We can approach games in different ways this season: Mumbai City FC’s Des Buckingham

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham feels his squad this season is better equipped to handle the challenges of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) as they have more depth and experience in the squad as compared to last year.

The Islanders are unbeaten after their first two matches of the 2022-23 season and take on defending league winners Jamshedpur FC in their third game in Mumbai on Saturday.

The 2020-21 champions have been strengthened by the arrival of Greg Stewart who will face his former club Jamshedpur FC for the first time since leaving the club at the end of last season.

Buckingham addressed the media in the pre-match press conference ahead of the match.

Here are the excerpts:

In the last match against Odisha FC, you played Rostyn Griffiths with Mehtab Singh at the back. If you choose to play with just one foreign defender will you pick Griffiths over Mourtada Fall?

I think if you looked at last year and the teams that were successful they all had the ability to play two foreign centre-backs if they had to whether from the start or later on to see games out. These are the teams that have finished in the top four.

That's why I brought in Rostyn (Griffiths). It's not like I brought Griffiths to start ahead of Fall. It adds some nice competition for Fall and also gives us a bit of security there. If anything would have happened to Mourtada last year, we would have been without a foreign centre-back, so it gives us a lot more flexibility not just in our back line but also allows us to approach games a lot different than what we did last year.

You played last Saturday and Jamshedpur FC have had an even longer gap. What impact do you think this will have on the football played in the Hero ISL?

I think it's great. We had six days between games whereas last year it was three if not two days sometimes. The extra time allows players to rest and recover. It allows us time on the training field to review and also have more time to plan and prepare for games. This coupled with the fact that players should be fitter and fresher, the fans should see a better quality product week in and week out because of the time we get.

Last season conceding goals was a problem for Mumbai City FC and even in the first game, you conceded three goals. Was there anything that you tweaked in the last match or it was more a case of players getting used to each other?

I think it's more the case of the latter. We have been able to retain the core group of our players who now understand how we want to play.

Even when we were 1-0 up in the last game, we threw (Jorge) Diaz on, and we threw Vikram (Partap Singh) on. We didn't want to defend. That's not our style. We want to attack all the time. But at the same time, we realised that if we want to be successful this year we need to make sure we don't let in as many goals. So last week was very pleasing that we didn't just score two but we were able to nullify a team like Odisha FC and keep a clean sheet. We now need to continue that in the rest of the season if we want to achieve what we do.

Jamshedpur FC conceded two late goals in their last match and you have been scoring a lot of goals late on in the match. How important will the final phase of the game be?

I hope the game is decided before that. We want to have a go from the start. The advantage of retaining the core group of players we have and the quality of our new recruits allows us to have different approaches. I think we have shown that in the last two games where we have gone out to try and win those matches. Depending on the situation our substitutes can have a very good impact from the bench be it to add to the goals on consolidate the result we have. We will try and go out to win the game from the first minute. If it takes us till the 94th minute to win it, so be it as long as we come away with the result that we want.

You have a possibility to go top of the Hero ISL table on Saturday. How does it affect the team?

I think in these early stages, teams are still finding their feet and if you read too much into things it won't make sense. It's more important for you to be there at the end than at the start. As long as we can continue performing and we can continue picking up results week in and week out we will be fine as that's the most important thing at the moment. We played two games, and we played okay. We can and need to get better as the season progresses but in terms of four points from two games, I am very happy. But it's now important that we sustain it throughout the 20 games.

You signed Greg Stewart from Jamshedpur FC. Do you think you have an advantage due to that as you haven't just strengthened your team but significantly weakened your opponent?

There are some tough opponents for us in the first three fixtures. We played Hyderabad FC who are the champions and Jamshedpur FC who are the League winners. Greg Stewart was one of our main foreign recruits. It's great for us and also for the Hero ISL that he has remained in the league. But they have replaced very well and they have got a new head coach. I have watched Aidy Boothroyd and his team, especially the England teams. He's had a lot of success and a wonderful career. They will surely miss Greg but they have spent the last nine days preparing for this game and with the quality of the coach and the quality of the players they have signed and being able to retain, it will be a very tough challenge for us but one we will be ready for.

Jamshedpur FC have played just one game so far in the Hero ISL and they fielded their developmental team in the Durand Cup. So do you have enough information on them and what style do you expect them to play on Saturday as compared to last season?

We don't know what we will get. Even if we have a good idea of what they have done, there is no guarantee they will do that during the game. So, a lot of our attention and focus is on us and how we prepare and how we want to play and how we want to play out of possession. That's what we have control of. We know what we want to do and what we can do. We prepare the players for what we think we may expect that is based on the Durand Cup, any pre-season games or even last week's game. But there's no guarantee there. So we spend some time but not a lot of time on it.

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