Mohun Bagan have run away with the I-League and won it with four games to spare…
Not many Indian football aficionados considered Mohun Bagan as a strong favourite to win the I-League title in the 2019-20 season. The focus on Gokulam Kerala, who many hoped would step up and deliver after they assembled a strong squad and did well in pre-season. But Kibu Vicuna and co. were on a mission.
Mohun Bagan was another team who did well in what was a very-well organized pre-season calendar. Mohun Bagan brought Spanish head coach Kibu Vicuna on board in July and since then, meticulous planning and effort behind the scenes have helped the Mariners cruise to their second I-League title. The head coach has done an incredible job in his first year in Indian football.
Bagan’s biggest strength has been the stability in the team. They played around 25 matches before the I-League campaign kicked off. They took part in the Durand Cup, Sheikh Jamal Cup and the Calcutta Premier League and this helped Vicuna gain enough information about his players. The players gelled well and contributed to the team’s chemistry. Vicuna had gotten the first step right.
The former Osasuna youth coach was also not one to make wholesale changes to his matchday squads. With the help of pre-season fixtures and the first few I-League matches, he had identified a core group of players who could contribute to the team in a consistent manner and stuck with them throughout.
He made tweaks only when it was extremely necessary to do so and proved to be strict with his team selection. Case in point was Debjit Majumder’s exclusion from the lineup after a blunder against Churchill Brothers in December – he hasn’t played a single minute since. Before the campaign reached the halfway mark, Mohun Bagan had fully become Kibu Vicuna’s team.
The team also reaped the benefits of sticking to the same philosophy. He was proactive, not reactive. Even after a 4-2 defeat to Churchill Brothers in their second match of the season, Vicuna chose to believe in the process and stick to his tactics and refused to change his approach. This paid dividends and as a result, that defeat on December 8 remains the team’s only defeat in the campaign so far.
Vicuna has done a fantastic job in his first and possibly last season at Mohun Bagan. It’s a brilliant conclusion to what has been a remarkable season for the Mariners.