ISL: May bench myself because the team has played better without me, says Mumbai City's coach Anelka

When asked whether he would, just like Roberto Carlos this year and Marco Materazzi last year, concentrate more on coaching and let the players take charge on the field, Anelka said that he 'thinks he will do it.'

Pulasta Dhar November 26, 2015 10:58:35 IST
ISL: May bench myself because the team has played better without me, says Mumbai City's coach Anelka

Mumbai City FC have conceded 14 and scored just one when their player-manager Nicolas Anelka has started. It's a dismal run, the nadir of which was the 7-0 mauling they received in Goa. Until now, he has been adamant that the squad (and formation) that he played in these three games is the best possible with the resources at his disposal. In the pre-match conference before facing the Kerala Blasters however, he admitted that it could be his presence on the pitch that is disrupting the team.

When asked whether he would, just like Roberto Carlos this year and Marco Materazzi last year, concentrate more on coaching and let the players take charge on the field, Anelka said that he 'thinks he will do it.'

ISL May bench myself because the team has played better without me says Mumbai Citys coach Anelka

Anelka said he may bench himself. ISL

"If you look at the situations — when I've played and not played, we've been better when I've not played — so I may put myself on the bench. I will be trying to concentrate on coaching," the Frenchman said.

But he also explained that Carlos and Materazzi may have had a slightly easier job than him: "It's different because I'm playing striker and am the manager — while (Carlos and Materazzi) are playing as defenders. It's easier because you see everything from the back and concentrate only on defending. When you're playing striker, it's very hard because you need to look at creating and scoring in attack and think — what about defence? I think it's harder when you are marquee player, coach and striker than when you are a defender and a manager. But you are right, I will maybe concentrate and focus on coaching right now," Anelka said.

Mumbai and Kerala are in 7th and 8th place respectively — only a point separates the two and their clash is a do-or-die battle. The magic number to qualify for the Indian Super League semifinals is 20 — so both teams are mathematically still in it, but only three wins out of three will take them above 4th placed Chennaiyin FC.

Anelka also seemed to have softened his stance on the formation he plays. Since the Goa defeat, he's been adamant that a tactical change has always backfired for his side, and he was convinced the way forward was not changing the system. Against Kerala though, he said he may try it again, but will switch in-game to his preferred style if it doesn't work.

Mumbai City's recent defeat can be explained by two factors: First, the role of Sunil Chhetri in the side. Where he plays is extremely important and even though Anelka made it clear that Selim Benachour, 'a better player than Chhetri at No 10', played against NorthEast United in their loss in Guwahati, there has been a clamour to play India's captain in a central role, from where he scored half a dozen goals.

But with Anelka playing, both players seem to be confused about movement up front. The swapping of wings and interchanging in striking roles hasn't helped. Mumbai's three wins in a row earlier in the season came with a consistent lineup, with Chhetri running the show as second striker.

The other is the team's character. The team has been on shaky ground since assistant manager Oscar Bruzon left — and there is no authoritative presence in the technical box with Anelka playing on the pitch. Anelka openly stated that none of the players 'deserved to wear the Mumbai City jersey' after the Goa loss — but maybe with him focussing on managing more and playing less, things will change.

Mumbai may respond against a side that is struggling even more than they are — and if it works, it may give them the impetus to win three in a row and make the semifinals.

It's improbable, but not impossible.

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