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Misfiring Indian wingers a cause for concern

08:03 GMT+3 08/01/2020
Udanta Farukh Chhangte
Striker is not the only position that India is struggling with...

Before the 2019-20 season of Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League kicked off, one of the biggest worries for India head coach Igor Stimac would have been about finding a goalscoring striker for his team. 

The dependence on Sunil Chhetri for goals has been a problem and Jeje Lalpekhlua's recovery from his injury did not help matters. A few months into the season, not only has he struggled to come up with an answer to the striker problem, he also has a new concern on the flanks. 

Often when the strikers go missing in front of goal, it is the wingers of a team that poses a serious threat in the attacking third. They may choose the outside route to beat the opposition's fullbacks for pace and deliver pin-point crosses that can cause panic inside the box or cut inside and take a shot. On current form, none of Stimac's preferred options seem to be confident enough to make an impact in the final third. 

Lallianzuala Chhangte and Udanta Singh have suffered alarming dips in form since the season started. Chhangte, who joined Chennaiyin in the summer, has one goal and zero assists to his name. And he has been woeful with his finishing and crossing in general. 

Udanta Singh has come under fire from his head coach Carles Cuadrat for not stepping up in games. The lack of improvement in his end product in the last few years despite receiving flak for the same is concerning. Like Chhangte, he also has one goal, zero assists and boatloads of wasted chances in the kitty. 

Farukh Choudhary, who is the next option for Stimac, started the season well but his impact veered off as Jamshedpur started struggling on the pitch without the influential duo of Piti and Sergio Castel. He is the third Indian winger in this list with just one goal to his name so far this season. It must also be noted that all three aforementioned players have started nearly all games for their respective teams. 

The case is the same if you look at other available options from the last squad that Stimac assembled in November 2018. Ashique, who has played as left-back and left-winger, is yet to open his account for Bengaluru FC. Jackichand Singh and Seiminlen Doungel have zero and one goal respectively for FC Goa

Lack of a goal threat from its front men will put India in a precarious position going into the next round of World Cup qualifiers and upcoming games after that. While their pace may help them score from counter-attacks, against teams that choose to stay back and set up an organized wall of defence, India are likely to struggle.

This is not a problem without a solution. These players have a few more games to step up and deliver before Igor Stimac names his next squad. Otherwise, the likes of Michael Soosairaj, who is also being deployed as wing-back but has two goals this season, may get a ticket back into the squad. Either way, India needs its wingers to deliver.