As the I-League season 2013-14 approaches, Goal introduces each of the 13 competitors, while in this edition we take a look at the Red Lizards...
BY AYUSH SRIVASTAVA Follow @ayush_sri on twitter
Last season's performance: (Finished second) – The Red Lizardshad a brilliant season last time round, as Derrick Pereira led the side to the runner-ups slot in the league. While the club still failed to break its silverware drought, it certainly took steps in the right direction.
However with the former Mahindra United coach leaving for Salgaocar at the end of the campaign, it is a fresh start indeed, for them this season.
| THE COACH
Mike Snoei will be at the helm of Pune FC this season, after the Red Lizards decided to go Dutch, in their hunt for a new coach.
The 49-year old holds a UEFA Pro Coaching License and has played for all the Dutch national teams. He played alongside the legendary Marco Van Basten in the 1983 U-21 World Cup in Mexico.
He has worked as an assistant to Henk ten Cate, the former assistant manager of Barcelona and Chelsea, at Greece’s Panathinaikos, Dubai’s Al Ahli, Qatar’s Umm Salal and China’s Shandong Luneng Taishan.
Snoei started his coaching career as a youth team coach with Sparta Rotterdam (u-14 and u-16), Vitesse Arnhem (u-19 and head of youth academy). His first tryst as the coach of the senior squad started at Vitesse and thereafter at Sparta Rotterdam and Go Ahead Eagles.
| TRANSFER DEALINGS
TRANSFERS IN:The first player to join the club was local lad Prakash Thorat, who last played for Air India, operating as a winger as well as a forward.
However with several players leaving the club, Thorat was followed by a flurry of new signings soon after.
In goal, former East Bengal and Mumbai Tigers custodian Arup Debnath joined the squad, to compliment the existing duo of Amrinder Singh and Shahinlal Meloly.
In defense, Calum Angus, the former Portsmouth Academy player, opted for a move to India with the Red Lizards. Anthony D’Souza, the left-winger, joined the club from Salgaocar FC, adding some width to the squad.
Dhanpal Ganesh meanwhile, returned to the club from Pailan Arrows, having spent a year on loan with the outfit, while a move for Jovel Martins is still being contested by the club, after it emerged that the player had already signed a deal with Sporting Clube de Goa, for the coming season.
The new season is upon Mike Snoei and Pune FC
However, they quickly added Australian utility attacker James Meyer and Equatorial Guinea international forward Raul Fabiani, to augment their strike force.
A whole host of youngsters were also promoted from the youth academy, with the likes of Fanai Lalrempuia and Thongkhosiem Haokip being the ones to look-out for.
TRANSFERS OUT: Quite a few of the players, who formed the backbone of the squad last season, left for greener pastures at the end of the previous campaign.
The strike-force of the Red Lizards was the most affected, as the entire quartet of James Moga, Boima Karpeh, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Subash Singh, left in search of new avenues, meaning that Snoei had a big headache to replace his depleted front-line, soon after taking over.
Key wingers Karma Tsewang and Khanthang Paite also joined the exodus, moving to Salgaocar FC and Mohammedan Sporting respectively, while Chika Wali too, broke his association with the club, to join Derrick Pereira in Goa.
Abhra Mondal then completed a return to East Bengal, meaning that Snoei wouldn't have the squad which finished second last term at their disposal.
| FORMATION AND TACTICS
Being a part of the Dutch revolution brought in by India technical director Rob Baan, Snoei too prefers a formation which resembles between a 4-3-3, flexible enough to switch to a 4-2-3-1, as per the requirement of the game.
In his first conference after being unveiled as the new coach of the club, the Dutchman had promised that his side would look to monopolize possession and play attacking football, aiming to score more than they concede, which means the defense on most occasions will be holding a very high line.
Anas Edathodika will continue to be the mainstay in defense for the Red Lizards, being joined by Angus, who has made a promising start to life in Indian football, if reports are to be believed.
Othallo Tabia and Gurjinder Singh offer some sort of continuity at the back, and are one of the most solid and reliable pair of wing-backs in the league.
Dhanpal Ganesh and Mumtaz Akhtar will be vying for the spot of the defensive midfielder in the system, playing behind the established duo of Douhou Pierre and Arata Izumi, both of whom will play a vital part in Snoei’s system.
Meyer is expected to make the right wing his own, allowing D’souza to roam down the other wing, with Fabiani having the job of filling James Moga’s monstrous shoes.
Man to Watch - Anas Edathodika
While the national team continues to look for a consistent and reliable top performer at the back, the Pune FC defender continues to be ignored by Wim Koevermans, a decision which baffles most observers of the I-League.
The player has been a stand-out performer during his time with the Red Lizards, impressing with his no non-sense attitude and brave defending. If he continues his steady improvement this coming campaign, then the calls for his selection in the national team will become difficult for the Indian coach to ignore.
That should prove to be enough of an incentive for the defender, who snubbed lucrative contracts to stay with Pune FC this season.
| SEASON'S TARGET
With a new manager at the helm and several new faces, including promoted youngsters, it would be perhaps a bit too much, to expect a title challenge from Pune FC this campaign, as it could be a transitional year for them.
However anything lower than a top five finish would be difficult to stomach for the Red Lizards faithful, even though they might have a taxing AFC Cup campaign to look forward to.
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