thumbnail Hello, starts a new series, where the head coach of the respective team tells you all that you need to know about their team before the Federation Cup...

By Kaustav Bera


Arthur Papas had originally been roped in by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to take charge of the FIFA academy in Navi Mumbai, but due to circumstantial changes, he has been assigned to takeover the reins of India U-22 and Pailan Arrows.

Under Papas's guidance, India U-22 gave a good account of themselves in Oman, though they failed to qualify for the main event. side as he led them to a much hailed campaign in the 2014 AFC U-22 Qualifiers, where they failed to qualify but nonetheless put up a spirited performance which was unexpected as they were up against better trained and higher ranked teams.

Earlier he was the assistant manager at Newcastle Jets in Australia.

Retaining the star performers from the U-22 side  is a coup in itself...

When quizzed about his summer transfer dealings this season, Papas talked about how different it was managing a side like Arrows, as compared to a professional club as he is restricted to picking players from the academies, while losing players to the big teams.

"I have inherited the majority of last year’s squad and we have only added a couple players from the 22’s. It’s a very different situation to when you discuss your squad as a Head Coach of a professional senior team as we are a development team playing in a professional league so we do not go about making big signings or drastic changes to our roster. We are also not in a position to strengthen in any area because if you have too many players you limit the amount you can expose the current crop to assist their development for the future."

The Arrows did lose a clutch of talented players who shone last term to the likes of Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers among others. While Bijendra Rai and CS Sabeeth chose Kolkata giants, Mohun Bagan, Ajay Singh who was impressive last season switched to Churchill Brothers, who also poached Gurtej Singh and Bikramjit Singh from the developmental side. Papas did manage to lure in two of his U-22 wards, Shaiju Mon from Chirag United and Deepak Prakash from HAL SC.


Speaking about his side's pre-season preparations, Papas revealed, “In terms of pre-season duration we have been completing team training since August 1st with the aim of being ready for the first I-League match in the first week of October. This is more than sufficient time needed because as I explained I don’t waste my training time by running beaches, hills or anything that doesn’t directly relate to the requirements of the match, therefore we are very specific and detailed in our training methods.

During pre-season, in a friendly against the Indian senior side, Pailan managed a credible draw, before India went on to retain the Nehru Cup. In his first tournament with the Arrows, the Durand Cup, although his side was undefeated in the group, they failed to qualify, as eventual champions Air India had topped the group.

They also drew 2-2 in a friendly against last season's Federation CUp finalist, East Bengal.


Papas talked bout the fluidity of tactics while stating that 4-3-3 will be the preferred formation for his side.

"From a development point of view I see the 4-3-3 as the ideal formation to assist the development of young players. Therefore, this is the core focus tactically but then within this formation there is many variables and it very easily converted to a 3-4-3 or 4-4-1-1 if necessary. Personally, it's one thing to say you play a certain formation but for me it’s more about the functions within the formation and the systems of play. I like my teams to play a pro-active brand of football, to keep the ball on the ground and to work with a high level of mobility because this is now the way modern football is played. Most importantly the aim is to see a definitive style of play that fits in with the direction Indian football is heading in the future." View

As Papas rightly pointed out, Pailan are likely to start with a 4-3-3 but which can easily transform into a containing 4-5-1 especially when they are up against top dogs Dempo where Papas would want to flood the midfield. Alwyn George and Tirthankar Sarkar will then tuck in midfield leaving the skillful Narzary to play the role of the lone man upfront. The midfield looks well marshalled with the trio of Prabir Singh, Pronoy Haldar and Milan Singh. Shilton D' Silva, who missed almost the entire last season due to injury is expected to make a comeback in the Federation Cup.

Pailan's central defense look strong with the pairing of Shouvik Ghosh and Prathamesh Maulingkar, a dependable duo in any situation.

Both Pritam Kotal and Avinabo Bag are pacy full backs known for their overlapping runs. Bag had also bagged a goal in their Durand Cup tie against Air India.

Alwyn George needs to fire on all cylinders to give Arrows any chance at all!

The Arrows manager is hesitant to pin point a particular player, emphasizing the need for teamwork ahead of individuals.

"I have been very happy with the mentality, level of desire and overall improvement in every single player since we began. It would be wrong for me to single out any particular individual because the beauty of coaching younger players is that sometimes you cannot always anticipate which player will develop and at what rate. All players mature at different stages. So the players we discuss today might be completely different to the ones spoken about by the I-League come the end of this season." View

Alwyn George will be the key man if Pailan have any chance to topple their more illustrious rivals. In the recently concluded India U-22 campaign, George ended up Indian topscorer netting 4 goals in 5 appearances.

The defensive pairing of Prathamesh and Shouvik will also have to be at their very best to stop the dangerous strikers that they will be up against.

Can The Arrows Get Past Their More Fancied Rivals?...

When talking about the group rivals, Papas is confident of his side and their chances.

"We have a tough group placed with teams who all have something to prove for their own reasons. Our approach is always to respect every single opponent but we play with only internal pressure because we are a young team made up of solely talented Indian Youth footballers, and we play against teams who all rely heavily on their foreigners and mature senior players. We have nothing to lose!" View

On first look, it might seem that the Arrows have absolutely no chance in Group A, paired with Dempo, Shillong Lajong and Mumbai FC. Though Demp are favourites to make it out of the group, but it is a good opportunity fo Papas to give his players a run against top oppositions, with the I-League campaign in mind.

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