Chennaiyin FC season review: A lack of goals and flair characterised another disappointing campaign

Chennaiyin FC finished eighth in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season, averaging a point per game, pretty much the same as last season. Having failed to make the top four for a second consecutive season, things it was a disappointing campaign for the two-time Hero ISL champions.

Prior to the commencement of the 2021-22 season, things were looking brighter in the Marina Machans camp, having appointed a new manager in Bozidar Bandovic - not one of the biggest names around but a football manager who came with immense experience, and a new captain in Chennaiyin FC’s longest serving player - Anirudh Thapa, but reality had different plans for the Bandovic-led side.

Record

Pl: 20, W:5, D:5, L: 10

The Marina Machans started off the season with two back-to-back wins but failed to maintain the momentum as they won just two games in their next eight fixtures, meaning four of their five wins came in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, CFC bagged only one victory, and went on an 8-game winless run, a run that saw head coach Bandovic departing following the 0-5 loss to FC Goa.

The appointment of Syed Sabir Pasha as the interim coach couldn't have the desired impact as it was too late into the season, with the team not winning a single game under his guidance.

Having scored the fewest goals in the league (17), CFC struggled in attack, as they missed a predator in the final third. While they matched their goals scored tally for a second consecutive season, the Marina Machans conceded goals in heaps, more than twice the number of goals they scored.

Positives

Their first two wins against Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United FC provided momentum at the start of the season but there was little joy thereafter. While it might mean little,, but currently Chennaiyin FC are amongst the three teams to beat Hero ISL League stage winners Jamshedpur FC.

Negatives

The Marina Machans have not scored more than two goals a game even once this season and all the club’s five wins this season have been by a single goal margin. Their lack of goalscoring prowess coupled with their defence falling apart midway through the season were the reasons for the club’s struggles this season.

CFC have conceded 34 goals this season, the joint highest they have ever conceded in a Hero ISL season along with Hero ISL 2019-20. But the club managed to reach the final in Hero ISL 2019-20 season meaning they have conceded more goals in the league stage of Hero ISL 21-22 season than they have in any other season of Hero ISL. Their 5-0 loss to FC Goa was their heaviest defeat in Hero ISL history.

“In this league, if you concede goals, it is always difficult to come back. We have shown sometimes that despite conceding we have come back but the bigger margins are always difficult. There were some loopholes this year which we have now identified, and we have to strengthen that. Once we do that, we’ll be a better unit next year,” interim coach Syed Sabir Pasha said during the team’s pre-match press conference before their last game against ATK Mohun Bagan.

Best Player

Vladimir Koman was the only standout player for Chennaiyin FC, with four goal contributions that included three goals and one assist. Although Koman might have not hit his best form, he was the lone warrior in attack and had there been more attacking support, things would've been different for Chennaiyin FC.

Best Young Player

In a lacklustre season, Ninthoinganba Meetei showed promise with his technical ability. Although largely inconsistent, the midfielder can be groomed into a quality midfielder next season. He showed enough promise to be kept faith in for the upcoming season.

What they need next season?

Chennaiyin FC have work to do to restore themselves among the elite. A structural and a tactical overhaul might be the need of the hour. Keeping aside the positives, the Marina Machans have been far away from the standards they’ve set for themselves and will need to keep their best players and build a fresh squad around them next season.

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