BY ASHISH PETER
Goal continues to profile each outfit’s strengths and weaknesses in the build-up to the four-month long footballing affair with verdict on the national capital-based Delhi Dynamos.
After achieving top-four finishes in the past two editions, Delhi Dynamos will enter the new season with a completely revamped squad with veteran Spanish coach Miguel Angel Portugal taking charge of the outfit.
Opting for a mixture of youth and experience, the Dynamos have brought the likes of Pritam Kotal, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Albino Gomes and Seityasen Singh in the Indian players’ draft.
Having lost the firepower of last season’s top-scorer Marcelinho Dias and Kean Lewis up top, the franchise has roped in veteran Nigerian striker Kalu Uche on the overseas front along with Brazilian midfielder Paulinho Dias and Venezuelan defender Gabriel Cichero.
Delhi Dynamos complete squad
Goalkeeper: Albino Gomes, Sukhadev Patil and Arnab Das Sharma.
Defenders: Gabriel Cichero, Jayananda Singh Moirangthem, Lalmangaihsanga Ralte, Mohammad Sajid Dhot, Munmum Timothy Lugun, Pratik Chowdhary, Pritam Kotal and Rowilson Rodrigues.
Midfielders: Eduardo Moya, Jeroen Lumu, Matias Mirabaje, Paulinho Dias, Seityasen Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Vinit Rai.
Forwards: David Ngaihte, Guyon Fernandez, Kalu Uche, Romeo Fernandes and Lallianzuala Chhangte .
A veteran striker with bundles of experience, Nigerian striker Kalu Uche will have to bear the burden of leading the line for the Delhi club. The 34-year-old has spent the bulk of his career in the Spanish leagues with fruitful stints at Deportivo Almeria and Espanyol.
Capped 36 times for Nigeria, he was an integral part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup squad, bagging two goals in his side’s group-stage exit. He has first-hand experience of the ISL with FC Pune City where he bagged four goals during the second edition in 2015.
The task of shielding Delhi’s back-four will befall midfielder Paulinho Dias who, for the first time, will experience an overseas league after spending his entire career back home in Brazil so far. A Cruzeiro youth product, the 29-year-old old has enjoyed two highly successful seasons with Chapocoense where he was integral to a side which won back-to-back promotions.
Experienced Venezuelan centre-back Gabriel Cichero will take his place at the heart of Delhi’s defence with 61 caps with his national team to back up his credentials. Now 33-years-old, Cichero has enjoyed stints with the likes of New York Red Bulls, Newell’s Old Boys and FC Nantes.
The six feet plus tall central defender can also double up as left-back with a knack for finding the back of the net on occasions. The Venezuelan scored the winning goal against Chile in the 2011 Copa America quarter-final where his side would eventually finish fourth.
With experience flowing in the playing field, Delhi are stacked with the same in the managerial department with Miguel Angel at the helm. The Spaniard has had successful stints managing the Real Madrid B and C teams along with the likes of Racing Santander and Real Valladolid. Most recently, he led Bolivar to a Bolivian league triumph in 2012-13 and the 61-year-old's tactical astuteness will remain one of Delhi's trump cards in the ISL.
While Delhi have done well to rope in I-League winning custodian Albino Gomes, they might have sold themselves short on the back-up department. Journeyman goalkeeper Arnab Das Sharma is expected to be the deputy alongside 19-year-old Sukhadev Patil.
While Pritam Kotal and Sena Ralte are expected to occupy the full-back slots, Miguel Angel’s options to partner Cichero at the heart of the defence do not look so promising. The likes of Pratik Chowdhary and Rowilson Rodrigues have had previous stints in the ISL but have failed to really shine.
Compatriot Edu Moya remains an option for the Spanish manager in defence having played as a defensive midfielder for large periods of his career but Delhi remain vulnerable with the lack of quality available.
While Paulinho and Moya provide some solidity to the midfield, the lack of proven performers and experienced Indian names could remain Delhi’s undoing. Dutch winger Jeroen Lumu hasn’t set the world alight since representing Netherlands in the U-17 and U-18 levels and so remains an unknown commodity. Lallianzuala Chhangte and Seityasen Singh bring some promise but Romeo Fernandes’ development seems to have stagnated after showing some initial promise in the league. The other options at their disposal are David Nghaite and Nanda Kumar, two players who have have potential but need to back it with consistency.
Replacing Marcelinho and Kean’s goals up-top will be a tough ask and though they have bought well in Uche, question marks still remain over their other option.
Former Feyenoord striker Guyon Fernandez does not come in with the best of goal-scoring form. Chhangte remains an option up front but Delhi might regret not bolstering their strike-force as well as they would have liked.
In youngsters like Chhangte and Jayananda Singh, Delhi has a crop of budding talent at their disposal. The former started his career with a bang after being called up to the national team as just a teenager and went on to score two goals in the 2015 SAFF Championship, becoming the second youngest goal-scorer for India.
Still only 20, Chhangte will be looking to make a serious impact in the upcoming edition after having fallen off the radar of late.
18-year-old central defender Jayananda Singh has come through the ranks of India’s U-14 and U-16 divisions, captaining the side at both levels. He was part of the SAFF U-16 Championship winning team and has tons of potential to offer Delhi.
The Danger Man
Kalu Uche will undoubtedly be the star man for the Dynamos in the fourth edition, tasked with the huge responsibility of motoring Delhi’s goal threat.
Having helped Deportivo Almeria achieve its first ever La Liga promotion in 2005, the Nigerian has banged in the goals at all stages of his career so far. The forward’s previous stint in the ISL has shown he has what it takes to succeed in Indian football and his physical presence will be a handful for opposition defenders in the months to come.
While Delhi have brought in some promising talent, the lack of finished product is in abundance throughout the side. With head coach Portugal’s experience vital, Dynamos face an uphill battle to repeat their previous two seasons’ showing.