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Three ways in which Apuia can help Mohun Bagan or East Bengal

Published at :May 13, 2024 at 9:58 PM
Modified at :May 13, 2024 at 9:59 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Uttiyo Sarkar

Apuia is reportedly linked with both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

Lalengmawia Ralte, better known as Apuia, had an admirable 2023/24 Indian Super League (ISL) season with Mumbai City. He was a stalwart part of their ISL title-winning side and won the Player of the Match award for his exceptional performance in the ISL final too. However, the Islanders might now be under threat of losing the 23-year-old midfielder.

Indeed, as per reports from Bengali media, both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are in a battle to sign him. The Kolkata heavyweights want to strengthen their midfield with one of India’s best young players after watching him shine at Mumbai City. Apuia is yet to make a final decision on his future, but his acquisition could be a major coup for either of the two sides.

The 23-year-old’s versatility and adaptability, mixed with his exquisite skills and composed nature make him one of India’s best midfielders. In this article, we will look at three ways in which Apuia can help both Mohun Bagan or East Bengal ‘IF’ he joins either side.

3. Improve the ability to play out from the back

One of Apuia’s biggest strengths is how composed he is in possession. He is almost immune to the opposition presses and is an expert at swiftly slipping past players whenever they try closing him down. This can make him a huge asset for any team that aspires to play a style in which they pass the ball out of their own half. Mohun Bagan struggled with this occasionally in the 2023/24 season, despite playing a deep three-man backline and often had to revert to lobbing the ball forward.

East Bengal also experienced major issues in moving the ball out of their own box and conceded quite a few cheap goals after giving away possession in the middle third. A player like Apuia can neutralize this worry, because of how he loves to drop deep into his own backline before playing smooth forward passes or carry the ball forward himself.

2. Upgrade the defensive midfield role

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal both mostly opted to play Indian players as their deepest midfielder in the ISL last season. For the Mariners, Deepak Tangri or Abhishek Suryavanshi were deployed in that role by Antonio Habas. Souvik Chakrabarti mostly played as the deeper of the midfield pivot for the Red & Gold Brigade. A reason why both teams are pushing for Apuia is because he serves as an instant upgrade over anything they have in that particular role. The 23-year-old has more experience and a more varied skillset than any of the abovementioned stars.

He isn’t as rash or reckless as the likes of Tangri or Chakrabarti and boasts more experience and ability on the ball than Suryavanshi. Having a midfielder like Apuia can help the foreign players in both teams breath a sigh of relief. Apuia can help move the ball forward faster for the Mariners without the likes of the defenders having to do all the work – and allow players like Dimitri Petratos to play further forward. Similarly, at East Bengal, he can allow the wing-backs to advance higher and the likes of Saul Crespo to fill in the space between the opposition midfielders and defenders rather than having to come deeper and kick-start attacks.

1. Allow for superior possessional control

Mohun Bagan might’ve had a thrilling 2023/24 ISL season in which they clinched the ISL shield title, but they didn’t really dominate every single game en route to the title. The Mariners played some thrilling attacking football, thanks to their star-studded team, but often let the opposition team dictate the possession.

However, that can change with the acquisition of someone like Apuia – who craves for the ball and loves pinging it around the park. He can help the Mariners dictate the tempo of matches with his slick passing and allow them to retain possession strongly. He can allow them to take more time with their build-up play and for the other midfielders to venture further forward to harass the opposition defenders.

But he can have an even bigger impact at East Bengal. The Red & Gold Brigade had to be really careful with their build-up play last season and often looked to play on the swift breaks. But with a ‘controller’ like Apuia moving the ball around seamlessly into the pockets of spaces for the attacking players, Carles Cuadrat can urge his players to look to dominate games more often.

Apuia’s ability to recover possession and then recycle it into attacking moves can greatly benefit both teams, and his multi-talented nature is probably why the Kolkata teams are pushing to sign him from Mumbai City.

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