Bengaluru FC season review: No silverware but a silver lining nonetheless
If there was ever someone to be associated with the term “never give up," it would quite well be Bengaluru FC. After a slow start to the league campaign in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23, the Blues made a comeback for ages since the turn of the year, going unbeaten for 10 games, ensuring a place in the top four of the league standings, and making it all the way to the final.
The Blues looked a completely different team after a dismal end to 2022, but they never gave up, creating a strong mentality and uniting the squad together. The head coach, Simon Grayson, the goalkeeper, and captain, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, were instrumental in ensuring that the team did not lose hope. So much so that Bengaluru FC became the first team to inflict a defeat on Mumbai City FC (the eventual League Shield winners).
Bengaluru FC may have fallen short of winning the Hero ISL title for the second time in their history but the team's grit and fighting spirit on display this season would give the Bengaluru FC fans hope for a bright future.
Pl: 24 W: 13 D: 1 L: 10
After a scrappy win in the first match against NorthEast United FC, it was a stop-start season for Simon Grayson’s side who managed just 10 points until December 2022. After the turn of the new year, they went on an eight game winning streak in the league to finish as high as fourth in the Hero ISL points table.
With 11 wins in the league stage and 34 points, the revival helped the Blues qualify for the playoffs and make it all the way to the final of the Hero ISL where they fell short of winning the title and succumbed to defeat on penalties. They however got the better of arch-rivals Kerala Blasters FC and the League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC in the knocout matches.
One of the most important parts of Bengaluru FC’s revival was their rock solid defensive line, which collected four clean sheets during the eight-game unbeaten run and seven clean sheets in total throughout the league, making them the league's third best defensive team. Their strong mentality was the reason they could come out of difficult situation and put up performances that helped them qualify for the playoffs.
Another one of their major positives was youngster Sivasakthi Narayanan, who came through the ranks and was instrumental at the top with eight goal involvements while also bagging the Hero Emerging Player of the Season for his performance throughout the campaign.
The slow start to the season was the biggest negative of the season for the Blues. Simon Grayson will surely look into it before the start of the next season to help his team build on a strong foundation and lead the way. With Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna not getting any younger, Bengaluru FC will soon have to find alternatives up top to partner Sivsasakthi Narayanan.
Bengaluru FC made a smart midfield choice by picking up Spanish magician Javi Hernandez to bolster their squad. The 33-year-old, like his team, picked up form a bit late in the season and did not disappoint with his abilities in helping Bengaluru FC reach the heights that seemed tough during the season. The Spaniard was involved in 12 goals throughout the season, with seven goals and five assists to his name.
The Spaniard was a key part of the Bengaluru FC attack as he linked the attack with the defence and was a lethal weapon on counter-attacks. His passing range was vital as Grayson's side transition from defence to attack.
Best Young Player
The 21-year-old has been one of the most impressive young players of the season. The forward has been involved in almost every game for the Blues, playing a part in eight goals (six goals and two assists) alongside experienced campaigners in Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna, forming a lethal force in attack for his team.
Sivasakthi has been rewarded for his performances throughout the season with the Hero Emerging Player of the Season award. His pace and work rate would mean he is one of the first names on Bengaluru FC's team sheet in the near future.
What do they need next season?
Simon Grayson and his Bengaluru FC side will surely look to carry the winning momentum into the next season.
Grayson would be quite keen to build a strong foundation and start quick rather than a dismal and slow start. New additions to the team will certainly help the side strengthen, and the Blues will look for a more consistent goalscorer up front after a midfielder ended up being their top scorer with seven goals.