The head coach of Bengaluru FC, Simon Grayson, was hugely disappointed by the lack of fighting spirit and character shown by his team during a crushing 4-0 defeat against Mumbai City FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 match at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai.
Grayson said the game was not lost due to tactics but due to the way it was handled by his players. He can only guide them as a head coach, and they have to take the important decisions on the pitch and perform like they do on the training pitch.
The 52-year-old also commented on why he benched Sunil Chhetri, saying he needs players to stay fresh. He expects to turn this around after almost a month without a victory for the Blues. He spoke in the official post match press conference of the Hero ISL.
What are your initial thoughts on the game? What do you have to say about some of the defensive errors that occurred?
I am hugely disappointed and frustrated. We have not been so great since the start of the season — not solid defensively, and we keep making stupid mistakes. We let the opposition get the first goal quite easily. It makes it very difficult, football is all about both 18-yard boxes. If you are ruthless in both boxes, the defensive duties and the top end of the pitch then you get enough chances.
We gave away too many free chances tonight in both halves (especially the second), but in the first half we played as well as we could. We created chances, and if a goal went in for 1-1 then it would have been a different ballgame.
Mumbai City FC are known as a team that is good in possession, but tonight their runners outran us and won the second ball, and that is not something you say about MCFC if you know about football deeply. All good teams in the world do that, we did not win the second ball and got what we deserved in the last 30 minutes of the game. The players did not show the right character and fight that you need to show on a successful team.
How do you address the character and fighting spirit of the players?
I can talk and give instructions as much as possible, but the performers need to speak. There isn’t one player in the dressing room who can tell me he deserves to play next week, but I have to manage this group of players.
Not enough players have played, and the younger players are trying to make it to the team in place of some experienced players. We need to work it out on the training pitch.
We said it last week after the game against East Bengal FC that only the staff and a group of players could change things around and that we had to get a break to stop the run of games at this moment in time. We do have good players, players who play with all their heart and soul, but in large parts of the game we are not consistent enough and get punished for stupid mistakes. The individuals have got to look after that.
Any quick word on why you benched Sunil Chhetri? Are there any fitness issues?
Sunil Chhetri is 38 years old. He trains every day and is always passionate about playing, sometimes we need to leave him out to freshen him up. He was left out against Hyderabad FC but came back refreshed, and he is fine with the decision.
He agrees to the point that none of the players are playing to their abilities, which we see during training on a daily basis, and you have to be mentally strong to take the training performances into match day. So, it was to try and find a different way and manage to get a result against a good team like Mumbai City FC tonight.
You began the game with a four man defensive line, later, it was changed to a 3-5-2. What was the thought behind it?
We felt that our defenders were getting moved around too much, and playing another one back there would have helped us to keep our shape solid. We played according to our system all the season, but when the third goal went in, it was not about the opposition moving us around, it was all about linking up our players. Running back with the opposition and the desire to stop the ball.
It was not all about tactics, and that was not the reason we got defeated tonight. The reason was that we did not work hard and have enough spirit about us, which is hugely disappointing.
It has been close to a month since your last victory. When the team is on such a run, how do you try to change the momentum altogether?
I have to get the best out of these players, which comes with hard work. We have been solid on the training field since I have been here.
The players have to take responsibility. They have to make the decision when they enter the pitch, I can guide them as a coach can do. We need to be ruthless and try to score the equaliser or stop conceding the first goal.
Football happens, and the opposition works harder than us and that is not acceptable.