East Bengal FC season review: A rocky ride with a bittersweet ending
East Bengal FC have struggled at having a consistent squad ever since they have arrived in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) in the 2020-21 season. After a torrid season, they brought in the much renowned Stephen Constantine to replace Mario Rivera. A new head coach, a new staff, and a new set of players bore the new look East Bengal FC. The side also saw a change in the dugout for the third time in three years, only to witness another dissatisfying season.
Led by Cleiton Silva in attack, the Torchbearers showed signs of hope and put up spirited performances on several occasions, but failed to capitalise on the situations when they mattered the most. Youngsters like Naorem Mahesh Singh and Lalchungnunga put up some promising performances, but they failed to ignite as a team and grind some positive results.
In the end, there was negligible improvement on the side performance-wise and it was a case of the same old East Bengal FC of the last two seasons.
Played: 20; Wins: 6 Draw: 1 Losses: 13; Goal For: 22; Goal Against: 38; Points: 19
East Bengal FC had a rocky start to their Hero ISL campaign after losing 3-1 to Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi, on the opening day of the season. The following result wasn’t pleasing either as they lost to FC Goa by a stoppage-time goal at home. However, Constantine’s men showed a spirited comeback in the third game, earning their first win of the season against NorthEast United FC.
The Kolkata-based club suffered back-to-back defeats against arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan and Chennaiyin FC, before securing their second win of the season against Bengaluru FC. The campaign for the Red and Gold Brigade consisted of highs and perhaps, a little bit more lows. And it was no different in the latter stages of the season.
East Bengal FC ended their season with the most wins (six), the highest-ever points tally in a Hero ISL season (19), and also the most defeats (13) they suffered in a single Hero ISL campaign.
The campaign was statistically East Bengal FC’s best-ever season when it comes to the points tally and the number of wins. The Red and Gold Brigade recorded their highest win tally in a single Hero ISL season with six wins, five more than the previous season and three more than their previous best. These wins include a victory over League Shield Winners’ Mumbai City FC and a double over Hero ISL runners-up Bengaluru FC. This was the first time in three ISL seasons they had beaten anyone twice in the same season.
𝐁𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐒𝐢𝐥𝐯𝐚 😎🥵#OFCEBFC #HeroISL #LetsFootball #EastBengalFC #CleitonSilva | @eastbengal_fc pic.twitter.com/hwDmv7fi5Z— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 7, 2023
Wins against the heavyweights prove that this team had something more to offer, but continuous patterns of inconsistency led them to finishing at the bottom half of the table, three seasons running.
If most wins and highest-points tally were the biggest positives for East Bengal FC, then most losses and most goals conceded were the biggest negatives for them this season. Constantine’s side suffered a whopping 13 defeats out of 20 games, which is even worse than their previous season’s tally where they finished at the rock-bottom of the table with 11 losses. The inability to soak pressure and not finding the perfect balance within the squad were one of the main reasons.
For proof of East Bengal FC's plight, look no further than the stats. They have lost 11 points from the winning position. The Constantine-coached side has shipped 38 goals, the highest number of goals they have conceded in a single Hero ISL season.
Cleiton was one player whose standard stayed the same throughout the season, when many around him failed to keep their performances going. The Brazilian was always on target for the Torchbearers and looked like a world-class player every time he stepped onto the pitch for them. He helped to get them so many results and points in the Hero ISL and kept entertaining the fans in whatever way he could.
The 36-year-old finished second in the Golden Boot race behind Diego Mauricio with 12 goals and one assist in 20 appearances, creating a personal best for himself in the Hero ISL.
Best Young Player
Naorem Mahesh Singh
Mahesh was the brightest spark for East Bengal FC down the left flank. He was full of energy, carried the ball vigorously, made some good decisions, and remained the shining light for the Torchbearers through and through.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a fine breakthrough season for the Red and Gold Brigade, scoring two goals and registering seven assists in 19 outings for Constantine’s side. The pacey winger finished on top of the assists chart among Indians and in the third position overall. He provided 59 crosses and created 27 chances. His stunning performances in the Hero ISL helped him earn a first call-up to the Indian National Team.
What do they need for next season?
Stability. This is what East Bengal FC have lacked the most since joining the Hero ISL. The likes of Lalchungnunga, Mahesh, Kamaljit Singh, Sarthak Golui, Mobashir Rahman, and VP Suhair have signed multi-year deals with the club, a very positive sign for the side going forward. Their star player Cleiton is all set to continue with the club for one more year. Now, they need to build the rest of the squad around these players and form a team which could fight with the heavyweights in the competition. A central defensive midfielder is also the need of the hour to mend their leaky defence.