After a difficult 2019-2020 Indian Super League season, NorthEast United FC would look to find some consistency in their game when the new season begins, and for that, they have brought in a new manager. Yes, their ninth one in seven seasons. Apart from unremarkable campaigns, managerial changes have been NEUFC’s only point of consistency.
The newest man in charge is 35-year-old Gerard Nus and he has brought in a host of changes to the squad since the day he has joined. With 15 players heading our and 19 coming in, NEUFC have virtually a new squad. However, the Spaniard will have a task at hand when the new season rolls in. The teams were anyway not getting enough time to prepare, and NEUFC had to halt their pre-season after two of their players tested positive for Covid-19. Also, NorthEast United are one of those clubs which enjoy fair support from their home fans and with the season set to be hosted in Goa, behind closed doors, they would be hurt by the lack of them.
The Highlanders were lacking goals last season and they would hope they don’t face a similar situation this time around after bringing in three impressive foreign recruits. Former Crystal Palace man Kwesi Appiah, Guinean international Idrissa Sylla and 28-year-old Portuguese winger Luis Machado have all been brought in to score goals for them. Among the Indians, former Churchill Brothers’ forward Lalkhawpuimawia and I-League winning forward VP Suhair should also come in handy. Another former Mohun Bagan man, Ashutosh Mehta and his balls from the right flank also work for Nus and NEUFC if the gaffer plays with his preferred attacking style of play.
Inexperience has to be their biggest weaknesses this season. The way they have set their squad, injuries to their foreign recruits would really derail their season. They have a good number of Indian recruits but relying on them on crunch matchdays would be expecting too much from them.
In the goalkeeping department too they lack quality depth, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury will most likely be their no. 1, with Sanjiban Ghosh being his deputy. But an injury to the former will really expose them as a team.
ISL 2019-20 PERFORMANCE
NorthEast United FC started off with a stalemate with Bengaluru FC and then went onto beat Odisha FC in their second match. They drew their third match and won their fourth one. However, things went downhill for the Highlanders from thereon. They endured a 14-game winless streak and finished second last.
MOST NOTABLE NEW SIGNINGS
This has to be the pair of Kwesi Appiah and Idrissa Sylla. They may not be earthmovers but with the experience both these players have in their bags, they should be able to help each with finding the back of the net for the Highlanders. While Appiah is a former Crystal Palace man, Sylla used to play for Queens Park Rangers in the English Championship and he has scored 17 times for the London club. Portuguese winger Machado who can play on either plank should also be able to bring in a breath of fresh air to their attack.
HISTORY IN ISL
NorthEast United FC, well, maybe they are known as the Highlanders but they have hardly ever finished an ISL season on a high. The only time they finished in the top half of the table was in 2018-19 season when they made it to the semi-finals. In their other campaigns, they have finished bottom-placed twice, fifth twice and second from the bottom once.
CHANCES/PREDICTION IN ISL 2020-21
It is a fresh start for the Guwahati-based club in the ISL with a new coach and almost a new, much-inexperienced squad, so there won’t be much pressure on them. On paper, they look like a bottom half team and at the end of the season could find themselves reeling at the bottom. However, Nus has a history of working with youngsters and if he could find a proper balance this team could be the surprise package.
Goalkeepers: Gurmeet, Nikhil Deka, Sanjiban Ghosh, Subhasish Roy
Defenders: Ashutosh Mehta, Benjamin Lambot, Dylan Fox, Gurjinder Kumar, Mashoor Shereef, Nabin Rabha, Nimm Dorjee, Provat Lakra, Rakesh Pradhan, Wayne Vaz
Midfielders: Fedrico Gallego, Imran Khan, Khassa Camara, Lalengmawia, Lalremouia Fanai, Pragyan Gogoi
Forwards: Britto PM, Idrissa Sylla, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Kwesi Appiah, Lalkhawpuimawai, Luis Machado, Suhair Vadakkepeedika