Ryntih dominated the game against Nongrim Hills on Wednesday, but Bhogtoram Mawroh is a little concerned that they’ve only managed to score 2 goals in their opening 3 games. Could there be a way to change things around for Ryntih up front?

“Money can’t buy success” is such an oft-repeated phrase that it has gained the status of a truism. Reality, however, is not as straightforward as such one-liners make out it to be.

A look at the top teams in the world will clearly show that the main reason for them winning trophies is their ability to outspend their opponents. The top six teams in the English Premier League spend much more than the rest of the clubs. The spending in the other top European leagues, viz., Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 is more lopsided, which explains the domination of only a few teams every single season. Manchester City’s conquest of the Premier League is built on a spending spree of more than $300 million in which they paid premium price for buying top players. Liverpool was getting better under Jurgen Klopp but it was only with the arrival of big money signings like Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dyke and Fabinho that the team won their first trophy in many years. In the past Chelsea built title-winning teams on the back of spending big money. Even Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Manchester United were an expensively assembled squad.

Ryntih is trying to follow this time-tested method of winning trophies by wholesale buying of top players from the different top clubs of Shillong. But will they succeed? Maybe, but based on the performance against Nongrim, I am not so certain.

Ryntih lined up in a traditional 4-4-2. Brolington Warlapih and Banpynkhrawnam Nongkhlaw were the two centre backs flanked by Milancy Khongstia on the right and Restomwell Khriam on the left. Fullmoon Mukhim and Damebanshan Khongsit played behind the two strikers, Sheen Sohktung and Wilbert Marbaniang. Support for the strikers came in the form of Robert Khongjoh from the left and Andy Mawthoh from the right. And, finally, in goal was the experienced Maitshaphrang Kharumnuid. These are all familiar names that have played for some of the top teams of the state and won trophies in the past. With the experience and pedigree that this team possessed it was expected that they would dominate the game. That expectation was not belied.

From the moment the whistle was blown, Ryntih began dominating possession. The midfield duo of Fullmoon and Damebanshan did very well to win their duels in the middle of the pitch. They combined well together and moved the ball around very neatly. On many occasions Brolington would come into the midfield to find options for a pass. But in most cases instead of a short pass he looked for long ball options.

Diagonal balls played to the wingers was, in fact, the tactic employed by Ryntih to get behind Nongrim’s defence. This tactic became all the more explicit when, after the 20th minute, Damebanshan was substituted and Dibinroy Nongspung replaced him. I was surprised at the substitution because Damebanshan was doing quite well and, compared to Dibinroy, was a much more creative player. Though Ryntih didn’t do very well in the U-18 SPL, Damebanshan was one of the few players who shone. I thought he would be given the chance to finish the game. With Dibinroy on the pitch, Ryntih now had two defensive minded players in the midfield. This brought solidity to the midfield but also took away the creativity. The onus for creating thus fell on the wide players and Sheen who played as the retreating forward.

Because of the shape and personnel it was the wide players who created most of the chances. The right side was the one which was the most productive. The combination of Andy and Milancy was a very productive one with countless dangerous crosses coming from that side of the pitch. There was also a flurry of corners in the initial stages of the match. Ryntih, however, were not able to take advantage of these chances, with some of the best falling to Robert, who was playing on the opposite wing. He had a couple of shots at the goal but these failed to find the back of the net. Still, whenever Robert had the ball at his feet he looked really dangerous. He played a great ball to Sheen, who blasted his shot over the crossbar.

The emphasis on the right side, however, led to the left, from where Robert was playing, being neglected. This lopsided game plan, I thought, was a mistake. Eventually, as the initial chances were squandered, Ryntih’s domination began to waver and the threat began to fade. Sheen started dropping a lot deeper to get into the game as he was starved of service. He started looking a little unhappy and this dropping of shoulders was very much the reason for his botched penalty attempt. This penalty came after a glorious chance was wasted by Andy to put his team ahead. Fortunately, this time around, Nongrim’s players kept their cool, which proved to be correct decision as Sheen failed to convert the spot kick. After looking a little dejected for not being able to influence the game, Sheen didn’t look particularly confident when he went up to take the penalty. Surely enough, the goalkeeper saved the effort.

Ryntih dominated the first half and this was in many ways because Nongrim allowed them to do so. Nongrim played with a similar formation from the last game against Lajong, a 4-3-3, which actually worked as 4-2-1-3. Mebanrilang Suchiang was the goalkeeper with Shanborlang Sohtun and Vinici L Darlong playing in the centre of the defence. Russel Nongkynrih and Khrawpyrkhat Nengnong protected the flanks. Bisharlang Mawthoh, Mebanshang Suting and Phibankhrawbok Nongkhlaw were the new midfield combination supporting the attacking trio of Justerwell Tham, Winstaroy Kharpan and Batifar Swer.

Batifar started very well by drifting into wide areas to take part in the build up. However, the ineffectiveness of Nongrim’s midfield to impose itself on the opposition allowed Ryntih to dominate the game. Nongrim’s players, especially Bisharlang, kept losing their personal duels while others like Mebanshan displayed a lack of composure on the ball. Lack of service forced Batifar to drop deeper into the midfield.

