Ever since joining the Indian Super League (ISL) in 2017, Bengaluru FC have become a model of consistency and success. They finished at the top of the pile in the league stage in their debut season, making it to the final to narrowly lose out to Chennaiyin. However, they repeated this feat the next season, and went one step further to win their first title, in only their second season in the ISL. This season they were made favourites for the ISL by leading online bookmaker Bettingsites24.in but failed to win the title. Bengaluru managed to qualify for the play-offs, for the third season in a row, but unfortunately lost out to ATK in the semi-final, despite holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg going into the return leg. Nevertheless, the fans would have been disappointed that the Blues could not achieve a third consecutive appearance in the final, while their league campaign did leave some questions for head coach Carles Cuadrat, who led them to the title last time out.
Cuadrat’s arrival last season sparked the team to new heights, but the Blues seemed to hit a plateau this season. Bengaluru had an exceptional home record, going on a 17-game unbeaten run at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, and become a huge threat from set-pieces as well, scoring an astounding 62% of their goals from such situations. However, this was the result of a lack of attacking fluency in general, due to the departure of star striker Miku. Bengaluru did only score 22 goals during the league phase from 18 games, only one more than bottom side Hyderabad FC, which shows just how toothless a previously fluid attacking side had become. Their place in the top four was made possible only by their solid defence, which conceded just 13 goals during the league phase, the lowest in the league. Bengaluru kept 11 clean sheets from their 18 games, thus masking some of the attacking deficiencies by ensuring that often just scoring one goal would be enough for the Blues to win.
Cuadrat deserves some credit for bringing through a couple of promising youngsters to the first-team picture. The likes of Parag Shrivas, Suresh Wangjam and Leon Augustine all got minutes this season and did well enough to show that they can be a part of the side going forward. However, the club’s relatively disappointing season, in that they failed to make it to the final, and missed out on a spot in next season’s AFC Cup as well by finishing third in the league phase, has put a lot of pressure on the Spaniard. This would probably be unthinkable at any other club, but the standards at Bengaluru FC have been set extremely high. That being said, his title win from last season still carries a lot of weight, and it is unlikely that the Blues will make a managerial change before next season starts.
This campaign has shown that the team is over-reliant on captain and talisman Sunil Chettri to score the goals, especially since they did not replace Miku or Xisco Hernandez. There is a lack of creativity in the side as well, with the absence of a playmaker to create the chances for Chettri showing during the campaign. The likes of ATK made some extremely smart signings before the start of the season, which allowed them to push on and claim the title. Bengaluru, however, stood still while others went past them, and there is a need for a couple of attacking signings to be made if the Blues want to be a serious contender for the title next season.