There has been a lot of talk in the football analytics community over the last week about the differences in approach between tactical writers and analytical writers. I fancy myself as a bit of both, so, I thought I’d do a mixture of both. I'm going to use both stats and tactical analysis to hopefully identify the pattern of a game and try to predict the end result.
Tactical writing on Indian football is, usually, TERRIBLE. If you’re a journalist covering Indian football, stop writing about PIOs, mergers and infrastructure. WRITE ABOUT FOOTBALL.
Top Scorers & Expected Goals in the Hero Super Cup
Top Creators & Expected Assists in the Hero Super Cup
Talking Tactics - East Bengal
Mumbai City 1 – 2 East Bengal Emana 22’, Katsumi 26’, Al Amnah 73’
Aizawl 0-1 East Bengal Ralte 90+6’ (P)
East Bengal 1-0 Goa Dudu 78’
There is a lot of talk coming out of the East Bengal camp about how their “planning” has been better in the Super Cup when compared to the I-League. They have played an unchanged line up throughout the tournament and I do not expect them to tinker with a winning formula.
East Bengal have played a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 (depending on where you’d stick Mahmoud Al Amna) with the experienced Dudu leading the line. Al Amna can also work as pseudo-Target Man and is excellent in the air. You can expect East Bengal to hit balls down the line to the wide players Katsumi and Ralte, who will then be responsible for hitting early crosses into the box.
38% of their key passes have come from crosses and long balls. Katsumi, who has been involved in 35% of East Bengal’s chances, is very adept at this skill. However, he is relatively easy to defend, being a right footer on the left flank. If I was a defender (whoever plays for BFC won’t be), I’d show him onto his weaker foot, limiting his crossing ability, which would in turn kill much of what is good about the Kolkata giants.
The two central midfield players will sit deep and shield their defense. Aucho will be the out and out destroyer and the robust, Cavin Lobo will look to support and spread the ball. Lalram Chullova and Samad Ali Mallick have shown an interest in getting forward from the full back position. Samad, in particular, has really impressed in this tournament and is in with a chance of being in the team of the tournament. However, the defender is up against the in-form Indian and Bengaluru captain, Sunil Chettri. Keeping Chettri isolated from the rest of the team will be a big task for the full back.
Khalid Jamil and Subash Bhowmick have been very cautious in the tournament and do not trust their substitutes but that has not hurt them yet - all 3 of their games have been won in the last 20 minutes. They do not have a plan B, and only throw on subs for the last few minutes. It is still a very balanced team for the Red-and-Golds that can hurt Bengaluru on their day.
Bengaluru FC 2-1 Gokulam Kerala (Kisekka 33’, Miku 69’, Udanta 90+2’)
Bengaluru FC 3-1 NEROCA (Chettri 12’,55’,90+4’, Pritam 45+3’)
Mohun Baga 2-4 Bengaluru FC (Dicka 42’, 90+3’, Miku 62’, 65’, 88, Chettri 90+1’)
Bengaluru FC’s line-up is much harder to predict due to their injury crisis in defence. Rahul Bheke, Khabra and Juanan are doubts and Nishu is suspended leaving just John Johnson and Subhashish Bose as the recognized first team defenders. Bengaluru mixed up their tactics the last time they played a final and that didn’t go according to plan. So, I expect them to wrap their defenders in cotton and most likely play a 4-2-3-1, Spanish influenced system. But if the defenders don’t recover in time, we will see a 3-4-3 system with Erik Paartalu filling in at CB and Udanta dropping into the right wing back role with Boithang on the other side.
Whichever the formation, BFC will focus on keeping the ball on the ground and playing patient football. Interestingly, Albert Roca always starts Boithang Haokip in the big games. The young Indian midfielder provides more energy than Toni Dovale but has a much more limited passing range.
Boithang is an excellent case study for other players on Hao-to-kip your place for the big game.
(Sorry, couldn't resist)
Victor Perez has completed more passes than anybody else in the tournament but has been rather disappointing in midfield. Toni Dovale is very similar to Perez in this aspect, and the two do not provide enough cover to Erik Paartalu and the center-halves. Therefore, Boithang and/or Lenny Rodrigues are almost a shoe-ins to start the game.
Another worry for Bengaluru is the forward Miku. The most complete forward in India, Miku can do a little of everything but his work rate has significantly dropped in this tournament. In the Hero ISL, Miku’s hunger for goals meant that he was much more dynamic with his movement. In the Super Cup, the Venezuelan hitman has stayed central and worked as a pivot for Udanta and Chettri, evidenced by the excessive number of flicks he has tried.
To me, a player attempting many flicks is one who’s not willing to expend energy for the team. It looks great but is, fundamentally, lazy. How much of this is down to 4pm kick-offs and how much to having his head turned remains to be seen.
Whether or not the Bengaluru defenders are fit, the key battle for both teams will be on their respective left flanks. Sunil Chettri vs Samad and Yusa Katsumi against BFC’s right sided defender. Defending well against Yusa Katsumi will be key and it remains to be seen if Udanta is up to the task. He surely has the pace to get up and down, but can he do the defensive side of the job? Harmanjot Khabra, the other *injured* option, will also struggle against the Japanese midfielder. Khabra is always an option in midfield but his tendency to commit fouls and his general ability in the defensive third leave much to be desired.
Given BFC’s injury crisis, I think this game is much closer than it would seem. A full strength BFC would easily beat East Bengal, but this is not a full strength BFC. Having said that, I still think Bengaluru are still favorites for the trophy.