Which bell does the name Nongdamba Naorem ring in your head? Which picture do you see? For me, the first thing that strikes my mind is the picture of a bright, young lad dancing through five defenders before driving the ball home.A picture of someone who made the country proud by playing in the Fifa U17 World Cup, an absolute Prodigy.
Despite the stamp of “the next big thing of Indian Football ” on his forehead, early in his career, he was struggling with his career not so long ago. It was just after that wonder goal, he was struggling hard even to make the first team in Arrows. As another talent awaited the wrath of destiny and just then, Kerala Blasters happened. They recognized his talent and potential and signed him. Kerala Blasters management also understood the plethora of talent they already possessed and loaned him off to Mohun Bagan, who were for the first time fighting to create an identity of themselves on the field. However, ensuring Naorem of enough gametime.
Though initially Naorem struggled again, it didn’t take long for the tide to turn as he took a big part in Mohunbagan’s path to the title glory. With a little guidance and enough gametime, no sooner, he became the beloved of the Mariners. Fascinated by his performance, Kerala Blasters is all set to call him back to the Manjappada from his year long loan along with his Mohun Bagan boss Kibu Vicuña. He has improved his shortcomings a lot in the previous season.So, Let’s take a look at what the Teacher-Student reunion and his journey of development at the Kerala Blasters can produce for the fans.
Less Flair, More Discipline
The first thing he has improved this season is his Tactical Discipline. One of the most difficult tasks in football is to control your instincts knowing that you are good with the ball at your feet. His partial overconfidence of attempting too many dribbles has been one of his basic problems. Cheap giveaways at important stages of build up has costed his team too. Working with Kibu helped him to understand the significance of releasing the ball early and at the right timing. He understood that he will get his fair share of chances for take ons, but not always. Nongdamba Naorem is now becoming a man for the job, whom a coach can trust.
One of the most important traits for being a player fit in a possession based system is Technical abilities. Blessed with the talent of pace and breathtaking control over the ball, Naorem is still in the process of learning the techniques of touches-both first and second, accurate shooting, aggressive pressing, putting proper weight on passes released etc. A lot has improved since he joined Kibu and Mohunbagan and there is still a lot to improve in the coming days. Hopefully, we can see the improvement in Kerala Blasters next season.
Naorem is not a typical winger by traits. He is someone, we can call an inside forward. But in today’s footballing world of overwhelming demands he is the one who is patrolling the flanks in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation. So he is the one who has to track the opposition winger or fullback back to his defensive third. He also acted as the first line of defense, pressing the centre backs during build up phase and also came as a handy weapon to create midfield overloads. But as short statured he is, he still has to work on his upper and lower body strengthening in order to increase the percentage of dual won. Otherwise Nogdamba Naorem v2.0 is not someone who demands freedom; rather someone who displays intent and commitment in defensive action.
Vision and Passing Range
We have already discussed about how Naorem learn when to release the ball and started to time it beautifully. But, that is not the only thing. Once he started looking up while carrying the ball ,rather than looking down onto the ball; he has started to spot spaces opening up on the pitch which has improved his passing and crossing range drastically.
Previously with the boiling blood of youth he used to run into the crowded areas hoping to dribble out, eventually loosing the ball cheaply. But now he knows the zones he has to get into, for quick exchange with his teammates, to create an overload or put in crosses for the strikers.
He was never an old school, touchline-hugging winger with long range accurate crossing abilities. With the knowledge of his favourable zones like half space and improved technical ability, his range of passing and crossing has also peaked.
Off the ball movement and goalscoring threat
As discussed previously, Naorem now knows the zones he has to operate in to be effective and provide an impact. One of the perks of possession based football is getting more and more touches on the ball. For that, he needs to get involved in the game and that’s what he has done. Naorem, unlike his previous years, doesn’t stay isolated for too long. Either he drops inside and provides a passing option to his teammate or makes an inbehind run for an anticipated long ball. More and more involvement in the game has allowed his confidence to reach its peak.
Not every team holds possession forever, and Naorem has allowed himself to be a classic mediator of counter attack by his pace and off the ball movements. His better understanding of the game has made him a better goalscoring threat too. He is gradually acquiring the instinct of a poacher and moving into threatening danger zones more and more while waiting for tap-ins and flick-ons. He is definitely one of the options Kerala Blasters can looks forward for goalscoring output.
We saw an inverted winger like Brandon Fernandes making it big for the club and the country. Nongdamba Naorem, with the kind of traits he possess is surely a candidate to become the first False 10 for India. With this kind of tactical uniqueness he is all set to become a precious asset for both his club and country and the fans can expect a lot from him in the upcoming days.