ISL 2022-23: Can Mumbai City become 'invincibles'? Head coach Des Buckingham answers
ISL 2022-23: Mumbai City has been unbeaten this season, as it stays atop the table. Meanwhile, as the side looks to become the first "invincible" side of the tournament, Des Buckingham has answered on the same.
Former champion Mumbai City (MCFC) is on a historic run that the 2022-23 Indian Super League (ISL) has never witnessed before, playing with clinical flair and flamboyance. With five games to go in the league stage, MCFC is still unbeaten and currently stretching the record for most wins in a row, having wrapped up its tenth on the trot with a 4-0 victory versus NorthEast United (NEUFC) last night. Fans and experts have already started to see them now on track to match the famous 'Invincibles' season that Arsenal managed during the 2003-04 English Premier League (EPL) season. Should it work to do that, it will be ISL's first club to remain unbeaten across the season.
With 45 goals in 15 games this season, MCFC is now only a goal behind the all-time league stage record of 46 goals. Its average of three goals per game is far ahead of the Arsenal team, which had averaged 1.92 throughout the season. "I want them to be Invincibles because they are playing beautiful and swift football this season, and I have not seen any other club in India play like that. I hope they remain unbeaten till the end. Fingers crossed," said a fan of the Islanders.
Much of MCFC's dominance has been built around its Indian players, notably the pacy duo of Lallianzuala Chhangte and Bipin Singh, who have scored eight and six goals, respectively. In all, MCFC has found 21 goals from their Indian players alone, a tally more than five other teams have managed with their entire squads.
After the NEUFC game, MCFC Head Coach Des Buckingham suggested that this drive has come from setting high standards. "I said to them that last week against Kerala, our first four shots were goals. So, the scoreline was 4-0. Against ATK Mohun Bagan [ATKMB] last week, the first six shots we had on goal in the opening 20 minutes resulted in one goal," he said.
"My message was unequivocal at halftime in both games and the same for the pre-match tonight - it's more important that we continue trying to do what we do from minute one through to 95 and we continue trying to do what we want to do regardless of the scoreline," added Buckingham.
To sustain this kind of dominance over a season, it is vital to have a steely defence. New signing Mehtab Singh has made the centre-back position his own. In contrast, goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa has risen rapidly after being their second-choice goalkeeper and now has seven clean sheets to his name, the most by any goalkeeper so far.
But as the chatter and expectations about an Invincibles season grow, the club's top goalscorer Jorge Diaz indicated that he and the team are focused on keeping up what the head coach wants of them. "As of now, we are unbeaten. Right now, the focus is on [the upcoming match], and after that, the focus will shift to the next match," he said.
From back to front, MCFC has shown that it will give nothing to its opponents. Should it stay unbeaten in its next contest versus Jamshedpur FC (FC) on January 27, it will have gone unbeaten in 16 games, which will be another all-time league record above ATKMB and FC Goa (FCG), which have managed 15 each in the last two seasons. Once that barrier is breached, there is no telling what heights this team could scale. If it keeps it up against defending champion Hyderabad FC (HFC) in the opening week of February, the Invincibles feat will not seem far away.