It was payback time for Bengaluru after the 3-2 loss at home against Mumbai City. The two sides had a combative encounter last time out and this match expected nothing less than that.
It was a must-win match for Mumbai City so as to keep their hopes alive for the play-offs. However, their poor form at the home ground was a big concern.
Jorge Costa made two changes after the 2-0 loss against Odisha. The backline remained unchanged for this match. Captain Amrinder Singh started in goal. Midfielder Sourav Das came in for Raynier Fernandes and Brazilian Diego Carlos replaced Serge Kevyn. Former Bundesliga striker Amine Chermiti led the line for Mumbai City.
Erstwhile Barcelona coach Carles Cuadrat stuck to the same eleven that won against Jamshedpur. Indian international Gurpreet Singh Sandhu played behind the Spanish pair of centre-backs. ‘Captain Fantastic’ Sunil Chhetri played on the left with Ashique Kuruniyan on the right. Manuel Onwu played as the lone striker.
Mumbai City’s pressing
Bengaluru‘s preference from playing out from the back was minimal. Yet, whenever their defenders were in possession the Islanders pressed them aggressively. They employed the same system of pressing in both offensive and defensive half.
Larbi was pivotal in pressing Bengaluru’s last line. He started off marking their defensive midfielder and then curving his run outwards to force the play wide. Larbi forced the players to play long as Chermiti and either of the wingers screened the ball near options.
A similar but more aggressive pressing was followed in the defensive half. The three midfielders Borges, Das and Larbi worked tirelessly with the support of the forwards to win the ball back. They employed the option oriented pressing systematically.
In the picture above, we can see Larbi is putting pressure on Bheke who is in possession of the ball. Diego has shadow covered Paartalu to cut the first passing option. Borges realises Khabra is another passing option and runs to pressurise him as he anticipates the pass. In the meantime, Delgado was tracking back to provide a passing angle for Bheke.
Due to the pressure from Borges and Diego, Khabra is forced to play the ball back to Bheke. At this point, Das is prepared to press the next potential receiver of the ball Delgado. The system relies on anticipation and concentration of the players. It demands the skill of zonal as well as man-to-man marking while keeping the primary focus on the ball. Mumbai City managed to execute this excellently.
The pressing style can result in many mistakes and can be proven to be dangerous if even one player falls out of the sync. In order to avoid that, Mumbai City committed many soft fouls to ensure safety. While Bengaluru had the ball for 23 minutes and 52 seconds in pure possession, the Islanders committed 20 fouls. That is one foul per 1 minute and 11 seconds on an average. They broke the rhythm of play and didn’t let Bengaluru create any concrete chances.
While it’s hard to say if these fouls were part of the plan (tactical fouls), their pressing was certainly effective. They kept their PPDA (Passes Allowed per defensive action) low at 5.5.
In defensive transitions
The Islanders’ full-back didn’t participate much in attack. Golui who is naturally a centre-back and Bose had stay put in the last line. This allowed Mumbai City to stay organised in negative transitions. The back-four were able to get compact quickly while maintaining a numerical balance in the back-line.
Bengaluru’s missed chances
‘The Blues’ had set-up to play through the wings from the first-half. After knowing about Sougou’s limited contribution in defence and Mumbai City playing with double pivot against the midfield three, Bengaluru tried to out-number Mumbai City on the flanks.
In the first half, they used Khabra or Delgado to stretch the ball-playing side wide. However, the other two midfielders stayed close too. Due to which it was easier for Mumbai City’s midfielder’s as they had to defend in only one vertical half.
Bengaluru’s forward line was too narrow without any full-back supporting higher up the pitch. Because of that, Bengaluru didn’t have switching options and couldn’t circulate the ball effectively. The midfield failed to make penetrating runs due to their lateral movement towards the flanks and their relatively deeper position.
The rigid positioning of midfielders offered very little support in the final third for crosses in the box or for creating chances themselves. The full-backs offered support from behind but didn’t try to get ahead of their attackers. Lack of movement to overlap or underlap didn’t help in creating many crossing opportunities.
