Paul Masefield column: Constantine must find right balance for East Bengal FC
Stephen Constantine has a couple of headaches as the head coach of East Bengal FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 and there are no doubts or questions about that. You turn around and look at that opening game where they lost 3-1 to the Kerala Blasters FC, the balance of the side wasn't right. There were players that did underperform. I have no idea whether they were overawed by the situation in Kochi, but the main issue that he has got, is that on the right-hand side. I think we've seen that in the two games that they have played.
He started with Chariss Kyriakou at right-back in that opening fixture and Sumeet Passi as a right-wing back. It didn't really work for them as holes were exposed by Kerala Blasters FC. That is why they managed to get it sorted, and that's why we saw a couple of changes. Constantine has got some solid players in there, like Lalchungnunga, he's going to be an absolute asset for East Bengal moving forward.
If you put your hand on heart and your hand up, I think even Ivan Gonzalez hasn't played as well as we have seen him play in the Hero ISL. So defensively, I think Constantine got it a little bit wrong as the players didn't perform either. You cannot really blame the coach for that as he did make the changes. He was bold enough to do that, particularly in the opening game. The coach did it in the second game as well, where he made that change at half-time, bringing off Sumeet Passi from that right-back position.
The balance looked better in the second game when he went in with a flat back four. Gonzalez needs to just step up his game a little bit more, and Lalchungnunga was quite fantastic. Jerry Lalrinzuala came in the left-back position and added that little bit of solidity, as they had the issues in the game before, down the left-hand side. Constantine played Tuhin Das, who is a young boy and is going to come up and develop. The coach is just protecting him a little bit by dropping him off the left-back position in the second game at half-time and ensuring that Jerry Lalrinzuala, who has a bit of experience could shore things up.
Moving a little bit forward, Alex Lima can get on the ball slightly more and they need to feed it into him, who needs to start linking up a lot more with Cleiton Silva, whose tireless running is obviously a threat for opposition and a real quality for his side. He does have that ability to put people on their heels, turn them inside out.
They were very unlucky against FC Goa and could have gone on to win the game. I like the look of Jordan O’Doherty in the middle of the park, he was very influential who caused a few problems while making a very good debut.
So, all in all, there are plenty of positives to take from Constantine. And I think that the big thing that he needs to do is find the absolute, complete right balance for his team to be able to make sure that they can go out there and get all three points.
It's a big match against NorthEast United FC, probably their best opportunity to go and get full points early on in the season and once they get three points, they won't stop there. They will keep adding to the tally and start moving up the league. But Stephen Constantine has to pick square pegs in square holes, not square pegs in round holes or round holes in square pegs.
If you get to the right selection, they will get all three points against NorthEast United FC.