Summer Break 

So with the summer break and time to relax, it is time for self-reflection. 

We had a summer camp of sorts for our school children and kids from nearby areas. Great participation levels given that we neither advertised nor planned it that way. The focus was on game attitude and discipline which combined with fun sessions. 

Truth be told there was no pre-plan like I would usually do but I guess setting up sessions has become a second nature to me. The goal was to enhance their ball control and analyze their game attitude. In the end I felt it was a success given the feed back from their parents. I hope that I can do something like this again in the future.

Grassroots Football: Problems in Manipur.

After a month of practice, heavy torrential rainfall and studies, the day had come for the students to test whatever they had learnt. Subroto Mukherjee Cup is an annual tournament for schools which start at the district level then at the state level ending with the national phase at New Delhi. For the boys it was a first time experience and the highest expectations for them to become the district champions. But our morales were low as soon as we reached the venue.

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The above picture is a bit of an exaggeration but the field was something like it-lop sided. Our opponents at first sight looked like U-20’s (This was an U-14 event) but there was no way to prove this. Don’t get me wrong. There is a medical check before any games but the criteria for U-14 is the number of teeth must not exceed 28 which is ridiculous given that I am 24 and I have only 29 teeth. Consider the chances of illegal participation – I could just break one of my teeth to participate in an U-14 game. If that’s not enough, the field did not have marked lines which I recall is mandatory by FIFA rules. The grass was half-feet high. This seemed like a huge task but the boys had a great second-half and from 2 down we made it 2-1 and it seemed like it was going to penalties but I guess was asking too much. As a coach and a Football enthusiast, I believe that to reach a high level of football infrastructure is important but rampant corruption has stolen away the opportunities for the deserving. I have been criticized for fielding young players but I believe that long term development will yield better rewards.

 

NEROCA vs SHILLONG LAJONG FC

lajvsner.jpgTo start with, it felt surreal watching Shillong Lajong FC. I remember those days when I coached Lajong fc – in Football Manager 2013-14. Names like Redeem, Pritam, Jacob, Rupert..etc were common in my virtual team and strangely it looks the same in real life. A pre-season match between champions of Meghalaya and Manipur was an opportunity for me to analyse Lajong FC – their players, style and all. Their opponents NEROCA FC have won the sate league undefeated and that is a morale booster.

THE FORMATION-Lajong FC

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(The numbers I’ve left out is because I’ve forgotten it – Center Back, left winger- or my software does not have enough numbers – No. 25, 26. Striker and Centre forward.)

Both the teams came out in a 4-4-2 formation but Lajong were more of a 4-4-1-1 with No. 26 supporting the lone striker. And in some cases it became a 4-2-3-1.

NEROCA FC were undefeated in MSL because of their strong defense and their talented individuals which is way above the level of the rest of the teams. So this was going to be a challenge for them- against a club that has been playing in the highest league.

THE TACTICS – Lajong FC

During the warm ups, I noticed the Lajong players were practicing a pattern where in the defense would kick long balls to the wings. As expected, this same pattern was followed in the game. (As shown in the following picture)

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The full backs would push higher to overload a side. The man-marking system of the opponent creates spaces in the wings of the attacking third. No.6 (Sana) kicks a long ball to the left shaded area which is space for No.19 to take advantage of. Neroca’s rigid man-marking defense makes them prone to such kind of patterns. Manipur State League did not have any team with such a dynamic tactic where movement, overloading of wings or off the ball movement by attacking players can result in goals.

Talking about movement of the ball, there was this moment when the ball was in the left side of the pitch. This attracted the opponents to that side leaving space on the right which the Lajong right back took advantage of.lajvner2.jpg Basically, most of the opportunities for Lajong came through the wings but strangely, such a tactic was less frequent. And even if there was one, not many attackers were there to pounce on the ball in the penalty box.

Conclusion

The game ended in a tie-breaker with Lajong winning it but you would have expected more from a team playing in I-League. Anyways there were some important exclusions I guess. Rocus Lamare did not get play time and possibly there are some more foreigners yet to come.

But the way I see it, Lajong needs to ramp up its mid-field and forwards.  Yes, they might have talented youngsters but you need consistency. If Singto can balance youth and experience, Lajong could have a better campaign than the last year. The chemistry between Centre backs is not smooth yet. But it is still early to comment too much on anything. All we can do is wait for the match against Bengaluru FC and hope the boys get some crucial points.

