While the focus has been on Marcos De La Espada Jimenez, it is Jaime Santos’ form which has hurt East Bengal the most…
The New Year has started with three consecutive defeats against Churchill Brothers, Gokulam Kerala FC and arch-rivals Mohun Bagan. In the aftermath of the derby defeat, Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez left the club citing personal reasons.
The Red and Golds did make a brief comeback when they defeated reigning champions Chennai City FC 2-0. However, against Arrows, the same issues resurfaced to haunt the side.
The Kolkata giants created a total of 24 chances but failed to find the back of the net even once.
Goal-scoring has been a big worry for the Red and Golds since the beginning of the season. It must be noted that they have only managed to score 12 in their nine I-League games.
The club had Enrique Esqueda and Jobby Justin last season and the strike duo scored 21 goals amongst them. Justin decided to join ATK while Esqueda wasn’t retained, a decision which was taken by Menendez.
Instead Spaniard Marcos De La Espada Jimenez was brought in. Jimenez isn’t one of the most prolific strikers but still has managed five goals to his name. Instead, he is a striker who depends on the service provided to him by his team-mates. In fact, Menendez mentioned it on numerous occasions as well.
After the win against NEROCA FC, the Spanish coach stated, “Marcos is not very fast but he has a special ability that is very good for the I-League. He is very good in duels. He coordinates well with the other attacking players like Jaime (Santos) or Juan Mera. He shields the centre-backs very well and creates space for other attacking players. He is not a player who is spectacular to watch but he is a very good number nine.”
Menendez had hoped that Marcos would gel well with Jaime Santos upfront and would recreate the magic of Esqueda and Jobby. But Santos too has been sub par this season. In fact, he was suspended for two games after a spat with ball boys!
Jimenez has received a lot of flak throughout the season from the club fans. He even had a fallout with supporters in their last match against Indian Arrows.
In reality, though, it is Santos’ form which has hurt East Bengal the most and not Jimenez. Nor has Juan Mera been at his best either.
Another aspect which has hurt East Bengal this season is their porous defence. Menendez chose not to extend the contract of Johnny Acosta and instead roped in Marti Crespi from Delhi Dynamos.
Crespi had a poor campaign with Dynamos and anuone who followed the Indian Super League (ISL) would attest that he was never the ideal replacement for Acosta.
With Borja Gomez injured since the beginning of the I-League and Marti Crespi’s further drop in form, the East Bengal backline has been shaky. Crespi being an overseas recruit has added zero value to this squad. In fact, the only match in which the team kept a clean sheet was when Marti Crespi did not play due to suspension!
With the January transfer window gone, it seems East Bengal are stuck with out of form foreign players in their squad and it is highly unlikely that the 16-year long wait for the I-League would end this season. A lot of the blame should fall on Menendez’s shoulders for picking the wrong personnel. The club also should have not given complete power to the Spanish coach as he has made unecessary changes to a well settled team.