Mumbai City FC season review: A leaky back line, inconsistency and a failed title defence

Embarking on from their momentous feat of becoming the first-ever Hero ISL team to lift both the League Winners’ Shield as well as the Hero ISL title, Mumbai City FC found themselves on a roll at the start of the season under new head coach Des Buckingham. The Islanders were in fine form for the first seven games but failed to sustain the level of their performances and lost all composure towards the second half of the season, failing to make the top four and defend the title.

Record:

Pl: 20; W: 09; D: 04; L: 07

A side to be reckoned with, Buckingham’s men got off to a flying start, winning five of their first six games, with the only defeat coming against Hyderabad FC. However, their first encounter with Kerala Blasters FC in match 35 derailed their season. They were comprehensively beaten 3-0. Following that defeat, they went an additional six matches without a win which saw them drop down from the top of the table.

The seven-match winless run starting with the loss against Kerala Blasters FC saw them drop out of the League Winners' Shield race. One of the reasons they have dropped out of the top four over the course of the season has been their inability to pick up points after falling behind in a match. They have won only two points from losing positions this season, the joint-fewest in Hero ISL 2021-22 season along with the team at the bottom of the table, SC East Bengal.

Positives

Credit where it's due for Buckingham on building the team right from where former coach Sergio Lobera left off, optimising players to their utmost potential, developing and nurturing young Indian players like Mehtab Singh, Apuia, Vikram Singh.

Before receiving the huge blow from Kerala Blasters FC, the Islanders were blossoming during their four-game winning streak, triumphing over several heavyweights namely ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC, and Chennaiyin FC.

Negatives

Mumbai City FC faced seven defeats in their 20 games. Only in the league stages of the 2017-18 season have they faced more defeats (9) than this season. They have dropped 10 points from winning positions in Hero ISL 2021-22 and seven of those dropped points came in the seven-match winless run.

Best Player

While this might be debatable but Ahmed Jahouh leads the list for being the best Islander. The Morrocan was everywhere on the pitch, be it assists, goals, touches, tackles, or clearances. Jahouh tops the list for most assists for Mumbai City FC. While injuries may have kept him out of action towards the end of the season, Jahouh was the glue from the back of the pitch up till the final third.

Best Young Player

Vikram Partap Singh has shown his attacking flair under Buckingham and has been quite effective for his side. The 20-year-old netted thrice this season from 16 games and has converted his hunger into a productive output on the pitch. While still a long road ahead, Singh has the potential to be a fierce attacker and contribute goals for his side.

What they need for next season?

The Islanders have scored heaps of goals this season (35), the joint-most they have managed in the league stages of a single season. At the other end, they have also conceded 29 goals, the joint-most they have conceded in the league stages of a Hero ISL season. So, no matter the goals, there’s a sort of sloppiness during the play in the Buckingham-led side which needs to be resolved if they have to challenge for the honours.

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