After the much-awaited first-ever Indian Super League (ISL) derby ended with ATK Mohun Bagan being victorious, the former East Bengal and Kerala Blasters manager Eelco Schattorie shared his views on the reinvented Boro Match, the tactical nous of the managers, and the pandemic-affected new season.
How much did you enjoy the Kolkata derby on Friday?
“I was really looking forward to the first-ever ISL derby with the two new clubs who have so much history and legacy. I was really curious how the teams get themselves lined up, especially East Bengal who has a new coach and players. The biggest absence was the crowd though. Though they have new identities now, you would still feel the tension, pressure, and excitement.”
What did you make of East Bengal? Is there room for improvement for them?
“East Bengal have a lot of room for improvement in my opinion. The way Jacques Maghoma and Anthony Pilkington were playing as shadow strikers in their 3-4-3 setup really intrigued me. But the biggest issue for East Bengal is that they don’t have a proper striker. You can even witness the fitness levels in the second half… it drops. So, they have to improve in two places — striker and fitness. Plus, they have an issue with the goalkeeper… Debjit Majumder is pretty short in height.”
What were the factors that went wrong for East Bengal?
“I don’t think East Bengal did much wrong. In my opinion, the goalkeeper should have done better to stop Roy Krishna’s shot… it almost ran through the middle. Then after taking the lead, ATK Mohun Bagan switched to a 5-4-1 formation in the second half and that made it more difficult for the Red and Gold. East Bengal should be happy with their performance as it was only their first match.”
What do you think about Robbie Fowler’s tactics in the derby?
“Overall, they looked alright as they adhered to the tactics. The intention to play proper football is there in Fowler’s strategies. Although Bengaluru FC was playing the same exact system like them, Bengaluru played a lot of long balls to their strikers, unlike the Red and Gold. The interesting thing is how Jacques Maghoma and Anthony Pilkington were operating between the lines, but they still need to learn how to communicate with the striker.”
Do you think Robbie Fowler can break the jinx of English coaches not being successful in India?
“What matters to me is the quality of the coach, not where he is from. For instance, we can talk about Spanish coaches who implement their so-called attacking football, but it basically comes from the Netherlands. It does not matter whether the coach is Dutch, Spanish, or German. Of course, there remains a certain style, but the real factor is how the coach manages his team. Robbie Fowler’s intention to play football and his attempts to disorganise the opponent was good. Hopefully, he can develop that further.”
Do you think ATK Mohun Bagan is unbeatable?
“Obviously not. Let me remind you, I was the only one to beat them twice last season. There are two strategies on how to beat ATK Mohun Bagan: one of them is a simple strategy. If the team relies on counter-attack, then it shouldn’t be initiated from the midfield. Instead, the team should rely on long balls to the striker.”
“The next plan is for the wingers to come behind the strikers. When ATK plays with five defenders, it becomes very difficult for wingbacks to come into midfield when an opponent suddenly shows up. Last year for Kerala Blasters, we played a lot of long balls to Halicharan Narzary.”
What do you have to say about the two-time ISL-winning Antonio Lopez Habas?
“I always compare Antonio Lopez Habas with Jose Mourinho for his defensive tactics. He has quality players in his team too, and the strategy he implements is working with those settled players. It’s not difficult to figure out what he is doing, but how to stop it? That is a different story.”
Which teams do you think have a chance to qualify for playoffs?
“In my opinion, ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC, Mumbai City FC, and FC Goa should make the playoffs. It’s a bit difficult to predict, but I am certain that ATK Mohun Bagan will be the first team to qualify. The other three spots are open though. There are a lot of variables and factors to be successful in ISL.”
When are you thinking of taking up a coaching role again?
“I still don’t know when I would get a new coaching job because of this pandemic situation. Although, I was surprised that I didn’t get any offers from India. Maybe it’s because I’m very outspoken and often misunderstood. But I am liking my new job as an analyst for Star Sports so far. I would like to criticise others as I have myself been criticised in the past (laughs).”
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