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I-League 2018-19: Exposure tours on the cards before AFC U-19 qualifiers, confirms Floyd Pinto

07:57 EAT 15/02/2019
Floyd Pinto Indian Arrows Shillong Lajong I-League 2017/18
The Indian Arrows coach reveals that the core squad for U-19 qualifers is ready...

The Indian Arrows players have shown significant improvement since the start of their league campaign. The team has changed gears as the league progressed and now find themselves in the seventh spot in the league table with 16 points from 17 matches.

If counter-attacking was their forte, they are slowly learning the trade of dominating possession and being more confident on the ball. Coach Floyd Pinto has been working closely with this group of boys since the inception of the Arrows' project and he insists that although this is a conscious effort, a lot of work needs to be done.

"At the start of the season, we were trying to get a lot of things across to the players. The players were also trying to grasp them and the first few matches were a learning experience for us. After the three first matches, we got a ten-day break and we worked closely in the training sessions and that was a point in the season from where we started to change slowly and steadily. This was when it all began to take shape. 

"We have started keeping more of the ball and the boys are playing six-eight passes. We have passed that phase of merely counter-attacking to keeping possession of the ball and creating chances. Then we faced the stage of not finishing those chances.

"Before the Minerva win, we were ending up on the wrong side of one-goal results. We should have taken those chances and finished off the game. But, at the end of the day, we need the ball. If you have the ball, then the opposition cannot hurt you. But we need to work more on the basics. Like having the ball, making that short, quick passes (wall pass) which will open up the game further. They will learn through the experience they are having in I-league," explains Pinto in a chat with Goal.

Arrows had maintained their defensive shape well and even league leaders Chennai City had to toil to get the opener until the 73rd minute. Anwar Ali and Narender Gahlot have forged a solid defensive pairing which has been a relief for Pinto.

"Most teams have foreigners who are physically superior to our boys. So we need to defend in numbers. But the fate of each game is being decided by fine margins. These boys showed the right intensity against Minerva and we were on the right side of things. We need to maintain that intensity throughout to continue being on the right side," sounded an alert Pinto before taking on Gokulam on Saturday.

The Goan tactician is already looking ahead of I-League and has set his eyes on the AFC U-19 qualifiers which are set to start later this year.  He was himself present in Goa during the Elite Youth League to have a look at the talent pool and there are some who have impressed the coach.

"We have drawn out a list of players who can potentially be in the U-19 camp. Gurkirat (Singh) and Givson are already in the Arrows set-up so that they get enough time to adapt to a system that we want to play. We will watch out for players in the second division who will be eligible for AFC U-19. There is always room to bring in good talent.

"There will definitely be some exposure tours as we need to get some good competitive minutes under our belt. But before that, we need to finalize the team for the competition. There are a number of players who will not be eligible for the U-19 and we need to find replacements. Yes, there will be some players from the Arrows side like Amarjit (Singh), Vikram (Pratap), (Rohit) Danu, (Prabhsukhan) Gill, and these boys will form the core of the team. But we definitely need to find players in some crucial positions as back-ups. Once that is done, we can prepare ourselves for the exposure trips," reveals Pinto.

Apart from organising exposure tours the All India Football Federation (AIFF) also deserves credit for putting trust in Indian coaches like Bibiano Fernandes and Pinto and the former assistant to Luis Matos wants to repay the trust with encouraging results.

"I am extremely thankful to Mr. Kushal Das and Abhishek Yadav for always having a positive outlook towards Indian coaches. That positive response has given us the confidence of working freely with the boys and expressing ourselves as coaches. We are also aware of the responsibility on our shoulders. Bibiano did well in Malaysia, Indian Arrows is doing reasonably well in I-League. This is all due to the encouragement of Mr. Das and Abhishek."

But the Arrows project will lose some of the key players next season as the likes of Boris, Amarjit and others will join their parent clubs in the Indian Super League (ISL). But the AFC 'A' License-holder believes that these boys are ready to make the jump and has the potential to force their way into the starting XI.

"I have not seen many teams who play with greater intensity than these boys. So, as far as intensity is concerned, these boys are ready. It is just a matter of thing of them adapting to the philosophy of the coach of that ISL team. If they adapt to that, I don't see any reason why these boys can't break into the ISL side immediately. The players like Rakip, Nawas, Thatal who are playing regularly in ISL only gives confidence to these boys. These boys have been given a lot of exposure by AIFF and they have learned a lot," concluded Pinto.