Back when Carles Cuadrat won the Indian Super League 2018-19 title with Bengaluru FC, his association with the Blues was deemed as a lasting one. But as they say, every good thing must come to an end. On Wednesday, the 52-year-old Spaniard parted ways with Bengaluru FC after spending four and a half years at the club, two and a half years as the head coach and two years as an assistant to former head coach Albert Roca.
The idea of Cuadrat's departure since the time Bengaluru FC won the title in ISL 5 would have easily been a standing joke. But note that his sacking hasn't come on the back of the Blues' subpar showings in the ISL 2020-21 season where they sit fifth in the tally after nine games with a mere 12 points; a whopping 10 points behind leaders Mumbai City FC. It has rather been a series of mirthless events since they won the title.
Bengaluru's decline after a successful campaign
Everyone in their righteous mind expected Bengaluru FC to dominate the bigger stage soon after they bagged their first-ever ISL crown. Contrary to the usual belief though, the club was knocked out of the 2019 Indian Super Cup by Chennaiyin FC in the quarter-final itself, and this is when the nuisance started. Club's top-scorer Miku, who was phenomenal in their title-winning season, started picking frequent injuries, and the decision of not renewing his stay is still haunting the Blues.
With the team now lacking a genuine goal-scorer, they finished third in the league stage of the 2019-20 ISL season before being knocked out of the title race in the semi-final by ATK. That season, the team showcased one of the best defensive displays, conceding a mere 13 goals in 18 matches. At the other end though, they had only notched 22 goals, with only bottom-placed Hyderbad FC and NorthEast United FC scoring fewer goals than them.
A season full of mistakes
Bengaluru FC approached the ISL 2020-21 season on a wrong note altogether, with their first and utmost mistake being letting go of their first-choice defenders Nishu Kumar and Albert Serran. Departure of two senior defenders and failing to fill the void meant the team was bound to struggle on the defensive front. The team has lost three of their nine league games so far and all those defeats have come on the trot for the first time in the league. Against ATK Mohun Bagan and Jamshedpur FC, the Blues failed to score a single goal in consecutive matches for the first time in their brief history in the competition.
Against Mumbai City FC, the team was clearly the second-best in almost every department, suffering a 3-1 thrashing. The Blues have always been a set-piece specialist, but they have been overly reliant on their opponent's mistake this season in particular, with nine of their 12 goals coming from dead-ball situations.
While Bengaluru FC are certainly not familiar with failure, the club also demands a certain style and approach within their sights, and Cuadrat was simply unable to provide it. That coupled with their new signings failing to hit the ground was ultimately the final roll of the dice. The hassle didn't end there though, as several players have played out of position this season, albeit due to the injury crisis. With Ashique Kuruniyan injured, the team was left with only Udanta Singh as a natural winger. Rahul Bheke, who is primarily a right-back, has been forced to play as a left-back or as a centre-back due to the limited options.
As stated, there have been several overriding factors in Cuadrat's sacking, and one could have easily seen it coming when the team virtually surrendered their weapons against Mumbai City FC. Cuadrat's tenure at Bengaluru FC ran its natural course to say the least, and despite the previous achievements, it was certainly the time to bid the final good-bye.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @bengalurufc