We’re now seeing consistency to what we do: Mumbai City FC head coach Buckingham

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham was pleased with how consistently his team have been executing their plans as The Islanders beat Bengaluru FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai, on Thursday. Jorge Diaz, Lalengmawia Ralte, Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte were on target as MCFC registered yet another dominant win.

The result sees Buckingham’s side move up to second place, just one point behind leaders Hyderabad FC. Buckingham was delighted with the result and the performance against BFC and the Englishman heaped praise on his squad as they extended their unbeaten run this season.

Here are the excerpts from Buckingham’s post-match press conference:

Six goals in the last game, four in this game. Do you think that Mumbai City FC can outscore any opposition in this league?

I'm happy with the result and the performance. It’s about trying to get better in every game and we’ve shown different ways that we can play. To have four goals is very good. But that won’t be the case every week and we won’t get carried away with results and performances. We go to Guwahati in eight days and we got to take it one game at a time. And the players that we have are very humble and grounded. Overall, I am very happy. And the clean sheet as well, which is the third of the season.

Eight games unbeaten. How do you sum up the start that you have had?

I keep coming back to the AFC Champions League, our approach and how important it was to our team and club. We have had a very small turnover of players. We’ve changed four foreing players. Sanjeev (Stalin) and Bhaskar (Roy) are the other domestic players that we brought in. To retain that core and to have 14 months of working with this group, they’re very clever in what we do and how we do it. What we are trying to see now is the consistency to what we do and how we do it.

That’s the pleasing thing for me. The Durand Cup 2022, we wanted to be as successful as we could and we made the final. We couldn’t quite get the trophy, but we also used that competition to make sure that we start the Hero ISL season as well as we could. Looking back across at what we planned and what we wanted, we certainly achieved that. It’s important that we consolidate it (on this unbeaten run) and we move forward.

You made a flurry of substitutions towards the end. What was the rationale behind that?

When you look at our squad, we spoke about having depth this season and recruiting players to raise the quality of our overall squad. We’ve got two players now for every position and I’ve had to play either one of them because of how they complement each other and the quality they have. The players that start the game, if they perform, there’s a good chance for them to stay in the lineup. But, at the same time if they don’t or if there’s an opportunity to give the other players some minutes, because they deserve to get on the field with the work that they have been doing in the background; it’s going to be a team game that gets us across the 20 league games. We certainly saw that in the six games before and one tonight. It’s not only about how you start the game, but also how you play the game. It’s about how you finish and that’s been extremely pleasing to see.

Four goals from four different goalscorers. How much does it please you?

To add to the last game, we had six different goalscorers. It’s nice. I spoke about it last year where we had Igor Angulo and when he stopped scoring, the team wasn’t able to score. We have been creating opportunities from different areas to allow us to win the game and perform. We have recruited players to play the style that we have wanted and that started back 12 months ago in January. By doing the work that has been done on and off the field, the development of these players, the development of our playing style; we are starting to be able to open up teams and play in different ways that allow goals to come from different ideas; which makes us unpredictable.

If teams try to stop us doing one thing, we have got something else. That’s the pleasing thing for me and we’ve had three Indian goalscorers on the scoresheet tonight. We spoke about being the club that wants to develop, recruit and have the best young Indian players here at Mumbai City FC and they get a chance to do that. But it’s also excellent seeing our Indian players and our six foreign players developing as individuals and as a team.

You have a strong midfield. Does their ability to win back the ball and create chances please you as a coach?

Yes. When we talk about how we want to play, most people go to us with the ball. The game style that we have is not just what we do with the ball, but for periods of the game, whether it’s 30 percent or 50 percent, we don’t have it. We need to position ourselves as well as we can and we want to be a team that presses and wins the ball high up the field when we can. Because if we do that, we will be able to create chances and get to the opposition’s goal quickly.

With the players that we have, hopefully, we can capitalise on that. For the players to do that, they need to be as fit as they can be and try to do that for 90 minutes. But they have to be smart, because they can’t do that for a full 90 minutes and need to adapt to the situation when it arises. They go, and they go together. We saw that towards the end of the first half and in large periods of the second half. And not only do we create opportunities, but win the ball back, and then we can play our game.

Indian forwards have been criticised for lack of goals over the season, but in Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte, you have got two Indian forwards who have been on a great run. How good is that for the team and Indian football too?

We have Bipin, Chhangte and Vikram (Partap Singh), they fit the player profiles that allow us to play that way. Once we’ve finalised the player profiles, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, where we delve deep into the training, and work with them. There’s a lot of work that has gone in behind the scenes with them, and they do a lot themselves. We want to help them and try to understand how we want them to play. Sometimes, it’s about positioning ourselves to get opportunities and sometimes positioning themselves to create opportunities for others. What we are starting to see now is that our wide players have developed great understanding of their own, and understanding the link up play with the players around them, which is very important to create opportunities for them and for others.

A word on the fans and the atmosphere?

I couldn’t hear a thing during the broadcast interview and I tried to pass on messages to the field in certain parts of the game and the messages could not be heard, which is wonderful. This is the second home game that has been a sellout. It was a midweek game as well, but for the fans to turn up and cheer us and hopefully, they would be happy with the 4-0 result. It’s wonderful for this club and what we want to build. I’ve spoken about the atmosphere especially since the stadium is small compared to others.

But the stands in the stadium itself bring the fans a lot closer to the pitch, which offers a different experience. I think that anyone who does come here, be it home or away fans, they’ve had the opportunity to experience that. The last two games have been special. Bipin has also become the player with the most appearances for the club, so that’s another wonderful achievement for him to add to becoming the all-time leading goalscorer last week.

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