I-League 2018-19 Team Profile: Shillong Lajong FC
Written by: Arindam Sarmah
The Reds are all set to give many of their academy graduates a chance in the upcoming season.
With every other I-League team in search of quality foreigners to field, Shillong Lajong are all set to begin their 11th season in the top tier with an all-Indian squad, comprising of academy graduates. With last season’s assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew in-charge, it will be a huge task for The Reds to survive without a foreigner and an Indian contingent with an average age below 20 years.
In the following, we discuss Shillong Lajong and their chances this term as well as their squad, strengths and weaknesses.
Last Season's Performance
Last season Lajong managed six wins
Shillong Lajong managed to finish sixth in the points table last season with 22 points from the 18 games they played. Lajong just managed to win six games and draw four fixtures, during their league which saw plenty of ups and downs for them.
Though they started with Bobby Nongbet at the helm, The Reds mostly played under Alison as Bobby took over the youth team, which went on to win the U-18 I-League. Under Kharsyntiew, Lajong struggled upfront and found it difficult to find the back of the net, with their highest scorer being Ivory Coast international Abdoulaye Koffi wwho scored four goals.
The Reds have plenty of good young players amongst their ranks
Shillong Lajong finished at the top of the table in the league phase of the Shillong Premier League, having won eight out of the 12 fixtures. They then faced 2nd Divison I-League side Langsning FC in the first game of the playoffs and suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the defending champions. They are set to face Rangdajied United on 24th October, for a place in the final.
During the SPL, Alison played to his strength and gave more time to the young players who didn't feature in last year's I-League. Among the youngsters, Phrangki Buam has caught everyone's eye, as the 17-year-old, scored six goals during the league stage.
Lajong's head coach Alison Kharsyntiew didn't have a good season last term around as his team suffered a few disappointing losses along with a poor set of away games. After gaining some experience in the top tier of Indian football, Alison did manage to put up a good showing in the Super Cup, as Lajong defeated ISL side FC Pune City.
So far, Lajong haven't made any signings this season. Though The Reds are all set to give many of their academy graduates a chance in the upcoming campaign, they may sign a couple of players from the other SPL clubs to strengthen their squad.
Apart from their foreign signings of last season, only four players have left Lajong ahead of this term. Prolific winger Redeem Tlang has joined ISL side NorthEast United, whereas forward Alen Deory has joined Mumbai City. On the other hand, goalkeeper Nidhin Lal has joined Chennaiyin FC and striker Shaiborlang Kharpan has joined the Kerala Blasters reserves.
Shillong Lajong will go with almost the same squad that they played with in the Shillong Premier League, except a few players who will be a part of the U-18 team. The club are also in talks with a couple of SPL clubs to add a few new signings as soon as the local league ends. Here is the provisional squad for Lajong for the I-League 2018-19:
Goalkeeper: Neithovilie Chalieu, Phurba Tempa Lachenpa
Defender: Novin Gurung, Kenstar Kharsong, Aibankupar Dohling, Rakesh Pradhan, Kynsailang Khongsit, Allen Camper Nongbri, Habymmutshuh Nongrum, Naoroibam Romen Singh
Midfielder: Hardy Cliff Nongbri, F Lalrohlua, Freestar Kharbangar, Phrangki Buam, Lalawmpuia Hnamte, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Samuel James Lyngdon Kynshi.
Forward: Sheen Sohktung, Parvaj Bhuiya, Samuel Lalmuanpuia(c), Bonison Nongmaithem, Parvaj Bhuiyan, Naorem Mahesh Singh.
Formation & Tactics
In a 4-3-3 formation, Rakesh and Novin will play as wing-backs
With an all-Indian squad at his disposal, Alison is more likely to go with a conservative approach, rather than an attacking one. More often than not, he will prefer playing a deep 4-3-3 formation, with two defensive midfielders. The only striker in the squad, Sheen will play upfront with support from Samuel Kynshi and Phrangki on the wings. While captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia will take the attacking role in midfield, Hardy Cliff and Lalrohlua will sit back and try to dictate the tempo. With very few options in the defence, experienced Aiban and Kenstar will take charge at the back, with Phurba in goal along with Novin and Rakesh as full-backs.
In a 5-3-2 formation, Kynshi and Novin could be dropped
However, Alison might also opt for a more defensive 5-3-2 formation with Novin, Aiban and Kenstar as the centre-halves and Kynsai and Rakesh as the wing-backs. The coach would then have to make a choice between youngsters Samuel Kynshi and Phrangki to keep in the starting XI.
Despite having no foreigners in the squad, Lajong's main strength will lie in attack this season. They will have the experienced Samuela to lead the young forward line. Though they only have one proper striker in the squad, they are likely to create chances with their trademark short passes.
The Reds will also possess a huge threat from set-pieces. With two aerially strong centre-backs, they will have a scoring threat from indirect set-pieces, whereas they will look up to captain Samuela and young Phrangki for the direct ones.
Lajong's main worry this season will prove to be their defence. Among the two goalkeepers, though Phurba has the experience of last season, the Sikkimese is prone to unforced errors and is technically not very sound. On the other hand, Neitho is technically gifted, has performed brilliantly for the youth teams last year, but the young shot-stopper lacks height. Lajong also lack depth in their defence, as they only have two proper centre-halves in their squad as of now.
For a complete list of all the fixtures, click here.
Players to Watch
The Mizo lad will play an important role this season due to his immense experience
Last I-League's Emerging Player of the Season winner Samuela will again lead the Reds from the front this year. The Mizo forward scored three goals last campaign and had every defence on their toes with his brilliant set-pieces. Being the most experienced player in the young squad, he will play a vital role in Alison's team.
Phrangki was Lajong's top scorer with seven goals in their U-18 Youth League triumph last season. The attacking midfielder has made a name for himself in scoring goals, within the last year. He is currently the highest scorer for Lajong in the Shillong Premier League and scored an astonishing 15 goals in four matches in the Shillong City Championship of the RFYS 2018-19, which also saw him score five hat-tricks.
What to Expect
Shillong Lajong, so far, have never been a title-challenging club. They prefer to finish mid-table and give their academy products as many chances as they can and this season won't be any different. But, with no foreigners in the squad, it will be an uphill task for Kharsyntiew to finish in the top half of the table. The young boys will have to fight hard for each point and we can expect them to finish 7th or 8th by the end of the campaign.
Published: Fri Oct 26, 2018 11:07 AM IST