Bhogtoram Mawroh has got a full-time job, but that hasn’t stopped him from catching as many Shillong Premier League matches as he can. Here he gives his views on Malki, the 2013 runners-up, who had a rough start to the season but have been making improvements of late…
The first half of Malki vs Meghalaya Police was not the kind of game one expected from the first leg of the SPL, which had seen some very good games.
It was scrappy with both the teams unable to impose themselves on the game. Malki took the deserved lead but it wasn’t a very assured performance from the men in black.
Till now I have watched them play against Langsning, Shillong Lajong, Sawmer and MLP. In my opinion, Malki have been making some progress after their initial heavy losses to Langsning and Lajong.
The performance against Lajong was particularly most disappointing. The body language of the players was poor and there was neither organisation nor aggression in the team. The coach also looked highly disinterested in the proceedings. When things don’t go your way it’s either the senior players who show the way or the coach lets the players on the pitch know what awaits them if they don’t step up. Neither was on display.
In that match Lajong were playing without a true striker. Samuel Lalmuanpuia kept coming deep to receive and create chances for wide players like Sheen Sohktung, who was time and again able to get behind the defence. The tactic was to draw Malki out of its defensive shape and create spaces for the fullbacks and wide players to run into the box. And when that happens Phrangki Buam would also step up into the final third to get onto the end of a pass.
That’s how Phrangki has been getting his goals, arriving late into the box. The tactic was very apparent in the very first quarter of the game but Malki did not adjust to it during the whole match. The miss clearance from the defender which allowed Sheen to score was the best example of how Lajong tactically destroyed Malki in that game. First of all the centre back should not have come out. He should have stayed on the line and defended.
The problem was compounded by the fact that the central midfield was completely non-existent in that game. The midfielders allowed Samuela too much time and space with the ball. Yes, there was a goal from Ronnie Nongbri but in terms of disrupting Lajong’s passing none of the midfielders did anything. No wonder Lajong defeated them very convincingly.
Lajong are technically as well as tactically more adept than many of the other teams in the league. This was how they won those three back-to-back SPLs before Langsning broke their streak.
The best example of the Lajong’s tactical acumen was evident in the game against Sawmer in which their players killed the pace of the game with some neat triangles among themselves. Sawmer played a very quick transition game but were making a lot of mistakes.
Lajong’s game management, on the other hand, was highly impressive. Sawmer though, have improved since then. In the game against Nangkiew Irat they tried to play a tactical game but the pace was too slow. Against Malki the pace was better and they gave a good account of themselves. However, when they had taken the lead courtesy of a mistake by Malki’s goalkeeper they still kept going at the same pace. They should have slowed the game for at least a few minutes and forced Malki to be more adventurous and then hit them on the counter.
In fact, there were two goals in the match which were examples of beautiful counter attack play by both teams. Sawmer played with the same pace and tactics throughout the game and that’s where the difference lies between them and top teams like Langsning and Lajong (I still haven’t seen Rangdajied United play).
Both teams are adept in changing the formation, tactics and pace within the same game which makes them a more matured side. Sawmer are a good side but they need matured players like Malki had on their side. For me, the inclusion of Marlangki Suting was very important for the perceptible improvement that I saw in Malki’s play. He protects the back line and brings a sense of calm to proceedings.
When required he could also provide some aerial support in the opposition’s box. Ronnie, on the other hand, has always been a good passer of the ball. Together they make a very formidable pairing in the middle of the park. More importantly, in terms of organisation, they make the team better. Defensively also the team is looking better.
Of course, with due respect to Sawmer and MLP, the real test will come when Malki face teams like Langsning, Rangdajied and Lajong. When they do the role of Alem Khongwir and Primrose Lamat will be very crucial.
These are teams that will play on the front foot, which means that there will be a lot of opportunities for the two players. If Alem gets the space to run I don’t think there is anyone in this league who can catch him. He is a good strong player who can be a real nightmare for the opposition defenders.
In the matches that I have seen him play he has had two assists and a goal. However, for me has not performed up to his potential. He could have had more goals or at least more attempts at goal. It was the same story last year. He got into dangerous positions but was not putting the keeper under enough pressure.
During last year’s second leg game against Boys Sports Company (if I remember correctly) one of his shots from a very dangerous position was very tame. Also for his height, of the little I saw of him, I have not seen him dominant in the air as well. I think he can be a very good player but for that he has to be more decisive and prolific in front of goal.
Primrose is a pocket-sized dynamo who is very good on the ball and has been played as the player just behind the striker. His performance in the first half against Sawmer was very disappointing. His shooting was atrocious and he didn’t do much in terms of creativity or helping in the midfield.
Since the second half of that match, though, he has been playing very well. Against MLP he occupied the central defenders, allowing Alem to go deeper and look for an opportunity to make his runs. I think Malki should try and get the No. 12 more on the ball and give him more creative responsibilities.
As for Alem, he should try to learn from what Niwan-o Gatphoh was doing for MLP. From playing in the centre Niwan drifted into wide areas looking for spaces. If only he had pace he could have put Malki under huge pressure.
From MLP Donbok Khymdeit, playing from the left, was another player who worked very hard for the team. The final pass, however, was lacking. This aspect of MLP’s game was encapsulated by the low cross which Donbok played in the second half. There was not enough pace and curve to take the ball away from the goal and into the path of the attacker, allowing Malki’s goalkeeper to easily collect it.
Unless MLP’s players improve their final pass, teams like Sawmer may overtake them very soon. For me, the one area of concern for Malki is their wide players. They are extremely hard-working but they have not shown enough guile or pace to be able to beat the opposition’s defenders.
If the team is leading and looking to defend they are a safe bet but when one needs to force the issue they will be needed to do more. A part of it could be because of the tactics. Even in the game against Sawmer, when Malki were a goal behind, the team played very deep. So when Malki concede, highly likely against better teams, they may lack the cutting edge from wide areas. This could prove very decisive and determine whether they can finish in the top four and make the final.
The good thing is that the coach, L Darlong, looks motivated and highly determined. In the previous games he looked disinterested. In this game he was berating the players when they were not getting into positions he wanted them to be. Nothing motivates you more than when you know there is someone breathing down your neck. In the previous matches the players needed some rebuking, which might have shaken them from their slumber, but it wasn’t there.
Anyway, it’s never too late. In a league with only seven teams there should be at least four or five top teams who can defeat each other. Otherwise the league becomes very boring and not good for the development of the players. Malki have been a steady presence in the league over the years and it’s very important for the SPL and especially for themselves that they improve.
Will they be able to beat any of the top three teams? At the moment, I don’t know the answer to that question. But with the players they have they should be doing more than what has been on display till now.
For me Langsning still have the upper hand. They are a more balanced team and can adapt to different situations of the game. The one team who can derail them are Lajong, simply because of their professionalism. Lajong are where they are today because they had a vision. Do Langsning have one? Do Rangdajied and Malki have one? For the good of future football in Meghalaya I hope they all do.
(Photo credit: Malki SC/Facebook)