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Gawli happy to see Arrows' defenders holding fort

Gawli happy to see Arrows
Highlights

The Indian Arrows, comprising of an all Indian outfit, and that too of boys below 19 years, had put up a stupendous show in the recently concluded...

Bhubaneshwar: The Indian Arrows, comprising of an all Indian outfit, and that too of boys below 19 years, had put up a stupendous show in the recently concluded I-League, finishing at 8th spot with 21 points - their best-ever finish ever in the top flight.

Creditable victories against Mohun Bagan, defending champions Minerva Punjab FC, Aizawl FC, and five clean sheets stayed their highlight.

While the attacking instinct of the youngsters have always been on display in the I-League under Floyd Pinto, there's more to what meets the eye.

A lot has changed on the defensive front with the unit staying more cohesive, keeping calm during crucial phases, backing each other, and defending as a team.

And all this has happened under the watchful eyes of assistant coach Mahesh Gawli.

"We do not have any foreign central defenders.

So obviously, we've had to do a lot of work on how to control the aerial threats.

When I first joined the team at the start of the season, I mainly looked at working on the basics.

We fed the boys with information, showed them the videos and told them how to communicate with each other, in order to form a formidable back-four," Gawli, one of the most versatile defenders to have played for India, said.

"We made our plans accordingly. The players grasped it immediately, and played with intent. Credit goes to the boys," he added.

Meanwhile, head coach Pinto credited Gawli for the results the team has shown while defending against some quality opposition in the league.

"Credit to Mahesh for coming in and working with the boys to improve us. He has added a lot to the defence, allowed the team to come together when we don't have the ball," said Pinto. "The boys took their instructions really well and reacted to the situation, and they really did well," he added.

Under Gawli's guidance, the fans were taken back to an era which demonstrated that an Indian back four can also dominate the defence and deal with aerial threats.

"In my five years at Dempo FC, we have worked mostly with Indian defences, and won three I-League titles during that period," recollects Gawli.

"A bit of communication and planning is all it takes to form a good defence. Getting the shape of the team right took a lot of dedication, hard work, and sacrifice for us all. I myself have had to give up on going home during the festivals, or spending as much time with my family as before," he said.

Gawli believes that this is just the beginning and the boys have the talent to take Indian football forward.

"They are the best players of their age-group in this country. There's no doubt that this bunch has the potential to take Indian football forward," he added.

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