Lalengmawia, Rahim Ali, Suresh Wangjam are amongst many of the former Arrows’ players who are taking the ISL by storm…
When Kerala Blasters faced Hyderabad FC on Sunday evening a feisty individual battle was being fought on the flanks between two promising youngsters in Rahul KP and Akash Mishra.
For most parts, Mishra did well to contain the Blasters’ winger, but on one occasion he was bamboozled when Rahul chose to chip the ball over his head to trick him. He is a versatile winger who can play on either flank, has pace, skill and the zeal to take on defenders in one-on-one situations. He has grown in confidence since his Indian Arrows‘ days and his development is on the right track. With time, if he can improve his decision making and finishing, he will be one of the most sought after players in the country.
Mishra has been one of the bright sparks in a Hyderabad side that is going through a transition under Manuel Marquez. He was instrumental in their win against Odisha, and against Bengaluru he not only performed his defensive duties to perfection but also contributed in attack with his passing ability. In the entire match, Mishra had 68 touches on the ball and completed 39 passes, with an accuracy of 78 per cent, which is a remarkable figure for a young professional, in his early club career. In fact, after the match, his coach went on to assert that he has the potential to become the best left-back in the country.
NorthEast United‘s Lalengmawia is another product from the Arrows’ stable who is making a name for himself in the ISL. From the previous season itself, he is one of the undisputed starters in the team and in this campaign, he has stepped up his performances and is one of the four captains selected by coach Gerard Nus. At just 20, he became the youngest player to take the field with the armband against FC Goa on November 30, 2020.
Along with Khassa Camara, his presence adds the much-needed steel in the Highlander’s midfield. He is not only adept in winning back possession but his ball control and distribution skills help him keep the midfield ticking. No wonder, Nus has great expectations from this local lad.
Rahul’s team-mate and another defensive midfielder like Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh is also slowly finding his feet under Kibu Vicuna. The player has had tough luck with injuries in the past but is gradually realising his potential. He has put impressive shifts at the centre of the park and likes to remain involved with the ball. In 232 minutes he has 131 touches and has a passing accuracy of 82.4 per cent. Moreover, his aerial prowess is a bonus that comes in handy during set-pieces. Against East Bengal, it was his injury-time header, almost resembling his goal in the U17 World Cup against Colombia, that salvaged a point for the Tuskers.
But it is Chennaiyin FC who are reaping the dividends for roping in some of the best young talents from the AIFF’s (All India Football Federation) developmental set up. Both Rahim Ali and Deepak Tangri have grown in stature with each passing matchday. Ali already has two goals to his name.
Against FC Goa, he was in an offside position when Rafael Crivellaro was trying to peel off his marker. But in the nick of time, he dropped a bit to beat the line and when his skipper drilled in a low cross he was there to convert. Whereas against East Bengal, he simply brushed aside Bikash Jairu’s feeble attempt to shield the ball to score Chennaiyin’s second goal.
On the other hand, Tangri is dispensing his responsibilities in midfield with maturity and composure. He is breaking up attacks and only if he could improve his passing abilities he would be an invaluable asset to Csaba Laszlo.
Another player who is earning rave reviews is Bengaluru FC‘s Suresh Singh Wangjam. Yet another Indian Arrows product, Suresh came to the fore last season and has since established himself as a key player for Carles Cuadrat. Suresh is a midfielder with plenty of energy and enterprise and is often seen doing the dirty work for Bengaluru FC in midfield. His workrate means that he makes his presence felt in all areas of the pitch and is certainly one to watch out for in the near future.
The other notable teenager who is grabbing eyeballs is Jamshedpur FC‘s Aniket Jadhav. He scored the winner against NorthEast United and has started in the last three matches for Owen Coyle’s team which shows that he has earned the trust of the manager.
Ninthoinganba Meetei, the diminutive winger of NorthEast United, is also an Arrows product. The nimble-footed winger has also impressed whenever he has been called upon by Gerard Nus. Blessed with pace, Ninthoi is a name that is marked for greater things.
Then there are the likes of Amarjit Singh, Narender Gahlot and Jitendra Singh (all Jamshedpur FC) have also proved themselves but have not yet impressed this season due to fitness woes. It must be noted that Amarjit and Narender have already played for the senior Indian national team!
If these names are shining bright, there are a couple of names who are waiting on the wings to prove their mettle. They are Mumbai City‘s Vikram Pratap Singh and Hyderabad’s Rohit Danu. They have not yet got the number of minutes that they would have liked but it is also necessary to be patient. In Sergio Lobera and Marquez, there are two able managers to guide them and they are the best persons to judge when the two players are ready for the rigours of ISL.
It must be noted that this is their first season in ISL, and with time on their side, it is a matter of when and not if, that they will announce their arrival in the premier domestic competition of India with some outlandish performances.