The Reds begin a new chapter in their history without long-time manager Thangboi Singto.
Last Season’s Performance
In the 10th edition of the I-League, Shillong Lajong secured their best position ever in the tournament, finishing 5th. This performance of the Reds surpassed many expectations, considering the team has been largely inconsistent in previous editions of the league and have found themselves on the wrong end of the table most of the time.
Shillong Lajong are taking part in the annual Shillong Premier League (SPL) , a completion they have won for three years in a row (2014-16). They are also set to take part in a few friendlies in the lead up to the season.
Kharsyntiew seeks to build on Singto’s good work with Lajong
Shillong Lajong and their long serving head coach Thangboi Singto mutually parted ways this summer, with the latter joining ISL side Kerala Blasters as their assistant coach. Alison Kharsyntiew, who was Singto’s assistant last season has been handed over the reins of the senior team. Kharsyntiew had joined the coaching staff at Lajong at the age of 19, after a serious injury ended a promising playing career. Now at the age of 30, he’s one of the youngest ever to manage an I-League side.
Almost all I-League clubs have been affected broadly with a host of their players leaving for ISL clubs and Lajong were no different. But, at least the Reds can take credit for doing business the right way and making a healthy profit on many of their stars.
Ins: For the upcoming I-League season, the AIFF decided to increase the number of foreign players that can be registered by a club from four to six, with at least two of them from an AFC member nation. Shillong Lajong signed six foreign nationals for the 2017-18 season
Abdoulaye Koffi, the 25-year-old centre forward from the Ivory Coast joins Lajong after impressive stints in Egypt and Oman. A goal poacher with impressive work-rate and good hold-up skills, he will look to shoulder the goalscoring responsibility for the Reds this season Laurence Doe is the 31-year-old centre-back born in Liberia but is a naturalized Equitoreal Guinea citizen and has previously represented the Equatorial Guinea national team. The defender has won major titles in Mali, Equatorial Guinea and Oman
Daniel Odafin, the 28-year-old Nigerian defensive midfielder joins Lajong after plying his trade for many years in several leagues in the Middle East. Capable of keeping the midfield ticking with his quick passing game, his performances won him the best midfielder award in the Lebanese Premier League IN 2013-14. Saihou CH Jagne, is the 31-year-old Swedish-Gambian forward who is the only foreign recruit to have some prior experience of playing in India, having played for Fateh Hyderabad in the I-League 2nd Division last season. Jagne has played for several Scandinavian clubs, most notably for AIK in Sweden.
Aiman Al-Hagri, is the Yemeni attacking midfielder who is the 5th foreign signing made by Lajong this season. The 24-year-old is a full international since 2011 and has represented the national team 19 times. Oh Juho, the 25-year-old centre-back from South Korea was also added to the Reds’ roster. He will most likely partner Laurence Doe at the heart of Lajong’s defence. Juho has represented his country at U-18 and U-23 levels
Outs: The summer transfer period was tough for Lajong, as many of their home-grown youngsters who formed the crux of the team last season, opted to play in the ISL
Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, defender Nim Dorjee Tamang and midfielder Isaac Vanmalsawma all left to play for FC Pune City. full-backs Samuel Shadap and Pritam singh both joined forces with Singto at Southern powerhose Kerala Blasters. Wingers Rupert Nongrum and Bipin Singh made the switch to ISL champions ATK. Promising young centre-back Chinglensana Singh also left, seeking new challenges at FC Goa
Also veteran defender and former club captain Aiborlang Khongjee was snapped up by another ISL outfit Mumbai City FC. Last season’s top scorer in the I-League, striker Asier Dipanda Dicka jumped ship and joined Mohun Bagan, dealing a significant blow to the Reds’ ambitions this season. The Cameroonian will also be joined at the Mariners by Japanese Yuta Kinowaki who had a great season at the base of Lajong’s midfield. The other two foreign recruits from last season, Romanian defender Dan Ignat and Brazilian forward Fabio Pena were released by the club
Formations and Tactics
How Shillong Lajong could lineup this season
Coach Alison is expected to lineup with an offensive 4-2-3-1 formation as could be seen from the starting 11’s he fielded for the Shillong Premier League games. Phurba Lachenpa who played second fiddle to Vishal Kaith last season should be the regular starter between the sticks. Young full-backs Kynsai and Rakesh Pradhan would flank the central defensive duo of Doe and Juho. The coach would most likely employ a double pivot of Daniel Odafin and Hardy Cliff Nongri at the base of midfield, the Nigerian would look to sit back and break-up opposition attacks and initiate counter attacks, giving Hardy, who has a good eye for goal, the freedom to make runs into goal-scoring territories. The wingers Redeem and Samuela have the pace to burn and would look to hit teams on the counter.
Shillong Lajong has probably the best youth setup in the country. These youngsters will have the confidence of their coach, who has overseen their progress at the club from a young age. The gaffer would hope his young starlets would combine really well with the new overseas signings so that the Reds can spring a few surprises in the league
Dicka’s departure to Mohun Bagan is a big blow to Lajong. The Cameroonian alone scored 11 out of the 24 goals Lajong scored last season, in his absence the Reds might find goals hard to come by. New signing Koffi would have to play out of his skin to match Dicka’s goalscoring form. Also, barring Samuel Lalmuanpuia and Redeem Tlang the relative inexperience of the Lajong youngsters on the big stage might be a cause of worry for the manager
Top 3 Players To Watch
Samuela will be looking to step up in the absence of several established stars
Samuel Lalmuanpuia: This Mizo lad is a special talent, his good form last season kept out the Brazilian Fabio Pena from the starting XI. Possessing superb dribbling skills and a powerful shot, he can also play defence splitting passes into the final third. Samuela will relish taking the set-piece duty for the Reds this season.
Redeem Tlang: This 22-year-old local lad had a good last season for the Reds, he made 16 appearances and made the right flank his own. He is capable of using his pace to good effect to get into dangerous areas and can whip in good crosses into the box as well.
Aiman Al-Hagri: The Yemeni international is primarily an attacking midfielder but can play as a striker or on the wings as well. An important member of the Yemen national team, he wears the #10 jersey. His pace and trickery can cause a lot of problems for opposition defences
What To Expect
This is a season of change at Lajong. Their long serving manager has left, the players that formed the fulcrum of the team last season are gone too. Their form in the ongoing Shillong Premier league, a competition they have dominated for the last few years, has also been far from impressive. Under a new coach and a new look side, Lajong In all probability would struggle to replicate last season’s performance. However, the Reds have punched above their weight after being written off at the beginning of last season, who can say they won’t do that this time around too?