MUMBAI: It is rough enough being a player in a team that has conceded nine goals in the previous two matches and gone on a five-match winless streak. But to be a player-manager, presiding over a dubious campaign, is downright stressful. Mumbai City FC’s marquee player-coach Nicolas Anelka seemed to crack under pressure when he lashed out at the players after a 0-7 loss to FC Goa and the media after a 0-2 defeat to NorthEast United FC in Guwahati.
But the controversial Frenchman may take himself out of the equation in the match against Kerala Blasters FC on Thursday in the Indian Super League.
“We played better, had better results when I didn’t play,” Anelka said on the eve of the last home game for Mumbai. “Maybe, I’ll put myself on the bench, I will concentrate on coaching.”
It will be a bottom of the table clash as Mumbai, who have 12 points from 11 games, and Kerala, 11 points from same number of games, take on each other in an almost impossible quest to make it to the semifinals.
Given his stellar record in European football, Anelka was supposed to be the star around which the team revolved. But, by his own admission, he has been ineffective or at least unable to fit himself in the squad. In the three matches that his team has won, Anelka contributed to mere 14 minutes of play— the last 14 in the game against Goa when Mumbai were already leading 2-0. They have the worst goal difference in the entire League and the Frenchman is still struggling to find the best formation.
“From what I have seen on the pitch, I think I can play with only one formation,” Anelka added. “But it doesn’t seem to be working. I have tried my best with the quality I have. I don’t know about the feeling,” he said of the team’s morale after the last two matches.
“All I can say is that they know the situation, they know we have to win every game. It is a little difficult for everybody because we wanted to be in a different situation at this stage of the tournament.
“If we are here after 11 games, there’s no doubt about it. We are where we deserve to be. If we don’t have quality, it’s because we are not good enough altogether. But still we are hopeful, because mathematically we have a chance. We have to win all three games, so we start with the next game against Kerala and come back with three points.”
Three points may not eventually change Mumbai’s fortunes, but it might be some sort of a saving grace for the under-fire Anelka and his team.