“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
For Emami East Bengal FC the year 2023 is akin to the renewal and rebirth that Spring promises in the cycle of seasons. After enduring a rough patch over the past three seasons, the club is gradually moving in a positive direction, under the able guidance of Carles Cuadrat. The Indian Super League-winning coach has inspired a revival of the club’s never-say-die spirit, which is evident from the Red & Golds’ recent results. Be it reaching the Durand Cup final after 19 long years or winning the Kolkata derby after a 4-year hiatus, Cuadrat’s East Bengal has time and again exemplified the kind of resilience that the club has traditionally been known for. A look at the detailed statistics will demonstrate this transition better.


In 2023, Emami East Bengal’s first team has played a total of 28 matches – 19 in the Indian Super League, 6 in the Durand Cup and 3 in the Super Cup. They have won 8 of these games, drawn 10 and lost 10. During this period, the team has scored 34 goals, while conceding 39. The goalscorers for EEB in 2023 have been:
10 goals – Cleiton Silva
7 goals – Naorem Mahesh Singh
4 goals – Nandhakumar Sekar
2 goals – Javier Siverio and VP Suhair
1 goal – Saul Crespo, Jordan Elsey, Borja Herrera, Mobashir Rahman, Jake Jervis, Sarthak Golui and Sumit Passi
2 own-goals have been scored by opponents
Although this statistic pertains to the whole year, a clear change in dynamics can be observed between the end of the 2022-23 season and the first half of the current 2023-24 season. The change of the head coach led to a change of most players in the squad and also the team’s results. Thus, if we analyze the numbers until May 2023, we’ll see that the team won only 2 of their 12 games this year, drawing 4 and losing 6. Hence, the team was losing half of its games.
Since Cuadrat’s arrival, EEB’s results have improved drastically. Under the Spaniard’s guidance, the Red & Golds have played 16 games, winning 6, drawing 6 and losing only 4. Significantly, while the percentage of matches lost has reduced drastically from 50% to 25%, the percentage of victories has shot up from 16.6% under Stephen Constantine to 37.5% under Cuadrat – more than double the number.


Another notable change is the steady improvement in the percentage of points earned. Between January and May this year, points were earned in only 50% of the matches. However, under Cuadrat’s leadership, the number has gone up to 75%. In other words, between January and May this year, the team lost once in every 2 games. However, now, the team is losing once in 4 games, earning points in 3 of them.
This positive change in the team’s performance is indicated by the improved goal difference. In the first half of 2023, the team’s goal difference was -10, with 15 goals scored and 25 conceded. In the last 6 months, though, EEB has scored 19 times, while conceding just 14, therefore showcasing a goal difference of +5 at this point.


Needless to say, the team’s defensive solidity has contributed massively to this improved goal difference. If, under Constantine, the team conceded more than 2 goals per game this year (25 goals conceded in 12 games), the number has dropped to less than 1 goal per game (14 in 16) since Cuadrat’s arrival. A major factor behind EEB’s new defensive solidity is undoubtedly the signing of important players like goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, foreign defenders Jordan Elsey (who, despite making a great impact, was unfortunately injured in the Durand Cup final) and Hijazi Maher (a fantastic performer in the last few games of the year), and Indian defenders who worked with Cuadrat before like Harmanjot Khabra, Nishu Kumar (both started in Cuadrat’s defence when they won the ISL with Bengaluru FC in 2018-19), Mandar Rao Dessai and Gursimrat Singh Gill. The defensive consistency has also helped the team register a higher percentage of cleansheets this season compared to the previous one. Only 2 of the 9 cleansheets this year were recorded during Constantine’s tenure. Under Cuadrat, however, the team has registered 7 cleansheets in 5 months, not conceding goals in almost half of its matches (43.75%).


Another hallmark of Cuadrat’s leadership is to make the home ground a fortress. In 2023, EEB’s first team has played a total of 16 matches at home. That said, the team managed to win just 1 of its 5 home matches (20%) between January and May. Cuadrat’s East Bengal, on the other hand, has won 6 of its 11 matches in Kolkata (not counting the one played in Bhubaneswar which was shifted from Kolkata during the Durga Puja). Hence, the win percentage at home has seen a marked boost from 20% to 54.5%. This statistic will be more relevant if we recall that of the 17 games played by EEB in Kolkata in 2022, only 2 were won (11.7%).


A major part of the squad has been rebuilt under Cuadrat. Although captain Cleiton, Naorem Mahesh Singh and Lalchungnunga have been regular starters for both Constantine and Cuadrat, the rest of the squad has undergone a massive transformation. Under Cuadrat’s supervision, the veteran Souvik Chakrabarti and the young Mohamad Rakip have regained their confidence, having already played more minutes than in the entire last season under Constantine. Cuadrat has also ensured that the B team serves as a steady supply line to the first team, which is clear from the fact that talented youngsters like PV Vishnu, Aman CK, Vanlalpeka Guite and Gurnaj Grewal have already made their debuts for Emami East Bengal.
The Emami East Bengal management and backroom staff have worked tirelessly too, starting with appointing Cuadrat for two years after deciding not to continue with Constantine. This, naturally, brought many changes to the squad, the most important being the inclusion of new foreign players except Cleiton who’s playing his second season in East Bengal colors. Other key achievements have been the retention of Mahesh till 2027 and the addition of another National Team attacker in Nandhakumar Sekar till 2026. Sharing as many as 9 goal contributions between them in the 10 ISL 2023-24 matches so far, the duo has been growing from strength to strength and justifying the club’s faith in their abilities.


The numbers aside, 2023 has brought the fans several good moments as well, moments that were not experienced in a while. The best moment under Constantine was defeating the League Shield winners Mumbai City FC 1-0 in February, courtesy Mahesh’s goal. Later, with Cuadrat in charge, EEB won a derby after 9 matches when they defeated Mohun Bagan Super Giant 1-0 in a Durand Cup Group A fixture. Nandhakumar’s solitary strike helped the Red & Golds taste victory in the derby after 4 years, in just their second official match of the new season.
Another important date of the year was September 3 when the team played the final of a major tournament after 5 years. The road to the final was more significant because the team had not reached the Durand Cup final since 2004 (East Bengal defeated Mohun Bagan 2-1 in that final to lift their 16th Durand Cup title). However, this time, the final scoreline ended 1-0 in favor of the rivals, even though EEB dominated the game.
December 4 is also a special date as the club registered its highest-ever victory margin in the ISL, by virtue of defeating NorthEast United 5-0 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan. 12 days later, the Red & Golds played out a gutsy 0-0 draw with Mumbai City FC in Mumbai, which saw Cuadrat surpass Constantine’s record of 3 cleansheets in the ISL. The team ended the year with another resolute performance against Odisha FC at home (0-0). The Red & Golds, therefore, now have 5 cleansheets in the ISL this season, with 12 more league matches yet to be played.
To sum it up, 2023 has been a year full of myriad emotions, with victories to be proud of and defeats to learn from. The Red & Gold brigade will surely take inspiration from the positives and carry the growing confidence into 2024. Everyone at Emami East Bengal believes that 2024 will be full of joy and happiness, moments that the beloved fans can cherish and celebrate together with the team. Everyone at EEB is working tirelessly to revive the club’s past glory. To all the East Bengal fans in India and abroad, keep believing in the team.