How Have the ISL Marquee Players Performed This Season – Part II

The Bottom Dwellers Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC

The first part of this series was all about the two best performing teams in the Indian Super League i.e. the champions Atletico De Kolkata and the runners up Kerala Blasters FC. In the second part, we will focus on the two worst performing teams i.e. Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC.

Despite having a team with three different special stars, Mumbai City FC couldn’t perform in the league and the reason was twofold. First was that the fitness of two of those three stars was in question and the second was that they couldn’t build a team around those stars.

Mumbai City FC is also a prime example of how a team that looks good on paper may not perform so well on the pitch.

The second team covered in this post is Northeast United FC. There final position in the table is far more understandable than that of Mumbai City FC. They didn’t have the kind of funds that the bigwigs of the league enjoyed.

Moreover, their focus was more on building a team than building a team around individual stars. That is a long term task and the results of that can’t be expected in a period of three months.

The players have to train with each other and play with each other so they can get an understanding of how each of them makes runs, positions himself, passes, or crosses.

As is natural, the performances of the ISL marquee players of these teams are similar to the performances of their teams or vice versa. Consider.

Mumbai City FC’s Fredrik Ljungberg

Fredrik Ljungberg, Mumbai City FC

Fredrik Ljungberg, Mumbai City FC

I doubt there was any ISL marquee player who deserved the moniker more than Fredrik Ljungberg or who let the fans down as much.

The ex-Invincible was very poor simply because he was injured for most of the time. In fact, Ljungberg only made 4 appearances in the league.

That doesn’t even amount to 4 games as that would mean playing 360 minutes. Ljungberg only played 169 minutes. In terms of minutes, that’s less than 2 games.

How is a man supposed to make a difference in less than 3 hours? Even dates ask more time than that to evaluate whether a man is worth it or not. Heck the Indian bureaucracy takes that much time to have their lunch!

So, I’m not even going to bother giving you the shrivelled fruits of my research into Ljungberg’s statistics. Whatever little difference the man made to his team, he made it through his reputation and not his footballing skills.

Expected Rating**: 8.5 / 10

Final Rating: 3 / 10

It’s no secret that I’m an Arsenal fan. Any Arsenal fan would have huge expectations from Ljungberg. I have to be honest at the same time though. Ljungberg is another one of those players who relied a lot on their pace. Ljungberg is also a special case because he was at his best when he had other players who could contribute with subtle interplays. Since he left Arsenal, he hasn’t had that kind of teammates which is why his performance has dropped. So, my expectations were mainly due to my memories of him.

Mumbai City FC’s Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka, Mumbai City FC

Nicolas Anelka, Mumbai City FC

Nicolas Anelka is another ex-Arsenal ISL marquee player who arrived in India amidst a lot of fanfare. He possibly has what could be the worst case of wanderlust in the world and it was no surprise to me when it was announced that Anelka will be coming to India.

Just to put his wanderlust into perspective, in a career spanning 18 years, Anelka has changed clubs a whopping 13 times! What’s even more interesting is that he is yet to call time on his career.

Anelka’s stint with Mumbai City FC was similar to a lot of his other stints with mediocre clubs especially in his twilight years. Before he came to Mumbai, Anelka was playing for West Bromwich Albion.

He played 12 games for them in a season and managed to score 2 goals, which is exactly how many he scored for Mumbai City FC in 7 games. While this may not make it seem like Anelka stood out in the league, he did in one manner.

Anelka’s Shots on Target percentage is the best in the league if you only consider players with more than 10 shots. His percentage is 84.6 and the closest anyone else has come is Ranti Martins of FC Goa who had 81.8. Both played the same number of games, so it’s a level playing field.

While Anelka’s shot percentage may be very good, he didn’t look that effective to me. After seeing his numbers and recalling the way he was playing, I believe I now know why.

Anelka’s biggest problem at Mumbai City FC was lack of supply. His teammates couldn’t supply him with the chances that he needed to score goals. The result was that he shuffled to the flanks and dropped into midfield.

