The Leicester City of Indian football has turned the tables on many-a-sides, winning and drawing nine and three games respectively of the fourteen they’ve played. . .
Position: 1st on the I-league table (P:14 Points: 30)
GF: 19 GA: 11
Highest goalscorer: Stephane Kamo Baye
Highest Assist-maker: Jayesh Rane
Best player: Alfred Jaryan
‘Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles’ is a well-travelled quote from former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson. Touted by many as the best manager in the history of the game, Sir Alex Ferguson gave out a formula which has been one of the key techniques in the artillery of many managers.
Coming to national shores, there has been one manager who has always been known to have a well-drilled defence is Khalid Jamil. The Kuwait-born coach is one of the Claudio Ranieri-isque coaches of football this season as he has led lowly-celebrated Aizawl FC to the top of the table with only four-game weeks left.
Khalid Jamil has taken do a Claudio Ranieri-Leicester City if he takes his side to I-league victory this season
For someone who does not follow Indian football, Aizawl FC relegated from the I-league last season. The Reds did not have a lot of motivation and drive but reached the finals of the Federation Cup, only to be defeated by Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. The team displayed quality football and was hence, given a ticket to participate in this season’s I-league.
A romance made in the hills, well, quite literally. Khalid Jamil signed for the Reds on 20th December 2016, and the league was set to start on the 06th of January. The coach brought a few players from his former side Mumbai FC to his new club, and a new saga started.
It has been well documented that Aizawl FC owner Robert Romawia Royte gave him full freedom in terms of managing his team, something never even heard of during his Mumbai FC tenure. The coach, even with a shoe-string budget, always managed to held fort and prevented the side from the drop. This season, the Yellow Brigade look set to go down as they’re at the bottom of the table currently and is looking awful on the pitch.
The team has conceded the second least number of goals, 11, standing at the second spot with East Bengal. Only Mohun Bagan, which has played two games less, has conceded less with 8. Sitting atop the table with 30 points from 14 games, the team has got an average 2.14 points each game, higher than any other side on the table.
Let me take you through more intricate details, which will help you understand their domination on the pitch and their resilience which has helped them to their position.
Aizawl FC does not boast of any astronomic names, but their midfield duo of Mahmoud Amnah and Alfred Jaryan are known to be no pushovers. In terms of the number of balls lost, Aizawl FC stand at a low No. 6 on the table which is topped by Minerva Punjab FC, which in terms of the ball lost in their own half, Aizawl FC are the lowest in terms of average per game, with a low 1.2 times every game.
Aizawl FC have recovered 61 balls and stand at the fifth position on this list which is headed by the highly-energetic and pressing Minerva Punjab FC. Looking at the balls recovered in the opposition half, Aizawl rise to the joint-second spot with 11, with defending champions Bengaluru FC topping them with 12. This shows that the defensive shape starts well up the pitch and the physical presence of Kamo Baye helps them to pressurise opposition defenders and defensive midfielders.
Albino Gomes has been nothing short of enigmatic under the bar for Aizawl FC
Another interesting stat is the rise of goalkeeper Albino Gomes, who has made 111 successful longs passes out of the 198 he has attempted, a success % of 56. Shillong Lajong FC goalkeeper Vishal Kaith is the only one who’s above him with 159 out of 222.
Alfred Jayran absolutely tops this list on all horizons. The defensive midfielder has made 34 fouls, standing at the second position after East Bengal striker Robin Singh with 36. Having played 1259 minutes of the campaign, Jaryan stands at the top of the attacking contribution with 24 shots and 7 on target.
Defensively, the Liberian has been a monster to be fair. Jaryan has made 26 challenges, 14 of them fair.Only Shane McFaul of DSK Shivajians can boast of a better percentage. In terms of tackles made, Jaryan has a success percent of 75, easily the best in the league. The midfielder also has a telling presence in the opposition half, winning 27 balls there. Jaryan has picked up the highest number of free balls in the league with 174, 76 of them being in the opposition half, another league high.
