Our sit-back mentality after scoring the goal hurt us: BFC head coach Simon Grayson

Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson was upset with his team’s laidback defensive approach against Chennaiyin FC after scoring the opener, and highlighted that his side should’ve had a better attacking intent. The Blues drew their first away game of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season against 10-men Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Friday.

Grayson’s side came away with just one point despite scoring early on in the game through Roy Krishna - who got off the mark with his debut Hero ISL goal for BFC - only to be cancelled out by Prasanth K’s late injury-time equaliser in the first half, who also scored his first goal for KBFC.

Read: Spirited 10-man Chennaiyin FC hold rivals Bengaluru FC to 1-1 draw

The Englishman was unsatisfied with the way his side responded to 10-man Chennaiyin FC after goalkeeper Debjit Majumder got suspended for taking down Roy Krishna, and felt that his team should’ve done better with the possession of the ball.

The Blues’ head coach shared his thoughts about the match, the significance of Sunil Chhetri in the side, and a lot more in an official post-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from his press conference:

What are your first thoughts on the match? Does the scoreline signify the evening you’ve had?

I think we started the game really well, passed the ball really well, got the early goal, played with a real good tempo out of possession and in-possession, moved around well, looked the dominant and confident team. Then, the moment we scored the goal, we sort of went with a sit-back mentality which is what we shouldn’t have been doing. It was disappointing that we allowed them too many opportunities to get on the ball and play with it.

You got to do both sides of the game and without the possession, we didn’t do it well enough, didn’t stop them from playing (attacking-wise). I thought we defended well enough when the balls were coming inside the box, but then one moment of lack of concentration, literally 20 seconds before half-time, the play switches and they (Chennaiyin FC) are back in the game and it changes the mentality of everybody.

However, it should’ve been a better first half and second half. We did okay but we got to keep the ball better. We gave the ball away far too easily and then in the last ten minutes we didn’t ask enough questions of the opposition who had a centre-back in goal. We didn’t have a shot on target, we didn’t put enough crosses in the box, players were waiting for somebody else to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and go win the game. But someone in the team has to go and do that, and we didn’t have enough of them to do that in the last stages of the game.   

Do you think after quite some time the team was sort of in a confused state of mind to attack or to defend?

I think the mentality changed when we scored the goal. We started off with a real purpose in the game, we got on the ball, passed it, dominated the game and got the goal, but after that, we gave it away too cheaply. We had many touches which is why we didn’t move the ball quick enough and then we allowed Chennaiyin FC, who are a good team, to create a few opportunities. Then, probably, we got caught between defending too deep but not attacking quick enough with the possession of the ball.

Of course you know your strategy best, but the word out there is that Sunil Chhetri is not being utilised as much as he has been in the past. Do you think it can be a scenario that can cause a problem in the future?

He did well last week when we beat NorthEast (United FC). Tonight, there’s a lot of players who didn’t play to their capabilities tonight. Young Siva (Narayanan) deserved to be in the team because of his work ethic, pace, and he gives us something different. You need pace in your team and the sooner we sacrifice him to try and keep the ball better, the sooner he will become a bit more technical, a bit more experienced. It was a big game for everybody, so there wasn’t any sly on why Siva went off (subbed off).

You respect every player on what they’ve done in the game, especially Sunil. We’re trying to get the best within the framework of the team. It isn’t about individuals, it’s about the framework of the team and what we think works best for us.

Picking up on what you said about Chhetri, him playing as a midfielder in this system, what if he replaces Siva in the attacking position?

Well, he’s not playing like he’s a central midfielder, he’s playing as a number 10, and he’s always played like that. He’s never really been a striker, he might have played on his own, but when he’s played with a striker (behind a striker), he drifts around anywhere and that’s what we’re asking him to do in this formation. We’re not asking him to play in midfield, chasing everybody back.

We want him to get into little pockets, little areas where we can use his technique to find the pass and feed the strikers where Roy (Krishna) and Siva (Narayanan) are. That’s what we started with and we changed it at half time and Sunil went a little further up the pitch. It’s different players, different options, different systems, different occasions, and different aspects of the game.

Do you think there’s a difference in the work output of Sunil Chhetri given that he’s 38?     

I think Sunil’s stats will suggest that he works as hard as anybody else in the team. You probably don’t notice it because you don’t see him making loads and loads of 40-50 yards runs because that position (number 10) isn’t allowing him to do that. But he’s working hard out of possession to stop the opposition and he’s also working hard on the ball to try and create things as well. So, it’s a different type of game for him. He’s a fit 38-year-old but you have got to neutralise him in a position that you think can end the hunt (of goals) for the team.

Playing him centrally is an ideal position, you can play him off the left-hand side but he ends up chasing full-backs. If you play him as a centre-forward, you leave either of Roy or Siva out but then both have done well. So, we’ve found a system which has worked well in the pre-season and ultimately it’ll work in the league as well. We’re more than happy with that apart from our performance tonight.

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