3-5-2 and Manipur

When it comes to formations in football, every region has its own mantra on what best tactic – formation wise – to follow. From my experience in Manipur , especially last year I have noticed that 3-5-2 is the most followed formation. I consider this to be a pro-attacking formation. Philosophies depend on the culture of the region and it is no wonder that kids here prefer playing in advanced positions rather than being goalie or in defensive positions. 

The formation usually has 3 last line defense with the middle player behaving like a sweeper more often. There is one defense mid, two midfielder, two winger and two striker. Like I said it is more of an attacking formation with about six player who can position in attacking third when in attacking phase. 

This is also a problem because no team is always in attacking phase. The wingers are isolated allowing for spaces on the sides. It is inevitable that side backs will press in a man-marking tactic. This will then create spaces between the last defenders unless the defense midfield covers which is rare when opponents are direct.

3-5-2 and black dots represent the spaces which opponents can take advantage of.

No wonder games in which both teams employ this formation will always be entertaining because of its attacking benefits and the space that simultaneously is formed at the sides and back. I see this mainly in amateur games where it is all about direct play and it is frantic. 

This year though there are changes tactically. Most of the teams in MSL(Manipur state league) have come out with 4-4-2 which brings more stability at the back meaning less goals.


Credits Lenlai Club.

Compare these two leagues where CC pur Super(CSL) can be said to be the amateur league. The average goals per game for MSL is 1.18 compared to CSL’s 1.63. Not a big difference you might say but if you look closer there are only 2 clubs in MSL (out of 12) that average 2 goals per game when CSL has 3 teams out of 7 with 2 goals per game. This means CSL is more entertaining than MSL but more chaotic. 

But again this is true only if teams in CSL

are using the 352 tactic.

Messi in the final again…

Messi and Copa America are poles apart.

Messi’s decision seems justified when you think the number of times he has gone through the same situation-what must he do to win a final? Not to mention the level of confidence that must have been drained out of him losing each final. But looking back there seems to be a pattern in which Messi is too good upto the semi-finals and after

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it’s just the same old story. On Sunday (here in India) Chile were without Jorge famed for the ‘chaos’ tactics. This time Chile kept the ball more often with less chaotic displays-One of the reasons why I felt this was the year for Messi and Co. That was until both the sides were reduced to 10 men. After that it was just slow tempo play but Chile seemed relaxed and threatened Argentina. It was at this moment I though to myself if Messi offered the team anything at all? He is creative and skillful but we are talking about 10 v 10 where every lads must work hard in every phase. Argentina looked like they were playing 9 men without the ball. With the ball you need not be creative as long as you’re fast as most of the attacks were counter-attacks. Yes,there are voices saying that Messi is indespensable but in the name of efficiency Argentina is better without Messi.

Messi and Arsenal-a strange relationship.

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Hmm… How many times have they met and what’s with Messi and Arsenal? It’s like such games gives him that ‘supernatural’ strength and for reasons brings the best out of him.

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I expected it to be a tight game and the first half was fantastic especially from Arsenal. But it takes just one error and all the hard work comes crumbling. The first half was great and every one who witnessed will agree with me. Both had their chances and I was happy for Arsenal and their strong display. Their tactics clicked. When playing Barcelona it’s always advised to play deep and overloading players in the middle. Yes this allows Barcelona to attack more but then again that’s the whole idea. Take on waves of attack and then when opportunity arises counter attack swiftly. But this calls for individual defense brilliance which Arsenal showed especially in the wings and backline. Messi couldn’t work his magic and this meant well for the team.

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The turning point came about when Arsenal pushed players higher up and the fatal mistake if you’d watched the game was when Arsenal began to tiki-taka on the right side. Ramsay could have changed the possession to the left side and I believe it was a back pass to Coquelin who was way up and on the right that it turned into a Barcelona counter attack. The rest is Messi scores and makes Cech look bad who by far was playing the best game of his life. Barca gets confident and play their usual tiki-taka which was smooth counter to the nervous passing from them in the first half. A silly mistake from Mertesacker earns a penalty and a goal for Barcelona la Messi.

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Could Arsenal have done better? Well they were until the first half. A sloppy attacking move was an error enough to put their hopes of a quarter final game disappear AGAIN. It’s just stupid of Arsenal players to take the ball into the attacking third and not make an attacking move. A cross or a move to the left instead of a back makes sense. I for one blame Ramsey who could have moved the ball to the huge space on the left instead of pulling up Coquelin and leaving space behind. But fretting makes no sense either I guess after all this is Barcelona. Another note of significance would be that Barcelona is dangerous not when they tiki-taka but it’s the counter attacks that make them lethal.