Indian Football Season 2017-18 Review: Aizawl FC
Written by: Atrayo Bhattacharya
The former Champions struggled in this season and ended up in the middle of the table with stumbling in the Super Cup as well.
Aizawl FC, the team who did the unthinkable last season, writing their glorious chapter in Indian Football. The team stood up as a representative for all the clubs coming from north-east and they proved their desire to go forward and become an Indian football superpower. The North-East is an area where there is huge potential among youngsters and the whole area is absolutely crazy about football. Our newer generation will definitely see a larger part of youngsters evolving into great players for the national team.
Aizawl FC, although could not lack their underdog story with another impressive season, as the Reds were below par this season mainly because of a depleted squad and lack of experience among local players. Aizawl FC lost a host of players with whom the club won its maiden I-league title. Head coach Khalid Jamil along with a lot of important players left for greener pastures in the league leaving a very depleted and inexperienced side for the team from Mizoram.
Syrian Superstar, Mahmoud Al Amnah who was absolutely brilliant alongside Alfred Jaryan left for East Bengal. Defender Kingsley Eze left Aizawl for Mohun Bagan, and some of the other important players like Brandon Vanlalremdika, Laldanmawia Ralte, Lalramchullova, Albino Gomes, Ricky Lalluamawmia, Lalruatthara, Ashutosh Mehra, Jayesh Rane etc all moved away from the Northeast club. Aizawl FC were left with a host of local players and it was nothing new for the Reds as they have always faced the same issue year after year. New coach Paulo Meneses took over Khalid Jamil and the Mizo club hoped that the Portuguese will guide the club same way like his predecessor. But to everyone's disappointment, the former champions ended their campaign behind East Bengal in 5th position at the League table.
Fact Sheet for Indian Season 2017-18
Games Played: 20
Won : 6
Lost : 7
Drawn : 7
Win %: 30
The People's club featured in the Mizoram Premier League, they had a cautious start to their campaign as they drew three matches and lost one out of the first 4 matches. But soon the Champions shited gears and gained momentum. At the end of their league campaign, they won seven matches and lost three out of the fourteen matches and finished 2nd behind leaders Chhinga Veng FC. The Reds had to play a two-legged semi-final against Mizoram Police and they somehow edged past their opponents on penalties to progress to the finals. Aizawl FC faced a serious upset in the finals of MPL as they lost to Chhinga Veng FC. All in all, they had a very average pre-season and it was clear that the coach needs to work a lot with his team to get them on track.
Underperformer of the Season
Alfred Jaryan: Alfred Jaryan played a very vital role in Khalid Jamil's Aizawl side last season. he was judged the " Best Midfielder' in the I-League as his consistent performances at the heart of midfield helped Aizawl FC lift the trophy. But his performances this season were somewhat underwhelming.
Jaryan was one of the few players who remain loyal to Aizawl FC after their glorious season but the midfielder could not replicate his form of the last season. He lost possession on a daily basis and that did not help Aizawl FC dictate play from midfield. Jaryan was not bad but with stellar performances in the previous season, people expected a lot more from him this time as well. The Liberian was a senior member of a side which was full of inexperienced local youngsters, so he was supposed to lead and support them, but the midfielder had problems of his own and hence hardly got time to inspire others.
Top 3 Performances
1.Aizawl FC 3-0 Indian Arrows (Match Report and Highlights)
2. East Bengal 2-2 Aizawl FC (Match Report and Highlights)
3. Aizawl FC 3-1 Gokulam Kerala (Match Report and Highlights)
Manager's Report Card
Aizawl FC's season can be divided into two halves one where the People's club started with Portuguese coach Paulo Menezes. The club and the supporters had highs hopes for the former member of Vincente Del Bosque's coaching team for Spain. Paulo started his campaign with an excellent comeback draw against East Bengal away from home. But the results started deteriorating as matches went by. His over defensive possession play did not suit the essence of the Aizawl side. Hence, they suffered consecutive 7 matches winless streak at the middle of the season and it was enough for the officials to sack coach Paulo Menezes.
The Reds brought in former Mumbai FC and Mohun Bagan coach Santosh Kashyap for damage control and secure a respectable finish to a below-par season. Kashyap did show some improvement but the impact was not enough to overturn the results completely. Aizawl FC struggled to churn out results as the team definitely looked below par to compete with the best in the league this season. On top of that they had extra fixtures of AFC Cup in between and hence Aizawl FC lacked squad depth in their ranks, the players did not get sufficient amount of rest that they required and hence the fatigue was visible in their performances.
Lessons to be learned
Aizawl FC has always believed in promoting local talent and the Reds should do the same next year as well, but they need a manager who will inspire the youngsters and show trust in them to play their natural game of free-flowing football. The fact that they had a depleted squad this season and could not manage to bring in timely replacements, they should focus more on that aspect next season. Despite being an average season, the team had several positives to work on next time around, players like Ionescu, Dodoz, David, Mapuia, Saighani showed patches of brilliance through the season and the team must gather themselves and quickly rectify the areas they lacked this time.
The People's club is expected to return with a bang next year and hopefully, their supporters will again get to see their team in their natural free-flowing style. The star performers from MPL and from Mizoram's Santosh Trophy should be picked and nurtured properly as some of them showcased great skills and stellar performances.
Aizawl FC had little hopes of going far in the inaugural Super Cup campaign, as they had a gloomy season and they faced a very strong Chennaiyin FC side, who were crowned champions of Indian Super League this season. The Reds were clear underdogs in the tie, but as always Aizawl is all about heart and never-give-up attitude.
The Reds delivered a stellar performance against the reigning ISL champions as the Southerners had to come back twice in regulation time and in extra time to take the match to penalties. Youngster Arup Debnath's heroics guided the Reds past the might Chennaiyin side. Next up they faced East Bengal in the quarterfinals,it was a very intense encounter as both sides cancelled out each other time and again. When both teams failed to break the deadlock and the match seemed to go to extra time, East Bengal were handed a last-minute penalty and former player Laldanmawia Ralte converted from the spot and ended Aizawl FC's spirited run in the Super Cup.
Published: Thu May 03, 2018 05:14 PM IST