ISL 2020-21 news, SC East Bengal preview: Debuting with a rich legacy

ISL 2020: Backed by a passionate support base running into the millions, East Bengal will look to make the most of its footballing pedigree as its embarks on a quest for the ISL crown.

East Bengal has one of the biggest fan base in Indian football.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A club with a rich legacy of 100 years behind it, East Bengal is making its Indian Super League (ISL) debut this season, becoming the 11th club to join the country’s top league. Despite its late entry, East Bengal has managed to stitch together an impressive side under Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler. Backed by a passionate support base running into the millions, East Bengal will look to make the most of its footballing pedigree as it embarks on a quest for the ISL crown.

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Strengths

East Bengal has a good set of foreigners who bring a decent amount of English league experience, especially with the signing of Anthony Pilkington and Daniel Fox. Fowler’s presence will be a great motivation for a side that is looking to make an impression on debut. The Indian roster is also quite impressive with a good number of names having national team experience. The immense legacy of the crest and the red and gold colours will also provide enough stimulus to the side that had been very successful in the National Football League/I-League era (in terms of total wins). East Bengal under new owner Shree Cement managed a complete overhaul of the side that finished a distant second to champion Mohun Bagan in the previous edition of the I-League. With three National Football League titles under its belt, the team will be eager to erase the disappointment of never winning the upgrade – the I-League – in the last 16 years.

Pilkington has rich experience of playing across the divisions of England and is a Republic of Ireland international. - GETTY IMAGES

 

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Weaknesses

This is a completely new side under a new coach who got little time for a proper assessment of his squad. With the players having little time together, Fowler will have a tough time deciding on the playing XI initially, and the English coach began working out the possible combinations right after the squad started the truncated pre-season in Goa. With former India captain Renedy Singh as an assistant in Fowler’s coaching team, it is expected that the assessment of the Indian players will be done adequately. Some notable Indian names such as Jeje Lalpekhlua and Eugeneson Lyngdoh are making a comeback after prolonged injury layoffs, which will add to Fowler’s predicaments.

Jeje (left) missed whole of last season for Chennaiyin after a lengthy injury lay-off. Twitter @IndSuperLeague

 

Coach

Liverpool legend and former England striker Fowler has immense credentials as a player. While his coaching experience has been comparatively short, he impressed many during his stint with A-League side Brisbane Roar. For a club like East Bengal that boasts of an immense legacy, Fowler may turn out to be the right candidate who can understand and handle the importance of the crest and colours of the club. He has already started reaching out to East Bengal’s huge fan base through its social-media platforms to garner support and create the right atmosphere in the dressing room.

Robbie Fowler was appointed as SC East Bengal coach on a two-year deal. (File image)   -  Getty Images

 

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Captain

Fowler is yet to be convinced about a name who has the universal acceptance as a leader. He may rotate the armband among the seniors in the side.

Foreign contingent

There is a fair bit of English-league influence in the side when it comes to the foreigners. Fowler has consciously picked players who may be suited to his football philosophy. The six announced by East Bengal are Australian right-back Scott Neville and Welsh striker Aaron Amadi-Holloway, both of whom played under Fowler at Brisbane; Scottish defender Fox and Irish winger Pilkington from English league side Wigan Athletic; Congolese midfielder Jacques Maghoma from another English side, Birmingham City; and German central midfielder Matti Steinmann from A-League side Wellington Phoenix.

Best new signing

Pilkington has a rich experience of 15 years of playing for different English clubs and is a member of the Ireland national team. He is likely to be an important cog in Fowler’s game plan.

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Best possible formation

Fowler has indicated from the beginning that he prefers possession-based football. “My coaching philosophy is based on wanting to be competitive and playing the right way. We want to get the results and be a possession-based team,” Fowler had said in his first interaction with the media after arriving in India. The former England striker’s style may be influenced by a quick-passing system, but the choice of game plan will be a matter of horses for courses. With six Indians in the playing XI, a lot will depend on his contingent’s ability to adapt. With Brisbane, Fowler was often seen using a three-man defence. He could use that system with his five foreigners in the “spine” of the formation.

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