Before diving into the article, let’s take you to the weekend evening of 12th December at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim. Odisha FC are fighting a one-goal-trail against FC Goa. Just past the hour mark, a stubborn left footed kick from Igor Angulo edges towards the nets of the Juggernauts. Oh wait, we see a pair of gloves denying the chance beautifully. But the Gaurs seem unstoppable. Another kick from Jorge Ortiz Mendoza and this time towards the farthest left post. Alas, the OFC custodian is at it again.
Turning down two fierce attempts within less than a minute, impacting a reaction time of 0.49sec and 0.84sec respectively. The skinny 181cm guy with ducktail beard was living the night of his dreams. Arshdeep Singh, the numero-uno of Stuart Baxter’s side was donning between the woodworks as he gainsaid a remarkable 9 attempts.
A graduate from the AIFF Elite Academy, Singh joined Minerva Punjab FC ahead of 2016-17 I-League season aged 18. Despite some injuries, he became a part of the I-League winning side of 2017-18 and joined Odisha FC in the summer of 2019 as a second choice keeper behind Francisco Dorronsoro. With enormous hard-work and consistency, he managed to start 8 games and stayed 742 minutes on the field. The notable point here is, he impacted 35 saves in comparison to the Spaniard’s 20 in around 130 minutes less playtime.
As Dorronsoro left, Arshdeep seemed to be an obvious first choice. But the competition increased in the camp with the arrival of Kamaljit Singh and Ravi Kumar. After starting the opening game, he was out for 3 straight games due to an injury. We can guess—what burnt the fire of desire in him and brought out an absolute diamond in the game-day 5. After 7 games Odisha FC are yet to overcome their defensive woes and without Arshdeep Singh between the goals, results would have been much embarrassing for Baxter’s men.
The Punjabi shot-stopper has faced a total of 22 shots and 2 penalty kicks during the 360 minutes he has spent on field. He has been able to come out on top a mentionable 18 times; 8 saves among which are acrobatic. “Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is my inspiration”—Arshdeep had stated in January and till December he has showcased something that his idol would definitely be proud of.
The 23-year-old saves 81.8% of the total shots he faces, 16% more than the team average and 8% more than the league average. He has allowed only 4 open play goals in 4 games and has provided 2 long crosses that have led to counter attacks. He seems more focused with each game passing and there is definitely more of him for us to witness this season.
Who can forget his career-threatening collision with CK Vineeth at just 6th minute of an AFC Cup match! He had picked up severe fractures in his face and had to undergo a surgery. The Chandigarh-born managed to strike an early comeback and within half-a-year he was seen keeping the goals in the top tier of Indian football. Now exactly 18 months later, he is considered among the key players for every game that his club plays. The tale of rise of Arshdeep Singh in Hero ISL 2020 is for sure going to inspire many.
Comparing to the basic stature of a goalkeeper, Singh might not possess a rock-solid grasp of towering height and an enormous wingspan, but he is definitely blessed with talent and dedication, that is going to keep him bossing in Indian football for many years to come.