ISL 2019-20: How will Odisha FC cope with the loss of Lallianzuala Chhangte?
There is a new club in town. Set in the coastal state of Odisha, the namesake team will make its debut in Indian Super League this season after their owners decided to relocate their senior squad from Delhi to Bhubaneswar. The team looks competitive on paper but will miss the services of India international and one of the rising youngsters of the nation, Lallianzuala Chhangte.
Lallianzuala Chhangte was an integral part of Delhi Dynamos line-up. The Mizo youngster continuously featured in their squad playing all of their ISL matches for the last two seasons. In his first season, Chhangte scored 3 goals and bagged 3 assists and bettered it in the next season with 5 goals and 1 assist.
He even turned out to be Dynamos' highest goalscorer despite not playing in the centre-forward position. Apart from his pace and striking abilities, Chhangte is also a good crosser of the ball. Last season, he put in 68 crosses, the most by any player operating in the left-wing position.
After failing to make the 2019 AFC Asian Cup cut, the 22-year-old got the call in King's Cup after Igor Stimac took charge of the matters. Since then, he has been a regular feature of the national team and even scored against DPR Korea in the Intercontinental Cup.
His heroics ultimately earned him two trials with Norwegian outfit Viking FK. Despite failing to bag a contract, Chhangte impressed the management there. Once it was clear that he would continue in India, almost every ISL club set their eye on him. Odisha FC decided not to pursue him and Chennaiyin bought him for free.
What is Odisha FC's loss is Chennaiyin FC's gain. Chhangte, although, will have to fight for his place in the starting line-up with Romania's Dragos Firtulescu.
But, what about Odisha FC? Since the ISL's expansion to a ten-team format, Delhi Dynamos have failed to reach the playoffs. They let Chhangte go in such an important juncture and with Pritam Kotal's departure in last year's winter transfer window, their Indian contingent looks slightly weak on paper when compared to the rest of the teams.
Who is Lallianzuala Chhangte's replacement in Odisha FC for ISL 2019-20 season?
Delhi Dynamos made a grave error of not replacing Pritam Kotal with another defender when they sold him to ATK in the winter transfer window last season. Thankfully for their new set of fans, they have avoided the mistake this time.
Argentina's Martin Perez Guedes will likely begin from where Chhangte left this season for Odisha FC. The 28-year-old has played for a host of clubs in Argentina and even made two appearances in Copa Sudamericana, South America's equivalent of UEFA Champions League.
Odisha FC is the only team in ISL to have a foreign goalkeeper in their ranks. That means they would have only four outfield foreign players as compared to rest of the teams' five. In case head coach Josep Gombau wants to deploy an Indian player in the left-wing, he has new recruit Jerry Mawihmingthanga to look forward to.
The 22-year-old clocked only 665 minutes last season mainly as a substitute. Although right-wing is his preferred position, the youngster can play in the opposite flank too as an inverted winger. Nandasekar Kumar and Romeo Fernandes are the other options but like Jerry, they too prefer playing in the right.
With Chhangte's absence, scoring goals and creating chances is definitely going to be a burden for Odisha FC. It is all down to their new signings to fill the void and they better not disappoint.