ISL 2021-22: We need to be in the top four, says Chennaiyin FC coach Bandovic

Bozidar Bandovic comes into the ISL after an impressive stint with Thailand’s Buriram United, where he took the club to unprecedented heights.

Bozidar Bandovic is ready for the new assignment.   -  Special Arrangement

New Chennaiyin FC coach Bozidar Bandovic hopes he can provide the right framework for the club to fix its troubles from the previous Indian Super League (ISL) campaign. “The club needs to always be on top. We need to be in the top four. For me, it’s not important who will score the goals. It’s important that the team wins and to score more goals than the opponent and I believe this will be better this year,” said Bandovic.

Chennaiyin hit the reset button earlier this year when it parted ways with Csaba Laszlo after an underwhelming season - when the club finished seventh.

Bandovic comes into the ISL after an impressive stint with Thailand’s Buriram United, where he took the club to unprecedented heights in the country's top division league. Bandovic transformed Buriram into a winning side, when he took over mid-way into the 2017 season and led the team to back-to-back league titles, including a record points haul of 87 in the 2018 season.

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The Chennaiyin camp touched down in Goa and will begin pre-season training from September 26 ahead of the new ISL season, which kicks off in November. Foreigners Vladimir Koman and Lukasz Gikiewicz are expected to arrive in India in the coming days.

While several ISL teams have already begun pre-season camps and are taking part in the Durand Cup and the AFC Cup, Bandovic is happy with the two-month period. The 52-year-old said, “As a coach, I don’t agree with a long pre-season, I think eight weeks are enough to make them run for 90 minutes and be refreshed at the same time. We start the work every day on zoom call. We start the training on [September] 26. I spoke to the club about 6-7 friendly games but we will inform you when we will complete all the dates because it’s a difficult situation, we need to see which teams are free and when it’s good for them and us to play friendly matches.”

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Bandovic has been provided with the five foreign players he requested to the management. CFC also has added striker Jobby Justin and winger Nonthoinganba Meetei to its strong domestic core at the club. The recruitment of Debjit Majumder, Salam Ranjan Singh and Narayan Das provides sufficient squad depth.

Bandovic is pleased with the squad at his disposal. “I believe that we need to make coordination between the players and to make them play in their preferred position so that they can give their best for the team.”

Dhanpal Ganesh, whose reported loan move away from Chennaiyin broke down at the end of the transfer window, has not travelled with the squad to Goa. “Dhanpal has a contract with the club but he is not with us at the moment. Communication is ongoing between the player and the club,” said Bandovic.

Midfielder Anirudh Thapa, who will start his fifth full season with the club, is seen as an offensive asset to the team by Bandovic and wants the 23-year-old to improve his decision-making.

“Of course, he is a very good learner but he is only at the start [of his career]. He is fine but he needs to work more to improve more. This is the main thing he needs to keep his feet on the ground if he doesn’t fly, he will be the best. He is on a very good level but it’s just a start. We will work on both the defensive and offensive parts. He’s got quality and I am here to support him,” he said.

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