Mumbai City FC came into the 2017 ISL season on the back of a hugely successful 2016 campaign, one that had seen them top the league phase for the first time ever. Despite a semi-final loss to Atletico de Kolkata, it was the Islanders best showing yet in the ISL, and coach Andre Guimares was retained for a second season in charge. Marquee player Diego Forlan left the club though, leaving a sizeable hole for the team management to fill.
The ISL draft, held in July 2017, saw Mumbai pick up the likes of India veterans Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Arindam Bhattacharya, Sanju Pradhan and Raju Gaikwad, while also adding Balwant Singh as the primary striker. The club also retained goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, who had been instrumental to their success in the previous season. As far as foreign players were concerned, defenders Gerson Vieira and Lucian Goian were retained, along with the Brazilian Leo Costa. Brazil would provide a number of new faces for the Islanders, with the likes of Everton Santos, Marcio Rosario and Thiago Santos all arriving ahead of the 2017 season. But the biggest capture was that of Cameroon midfielder Achille Emana, a veteran of the 2010 World Cup as well as three African Cup of Nations tournaments. He was expected to provide support to the strikers from midfield, and his signing raised spirits after what had been a below-average draft pick.
After a successful pre-season camp in Valencia, where they lost just one of seven games, Mumbai began their 2017 campaign with an away game against debutants Bengaluru FC but unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline. They got their first win in the bag with a narrow 2-1 home win over Goa in the next game, with the Brazilians Everton and Thiago making the difference for the Islanders. However, their erratic form continued as they were beaten by Pune City in their next game, setting the tone for the rest of the season. A draw against Kerala Blasters followed, and while Mumbai managed to beat in-form Chennaiyin FC, this was immediately cancelled out by a loss to a hitherto winless ATK side. The year ended on a strong note, however, as Mumbai finally won an away game, beating NorthEast United 2-0 via a brace from Balwant Singh, before routing Delhi Dynamos 4-0 at the Mumbai Football Arena.
Frustratingly for Mumbai fans, the side was unable to carry that momentum into 2018, as they drew with Jamshedpur FC before consecutive losses to Kerala and Bengaluru precipitated a slide down the table. A thrilling 4-3 win over Goa was the only result to write home about, as the Islanders lost to Jamshedpur and then Pune in quick succession, continuing their poor form at home with a fourth loss on the trot. This streak needed to be broken to keep Mumbai’s playoff chances alive, and the side responded with two consecutive victories over ATK and NorthEast United. With two games to go, Mumbai needed to win both to stand any chance of qualification; however, a 5-1 rout at the hands of bottom side Delhi despatched any such hopes, and further pain was inflicted by a 1-0 loss to Chennaiyin in the last game of the season to end things on a sour note.
Mumbai ended the season in 7th place with only 7 wins from 18 games; a truly shocking showing from the side who had topped the table in the previous campaign. Balwant Singh and Everton Santos shouldered most of the goalscoring burden, while Emana had a decent season behind them. Mumbai’s defensive woes cost them dearly, which was unfortunate as Guimares had set his stall as a defensive coach, and the Costa Rican was roundly criticised for his conservative tactics throughout the season. Thus, it was no surprise that the club and Guimares parted ways in August 2018, with former Portuguese international Jorge Costa taking charge of the Islanders for the new season.
The past season was undoubtedly disappointing for the Mumbai faithful, as their side failed to mount any sort of meaningful challenge for the play-off spots. However, Costa has wasted no time in overhauling the squad with a view to solving the problematic defence, which conceded 29 goals in 18 games last season. To this end, Mumbai have brought in some of the best defenders in the 2017 season, with the likes of Subhashish Bose, Souvik Chakrabarti and Shouvik Ghosh all joining the club ahead of the new season. Quality has been added in the midfield and forward ranks as well, and as long as Mumbai can shake off the inconsistency that plagued them last season, they should be able to make the top four and hence the playoffs.