Indian Arrows had suffered four consecutive defeats before they faced Aizawl FC on December 14. Something had to change. And Floyd Pinto rang in the changes in the starting line-up as well as in tactics.
Deepak Tangri and Jitendra Singh were handed their first starts in this season and Boris Singh was deployed on the wings instead of his natural position as a right-back.
Tangri slotted in as a defensive screener which allowed more freedom to Amarjit Singh to move forward and spray the passes. The Mohun Bagan academy graduate added the much-needed steel in midfield performing the role of a typical defensive midfielder who would lie deep and work as a silent assassin destroying opposition attacks.
His A-game against Aizawl helped him retain his place against Gokulam and he did not disappoint. Guilherme Castro was kept in check and the Brazilian could not dictate the tempo of the game as he generally does, courtesy of Tangri.
In both the games Arrows allowed the opposition to keep possession but maintained their defensive shape to perfection. They played according to their strengths and if they had been more clinical in front of goal, they could have easily bagged the three points against the former I-league champions. Their short and quick passes had breached Aizawl's backline on a couple of occasions and Gift Raikhan's men were lucky to escape with a point.
Boris looked comfortable operating in the wide areas and used his pace and trickery to the fullest to get the better of the Aizawl full-backs. He could have registered his name on the score-sheet only if he had not been denied by the crossbar in the 80th minute after getting the better of Lalhriat Renga and Vanlalduatsanga.
New addition Vikram Pratap Singh oozed quality whenever he was on the ball. His exquisite control and fearlessness in taking on defenders are remarkable. The Chandigarh Football Academy product has seamlessly fit in the squad and has become an integral part of the attacking department in no time. He was brilliant in both the matches and contributed in bounty to build-up attacks.
Against Aizawl, he set up Rahim Ali after a quick give-and-go with Boris and had it been converted, Vikram could have had an assist to his name. In the next match, Daniel Addo and Castro could not help but foul him inside the box to stop him in his tracks and the referee had no qualms in pointing towards the spot, which ultimately led to the winner by Amarjit.
Arrows are slowly and gradually hitting the right chords. In Tangri, Pinto has a resolute defensive midfielder whereas he has Anwar Ali at the back who can organize and marshal the defense. The two back-to-back clean sheets will boost the confidence of his defense and it is time that they concentrate on becoming more clinical in front of the opposition goal.
Rahim Ali has been getting into goal-scoring positions but his final touch has let him down. He has shown the requisite intensity and flair while taking on defenders but needs to work on the final product.
Against Churchill Brothers chances will be scanty and few. It is important that the team makes the most of the few opportunities as one can expect Pinto to pay more attention to his backline as they will be up against an in-form Willis Plaza and Dawda Ceesay.