As mentioned earlier, Goal.com India will name a Player of the Month every month beginning January 2010, based on players' performances in Indian football, primarily the I-League. January saw the second phase of the league kick off, and four rounds have been played out so far.
Several individuals shone throughout the month, many of whom must be mentioned here. First of all, Mohun Bagan stalwart and an I-League and NFL legend, Jose Baretto had an outstanding month. It started off with the game against champions Churchill Brothers, where he scored both of Bagan's goals. The next game saw Bagan pump in five against a hapless Air India side, out of which the Brazilian scored an unprecedented four goals.
His teammate Marcos Pereira has been in scintillating form as well, bossing midfield, as well as scoring against Mahindra United. It's also been a good month for East Bengal duo Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Yusif Yakubu. While Wadoo has put behind an early season blip and has been rock solid in the center of defence, veteran striker Yakubu scored his 100th league goal in India against Churchill, where the Kolkatans brought the Goan's unbeaten run to an end.
JCT continued to struggle in the league, losing to Pune FC at home, and then going down to Viva Kerala in Kozhikode, but came up with a strong performance in the 1-1 draw with Chirag in Kolkata, following which they returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Sporting Clube de Goa. And in all games, whether they won or lost, midfielder Orji Penn has been their stand-out player, working hard from box to box, and scoring crucial goals.
Viva Kerala have impressed too, with youngster Sakeer being at the forefront of most good things, also scoring the team's late winner against Air India, a 25-yard piledriver.
But who can deny that the form team in the league is Pune FC at the moment. And they are so because of a lot of teamwork, as well as some individuals being in red-hot form. The Reds' midfield duo of Shanmugam Venkatesh and Douhou Pierre are establishing themselves as one of the best in the league, while striker Edmar Figueira has also found his feet in Indian football. Subrata Paul has been consistent, while Selwyn Fernandes and Rahul Kumar have forged a solid central defensive partnership.
But Goal.com's Player of the Month for the month of January, is none other than Pune FC's winger-cum-attacking midfielder-cum-striker, Arata Izumi. His versatality has given Pune many options tactically, while his work ethic on the pitch is admirable. Add to that his three goals and an assist in the four games played this month, Arata's form has been instrumental in Pune's revival.
This also means that Pune FC have swept both categories, as Derrick Pereira was named Manager of the Month earlier today. Watch out for an exclusive interview with Arata Izumi, our Player of the Month, where he talks about his current form, and his stay in Pune.