The Pune outfit embark on their second season in the top flight…
Last season’s performance: 9th
The Puneoutfit made their I-League bow last season finishing bottom of the standings with just three wins from 16 games. However, they were exempt from relegation under the rules governing the competition and hence return for another campaign.
Dave Rogers was appointed manager of DSK Shivajians after Derrick Pereira parted ways with the club following a disappointing first season in the I-League where the team finished in the bottom spot. Rogers is a former professional footballer hailing from the city of Liverpool and has also played in the Champions League. The Englishman has been a part of the setup at DSK for a couple years now as head coach of the Liverpool FC run DSK International Academy. During this brief spell, Rogers has guided the DSK youth team to consecutive final rounds of the Under-19 and Under-18 I-League and is well versed with the style of play the club like to employ.
As a player, Rogers extraordinarily played for 21 clubs over a 17-year professional career, mostly plying his trade in Ireland.
“I am very excited and proud about the prospect of working with DSK Shivajians FC. I am looking forward to the day-to-day challenge of competing in the I-League and other competitions,” Rogers had said, upon his appointment as head coach.
Tansfers In: As soon as the Indian Super League finished, DSK Shivajians announced the signing of five NorthEast United’s players from the 2016 edition. Subrata Paul, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Jerry Mawihmingthanga return to the club, Nirmal Chettri and Holicharan Narzary accompany them. NorthEast had a decent season, with Subrata in goal, the veteran keeper making the 3rd most saves in the league. Chettri and Narzary both had their moments, good and bad during the course of the season. Later, DSK also roped in 22-year-old Indian striker Sumeet Passi from the Highlanders.
The pair of Chhangte and Jerry are two of their own and return from their loan spell at NorthEast United, having come up through the ranks at the DSK International Academy under new coach Dave Rogers. Though they struggled for game time, making only a solitary appearance between them, their talent remains undoubted and there cannot be a better place for them to continue their development than DSK Shivajians.
Another youngster, Jerry Lallrinzuala could turn out to be a real coup for DSK, after being named the Emerging Player of the Season in the ISL season gone by. The 18 year-old was brilliant at left-back for Chennaiyin FC, both in defence and offence, making 13 appearances along the way. The free-kick he scored in his side’s 5-4 defeat to FC Goa was especially exceptional.
The club, owned by corporate house DSK have also announced the signing of 25 year-old centre-back Ricky Lallawmawma and veteran Indian winger Sanju Pradhan.
Sasha Kolunija, a towering centre-back, all of six feet four inches was signed in November to complete DSK’s quota of four foreigners. The 29-year-old Serbian was signed on a two-year contract.
Last summer, DSK had also signed two foreigners in Shane McFaul and Kim Song- Yong. McFaul, is a strong and powerful Irish midfielder who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the club. Kim Song Yong joins from fellow I-League team Bengaluru FC, after scoring thrice in ten games for the Blues.
The final spot is taken by Juan Quero. The 32-year-old attacking midfielder was with the club in its debut season too, and re-joins the squad for 2017.
Transfers Out: Over the course of the off-season for I-League clubs, DSK have decided to alter the spine of the team. Not only have they changed management, they have also decided to bring in new faces and replace most of the players from first season.
DSK Shivjains have let go of three of their four foreigners from last season. Forward Aser Dipanda Dika, former Pune FC midfielder Douhou Pierre and Dutch centre-back Luc Wulterkens have all departed the club.
Several Indian players have also left DSK, with the club looking to change their fortunes after a flat first season in the top division. Baljit Sahni and Mohamad Rafi have not signed back on. Meanwhile wingers Prakash Thorat, Nikhil Kadam and Israil Gurung, all with a history of having played in the city were also let go.
Formation and Tactics
DSK Shivajians have already played under Dave Rogers earlier in 2016, when the club participated in the 128th edition of the Durand Cup. The club made considerable progress in the cup, finishing top of Group A, before eventually bowing out in the semi-finals. DSK played good attacking football, with great intensity, and regular pressing. Their high fitness levels were evident during the tournament, something Rogers had emphasized on, immediately after his appointment. “
The players have adapted really well to our new methods. Our training sessions last for 75 minutes and demand high intensity, which is something the players have not been used to. However, they realize that to become top footballers, they have to put in massive effort,” Rogers had said.
With so many new players added to the fray, it will be interesting to see what formation coach Rogers applies. Some of the big name players, including their four foreigners should make it into the starting XI and youngsters like Lallrinzuala Jerry and Rohit Kumar should also be in contention for a starting spot.
It is likely that Rogers will go for a three-man defence, with Sasha Kolunija leading the side from the back.
Experienced goalkeeper Subrata Paul should be back for the side between the sticks, with his NorthEast teammate Nirmal Chettri joining him in the side. DSK could partner Kolunija and Ricky with Sajid Dhot. Sanju Pradhan will act as cover for Chettri in the right wing-back role.
The midfield could be a mix of experience and youth as Shane McFaul could be partnered by promising Indian midfielder Milan Singh, who had more than a decent stint with Delhi Dynamos in ISL 2016. Jerry Mawhimingthanga would act as the third man in the middle of the pitch. Star man Juan Quero will start in a free role, playing in and around North Korean striker Kim Song-Yong.
Meanwhile 20 year-old Rohit Kumar could come in at some point of the season, especially considering his brilliant form in the Durand Cup. The youngster was DSK’s main goal scoring threat throughout the competition, scoring four goals in five league games. Sumeet Passi and Holicharan Narzary form the options in attack for the side from Pune.
Man to Watch: Juan Quero
Dave Rogers’ first thoughts must be to consolidate DSK’s position in the league table. Knowing that the club is immune from relegation would be relieving for the side, yet, they will also know they need to improve on their performance from last season, when they finished bottom. With a new squad led by refreshing, new management, the club could aim for a top 5 finish if things go well at the start of the season.