It’s not normal to hear an Indian footballer rejecting a European club. However, a fascinating story was brought up to light recently by Arunava Chaudhari through the IFTWC that Lallianzuala Chhangte had rejected Viking FK before joining Indian Super League club, Chennaiyin FC. The Mizoram based youngster had a successful trial and was offered a three-year deal, last year. However, due to monetary and other reasons, he decided to stay put in India. Since then, the ‘Mizo Flash’ has been tremendous for Chennaiyin FC especially under Owen Coyle. Chhangte has been in and out of the playing XI for the national
team and with the ever-increasing competition for places, Chhangte had to produce a stellar performance throughout the season to give him an edge over his counterparts.
In this tactical analysis, we will analyse Lallianzuala Chhangte’s performance in 2019/20 for Chennaiyin and if he has done enough to impress the Indian national football team gaffer.
Positioning and off the ball movement
Chhangte is a 5’6” left-footed left-winger who has an enormous pace and likes to position himself wide and then tries to beat his opposition defender with his magnificent dribbling ability. Otherwise, he would anticipate a through ball and make his run behind the opposition’s last line of defence way before the passer intended to pass the ball or has received the ball.
The heat map clearly indicates Chhangte’s preference of positioning himself wide on the left flank.
Off the ball, Chhangte’s primary reaction is always to run past the opposition’s last line of defence and face the goal rather than receiving the ball with his back towards the opposition goal.
In the above screenshot, his teammate Rafael Crivellaro (who plays as a No.10) has not yet controlled the ball properly and even the opposition right-back is looking at the ball and has no clue Chhangte has already started his run. The Mizo player gets a head start in the process and easily beats the right-back. However, the pass was a little heavy and even with Chhangte’s pace, he could not reach before the opposition goalkeeper cleared it out.
The previous image depicts Chhangte’s run in front of the opposition right-back. However, most of the time, the Chennaiyin winger would make his run behind the full-back. The Mizoram based player is very intelligent in timing his run. When you are a defender, you have to keep a tab on both the things at once. One – the ball-carrier. Two – the surrounding, the eyes have to constantly oscillate between the ball-carrier and surrounding players. Even smart defenders fail to track both at once occasionally. The fraction of second the defender takes to look at the ball carrier, a nearby player’s movement can create a goal for the opposition. Lallianzuala Chhangte has mastered the art of taking advantage of that fraction of second.
Here, Crivellaro was the ball-carrier. As soon as the opposition RB (Rakip) looked at the Brazilian, Chhangte started his run. Chhangte now had the clear advantage of reaching the ball faster than Rakip if a through ball was played to him. In this case, Rakip’s body orientation also wasn’t something to be appreciated. Even if he stood diagonal, on his toes, it would have been very difficult for him to track back in time since Chhangte had already taken a head start.
Chhangte is so intelligent in making these runs, that occasionally, he anticipates and makes a run even before his passer receives the ball.
Here, the Chennaiyin left-back, Jerry Lalrinzuala passes the ball to Crivellaro. As soon as the ball leaves Jerry’s foot, the Mizo flash starts his run. Prabir Das, the ATK right wing-back might have thought he had it all covered. However, Chhangte slips past the RWB and reaches Crivelarro’s through ball. Chhangte’s shot was saved by the goalkeeper. However, these runs of his entirely muddle the opposition defenders.
The greatest asset of Chhangte’s game is his dribbling ability. He is a close ball controller and has the ability to quickly change the direction and body orientation due to his low centre of gravity and he is fast. It helps him to take a lot of touches close to his body and unbalance the defender. The Mizo flash uses a lot of body feints, stepovers, and rollovers to dribble past the opponent with ease. You can find a lot of similarity with Leroy Sané of Bayern Munich as to the way he positions himself and dribbles past his opponent.
The Chennaiyin winger loves to position himself wide to the flanks waiting for a pass and then go one-on-one with the opposition full-back.
Anirudh Thapa, the Chennaiyin midfielder has a telepathic connection with the Mizo Flash. Thapa is a master in switching the play from the central channel or the half-spaces and Chhangte is well aware of his teammate’s ability.
Here, Chhangte positions himself far wide on the left flank away from the Mumbai right-back, receives a pass from Thapa, and is ready for an offensive duel with the right-back. The left-winger wields his stepover, easily goes past the right-back, and takes a shot with his right foot.
This is a pattern which is quite often used by Chennaiyin along with utilising the Mizo Flash extensively in counter-attacks. But what makes his dribbling great? Apart from having all the tricks up his sleeve, like all great dribblers, he has the ability to recognise the feet that the defender burdens upon which gives him a split second to make his decision ahead of the defender.
Chennaiyin recovers the ball in the defensive third and passes to Chhangte. The winger realises the Kerala Blasters midfielder, Sergio Cidoncha’s body orientation is towards him and burdens on his right leg. Even though Chhangte has more pace than Cidoncha, he realises Cidoncha might be able to catch his pace, due to the midfielder’s body orientation and right leg burden.
