Nicolas Anelka is a paradox. Be it the footballer or coach. Saturday saw him walk into the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as full-time coach, as Mumbai City FC faced Kerala Blasters in what turned out to be a closely-fought goalless draw .
Football managers come in all shapes and sizes. The approach can also vary. There are the animated ones like new Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and then there are serene ones such as Carlo Ancelotti. Anelka had played under the latter, and it might have rubbed off on him, for the Frenchman was as tranquil.
Anelka does not attend pre or post-match media conferences. It was no different here. The man in the firing line has been Oscar Bruzon. It didn’t appear any different during the 90 minutes or so either. For most part, Anelka was a silent observer, with hands tied behind the back.
The Frenchman barely moved a muscle when Gabriel Fernandes and Subash Singh combined well to almost score in the first half. Nor did he flinch when his midfielder Cristian Bustos escaped harsher punishment for a high boot on to the jaw of Blasters’ forward Chris Dagnall. So was the case when substitute Frederic Piquionne combined well with the excellent Sony Norde to hit the post late in the match.
In contrast, Bustos was a man who had dropped his wallet. The sedate show on the sidelines raises doubt if the Frenchman is really keen on the job. After all, this is Anelka we are talking about.
Bruzon, however, rejected any speculation. “No. We complement each other. He is cool and calm, while I’m animated,” said Bruzon. “Anelka is the head coach. There is no doubt about that. He is the man who takes the decision,” he said.
But it didn’t appear so. Throughout the course of the match, one could see Bruzon call out to players to ensure they stayed true to the plan. He was also the one who initiated the substitution on Saturday.
Perhaps in a giveaway, when a reporter questioned the tactical changes the team made, Bruzon said: “Football can be played in different ways. This is my style of play.”