Frenchman Nicolas Anelka’s entry as player-manager for Mumbai City FC was seen as an interesting plot twist in the run-up to the second edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). Three games in and the results have not matched the hype. On Friday, Mumbai slumped to a 0-2 loss at the hands of Chennaiyin FC, making it their third game without a win.
Ahead of the season, Anelka had pronounced that he was not ready to become a full-time manager. In two of their three games so far, Anelka has preferred to opt out of playing in the line-up twice, including the game on Friday.
Anelka, who had previously also been the player-manager of the Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua, has struggled to find the right combination with his side. So far, the team has conceded five goals and scored only once.
Ahead of the tournament, there was keen interest to see Anelka combining with India captain Sunil Chhetri up front. Even as Chhetri made his ISL debut against Chennaiyin, Anelka preferred to stay on the sidelines.
His silent treatment with the media has not helped matters. Players have also admitted that the former Chelsea player is reserved.
There is even speculation that Andre Moritz returned home after a disagreement with Anelka.
Moritz’s departure has left a gaping hole in the midfield. A goof-up by medio Pratesh Shirodkar cost Mumbai the game, after his miss-hit pass found itself in the path of Chennaiyin’s marquee player Elano right outside the penalty box, who in turn passed it past the goalie to Mendoza Valencia. Six minutes later, Mendoza would score another to finish-off the contest.
Assistant coach Oscar Bruzon admitted, that there are certain aspects that the team is taking lightly.
“Our performance in this game was the worst. With only one goal in three games, there is certainly a lot that can be changed,” Bruzon said.
Mumbai play their next four games at home. The onus will be on them to make home advantage count. It might just help if Anelka joins in.