So, the Chennaiyin winger takes a touch towards Cidoncha to manipulate his body orientation. Even though the upper body is towards Chhangte, his right leg suggests he is in a retreating motion.
As soon as Cidoncha transfers his entire weight on the right leg, which is in a retreating motion, Chhangte uses the outside of his boot to easily go past the Kerala midfielder.
Once he had gone past the Kerala midfielder, he uses the same technique on the Kerala right-back and wins his dribble again. The close ball control of Chhangte is an asset for any dribbler along with other attributes.
Chhangte under John Gregory was good but flourished when Owen Coyle took the reins of Chennaiyin FC. Under Owen Coyle’s tactics, Chennaiyin counter-attacked 5.2 times per match, more than any other team by some margin and it brought out the best in the Mizo Flash.
Chhangte has attempted 96 dribbles last season and 22 of them lead to a shot attempt, 14 on target and three have resulted in a goal for Chennaiyin FC as per
Wyscout, i.e. 0.227 of his dribbles, has resulted in a shot. To give it a bit more context, Sadio Mané of Liverpool who has had a great season attempted 206
dribbles last season and 48 of them lead to a shot attempt, i.e. 0.233 of his dribbles have led to a shot attempt. The leagues are different but this stats shows how progressive or efficient Chhangte is with his dribbling.
Chhangte has attempted more dribbles than any other Indian attacking players in Indian Super League last season. In spite of his dribbling producing a stellar amount of chances for his team, the success at which he goes past the opposition players seem to be low as indicated by the graph below, which contains wingers and attacking midfielders who have played more than 600 minutes.
Why is his dribbling success percentage so low when his dribbling leads to so many shot attempts? There are two main reasons behind it, apart from a few other minuscule aspects. One – he likes to position himself far wide onto the flanks which gives him only 180-degree movement option compared to the 360-degree movement option to the players operating in the central or a half-space region. Another – he has been used extensively in counter-attacks. Sometimes, he does not have the option to pass in front. And in both cases, most of the time, he is converged by more than one opposition player. In order to progress the play, he chooses to go for a few extra touches in his dribbling, and the opposition closes in on him with a few extra bodies and recovers the ball.
In this scenario, Chhangte recovers the ball but as soon as he recovers, three players converge onto him, giving him no option to pass the ball. Chhangte still tries to beat all the three players and almost succeeds, only for him to take a bad touch and lose his footing after beating two players.
It’s easier to have more bodies on the flanks with wingers dropping deep to help and sometimes the midfielders.
Here, again Chhangte receives the ball wide. As soon as he receives, he is trapped by the opposition right-back and the right-winger and he loses the ball.
Whatever might be the case, The Mizo Flash’s primary intention is always to progress the ball and influence the result of the game. This is one other reason he takes one touch too many and loses the ball. In spite of these shortcomings, he is a tremendous dribbler and can single-handedly turn the tables of the game.
One aspect of the game Lallianzuala Chhangte definitely needs to improve is his link-up play when on the ball. He can be termed as a goal-scoring winger, constantly making runs behind the opposition’s last line of defence or dribbling past the defenders to take a shot. However, to take his game to the zenith, he needs to develop his passing as well. Since most of the time dribbling won’t produce a shot for himself, he rather needs to find his teammates in a better position to influence the result of the match. He does find his teammates but is too inconsistent with it. The positions he gets himself into is tremendous but lacks the final ball most often, this is the reason he has zero assists to his name.
Here, Chhangte receives the ball from Crivellaro, easily beats the Goa right-back with his dribbling and gets into a brilliant position and has no pressure on him. The Chennaiyin striker, Nerajis Valskis gives him the best option he could by dropping deep from the opposition’s defensive line. Chhangte notices his movement and does everything right except for the final ball, which he plays one foot away from the striker.
Chhangte has the innate ability to get into the box and finding himself in a position where he could directly influence the result of the match but the final pass of his lets him down quite often.
The Chennaiyin winger positions himself wide and tries to dribble past the defender. When further dribbling looks difficult, the winger delivers crosses into the box or provides a cutback as seen above. The Mizo Flash whips in 3.78 crosses per 90 but has only 25.32 % success rate whereas his counterpart, Udanta Singh who plays in the right-wing for India, delivers 3.86 crosses per 90 and with a greater success rate. If a player does everything right but plays a poor pass or cross time and again, it surely needs to be worked upon.
When not making a run or dribbling past the opponent in the final third, he sits wide on the flanks making himself available for a pass with the intention of playing a simple sideways or backward pass to his teammate rather than providing a creative pass.
The above graph indicates Chhangte’s unwillingness to look for a forward passing option or to play a creative pass.
It’s not in his characteristics to play creative passes, but to take his game to the next level, he needs to develop it a bit. Even the crosses the Mizoram based player delivers need to improve as it is his secondary weapon and uses a lot in every game.
The final output
By now, it’s evident that the Mizo flash likes to get to the end of the through passes rather than providing one. His intelligent off the ball movement and dribbling ability gets him to areas where he could decide the fate of the match.
