The 21-year-old midfielder is among the hottest prospects in Indian football.
Khel Now takes a look at Lalthathanga Khawlhring- most commonly known as Puitea– one of India’s fastest rising midfielders in recent times. The former NorthEast United youngster has joined Indian Super League rivals Kerala Blasters for next season on a multi-year deal, Khel Now can confirm.
Let’s take a look at why and how Puitea can prove as long-term solution to Kerala Blasters’ midfield in the seasons to come.
Date of Birth: 30 March 1998
After a successful loan spell at Aizawl, the Mizo midfielder made his debut for NorthEast United in their 2017-18 campaign opener against FC Goa. He came on as a substitute, as the Highlanders played out an entertaining draw with the Gaurs.
Puitea’s passing range has impressed many in the last few seasons. The youngster’s ability to make clever forward passes has helped NorthEast United play some attractive attacking football, as the bubbling youngster often looks to seek opportunities to send his teammates through on goal.
Aspects To Improve
Final delivery. Nobody can really fault the 21-year-old for trying his luck with those ambitious defence-splitting passes, but they aren’t lethal enough on most occasions. He needs to time his final passes better to find teammates in dangerous areas and notch up assists going forward.
Moreover, he also needs to bulk up his physicality to compete against the very best. The youngster gets out-muscled in that department and needs to build a stronger core to dominate the midfield in a seamless fashion.
Puitea’s style almost makes one think he’s inspired by Eugeneson Lyngdoh. The Bengaluru FC midfielder obviously boasts a better final product as well as set-piece delivery, but the young Mizo midfielder mirrors him in terms of how he moves the ball around and shows urgency in getting things done.
Lalthathanga came through the DSK Shivajians youth academy which is known for producing stars like Lallianzuala Chhangte, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Rohit Kumar. But, he got his break at Aizawl, after the season they won the I-League title.
It was at Aizawl that he truly spread his wings after being loaned from NorthEast United, as he showed enough flair to keep in tandem with their expressive style. While the youngster only got a single goal, he helped keep an attractive fluidity to Aizawl’s midfield and held his ground against strong opposition.
It was after excelling in his loan spell that Eelco Schattorie was impressed by his development and upgraded him into the senior team. What started as a string of impactful substitute performances soon saw him being handed regular starts.
While he was played on the left wing despite thriving more centrally, Lalthathanga Khawlhring was a breath of fresh air as he always tried to do something special to serve Bartholomew Ogbeche and Co. He went on to appear in each of their 20 ISL games and even though he provided only one assist, his urgency kept things moving in NorthEast’s attack.
Lalthathanga Khawlhring also managed to notch up multiple Emerging Player of the Match awards as well as a Man of the Match award. Not only that, he also managed more successful passes in the ISL in his debut season (606) than seasoned campaigners like Sunil Chhetri (586) and Pronay Halder (500).
Robert Jarni was impressed with his abilities and slotted him into a central midfield position, where he operates at his best. But, injuries ravaged his previous season, with Puitea never gaining any consistency because of all the issues.
Eventually, he only made nine appearances, less than half of what he did under Schattorie, but still produced some bright stuff for a dull NorthEast team. Indeed, his 72.98% passing accuracy still betters the whole team’s average of 66.56%, which proves how accurate his passing skills are.
Despite missing many games this season, Lalthathanga Khawlhring is still among the leading midfielders in the country in terms of matches and minutes played.
This proves that last season’s hiccup was just a glitch in the matrix. He is normally an extremely fit and diligent midfielder who can consistently provide efficient performances from the middle of the park.
His silky passing ability has already garnered him a lot of praise and if he does work alongside Kibu Vicuna – who’s had such a positive impact on Nongdamba Naorem and Sk Sahil at Mohun Bagan– Lathathanga Khawlhring can raise his game to another level next season.
While his goal involvement remains pretty low, that should improve as he works on his ability to seek out those final balls. The 21-year-old still has a long career ahead, but his hunger and work-rate ensure that he’ll keep improving.