Second half improvisations
Carles Cuadrat made the needful changes at the start of the second half after registering zero shots on target in the first half. All three substitutions were made by the 65th minute of the game. Introduction of Udanta, Lyngdoh and Brown called for some positional switch and more offensive intent for his side. Bengaluru improvised on the shortcomings of the first half in the second half.
Cuadrat gave license to Nishu/Ashique (moved into the left-back position after 65th minute) to surge higher for crossing.
This also allowed the central midfielders to make penetrating runs into the box to support their solo attacker. Bengaluru delivered 50% of their crosses in the last 30 of the match.
Jorge Costa made an imperative decision by introducing Raynier Fernandes in place of Chermiti. He played on the left and Diego moved to the right to provide more stability for Mumbai. Sougou’s limited contribution in defence was no more liability as he took the role of striker.
As both the left-backs of Bengaluru are right-footed, they couldn’t deliver in terms of the desired output. The three full-backs collectively delivered seven crosses with just one being accurate. The team failed to register a single shot on target despite having enough men in the box.
Mumbai City’s transitional attacks
Bengaluru have been one of the best defensive sides in the history of ISL. They managed to concede the least number of goals in two of the last three seasons. The collective effort of the team in the low block enables them to form a formidable defensive shape. Therefore, Mumbai City had a tough time trying to penetrate through this team when in possession. However, they strategised their transitional attacks in order to surpass this difficulty.
In order to get better of Bengaluru’s backline, it was important to disorganise them. The midfield three of Paartalu, Delgado and Khabra raised another issue for Mumbai. Sougou played as a right-midfielder on paper for Mumbai City. Despite that, he stayed forward when his team was out of possession. His role for Mumbai was mostly as a wide forward pairing up with Chermiti.
In transitions, Borges often tried to locate Sougou who would make darting runs in space. Borges attempted 11 passes to the final third (most in his team). The transitions were beneficial for Mumbai as Nishu would surge higher on the pitch to help his team in possession. Juanan didn’t cover the flank in Nishu’s absence as it would open up areas in the centre of the pitch.
Sougou held the width of his team even when they were out of possession to get the best out of it in transitions. His pace and aerial dominance played a big role in the tactics. He won six out of the eight aerial duels contested.
He gave the lead to Mumbai from a diagonal switch from Borges. It’s important to acknowledge that it was Bengaluru goalkeeper Sandhu’s error that led to it. Mumbai City’s dominance in winning midfield duels and second balls gave them the edge to play in transitions.
Differential use of the left flank
In case of ball progression from the left, Diego and Larbi combined together to create chances for Mumbai. The Brazilian winger loves to take defenders in a 1v1. He displayed prolific dribbling skills with both his feet. Diego used his feints against Ashique and Bheke.
He would wait for the defender to put their body weight on one side as to quickly rotate his hips the other way. The swift change of direction ended with either a shot or a chipped cross from the edge of the box. Diego attempted nine dribbles with a 44% success rate and played three crosses in the game. Bose’s offside positioning denied Diego to register his assist in the game.
Bengaluru’s set-piece play is very strong and Mumbai City took a risk by conceding multiple free-kicks and corners. Delgado was the in-charge of set-pieces and he has been menacing with four assists from set-pieces this season. Bengaluru tried multiple variations in set-pieces to surprise their opponents.
A recurring pattern amongst them was forming a diamond around the ball. On the first occasions, the three players took turns to disperse and get behind the ball. They didn’t contribute in the kick but formed the rest defence to deal with the counter-attack. They used the same pattern next time but this time Delgado played a one-two with his opposite player while the players on the side made a run in the box.
Mumbai’s line was well organised for Delagado’s inswinger in the 24th minute. Delgado used a stutter-run to disrupt the line and allow Chhetri to run from the deep. Despite all these versatile attempts in set-pieces, they couldn’t produce much out of it. However, this reveals various training routine and different patterns of set-pieces.
Mumbai City displayed an exemplary press in both the halves. The team didn’t display many positional rotations or exceptional movements in play. Instead, their play was liner and target-oriented. The transitional attacks resulted positively while bearing in mind those were the chances they had to take. Bengaluru’s side made too many mistakes to even consider worthy of a point. Unfortunately, the second half tactical changes were not enough to achieve anything substantial from the match.