Lallianzuala Chhangte took 4.54 touches per 90 in the 18-yard-box last season, only less than Hugo Boumous, the Hero of the League. Apart from delivering
cutbacks from inside the box, he does shoot quite a lot. He took 2.06 shots per 90, sixth among the attacking midfielders and wingers who played more than 600 minutes. Even the accuracy with which he shoots is commendable, 51.60 % shot accuracy for a winger who takes a high amount of shots is exceptional. The ability of Chhangte to shoot with both his feet as well as shoot efficiently from outside the 18-yard box makes him a tough customer in front of the goal. He can drift in from the left and shoot with his right foot or can hit a long ranger.
The Mizo flash has overperformed his xG by 0.08 due to his ability to shoot with both his feet as well as shoot efficiently from outside the 18-yard box. However, he is too inconsistent with his shots. Quite often, we have seen, he misses from a very close range with the least obstacles. The advantage of his abilities is completely neutralised by his inconsistent shooting.
It’s been repeated time and again in the analysis that Chhangte gets himself into tremendous areas inside the box, so it’s no surprise to look at an image where the Mizo flash is just in front of the goal. However, he misses the target even with the right side of the net looking for it to be found. The image doesn’t depict the entire story. Crivellaro’s shot was saved by the ATK goalkeeper. The ball fell kindly to Chhangte’s feet. He had two seconds to control the ball, with only the goalkeeper blocking his way. Prabir Das arrived to block his shot, still, the winger had plenty of open net but he hit it wide. With so much time at his disposal, he should have slotted it past the ATK goalkeeper.
The best way to describe Chhangte’s game that leads to an immediate output can be seen in this instance against Kerala Blasters.
Chennaiyin recovers the ball in the middle third of their own half, interchanges two-three passes and plays the ball to the winger. Chhangte distances himself from the nearest defender and gives a perfect opportunity for Thoi Singh to switch the play. The Mizo Flash receives the ball from Singh, dribbles past a Kerala player, and scores from zone 14 with his right foot.
The left-winger was one of the most important players if not the most for Chennaiyin during counter-attacks, last season. His electric pace, close ball control, and silky skills is a menace for the opposition.
The Mizo flash is an engine, runs up and down the field throughout the game. In most of the games, Lallianzuala Chhangte records the most distance travelled, both teams combined. He doesn’t give breathing space to the opponents, tries to anticipate a pass and intercept the passes, presses intelligently and gives protection to his full-back throughout the game.
Kerala Blasters generally inverts their wingers to the half space allowing the full-backs to exploit the wings. Here, Kerala Blasters striker, Bartholomew Ogbeche drags out Chennaiyin left-back, Jerry Llarinzuala but Chhangte gives ample amount of protection to the Chennaiyin defence and can easily press the Kerala full-back, Rakip, in case the ball was passed to him. Chhangte is an asset for Chennaiyin in both the offence as well as the defence.
The best thing about Chhangte is that he presses intelligently and hardly goes for sliding tackles rather he covers his opponent as well as provides cover shadow and waits for the perfect moment to go for a defensive duel or a standing tackle.
Even when the winger loses the ball, he is the first to win the ball back for his team. The Mizo Flash records 2.01 counterpressing recoveries per 90 and 1.67 recoveries per 90 in the final third.
Has he done enough to make his place permanent in
the Indian starting line-up?
To comprehend if he has done enough to make his place permanent, we need to look at how Lallianzuala Chhangte fared against his fellow wingers. The graph below consists of both left and right Indian wingers who have played more than 600 minutes in the Indian Super League.
The above graph indicates Chhangte’s dominance in attack. The Mizo flash has the highest number of goals but joint-highest in terms of goals per 90. He leads the chart in terms of xG per 90, shots per 90, dribbles per 90, touches in box per 90. Overall, he is a dominant figure when it comes to attacking aspects of the game. However, his weakness lies in creating for his teammates. He progresses the ball well with his progressive runs and is used enormously in counterattacks but progression through passing is something he clearly needs to work on. Even he lacks creativity. Neglecting the through balls and the smart passes, his crosses are even poor too. A player who positions himself wide on the flanks in the final third and depends on his dribbling ability and crossing, the numbers do not look good. The Mizo Flash provides 3.78 crosses per 90 but with an accuracy of hardly 25%.
Defensively he provides adequate cover to his defenders and the numbers do not show the entire picture. He is sound with defensive duels but the small stature of the pacey winger does affect his aerial ability. He looks to block the passing lane initially rather than going for a defensive duel or a tackle and that’s the reason he goes for fewer defensive actions than his counterpart.
With India struggling to find the net from open play, Lallianzuala Chhangte could be an asset for the national team. India have scored only three goals from five matches in the World Cup Qualification Asia and all have come from set-pieces. A stat, the Indian gaffer, Igor Štimac, might not be proud of.
Chhangte has started for the national team but in patches and could not replicate the performance he produced for Chennaiyin FC. However, he is high on confidence after his superb ISL season and if given the chance, without any doubt, he can be a menace for the opposition and he might be the left-winger India have been looking for.