The Chennaiyin FC skipper has proved his credentials time and again since stepping into the limelight.

Despite the importance of every player, the role of the midfielder is arguably the most demanding of all. A midfielder typically contributes to both the attacking and defensive ends. Strength, agility, stamina, and awareness are some of the quintessential traits of a midfielder.

Plenty of great footballers have graced Indian football with their presence, and midfielders have been no exceptions. From Krishanu Dey in the 80s to Renedy Singh and Clifford Miranda, plenty of great Indian midfielders have caught our attention over the years.

Some of the current midfielders have continued that trend through their skill, quality, and confidence. They give a lot of hope to the future of talent in the country. Perhaps the chief proponent of this crop would be Anirudh Thapa. The Chennaiyin FC skipper is among the midfield elite in the Indian Super League and has been a mainstay for the Indian football team as well.

Let’s find out what makes Anirudh Thapa indispensable and why he is the most complete midfielder in Indian football.

5. Adaptable to positional demands

Thapa is a coach’s dream as he can adapt to any position in midfield. The Dehradun-born player has played across multiple positions in central midfield as well as left and right ends.

He has shown his versatility to play as a number 8,10 and 6. These are numbers associated with players in pivotal positions in the midfield. Therefore, his versatility, stamina, on-ball awareness, and his capability to build up play while also helping in setting up and scoring goals makes him an ace of all trades.

4. High energy

Despite his experience, Thapa is still only 23 and therefore adds a lot of energy and vigour in midfield. A far more important quality of his is the discipline he shows in his role.

Due to playing in multiple positions on the pitch, Anirudh Thapa’s ability helps him tracking back to defend while also bursting onto the attack in counters. Both roles require a lot of energy, which Thapa generates with much aplomb.

He often covers the most distance among Chennaiyin FC players. Thapa also shows exceptional timing and quality in counter-attacks. It is one of the reasons why he is an important part of Chennaiyin FC attacks. Thapa also starts most of the counters due to his superlative dribbling ability. It is what has helped him contribute 15 goals in 76 ISL games for Chennaiyin FC.

3. Can contribute at either ends

As mentioned before, Thapa’s versatility in midfield makes him malleable to requirements. Despite possessing a modest frame of 5′ 6″, Thapa packs a punch in defence and in the attack. He averages nearly four tackles and interceptions per game while also making 1.3 blocks per game. It shows that despite his obvious talents in the attack, Thapa is an able contributor in defence.

This season, he has contributed more than six tackles and interceptions (together) per game. It is a 150% increase from his defensive tally in the previous season. Therefore, Thapa’s talents means he can fit into a host of playing styles and systems.

Also, playing in a demanding position often sees players get into rash challenges in their bid to somehow win the ball. Considering this, Thapa has only eight yellow cards to his name in 76 ISL games. Despite his energy and his successful stats in defending, this stat puts his awareness into perspective.

2. Captaincy experience

Anirudh Thapa became Chennaiyin FC captain at the start of this season. The captaincy has also seemed to get the better of him as he has led his team admirably so far. Thapa’s stats and numbers from this season have been a huge improvement on those from last season.

In the ongoing 2021-22 season, he has averaged 36 passes per game at a completion rate of 75%, already a 5% increase in his tally from last season. As mentioned before, his defensive numbers have also improved massively this season, having led the team so far.

More importantly, as the skipper this season Thapa has had to impose himself deeply into contributing everywhere and remain the focal point of the side. He has done both of them with much aplomb.

This season, along with Vladimir Koman, Thapa covers the highest distance among all the Chennaiyin FC players. This shows the commitment he brings to the team.

1. Maturity on and off-the-ball

Thapa’s qualities are visible on either end of the pitch. He averages 37.5 passes per game at a pass completion rate of 72.6%. The figure might sound low, but Thapa’s role in the attack has more to do with driving the entire gameplay with his dribbling.

In his best season in 2019-20, Thapa averaged close to 50 passes per game which meant he had more to do in working across different areas to win the ball back and spur on ahead. He worked along with Rafael Crivellaro to take up the attacking and creative load. He also contributed a goal and six assists that season, his most prolific return till date.

But now with Crivellaro injured, Thapa has doubled up on those responsibilities as well. He works very hard on managing the transition play for Chennaiyin FC. While this has somewhat curtailed his creative force from the 2019-20 season, it has helped to mold him into a midfielder who can perform anywhere across the park. This would also help massively while playing for the Indian football team.

His qualities include ball distribution prowess, 360-degree vision, and most importantly a solid, calm head on his shoulder. The midfielder shows a very composed presence that belittles his age. It is what helps him make the right decisions on and off the ball. An Indian midfielder with such qualities is a rare commodity in Indian football and that is what puts Anirudh Thapa in a league of his own.

For more football updates, follow Khel Now on TwitterInstagram and join our community on Telegram.