Alfred Jaryan and Mahmoud Amnah have been absolute monsters in the centre of the pitch for the Reds
Out of the 274 ground challenges made by the Aizawl FC midfielder, he has made 164 of them successful with a 60% positive rate, higher than any other player in the league. Jaryan also has the highest percentage of successful dribbles in the league, having completed 52 of the 70 he attempted. Forwards Charles De Souza, Willis Deon Plaza and Sony Norde are ahead of him in terms of attempts.
Alfred is second on the list in terms of passes, only behind Bengaluru FC’s midfield lynchpin Cameron Watson. The 28-year-old has made a successful 601 passes which show his unrivalled importance on the pitch.
Mahmoud Al Amnah has been an absolute captain on the pitch for the Reds this season while Jayesh Rane has played well in his role as the withdrawn No. 10. The Syrian footballer has made 399 successful passes with an accuracy of 80%. Out of these, 20 of them have been key to Aizawl FC attacks and goals. Amnah has also made 33 passes in the opposition box, the second highest in the team. Al Amnah has scored 2 goals and made 2 assists for his side and has easily been one of the key players for Khalid Jamil’s men.
Looking at the other attacking midfielder Jayesh Rane completes our midfield story. Rane has easily been one of the superior performers in the side and has performed well in return of the trust put in him by Khaild. Rane has made 35 successful dribbles and 86 successful ground challenges, which shows that the lanky midfielder has started to leave his mark as a physical specimen as well. Rane has scored two goals and made three assists for his side, the highest for the Reds. Rane has played a part in 8 attacks of his team, which has led to a goal. Out of the 19 goals scored by the Reds, Jayesh has a hand in every 0.42 goal.
Rane has shown his will to attack, having taken 26 shots, higher than any other player in his team. Rane has also made 37 passes into the box and 17 other key passes, which shows the influence the former Mumbai FC man has had this season. Rane has taken set-pieces for his side too and has delivered 16 balls into the opposition box.
Having scored four goals and made two assists, Stephane Kamo Baye has been one of the pivotal players for the team. Having played 1118 minutes, Baye has taken 25 shots, 12 on target. Baye has attempted five dribbles every game, making 2.6 successful every 90 minutes. The Ivory Coast-born striker has a pass accuracy of 77%, fairly well as he plays most of the time in the opposition half and box.
Stephane Kamo Baye and Jayesh Rane have shown some brilliant link-up play this season
Bayi has won the highest number of aerial challenges in his team, which shows that attackers running behind him have also benefited from his presence. He has made 129 attempts to aerial challenges and has also made 342 challenges on the pitch. Aizawl FC have also made 2.6 offside every game, which shows Bayi’s willingness to run behind defenders.
Brandon Vanlalremdika has also benefited from Bayi’s link-up play, having scored two goals in the process for the Reds. The side has shown real cohesiveness in terms of game-play and the grind on the pitch is for everyone to see.
Aizawl FC has scored 13 goals in the second half, the highest by any side. Aizawl FC has scored 15 goals from inside the box, which shows that they’ve been able to find space against every opposition and have been able clinical in the box. The team has made an average 3.9 passes in every goal-scoring attack, which shows their transitional play well. The team has scored four goals from set-pieces, standing in the third position on the table.
Aizawl’s controlled play is easily visible from the fact that the Reds have conceded just 5 goals from open play, and have been a little vulnerable at set-pieces. The team has taken a second-highest 13.4 shots per game, with 4.5 of them being on target.
Looking at every dynamic, it is easily understandable that the Highlanders have not been overwhelming in any department, but have done the basics right. Every department in the team has done its job and full credit must be given to the coach for the amount of tactical and on-field study and preparation he has worked on. It is easy to say that the team can go on to win the I-league with just four games returning, but it’ll be even more interesting to see what this side can do beyond the I-league.
(All stats have been provided by Instat)