Pailan Arrows started brilliantly under Arthur Papas as Australian coach’s tactical acumen and flexibility proved too cunning for some of the opponents at the start. It looked as if he is someone who will take take Indian Football to the next level. The youngsters became the talking points of the town. The more impressive they became, the more aware the opponents became and they prepared counter plans.
Arrows players showed true determination and grit throughout the season to fight against more experienced players, and they fought neck and neck in an uneven battlefield. Their squad did not possess any foreigners and their wealth of experience from various countries and leagues. Experienced professionals guiding the youngsters were also a distant dream for this team and their supporters. Still they weathered the storm and fought a battle on and off the pitch amidst unpaid salaries to finish at 12th place even though it didn’t matter in relegation scenario.
Pailan Arrows had an unbeaten Federation cup as they won 1 and drew 2 of their matches in group stage and were unlucky not to progress. The draws against Dempo and Mumbai FC, and a win against Shillong Lajong provided them with a positive start to the new Season under the tutelage of Arthur Papas who deployed various formations including 4-5-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-1-2, 3-5-2 etc dependent on the opposition and the young players adjusted well to his tactics.
Pailan Arrows showed tactical flexibility and resistance over the course of the season. Arthur Papas used his depth in squad admirably well to confuse the opposition and his clever tactics took the opposition by surprise on many occasions. He built his squad around Shouvik Ghosh and Milan Singh and both were influential in playing the ball from the back. Arrows possession based game was a treat to watch for the followers. Some of the players showed maturity beyond years to keep a calm and composed figure on the pitch.
Pailan Arrows had depth in their squad and Papas rotated his squad admirably well to great effect. He showed his adaptability and tactical acumen with tinkering off the squad to deal with the challenges. The way in which he used players like Vishal Kumar, Ravi Kumar, Thirthakar Sarkar, Dhanpal Ganeshan, and Shaiju Mon to meet various challenges deserves plaudits. First team players Anganba, Deepak Devrani, Prabir Das and Pranoy Haldar were utilized effectively as well.
In the first half of the season, Holicharan Narzary and Alwyn George lead the line. Even though they played a crucial role in the build up and keeping possession in tight areas, finishing let them down on many occasions. The addition of Semin Len Doungel in the winter window gave a new dimensions to the team’s attack. Even though he provided a breath of fresh air in the attack, the goals eluded the team in some matches, which wasn’t true reflection of the youngsters performances.
Pailan Arrows performances in IFA Shield was pathetic as they suffered 3 defeats on the trot. Prayag United thumped them by 5 goals, while they also suffered defeats at the hands of ONGC and East Bengal. Pailan Arrows players had some disciplinary issues and were fined by AIFF during this campaign which put a black mark against some of the finest youngsters in Indian Football but despite all this the Pailan Arrows were a success and at this stage exposure more than the result matters.
Best Player- Ongnam Milan Singh
Arrows skipper Milan Singh had an impressive campaign pulling the strings in a deep lying midfield role. Skipper Milan Singh featured in all the I-League matches this season and was a vital cog in the side’s possession based game. He dropped deeper to provide support to defense and played a key role in switching from defense to attack as well. Milan Singh is the teams top scorer with 5 goals, all of which came from the spot as a part of his set piece duties. The defensive midfielder was effective in breaking up opposition attacks and stabilized his side with his composed presence in the middle of the park.
Most disappointing Player- Malsawm Fela
The striker was supposed to provide stiff competition for Holicharan Narzary for a starting spot but he never got going this season, limiting him to substitute appearances whole season. Fela had registered 2 goals in previous campaign and this season will be considered as a big step backwards for the Mizoram lad. His inability to challenge for the striking spots meant that Arrows had to rope in Seminlen Doungel to provide options upfront.
Soram Porei Angamba provided a safe pair of hands under the bars for the developmental side. He displaced Ravi Kumar from the no.1 spot and made that position his own as the season progressed. He was confident on the ball, apart from his goalkeeping duties he provided an option to keep possession and kept the ball rolling which was key to Pailan Arrows game plan. Center back Shouvik Ghosh, stepped up big time to organize the defense and made sure that Prathmesh Maulingkar’s absence was never felt in the young camp. Ghosh kept his composure against intimidating and physical opposition and kept his cool head to bail his team out from dangerous situations. Pritam Kotal is the only player in Arrows camp who has started all the matches in I-League campaign. The wing back was crucial in providing width on the right hand side of the pitch specially when Arrows started without wingers and his long throws created panic in opposition penalty box. The tall defender was a threat on both sides of the pitch as far as aerial battles were concerned.
Narayan Das played a crucial role on the left wing. His versatility was a huge factor in Arrows all round displays. Das played an instrumental role in the left midfield before occupying the two in one role of a wing back and a winger with ease and professionalism. His tireless running and link-up play was a treat to watch and he is duly credited with 2 goals for his outstanding campaign. Much was expected of Indian Football’s upcoming sensation Alwyn George in this campaign. Alwyn George was crucial to the side in his free role behind the striker, he was heavily involved in the build up to the attacks as well. His flair and guile made it difficult for defenders to mark him, but more goals and assists were expected from him. In the end he finished with paltry 3 goals, which means he is still a work in progress.
Holicharan Narzary started the season brightly and scored some goals, but he failed to deliver consistent performances throughout the season. Finally he had to settle for 5 goals in 25 appearances. Seminlen Doungel was brought in to bolster the attack halfway through the season. Even though he has helped the team’s attack in many ways, the return of 2 goals in 11 games isn’t a healthy figure for a promising striker.
It must though be mentioned that at one point of time, the youngsters Alwyn George, Holicharan Narzary, Milan Singh and Shouvik Ghosh were performing consistently and were staking claims for a spot in the national reckoning.
Most Memorable Match
Pailan Arrows started with back to back wins over Mumbai FC and Air India and the expectations were sky high at that moment. As the season progressed they enjoyed mixed bag of fortunes and a big win against ONGC stood out among the rest. The most memorable match for Arrows youngsters was the 2 goal win over defending champions Dempo at their own backyard. Arthur Papas boys stretched the Dempo defense on the counter and goals from Holicharan Narzary and Alwyn George was enough to record their biggest scalp since inception.
Most Disappointing Match
Pailan Arrows had suffered 3 goal defeats at the hands of Prayag United, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers and ONGC. ONGC was a different side at home and had some major scalps in Delhi, But it was the 3-1 defeat suffered at the hands of relegation candidates Shillong Lajong that hurt them the most. They suffered 5 defeats on the trot afterwards and suddenly found themselves in relegation zone from a comfortable position in mid-table.
Most Memorable Goal
Arrows didn’t score too many goals in this campaign, to be precise 25 goals in 26 I-League campaign. Alwyn George sealed the clubs historic win over Dempo in the 85th minute with a headed goal and the goal is our pick for the most memorable goal. The goal came after some neat link up play on the left hand side and Seminlen Doungel’s cross was diverted into the back of the net by the brilliant Alwyn George, who had setup the first earlier.