This season’s I-League is running a little over midway and with a fair amount of matches having been played, the teams by now would have highlighted the weak and the strong areas. A number of players have been on trials with clubs for some time now and with the winter transfer window up and running, teams have started acquisitions to fill any void in the squad.
Though majority of the clubs toil around with the foreign players’ quota and most of the signing have been foreigners, an Indian player too, took leap from Pailan Arrows to Dempo SC.
1) John Menyongar- Dempo SC
Having fared well for most part of the season, Dempo surprisingly went down to ONGC and Pune FC, coupled with some tame draws. With Climax Lawrence suspended for a couple of games and Carvalho sitting out off-late, owing to an injury, Colcao supposedly felt a little short in the midfield department. Also, with the likes of Climax Lawrence not getting any younger, Colaco felt a need to reinforce his midfield department, given the attack was boasting of Sueoka and Koko Sakibo. Also, there were quite a few choices in defence and with them doing well, the Dempo coach made his mind to go for the Liberian, ahead of Stephen Ofei, who played for the Goan outfit in the local league. Though, Menyongar doesn’t look like one who will change the fortunes of Dempo this season, this appears to be more of future prospect, in addition to filling the foreigner void.
2) John Wilkinson- Salgaocar
The Moroccan Bencherifa started the season with the intent of revamping the young Salgaocar side, but left it in the middle, when Bagan came calling. Salgaocar had been poor throughout and in wake of getting things going for the Goan side, Englishman David Booth was appointed. Addressing Salgaocar’s troubles in front of goal at either end, Booth made his first signing in the form of this English turned Singapore International, who is an attacking midfielder. Given their goal-scoring woes, Wilkinson seems to be a decent signing for Salgaocar even though he isn’t a prolific scorer. Probably with a couple of more signings up-front, Wilkinson could be a great foil, making goals for the forward line. His experience might come in handy and bring the much needed change in the fortunes of Salgaocar. He was impressive during Salgaocar’s 2-0 win over Mohun Bagan as well.
3) Josimar da Silva Martins- Salgaocar
With the earlier release of striker Sean Rooney, followed by that of Angel Guirado and the latest of them all, Quinton Jacobs, the woes of the Goan outfit in front of goal has not diminished a bit. To change things around, Booth was prompted to bring in quality acquisitions upfront. The Brazilian Josimar with his trickery and goal poaching abilities could well just be the player Salgaocar was looking for, to completely revamp their season. In his first game for Salgaocar, the ex-Prayag United striker found the back of the net once, in addition to notching up an assist in a rare win against Mohun Bagan.
If there were any doubts on the striker’s ability and possible impact, his performance in the very first game would have washed them all and his signing augurs well for the Goan outfit. Also, Salgaocar prefer to play a passing game and his style perfectly suits the team. He is likely to prove a top notch capture for the two time I-League winners.
4) Gabriel Obatola- Salgaocar
The Nigerian has been the third signing for Salgaocar and him being a forward as well, clearly highlights what Salgaocar have been lacking. Having garnered just 14 points from 15 games with just two wins under their belt, the first coming late last year, Salgaocar have been more than disappointing. A lack of goals has been clearly the reason why they have dropped so many of points, inspite of creating a handful of chances. Booth has done well in getting in three good strikers and along with Josimar tall, lanky Nigerian can add another dimension to Salgaocar’s attack. The Nigerian seems to be an apt foil to the attacking duo of Josimar and Wilkinson.
The Nigerian proved his worth in the very first game, getting on the scoresheet and handing a torrid time to Mariners defence. He gave a near perfect performance and perhaps was the best player on the pitch. If Salgaocar can continue to do well at the back, the trio of their new recruits could well turn the tables for them.
5) John Landa Matkin- United Sikkim
Inspite of showing some great spirit throughout the season, United Sikkim have failed to get enough points on board. They had a fairytale start, winning their first game in the top flight of Indian football but their good start withered away soon. With some good young players in their ranks, spirit has never been in question, but they have failed to deliver results.
There is a clear lack of creativity, both in the midfield and striking department. With the departure of Yoon Tae, United Sikkim had an extra vacant spot and these factors accounted for the signing of the American midfielder. With age on his side, the American could prove to be a good signing, though he lacks experience. But, with a goal under his belt, just three games into the league, the American might be on his way to achieving something big for the North-Eastern outfit, and probably going on to save their season. United Sikkim lie just one position above the bottom placed Mohun Bagan, who had points deducted.
6) Taisuke Matsugae- Shillong Lajong
Just like many other teams with Indians upfront alone, Shillong Lajong too have struggled to get going, despite some gritty defensive displays led by probably one of the best signings this season, Minchol Son. The Japanese turned North Korean has impressed Desmond Bulpin with his discipline and work rate but rest of their foreign recruits have not delivered consistently.
With Friday and Sushil Singh not getting goals under their belt, Lajong were in desparate need of a forward and with his performance in the first game against a gritty Pailan defence, Matsugae seems to be a good signing for the club. The Japanese impressed fans in his solitary outing, that too, a half, but failed to get on the scoresheet.
By the looks of it, Matsugae seems to be a good signing and for him to shine like his fellow countryman, Minchol Son, he would need to get on the scoresheet more often than not.
7) Prathamesh Maulingker
The only Indian getting a new club in this window so far is the tall young defender from Pailan Arrows. With Mahesh Gawli on the wrong side of his 30s and Creston Antao nearing his 30s, Armando Colaco felt the need of drafting in a young defender, who could serve the club for a long time. Prathamesh has put a string of impressive performances for AIFF’s developmental side and with his strength in the air, he could well prove to be handy for an occasionally shaky Dempo defence.
The greater impact of the signing would on Pailan Arows who lose a young, dynamic and strong defender. Souvik Ghosh and Pritam Kotal have failed to knit in a good partnership and Prathamesh’s daunting presence will surely be missed by the Colts.
The only thing that remains to be seen is how much of playing time the youngster gets. We have seen a lot of youngsters be drawn by lucrative offers and end up warming the bench, which do not serve their future well.
8) Andrew Barisic- East Bengal
Last, but definitely not the least, the Australian has been scalped by the Red and Golds as their fourth foreigner. With defence looking solid and midfield boasting of some real good Indian talent, Trevor Morgan decided to sign a man upfront.
With the performances of Manandeep and Robin Singh this season being nothing less than lackluster, Edeh Chidi has been often found deserted as the lone man upfront. In some tight games, East Bengal have failed to get themselves going and looked toothless upfront, which probably prompted Morgan to go with the experienced Australian to support Chidi.
Given only three foreigners can be fielded in the playing XI, and Okpara, Orji and Chidi being near indispensable, Barisic will certainly find it hard to make it to the first XI, but he can be used as a supersub, sent in to change the dynamics in the game. Barisic is a perfect signing for East Bengal, filling the only possible gap in their side and can enable them to give the likes of Churchill, Dempo and Pune, a run for their money.