Injuries, lack of creativity and subdued full-backs: What's ailing Bengaluru FC?
It has been downhill for Bengaluru FC since their opening game of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season. The Blues opened their campaign with a hard-fought victory against NorthEast United FC, bagging the three points and a clean sheet against the Highlanders.
Since that win, Simon Grayson’s side have struggled to maintain the momentum, claiming just a point in three games. BFC were held by 10-man Chennaiyin FC, followed by two 0-1 defeats to Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC. They are currently languishing in the bottom half of the table after securing just four points in as many games. And this is their joint-worst start after four matches in Hero ISL history. The Blues next face East Bengal FC at home and will look to return to winning ways.
Absence of foreign personnel
While Bengaluru FC boast one of the best squads on paper in the Hero ISL, they have not had their foreign players fully available. Forward Prince Ibara has not featured so far this season due to an injury. while midfielder Javier Hernandez started off the bench in the initial matches due to lack of fitness and missed the game against Odisha FC due to personal reasons. Roy Krishna was also forced to sit out of the fixture against Hyderabad FC due to an injury. Former Bengaluru FC midfielder and expert Erik Paartalu believes the absence of their attacking foreign players has affected the team.
"For BFC, the most important thing at the moment would be having a full squad available,” the Australian said.
“They missed Roy Krishna the week before and Javi Hernandez due to personal reasons. Prince Ibara has not been available yet. To not have your full contingent of foreign players on the pitch has hurt them. The quicker they can do that, they are going to have a better chance to cause a problem to other teams,” he added.
Lack of goals
While Bengaluru FC have not shipped too many goals so far, their attack has been a major concern. So far, Bengaluru have only netted twice in four matches this season, the second fewest in Hero ISL this season after NorthEast United FC. The Blues have registered just seven shots on target. Overall across four matches, BFC have tallied seven shots on target – the fewest by any team in the league this season.
Paartalu believes the absence of key foreign players in offence has forced head coach Simon Grayson to field two foreign centre-backs in Alan Costa and Aleksandar Jovanovic. And he said the Blues are yet to find their best eleven.
“The way they have been playing, they have been a bit more direct under Grayson,” Paartalu explained. “The likes of Sivasakthi (Narayanan) are trying to run into channels and get the ball into the box. I don’t think he has settled on a formation yet. And because of the unavailability of his foreign players in attack, he’s decided to go with two foreign defenders in that back three. That could be a problem for them. They have been decent in defence and they clear their lines,” he continued.
Need for creativity
Paartalu further believes that the lack of creativity in the side is hampering their chances of getting the goals upfront, with the full-backs not getting too much involved in attack. Talismanic forward Sunil Chhetri has been playing in a more withdrawn role under Grayson with Narayanan and Krishna upfront. The former BFC midfielder said that Hernandez could be someone to fill the creative void for the Blues, but that BFC don’t have a like-for-like replacement for the Spaniard.
He said: "In their midfield, they need to have someone who is more creative. Hernandez fits that bill, but if he is not fit, who takes that spot? But when they play from back to front, the patterns are a little bit predictable. And you lose players like Sunil Chhetri (for this) and you don’t get him involved. You need to get the ball to his feet. But Grayson is trying everything at the moment to get everyone involved.
“I also think the arrival of the wing-backs is too late at times. In a 4-3-3, we were used to seeing (Naorem) Roshan making those overlapping runs and getting those crosses in, but at the moment, I don’t understand with the formation BFC are playing currently, how they are not getting the full-backs more involved and trying to help the attack. It’s a bit defensive at the moment and pragmatic. They need to change their style a bit and be more attack-minded. But they need Krishna and Hernandez on the pitch,” Paartalu concluded.
Although it is still early stages into the season, Bengaluru FC still have time to rectify the issues that have been surrounding them. And the sooner the Blues have a full-strength squad at their disposal, the better it will be for Grayson.