaq (F), Narayan Das; Bernard Mendy (F), Harmanjot Khabra, Mehtab Hossain, Lalrindika Ralte; Ranti Martins (F), Do Dong Hyun (F)

Major Departures: Sehnaj Singh (Mohun Bagan), Harmanjot Khabra (Bengaluru FC), Bernard Mendy, Ranti Martins, Bello Rasaq (End of Contracts), Do Dong Hyun (Released with mutual termination)

*First choice center-back, Arnab Mondal got injured during the ISL 2016 Season. He is expected to be out for the first few games.

Major New Signings: Romeo Fernandes (on loan from FC Goa), Robin Gurung (on loan from NorthEast United FC), Jackichand Singh (Mumbai City FC), Wedson Anselme (Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi), Ivan Bukenya (Kaizer Chiefs)



 1.       Romeo Fernandes (on loan from FC Goa): After an unforgettable season with FC Goa, Romeo Fernandes will be looking to make amends with East Bengal. He has previously won the trophy with Dempo Sports Club in the 2011-12 season and also became the first Indian to professionally play in South America when he turned out for Atletico Paranaense as a substitute.
Romeo can play on either side of the pitch and his timely controlled runs can put any defence under pressure.

2.       Jackichand Singh (On loan from Mumbai City FC): He is expected to start mostly from bench unless the coach thinks otherwise. After a fruitful season with Mumbai City FC, where he hadtwo goals from eight appearances, Jacki will be hoping to better his stats. The diminutive Manipuri plays primarily as a winger but can slot in the role of the second forward as well, making him one of the players to look out for in this season.

3.       Wedson Anselme (Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi): A key player for Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi for three years and one of Sony Norde’s (Mohun Bagan) teammates in Haiti and back in Bangladesh, Wedson is a clean striker of the ball. He has scored 35 goals in 47 matches for the Bangladeshi club at a ratio of more than 3 goals in every 5 matches he has played. Trevor Morgan brought him to replace Ranti Martins.


GOALKEEPER: The goalkeeping duties were equally split between Luis Barreto and Rehenesh TP last season, but Morgan has a wide range of choices going into this season with Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Abhilash Pal and Dibyendu Sarkar joining the team as reserve keepers. If things don’t go well with the top two, Morgan will not hesitate to give the experienced-flamboyant Subhashish a go.

RIGHT BACK: Rahul Bheke is expected to be the first choice Right Back for East Bengal, considering his speed and work rate, but will have serious competition from Robin Gurung and Anwar Ali. However with matches coming thick and fast, Morgan is likely to rotate his players. The picture will become clearer when the starting XI for the first match comes out because a new coach is likely to bring new strategies and we are unsure of how the squad will shape.

LEFT BACK: Narayan Das should start on the left-back with Robert Lalthlamuana playing the second fiddle to him. Robin Gurung can play as left back as well, so the East Bengal coach will not be short of options in case of an injury or dip in form.

CENTRE BACK: With Arnab Mondal injured, Gurwinder Singh is expected to partner IvanBukenya in the heart of the defence, with the experience Sammad Ali Mallick, Deepak Kumar and Koushik Sarkar as back-ups. Arnab will return to the side once he is fit, unless the fourth foreigner signed by East Bengal is not a central defender.

WING: Romeo Fernandes and Lalrindika Ralte are set to be the two wingers, primarily because of their pace, controlled runs and ability inside the 18-yard box, but Jackichand Singh will provide enough competition to break into the starting XI and given his ability, he might get a few starts as well. Abhinas Ruidas is expected to play a role in few games. Bikash Jairu is another player who is expected to provide tough competition for a place in the XI.

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: The role will be donned by the veteran midfielder, Mehtab Hossain, who is probably in his last season at the club. A Red-Gold for almost 10 years now, Mehtab will be challenged for his place in the side by Rowlin Borges, who had a fantastic ISL with North East United.  There are a few back-up players such as Prohlad Roy and David Lalrinmuana who can slot in that position as well.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Cavin Lobo is the first choice player for this position and he will have backups in the form for Mohammed Rafique and Nikhil Pujari. Lobo is a perfect box-to-box midfielder and has a good shooting foot, which makes him hard to be benched. He was one of the recruits during Morgan’s previous spell, so expect him to play a bigger role at the club.

FORWARD: There are a lot of strikers in the club, but Morgan will start Wedson Anselme and Willis Plaza ahead of the others. There are talented Indian players like Jiten Murmu, Thongkhoisem Haokip and VP Suhair who may get a go at some point during the course of the season. Jackichand Singh can also slot in the role of the second striker, which makes him a utility player in the club.

Line Up

Have there been any management/coaching changes and what impact might they have?
Yes, Trevor James Morgan is back in his second stint as the coach of the club, after Biswajit Bhattacharya left the team on mutual agreement due to bad performance last season.

Will their style be the same this season? More offensive/more defensive?
It looks clear that the 4-4-2 will be the base system of the team once again, with Mehtab Hossain and Cavin Lobo as builders. The wings will be more effective considering the pace of Romeo Fernandes and Lalrindika Ralte and play will depend on how far they can press their counterparts in the opposition half. Trevor Morgan has a free flowing style of football, so we might see a combination of aggressive and defensive football.

Was last season’s finishing position a fair reflection of performances through the season?
Considering the state of the Indian Football, the league position is not a fair reflection of what the club achieved last season. Though they finished 3rd in the I-League, but they went down to Shillong Lajong in the opening round of the Federation Cup last season. Considering the cumulative performances, they were somewhat mid-table top flight Indian Football Club last season.

Any players returning from long-term injuries- if so then what kind of shape are they in?
Arnab Mondal has suffered serious injury towards the end of the ISL season. While he is undergoing rehabilitation, it is expected that he will not be fit for the first few games, with Gurwinder Singh set to start aside Ivan Bukenya for the first part of the season.

Any players who have shown signs of big improvements over the summer (maybe young players breaking through)?
Abhinas Ruidas has shown considerable improvement during the Indian Super League as well as the Calcutta Football League and he is a work-horse in the flanks besides being a clean striker of the ball. I am expecting the young lad to atleast start 4-5 games over the course of the season alongside regular substitute appearances from the bench.

What expectations do you, the fans and the club have this season?
Personally for me, East Bengal will finish 3rd this season in the I-League behind the likes of Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC, but the fans and the club are expecting to win the I-League this season. Similar expectations were there from the players last season as well, but when they failed, the fans staged a 13th minute walkout from the stadium to protest against 13 years without winning the National Football League.

Have there been any significant alterations to the stadium or pitch?
No, They will again play their home matches at the Vidyasagar Krirangan, Barasat.