Bipin-Chhangte versus Jerry-Nandha: Comparing Hero ISL’s best wing pairs
Mumbai City FC have been a class apart in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) this season, and very few teams have been able to match up with the Islanders.
Des Buckingham’s side are yet to lose a match and have been scoring for fun. They have netted 32 times this season which is eight more than the second-best team in this metric, Hyderabad FC (24).
But when it comes to the style of play, one other team has a slightly similar way of operating. Odisha FC, much like Mumbai City FC, are primarily dependent on wide areas to create chances. Although the formation and personnel differ, their biggest threat comes from the wide areas of the pitch.
Numbers back it up as Bipin Singh and Lalianzuala Chhangte of Mumbai City FC and Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Nandhakumar Sekar of Odisha FC find themselves in the top ten for goal contributions by Indian players this season.
As Odisha FC get set to host Mumbai City FC, these two wing pairs will get a chance to lock horns and gain the upper hand over the other.
The Juggernauts’ near-perfect home record will test the Islanders’ unbeaten run, and the outcome will heavily hinge on which team wins the battle of the flanks.
Ahead of the clash on Monday, Hero ISL experts look at the strengths and weaknesses of these two wing pairs.
Bipin Singh and Lalianzuala Chhangte
Jo Paul Anchery: Chhangte and Bipin are very mechanical. They know how to cut open defence easily, and the level of understanding between them is very high. Their decision-making is also of high quality, and they rarely make mistakes.
Erik Paartalu: Bipin and Chhangte, for me, are the two best wingers in the league at the moment.
Bipin's consistency is what separates him from most players in the league. Taking the ball and hitting the target, or getting to the line and forcing a corner. He does what's right for the team. He also pops up with goals, usually composed finishes, taking a touch sometimes where you think others would have hit it the first time and missed.
Chhangte is having the season of his life. He has this electricity about him. The way he cuts the ball and dips his shoulder causes defenders all sorts of problems, and let's not forget about the goals he has scored. I'm trying to think of an Indian player who has managed so many quality finishes in the last two seasons. Chhangte has an eye for a goal that nobody is matching at the moment for me.
Darren Caldeira: Bipin and Chhangte are both left-footed and very consistent wingers, especially this season. Bipin is probably the fittest player in the Hero ISL. He makes a lot of sprints, covers a lot of ground and plays 90 minutes every game. These are players who are scoring a lot of goals these days. They are playing with a lot of confidence because they have teammates who are top players.
Whenever Mumbai City FC get the ball, you see Chhangte and Bipin just wanting to make those runs, either in between the full-back and centre-back or behind the defence. Defensively too, Bipin and Chhangte get back a lot and help out.
Also, the way Mumbai City FC like to play quick, attacking football and the crosses that the wingers get into the box, Bipin and Chhangte are so vital to the squad.
Paul Masefield: Bipin and Chhangte have been doing this for Des Buckingham since last year and are continuing it this year. The big thing for me, apart from the goals and assists they bring in, is the dirty work they put in, having to track back and do the defensive duties as well.
They have the freedom to play in that system and have made the most of it.
Nandhakumar Sekar and Jerry Mawihmingthanga
Jo Paul Anchery: Jerry and Nandha are improving but aren’t at the level of Bipin and Chhangte yet. They take some time to get going, while the Mumbai City FC pair is mechanical.
In terms of decision-making, Jerry and Nandha still make some errors but have improved significantly in the last few years and still have a long way to go.
Erik Paartalu: Jerry and Nandha have had good seasons. I like Nandha’s game this season, as he is becoming a match-winner and has all the attributes to become a top player in this league. He's direct, and pacy, and we've seen him hit a few with power.
Jerry plays in dangerous areas, and the biggest change in his game this year is his understanding of being at the back to close the door on crosses. And he has already scored a few just from the timing of those runs.
Odisha are a side impressing everyone this season, and I think they can make the six, but a lot will come down to the wingers.
Darren Caldeira: Jerry is a goalscoring threat. He is not a big presence, but he has scored a couple of headers and is a proper fighter. Nandhakumar Sekar is a quality winger. He has finally come into his own, and we are seeing a lot of him this season and scoring those important goals.
Jerry and Nandha are not surrounded by players of the same quality as Mumbai City FC. They have Diego Mauricio and Pedro Martin, but they aren't firing like a Greg Stewart or a Jorge Pereyra Diaz, so there is an added responsibility on Jerry and Nandha to get the goals. Nandha likes to bomb forward, but defensively, he has to improve. He lacks the fitness levels of Bipin or Chhangte, but he is improving.
Paul Masefield: There is a 4-1-4-1 formation for Odisha FC, and the wingers have more of a role to play, and are a little bit more rigid in what they have to do. This season, we are seeing Nandha and Jerry cutting inside a little bit more, taking shots on or trying to bring other players into play.