Featured image credits: Goal.com
Two sides with different ambitions and different run of form from two different parts of the country faced each other in the weekend’s first I-League action. The match witnessed the team from Northeast, Aizawl FC, host the team from South India – Chennai City FC. Previous encounter saw Chennai City beat Khalid Jamil’s team 2-0 in the southern territory and the onus now fell on Aizawl to avenge their defeat.
Going into the game, Aizawl FC were on the back of a brilliant 1-0 result over league leaders East Bengal while Chennai lost 4-1 at the hands of Shillong Lajong at home. In the three games managed this season, Chennai City coach Soundararajan had led his men to a notable win over Mumbai FC and a draw against Churchill Brothers. With just 8 points from 10 games, a win was definitely the main need for Chennai City FC as it would give them the much needed breathing space from the relegation zone.
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1 A.Gomes // 36 Mehta – 5 Ralte – 3 Obumneme – 27 Chullova // 17 Laldanmawia – 20 Alfred Jaryan – 6 Al Amna – 30 Brandon VL Remdika // 16 Jayesh Rane // 32 Kamo Bayi
Chennai City FC(4-4-1-1/4-5-1)
1 Karanjit Singh // 14 Abhishek Das – 4 Echezona – 13 Ravanan – 5 Debabrata Roy // 16 L.Mawia – 17 Dhanpal Ganesh – 15 Denson Devdas – 8 Edwin Vanspaul // 25 Mundampara // 7 Charles De Souza
As far as the line ups are concerned, Khalid Jamil one change to side that won 1-0 against East Bengal. He brought in Ashutosh Mehta to replace Lalruatthara. On the other hand, Soundararajan made two changes in the line up which started against Shillong. He replaced Haroon Fakhruddin and Nanda Kumar with Lalnunmawia and Mundampara.
Chennai’s defensive discipline
After a disappointing game back at home against Shillong, Soundararajan had to do make sure they don’t leak in goals like they did against Shillong. The team from the Northeast scored four goals against the Chennai lads and it should be stated that it was Chennai’s poor defensive discipline caused major havocs. Set pieces had been a major issue in the previous games and the coach had to sort things out.
Right from the beginning of the game it was pretty easy to identify Chennai’s game plan. The midfielders often dropped deep in order to help out the defense in most occasions. Aizawl FC took the game to Chennai and Chennai ceded possession to Aizawl and were often cancelling out the attacks and this was the pattern of the play for larger parts in the game.
To an extent, Aizawl were successful in creating chances infront the chennai defence but the defensive duo of Ravanan and Eche were good enough to stop them growing into telling chances. Also Chennai were arranged in a way that Aizawl couldn’t exploit them dangerously. The midfield four often fell back to aid its defence and this meant that Chennai often formed a defensive low block. In certain instances when Aizawl were recycling possession Chennai formed banks of four and five with Mundampara often dropping deep and this was how the first half panned out.
And it is evident from the above picture that the team defended in banks of four and five when both the wingers Mawia and Vanspaul fell behind in the wings and Mundampara slotted in the centre leaving Charles, the lone striker, upfront to capitalize on any breaks or counters and formed the 4-5-1 shape often. And having said all that, it must be stated that Chennai’s defense had improved a lot from the previous game. Karanjit Singh was the key player in the side as his saves kept Aizawl to just one goal till the end of the game. He faced 10 shots from 14 and only one was turned inside.
Aizawl’s domination in midfield and wing orientations
One of the major positives for Aizawl this season has been the style of play implemented by Khalid Jamil this season. The free flowing way of football has often impressed fans and has been the key reason that has turned their home ground to a fortress with 6 wins and 1 draw from 7 games.
Right from the word go Aizawl dominated the game and this was mainly because of the structural discipline maintained by them. The team lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Jayesh Rane playing behind the talisman Kamo. And in certain instances the wingers on both the ends would bomb up forward as they maintained larger time with the ball. This allowed Aizawl to play in a 4-2-3-1 shape which has provided them great dividends this season. This ploy has allowed Jamil to play his team with more pressure in the centre with the likes of key players Jaryan and Al Amna in the middle.
The above image shows the structural discipline maintained by Aizawl.
The double pivot proved to be a great coup for the side as most of the attacks were started from the centre. Penetrating balls from the Syrian central midfielder Amna and the box to box display of captain Jaryan comprised the successful central midfield display. They were often able to find spaces between the Chennai defence and it was Amna who proved to be very dangerous when he occupied spaces in between the lines.
The above three images show how Jaryan was able to play penetrating balls into spaces and Amna was able to occupy those spaces. This instance shows poor defensive play by chennai as three Aizawl FC played have positioned themselves between the lines and there is no pressure on the ball carrier. Instead of playing wide Jaryan opts to play in the centre where Amna has more space in the middle.The final picture depicts the defensive mistake made by Chennai as the man moves forward to press Jaryan(ball carrier), the team fails to cover Amna who has now access to the most important area of the field(Zone 14).
Aizawl FC were better in all departments and they processed most of their attacks through the wings. Both the full backs bombed up forward to create 2v2 in the wings and they were supported by Jayesh Rane who was in most occasions given a free role. This meant that he, due to his presence in the wings, gave the numerical advantage to the team in terms of players in the flanks.
And one important instance to note here is the goal scored by Brandon. Amna plays a ball from the centre to the right half space which is then flicked over to Kamo by Jayesh Rane. Kamo beats his man to play the cross and Brandon easily tapped it in. This instance showed the dominance of play from the centre through to the wings with Jayesh Rane providing the much needed support and such was their pattern of play.
The above picture once again shows the defensive error made by the Chennai team in the wings and this was in the later stages of the game. Here Amna is easily able to find the right winger in free space with no single defender marking him or intercepting the passing option.
Back four – back three transition
Aizawl had 70% possession with the majority of it coming in the middle third and final third. They were able to maintain possession because they were able to often supply defenders up the field as it gave the numerical advantage in the centre. The presence of only striker Charles allowed one or even two defenders to join the attack. And the tactics was set up in such a way that Aizawl often played out from the back.
To do this they often transitioned between a back three and a back four. It was often Chullova who found himself in advanced positions there by giving the space for the back three to widen out and play out well. The below instance shows is such a case where the left back is very high up the field when the ball is in possession.
In certain situations, Jaryan fell back to collect the ball from the defence and send it to the next line of attack. Following him into the defence would be a danger because this would open up space in the middle for the defender to play the ball straight to Amna. Jaryan would slot between the two centre backs in occasions and the license will be given for the two full backs to bomb up forward in the wings.
The Chennai manager conceded that his side didn’t play well as he wanted them to and said that he hopes the fortunes will soon favor them. But on the day the team defended well particularly comparing to the game against Shillong. The loss can be pointed at many factors such as the altitude and artificial pitch but Aizawl ended the game with 70% possession almost dominating in all parts of the game and the scoreline was very decent from Chennai perspective thanks to Karanjit’s heroics on the day. Brandon was adjudged as the hero of the match for his goal. The win sent Aizawl FC to the top of the I-league for the first time since its inception in 2007 while Chennai finished with same 8 points from 11 games who play the next three games at home.