The only player who was able to have some impact for Nongrim was Justerwell, who started from where he left last match. Against Lajong he gave a torrid time to Apborlang Kurbah and in this match he did the same to his marker. Drifting inside he was proving a big threat to Ryntih’s defence. Decision making and accuracy, however, were lacking. As Ryntih began fading Nongrim began coming into the game. On one occasion, Justerwell had the opportunity to cross the ball into the box with two of Nongrim’s attackers waiting for the delivery. Instead he chose to go back and the opportunity was lost. There were some good counterattacking moves by Nongrim but these were thwarted. Just before half time Sheen, who was looking a little loose, was disposed and Batifar passed the ball to Justerwell who blasted the ball over the bar. These missed chances were going to cost Nongrim dearly.

The second half began in the same fashion as the first. Ryntih came out quicker and starting dominating the game. Again the combination of Milancy and Andy got into the action and starting delivering dangerous crosses into the box. Khrawpyrkhat, who was the playing as the right back and the captain, was having a very bad game. Time and again Ryntih’s players were able to get behind him and deliver crosses. It was only a matter of time before this pressure would yield a goal. And finally it did. Another dangerous cross from the right by Milancy and Sheen, who had taken his position at the far post, placed the ball into the net. The goal had the effect of raising Sheen’s game and he started having a greater impact on the game. He began getting more involved with the build-up and overloaded the right side, ganging up against Khrawpyrkhat with Reson Malngiang (who had replaced Andy) and Milancy. More chances starting falling to Ryntih’s players. Fullmoon was able to get some good power on his shot from outside the box but it was blocked by Mebanrilang. Banpynkhrawnam’s header from a free-kick sailed off target. Ryntih kept trying but the second goal never came.

As for Nongrim it was the same story like the first half. Justerwell was the main threat upfront but his shooting and decision making let the team down. Nongrim again got some very good opportunities on the counter but kept fluffing their chances. Multiple substitutions were made by the coaching staff to change the game. Winstaroy was replaced by Bankitbok Nongrum and Modestar Matlai came for Phibankhrawbok. This, however, did not have the desired effect. A big reason for Nongrim’s lack of effectiveness had to do with the gap between striker and midfield. Because the team was playing very deep, Nongrim were unable to link up their midfield with their attack or win the second ball in case a long ball was played. Fullmoon and Dibinroy mopped up any loose balls and immediately continued to apply pressure. Also, there was a lack of aggression from Nongrim in contrast to their last match against Lajong. This change of approach, with the unavailability of some players who had a good game in the last match, viz., Alem Khongwir and Nikelson Bina was a big surprise. The absence of these key players was absolutely baffling. What could have happened if these players were playing and the aggressive approach of last game was continued was on show in the latter stages of the game.

Late in the game, Justerwell was moved to the right and Bankitbok came to the left. With the tempo of the game also picking up, Batifar began to put enormous pressure on Ryntih’s defence. Justerwell began getting the better of Restom, who starting looking very suspect. In the closing minutes of the game, Batifar was able to beat his markers and played a very dangerous low cross which required just a touch for it to be turned into the net.

For the last 10 minutes or so the pace of Nongrim on the break began to worry Ryntih. This makes one wonder what could have been the result of the match if Nongrim had played with the same aggression throughout, like they did against Lajong, and had the same players from the last match. Good teams improve after every game and build on their past performances. With Nongrim the opposite happened. If Nongrim want to become a better team they have to go forward and not regress. Eventually the final whistle was blown and Ryntih was relieved to take the victory. For me, however, the victory raised many questions about the team’s ability to win the SPL.

The biggest worry that I have with Ryntih’s performance is that they seem to lack a Plan B. The 4-4-2 formation gives balance and solidity to the team but it also means that the focus is on the wide players to create chances for their team. Ryntih did this very well. In fact it was really good to see a team use its wide players in a traditional way: delivering crosses into the box rather than repeatedly cutting inside and trying to get into the box. With Shanborlang and Vinici not looking particularly confident against crosses, this tactic worked very well. But what happens when Ryntih come up against a team like Lajong or Rangdajied, who have good defenders like Aiborlang Khongjee or Kenstar Kharshong, who are more capable in dealing with such crosses? Do Ryntih have a plan B? A look at their midfield options shows that they have only Ebormi Buam who can bring some variety into their attack. With him the shape can change to 4-4-1-1.

Ebormi’s game is about linking up defence and attack by taking up good positions and playing passes from tight positions. He will play the same role Sheen played in this match, allowing the latter to stay higher up the pitch. Ebormi, however, is not the kind of player who can beat players with his trickery and this where Ryntih lack players like Oresterwell Langshiang (from Rangdajied) or Sangti Janai Shianglong (Lajong), who can create attacks from the deep or run the channels and make defence-splitting passes.

Ryntih’s midfield is what you would call functional. This lack of creativity in the midfield will make it difficult for them to adopt different tactics. This is where they might just fall short at the final hurdle. Another problem is the striking department, which has scored only two goals from the last three matches in spite of getting a lot of chances. With Laban in disarray their 1-0 win now looks like a lost opportunity to build some good goal difference. These narrow wins are bringing Ryntih the much required victories but this might also make them oblivious of the hidden malaise in their team: lack of potency upfront.

Tactical inflexibility, lack of creativity in the midfield and a low conversion rate are problems Ryntih will have to find solutions for if they want to win the trophy. I will come back again to the phrase mentioned above “Money can’t buy success”. Manchester United have spent a lot of money in the last few seasons but they couldn’t win the Premier League and will not win this season as well. In fact they may not even make the top four this season.

For the sake of those passionate supporters who throng the stadium to watch their team play, I hope Ryntih can find a way to do well with the resources they have or find a way to overcome their deficiencies. This is important so that we can have an exciting SPL which will be a memorable one for all of us. Hoping for the best. Cheers!

(TSR photo)

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