Lallianzuala Chhangte could relate to the mentality of Mumbai City FC while putting pen to paper on a three-year contract earlier this year after a six-month loan spell.
“When I was signing for Mumbai City FC, they were the (2020-21 Indian Super League) champions, and they had the mentality of champions. I get that mentality,” the India international said. Not only has the club shown that in an unbeaten top-of-the-table 2022-23 ISL season thus far, so has the winger.
The 25-year-old from Mizoram has three goals so far this season, joint-second highest Indian scorer in the charts. It comes on the back of the 2022 Durand Cup where Mumbai City ended second but Chhangte was the top scorer with seven goals.
Owning that right flank, Chhangte has been prominent in the free-flowing football played by Mumbai City, regaining the scoring form he had shown two years ago.
In that 2019-20 season playing for Chennaiyin FC, Chhangte notched up seven goals from 21 matches. A quieter next season followed. He had four goals and an assist, which came down to one goal and an assist last season. He had little to write home about except a switch from Chennaiyin to Mumbai City on loan for six months.
Chhangte played seven matches for the holders at the back end of the league stage and also in the six matches in Mumbai City’s debut AFC Champions League campaign. Head coach Des Buckingham saw enough to make Chhangte a permanent signing.
The Englishman believes the youngster blends into his vision and brand of attacking football, and Chhangte has provided ample evidence of that this season. One need to look no further than his thunderous left footer from outside the box that swerved into the top right corner of the ATK Mohun Bagan goal and got the entire Mumbai Football Arena on its feet.
Chhangte has made a conscious effort to try and get back to scoring this season. “You want to score as many goals and assists as you can for those three points for the team. Of course, I have targets. I wanted to be better in every aspect than the previous year.
“I’m really happy with how it’s been going so far. But I can’t just sit on that. There’s a long, long way to go. I will work very hard to achieve my goals,” he said.
A key aspect of that work involved being clearer in his decision-making in the final third, something Chhangte acknowledged was iffy earlier. It helps to have the company of Greg Steward, Jorge Diaz and Bipin Singh in the Mumbai City attack.
“When you know someone is going to be there in the space, you just put the ball and you’ll find them. We got that connection in our team now, especially in the frontline where we’re gelling well. It’s not only about going to the pitch and doing it. It starts from the training ground. We’ve been doing a lot of extra work in shooting, finishing, crossing.”
The biggest learning curve in that decision-making area came about at the AFC Champions League, where Mumbai City became the first Indian club to win in a creditable group second-place finish. Chhangte started in each of those six outings in April.
“When you play at a higher level like the AFC, you have to decide when to pass even before you get the ball. That was the one thing I learnt from playing there,” he said.
“It was a great experience for the club and the country too. Everyone thought we were going there just because we were champions in our league. But once we were there, I think we showed our opponents we are not easy to beat, and we can make some difference in the future of Asia. We had the mindset, that winning mentality, that we’re not going to make their life easy.”
Chhangte is eager to keep adding his bit to Mumbai City’s winning mentality.
“Mumbai City is a team that wants to compete every single year. That’s the kind of team I want to play for. I hope I can win some trophies with the team,” he said. “My main objective this season is to lift the trophy. I have so much more to give for the team.”