I personally noted that he either came to defensive midfield position or went to the flanks. While I don’t have the passing numbers, I did see that he crossed a lot. Anelka’s crosses were particularly high. In fact, he and Iain Hume were the only two strikers in top 20 for crosses in the league.

Anelka has always been a pacey finisher. He has always needed someone to supply him with opportunities to finish to be effective in a game of football. He didn’t get it at Mumbai City FC, which is why he didn’t light up the league.

Expected Rating**: 8.5 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

Anelka is a big name and my expectations were based on that. Moreover, when I saw him last he still looked relatively fit to me. The management of Mumbai probably thought that he would combine well with Ljungberg which didn’t really work out because of Ljungberg’s absence.

Mumbai City FC’s Manuel Friedrich

Manuel Friedrich, Mumbai City FC

Manuel Friedrich, Mumbai City FC

Manuel Friedrich is a part of this list of ISL marquee players mainly because he has played for teams like Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, and the German national team. Each of those teams has been at the forefront of German football at one time or another in the last decade or so and if a player has turned out for them then he has to be good.

While it’s true that Friedrich has never been treated like a star, he does have consistency on his side. Statistically, Friedrich is another individual who doesn’t set the world alight. What he does, he does well, and he does it quietly.

He was a central defender for Mumbai City FC and did a very good job at the heart of it all. You might contradict with the fact that his team ended up conceding the most number of goals in the league at 21 but you would be forgetting that defence is a team’s assignment and not just one defender.

Friedrich has a penchant for scoring crucial goals when all hope is lost. He did it for Bayer, he did it for Dortmund, he did it for Mainz, and he did it for Mumbai. His goal came in the 75th minute against Atletico De Kolkata when Mumbai City FC needed to win to stay in contention.

While they didn’t make it in the end because they had left themselves too much to do, Friedrich did shine in that game against the team that would go on to become champions.

Expected Rating**: 5 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t know Friedrich before the ISL much. I had heard of him, of course, but that isn’t enough. This is why I’ve put my expected rating to a neutral of 5.

Northeast United FC’s Joan Capdevila

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Joan Capdevila is one of the true blue idols who come from humble beginnings but end up becoming stars. He started out in the 3rd division in Spain with his home town team called Tarrega.

He went on to represent Espanyol, Atletico De Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna, Villareal, Benfica (Portugal), and the Spain national team in the next 18 years. Such was the popularity of Capdevila in his home town that they named the stadium after him.

Capdevila is a popular figure in Spain. He made his name during his stint with Deportivo La Coruna. That is also where I first saw him. I still remember him bombing down the left flank to the worrying beats of the defenders’ hearts.

While Capdevila isn’t as physically fit now as he was in his prime, he was still stable and steady on the left side of Northeast United FC’s central defensive trio or duo depending on which way Ricki Herbert chose to deploy his team.

The fitness of Capdevila was a matter of concern as is the case with players of his age but he still managed to string together 12 appearances for the Highlanders. Essentially, while Capdevila didn’t stand out, he wasn’t fish out of water either. He was never a player with a lot of creativity but he did what he did consistently which is how he played for Northeast United. His stint in the ISL must be viewed in that light.

Expected Rating**: 7 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

I knew Capdevila from having watched him in the La Liga and Spain national team earlier so I wasn’t surprised with his steadiness. Moreover, I know he isn’t the most creative player so his lack of influence on the attacking side of the pitch didn’t surprise me either. All in all, his performance was exactly what I had expected.

What to Expect From the Next Analyses of ISL Marquee Players on ISL Blog

This analysis of ISL marquee players from the bottom dwellers didn’t break any new ground although Mumbai City FC’s plight did become more obvious. They were plagued by injuries to key players which is why they had such a poor showing this season. Similarly, Northeast United FC tried to do the best they could with their limited resources and I, for one, liked them for it.

In the next instalment, we’ll analyse the ISL marquee players of Chennaiyin FC which they had quite a few of. In fact, I believe them to be the most star studded team in the ISL. You’ll see what I mean. Stay tuned…

**Expected Rating: Rating I expected the player would get at the beginning of the league.

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