Happiness is... Have you seen those posts on social media? They are everywhere and they really do bring a smile to the faces of people. I like them as well. Last year I was not here but I saw the games from last season.
And the way we played really made me happy.
We not only said that we want to attack but also executed on the pitch. The play was impressive. That brought a smile to not only my face but also brought smiles to the faces of our home fans. Under Coach Lobera, we have a style of our own which has a lot of flair. We have created a brand of football that is not only great on the eyes but the players also love to be a part of as well. Winning is important but coach Lobera has always stressed on the fact of winning it while playing it our way and we were able to do it last season.
I just hope that I can do my job and help this team play even better than last season.
The first game
If you had come into our locker room after the game it seemed like we had lost. We were that disappointed. However, if you take a step back and look at it a few days after that you will see that we gained a very well earned point away from home, especially after looking at the game from yesterday where they beat ATK away.
First game of the season is always tricky. It becomes even more so when you are playing away against a quality side such as NorthEast United in front of 18,000 odd fans. It was a good test.
It was great to see the team come back after falling a goal behind early. We remained focussed. We kept our discipline and played our football. That helped us get the lead before the halftime whistle blew. We are an attacking team. That is the core of our being. And we wanted to build on the 2-1 lead. That is what we spoke of at halftime - that we need more goals.
The NorthEast boys, however, came off the blocks a lot quicker in the second half and scored the equaliser quite early on. That was a big swing in momentum and you have to praise them for the way they put the pressure on us in the second half.
Lessons were learnt
We have already seen the game three times more and there was a lot to be happy about. We were really good when it came to pressing them. We looked fit throughout the game.
The first big lesson from the game would be that we need to continue to play our brand of football from the first till the last whistle. We can’t afford a break in concentration. Not at this level. We controlled the first half and took the lead but came out a bit flat to begin the second.
That is where I as a coach need to do better as well - to get the players fired up right from the moment they enter the pitch for the second forty-five.
Our style is to build on the lead rather than defend it. That is the way we play and we need to play towards that more in the games to come.
Secondly, this game was a great reminder that no match in the ISL can be termed as ‘easy’. Just look at Mumbai’s first match. They were at home to Jamshedpur with a very good squad. They had their share of bad luck but in the end Jamshedpur were deserved winners.
It’s certainly not easy to win all three points every time we take to the field. We, however, have to really take each game as a final. That’s the mentality we are looking to have in the squad.
Thirdly, we have to be more detailed and that will surely come as the season goes. We need to be more precise in all aspects of our performance. We have tall and strong players who are good aerially. There are opportunities to be had from the set pieces. As a coach, I have to look and find ways how we can improve on those aspects.
New players showed off class
One of the biggest challenges coming into the season was the integration of the new players into the squad and after the first-game it gives me a bit of satisfaction having seen the new names play. There were four debutantes on Monday and I will share my opinion about each of them to our fans.
Mohammad Nawaz has been criticised for his mistake early on in the game. For a goalkeeper it’s a thankless job and people will remember the mistakes more than the brilliant saves. You have to remember that this was his first game and he is still a teenager.
I am happy that he did not let that moment affect him for the rest of the game. He came up big with two big saves and without him we might have been trouble. He has been impressive in pre-season. We are blessed to have three really good keepers and for us to trust him at such a young age just goes to show how highly we rate him.
Mourtada Fall was our rock at the back. He was good and in times to come I feel he will be even better. Again, with Mourtada you will have to remember that he missed our preseason camp in Spain. For him to start so late and give such a flawless performance at the back was really something.
Carlos Pena, meanwhile is the calm we needed at the back. For the majority of the game, we were in control and the presence of veterans such as Carlos helps us play our football better and with more precision. He knows when to make the runs and when to fall back. He has a lot of experience at the top level in Spain and the youngsters are sure to learn a lot from him.
And finally we come to Jackichand. Does he need an introduction from me? I don’t think so. He is one of the best wingers in Indian football in my opinion.
The important thing for us this season would be to make him believe that he is the best every single moment. He has so much talent and that was evident in the game.
I as a coach hope to instil even more belief in himself so that we can get the extra mile.
The next game
Chennaiyin are one tough side. You have to be tough if you have to win the league. This will not be easy but as I said earlier, no game in this league are easy.
They lost their first game and that means they will be hungrier than ever and we have to be ready. The camp is positive, vibrant and the players want to step out on the pitch as soon as possible. For me happiness is the first three points of the season. On Saturday, we will look to get that. I hope we will have your back as always.