Chennaiyin FC boss John Gregory: Last season was a lesson, won't allow it to happen again

John Gregory said Chennaiyin FC's bottom of the table finish last season was a lesson, and that he won't allow something similar to happen this ISL season.

“I don't look at it [finishing 10th last season] as failure. It was a huge lesson for us. But we won't go back there again and allow it to happen," said Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory.   -  M. Vedhan

Chennaiyin FC boss John Gregory has vowed not to repeat the same mistakes from last season’s disastrous Indian Super League (ISL) campaign, where the side finished at the bottom of the table, as the new season rolls around.

In an attempt to ‘freshen things up’, a majority of the team’s overseas department faced the axe, including fan-favourite Raphael Augusto. Only Brazilian center-back Eli Sabia remains from last year. The team has also changed its accommodation base back to the Hyatt Regency, the hotel where it stayed between seasons 1 and 4.

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“Overseas players have to be the outstanding players you build your team around,” Gregory explained. “In the process of changing things, we had to make a few difficult decisions. Raphael was one of the difficult decisions we made.”

One of Gregory’s primary concerns was quickening the team’s style of play and he has looked to address that issue by roping in Brazilian Rafael Crivelaro. “Rafael is a totally different player. He plays two and three touches. He is more like Anirudh (Thapa). I think Thapa and Rafael will be a good partnership [in central midfield],” the coach said.

Each of last season’s ISL playoff teams had a representation in the top pile of the goal-scoring charts. Chennaiyin’s top-scorer was winger Thoi Singh with four strikes, while central forward Jeje Lalpekhlua, who played with a dodgy knee, struggled to make the desired impact. With no time frame set on Jeje’s return from his surgery, two proven forwards Nerijus Valskis and Andre Schembri have been drafted in.

“This was one of our biggest faults [lack of secondary striker]. I needed somebody who has been a regular goalscorer in his career and someone who can look after the ball when played upfront. In the pre-season (closed door friendlies in Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur), they (Valskis) and (Schembri) have scored nine goals between them,” said Gregory.

- Lacked ruthlessness -

The former Aston Villa manager wants his team to replicate the ruthless streak of ISL rival Bengaluru FC, which went on to claim the title last season after losing in the final the previous year.

“I don't look at it [finishing 10th last season] as failure. It was a huge lesson for us. But we won't go back there again and allow it to happen. We can't live in the memory of that [2017-18 ISL] trophy. You need to prove how good you are by going and winning that trophy [again]. BFC had the ruthlessness by topping the league and winning the final [in March]. We have to get that [ruthlessness] into our system,” he said.

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