Did you get a chance to witness the Indian footballers in AFC U-22 qualifiers? It was one of those memorable performances from the sleeping giants that made the whole continent take notice of the rising talent at the dawn of a new era thanks to Arthur Papas. The lowest ranked team in the group took everyone by surprise, the storm created by Papas’ boys was heavy to withstand for their superior opponents and in the end the young Indian football team bowed out with their heads held high. The tactical nous and the flexibility displayed by the youngsters under the stewardship of Papas got rave reviews. It was a welcome change from the hoof-ball tactics employed under previous coaches.

Indian football fans might have missed the tournament and the bright performance by the young footballers from India, but new national team coach Wim Kovermars didn’t miss any of the bright prospects. India’s probable squad  for Nehru Cup contains many talented youngsters and some of them will be trying hard to impress the coach to make it to the final squad. It is clearly the result of the effort put by AIFF, two years back when they formed Indian Arrows Team (then called AIFF XI). The development side has undergone change in management twice  and they were saved from blushes just because they couldn’t be relegated due to AIFF’s rule. The development side just avoided wooden spoon last season with their leading goalscorer Sabeeth bidding good-bye afterwards.

In order to make things brighter Arthur Papas was entrusted to take over the reigns of Pailan Arrows and he is expected to instill the possession based playing style in Pailan Arrows players. If the performance of Indian football team at Oman are to be considered as a reference point, then Papas has brought a breath of fresh air in terms of tactics and game play. Indian football fans will be hoping to witness continuation of the samr tactics in Pailan Arrows matches.

Former Newcasle Jets coach favours the Dutch and Spanish mantra of possession based football to the English long ball game. In the past few years Indians failed miserably when trying to instill the English tactics into their system which is not suited for their small physical frames. The entry of  Technical Director Rob Baan changed the approach of AIFF and it was Baan who roped in Arthur Papas to impress the same style into the minds of upcoming footballers.

Pailan Arrows squad possessed a number of quality players last year, but the youngsters couldn’t match their more experienced opponents and succumbed under pressure. A different possession based approach is expected this year and fans might witness a more attacking style of play from the Arrows. Alwyn George made a big impact in AFC qualifiers with his unconventional playing postion, atleast by Indian standards, as opposition players found it very difficult to mark him. A sign of things to come in the future!

Squad Analysis

Goal Keepers

Ravi Kumar, Soram Porei Angamba, Shayan Roy

Ravi Kumar joined Arrows in 2010 and was utilized as a deputy custodian during his stay till now. Shayan Roy gave Ravi company on Bench from 2011 and both are expected to continue their duties as Shillong Lajong Custodian, Soram Porei Angamba is expected to fill the void left by Naveen Kumar. The young Manipuri lad had kept 7 clean sheets out of 15 and this effort helped him to get into the India U-22 team to Oman where he met his current coach Papas and team mate Ravi Kumar. It will be a battle between Ravi and Soram to stand between the sticks; Ravi is acclimatized to the set of players while Soram has more experience under his belt.

Defenders

Shouvik Ghosh, Prathamesh Maulingkar, Irfan Khan, Yumnum Chingkhei Meetei, Arijeet Singh, Sonu , Bikramjit Singh (Jr), Akashdeep Singh, Pritam Kotal, Jayabrata Dhar, R Vishal Kumar, Deepak Devrani, Avinabo Bag

Shouvik, Prathmesh, Pritam, Vishal and Deepak  are coming after a successful spell with the U-22 team in Oman where they had learned the first lessons from Papas. These youngsters will be trying to build on that experience and it can give them a strong start in the new campaign. Papas rotated his squad admirably well in the AFC qualification campaign and the new joinees in the Arrows camp will be trying to impress their head coach further. Eventhough Rajib, Lalrozama and Gurtej bid adieu to the club, the foundation of this defence is strong when compared to last year. These players will also have a much bigger role than last year as possession based football starts from back. Some of these youngsters will be trying hard to impress the senior coach in order to make the cut for the big stage and they a likely to fight tooth and nail against their more industrious opponents.

Midfielders

Shilton D’Silva, Sehnaj Singh, Pronoy Halder, Ongnam Milan Singh, Prabir Das, Tirthankar Sarkar, Shankar S, Deepak Prakash, Simranjit Singh, Siam Hanghal, Yaikhom Randhan Meitei, Ravinder Singh, Shaiju Mon, Ganeshan

Midfield quality usually determines the tactics and formation to be chosen by a manager. In that case fans can witness the continuation of India U-22 performances as most of the important players will be part of current Arrows squad. Shilton D’Silva is coming back after a horrific injury and will make amends for the lost time. The addition of Shaiju Mon and Ganeshan is likely to make up for the loss of Jibon Singh and Co. in the upcoming season. The current set of players are capable of fulfilling the prime objectives and this midfield can be the mainstay for Indian football in the years to come. They are not afraid to hold the ball and pass it around to create openings while surrounded by opponents and this welcome change is going to mark the dawn of a new era in Indian football. Milan Singh has made it to the national camp along with Alwyn George and both the players are expected to build their international careers with a fine season at club level.

Forwards

Malswamfela, Holicharan Narzary, Rajinder Kumar, Sumit Passi, Alwyn George, Pankaj Sona

Pailan ArrowsGoals win matches and proven goalscorers can wreck havoc in opposition defences. Creating a goal is considered as important as scoring another. Think about someone who can create and score goals with ease beyond his ages! Alwyn George is already tipped as the next big thing in Indian football and his creativity, talent and skills are often supplemented with crucial goals and assists.

Malswamfela and Holicharan Narzary are not far behind when it comes to fulfilling a forwards’ responsibilities. These strikers are capable of scoring goals at a consistent basis and will be the boosted by creativity of Alwyn George. Rajinder, Sumit and Pankaj complete the wealth of attacking talent at the disposal of Papas and it remains to be seen whether Arrows will be able to cope without their top scorer from last season.

 

Coaching Staff

Arthur Papas (Head Coach), Aaron Symons(Assistant Coach), Sujit Chakraborty(Assistant Coach), Tanumoy Basu(Goalkeeping Coach)

Papas and his team already announced their entry into Indian football with some beautiful displays in Oman. Then he took charge of Arrows team which currently possess 15 players who participated in the AFC U-22 qualifiers. The team knows the coach and vice versa and now they will be working together to achieve bigger things. Another Australian Symons joined the existing Pailan Arrows coaching staff of Chakraborty and Basu to complete Papas’ team. They will be setting the targets for youngsters and is expected to guide them through out their journey. Papas is looking like the perfect fit for this special project. He has worked and found success in a similar project in Australia . You can’t just have success tomorrow and it will take time. This venture can attract the European football fans across India to take notice of Indian Football and to get the game back on track in India.

Expectations

The Pailan Arrrows squad might be missing the wealth of experience that other I-League clubs possesses and this might prove to be a major shortcoming. They also lack foreign players who bring a different dimension to a team with their physique and skills. They are expected to battle hard to achieve a decent mid-table finish in I-League. It will be a major surprise if they end up lifting a trophy this season be it I-League, Federation Cup or Durand Cup. In the end, the exposure to top level football for these youngsters is what matters most.

Amidst all the shortcomings and failures there is a man with a mission to lead the bunch of youngsters to unheralded football world the Indians dreamt about. Papas has shown ability that he can groom the talented youngsters under one roof by giving exposure to top flight football and thereby keeping the supplyline intact for the national team. Who knows, we might witness the Alwyn’s and Shilton’s reaching the heights which no other Indian footballer has ever reached!