Shillong Lajong FC have retained the coach THANGBOI SINGTO despite finishing just 1 spot above the relegation zone. This will be the 3rd season for Singto , and the pressure is on him with Karim Bencharifa sniffing around the scenes for a quick return to India.
The clubs limited resources have been given a boost by some more investment from existing shareholders Anglian Football. They now have almost a controlling stake, and the influx of funds has enabled them to sign a few foreigners.
On the Indian front they have reaped the benefits of a Youth Development Program that was put in place 5 years back ,with a lot of their U17 & U19 players having graduated to the 1st team. With impressive showing in the PSL, where they retained their title beating experienced local teams like Royal Wahingdoh & Rangdajied, the YDP s already showng great results.
Goalkeeping : The return of Gumpe Rime as GK coach is a massive boost , but he will have his work cut out in moulding the young GK’s : Vishal Kaith & Kunzang Bhutia into reliable shot stoppers . They are unlikely to miss the erratic TP Rehenesh , as the two youngsters are more than capable of matching the formers exploits.
DEFENCE : They have strengthened their Indian contingent in this area with the signing of TFA pairing Aibanbha & Chinglensana. But both of these youngsters lack pace ,and are liable to give away cheap free kicks / penalties as well as being out-muscled by traditional Nigerian power forwards in the league.
Lajong will miss their rock at the back , Minchol Son, who chose to move on after making his mark at the club. His replacement Yusuke Yamagata is more cultured on the ball , but isn’t as assured in the air, and his pace will be tested by the likes of some of the quicker strikers in the Hero I-League 2015-16.
Aibor Khongjee returns from winning the SAFF Cup , but Lajong’s most expensive player is injury prone, and will once again be the weak link at the back due to his inconsistency.
Man to watch out for: Nim Dorjee Tamang is the star performer, will he continue to develop as he has ?
MIDFIELD : Having lost the ‘evergreen’ Penn Orji, Lajong have to rely on their young Mizo midfielders to win the balls and start their attacks. The likes of Joseph Lalfakzuala and Jacob Lalrawngbawla impressed last season , but struggled for pace , and will continue to make mistakes as they grow & learn. Neither are good in the air , and this is an area that needs strengthening.
The likes of Boithang Haokip, Bipin, Redeem, Rupert will provide the necessary width and variety in the midfield, but they lack the defensive abilities as shown last season.
FORWARDS : The two Brazilians Uilliams & Fabio will be expected to propel Lajong out of the relegation zone, but as the former has shown, he is extremely inconsistent and injury prone. Cornell Glenn single handedly kept Lajong up in the past two seasons, and you take away his goals , its tough to see how they manage to average 1.5 goals a game without their Talismanic Trinidadian.
Their young Mizo striker did very well in the Shillong Premier League, but scoring against Meghalaya teams and recruiting that in the cauldrons of Kolkata are complete different ball games.
Shillong are likely to once again throw in some virtuoso performances like their 6-Nil demolition of Mumbai FC, but are equally likely to suffer similar defeats like their 1st half capitulation against Pune FC last season.
Prediction : 8th, their only hope will be to finish above Aizawl FC