Bollywood superstar, John Abraham had bought NorthEast United with a vow to tap into the potential stars of Indian football. But since the Indian Super League’s inception, frustration has been writ large on the performance of the Highlanders. There have been occasional glimpses, but nothing has fructified so far. The team have failed to reach the top 4 in both the previous editions.
In 2014, NorthEast finished last among the eight teams. They could win only three matches and collected a paltry 15 points. The team managed to score 11 goals and ended up conceding 13.
In the second edition, it was a promising affair as the club managed to secure the services of Portuguese midfielder Simao Sabrosa. However, the marquee player missed the first three contests wherein the Highlanders were blanked.
Sabrosa returned to see his side to a better finish, amassing 20 points in the process but missed the top 4 narrowly. However, their defensive woes worsened as they conceded a record 23 goals and scored 18.
2016- It is still the same
This year expectations were high. A new coach in the form of Nelo Vingada was appointed. With tonnes of experience all over the world, Vingada seemed to be the right man. The results were coming in. The Highlanders led the table after four rounds. But after three wins from in as many matches, their rollicking juggernaut came to a screeching halt.
After ten games, NEUFC stands at 7th with a performance comprising of 5 losses and two draws and three wins. The team which looked threatening every time they went forward have found goals hard to come by as well.
What is it that has pushed the promising team to the abyss?
The likes of Katsumi Yusa, Nicolás Vélez and Emiliano Alfaro have shown promise in the attack. Youngsters like Rowlin Borges, Holicharan Narzary and Seityasen Singh, have ably supported the experienced lot. But the defence has been left hapless in the second half. Consequently, the team have forfeited leads and gone on to lose games they ought not have.
This uncanny knack of conceding goals in the dying moments has hurt the team badly. A lapse in concentration has left them high and dry in the points table. An odd set piece, a quick thrown in- these have caught the defence off guard frequently.
In the goal scoring department, there is an abundance of talent with a seemingly compelling concoction of youth and experience. But in crunch games, if you do not take the chances, those come back to haunt your side.
It was a similar tale in the match against Atletico de Kolkata. Alfaro had an empty net to make it 2-0 and effectively seal the game for his side. But the Argentine striker managed to head straight into the palms of Debjit Majumdar. The custodian was lying on the ground, taken off guard by a wicked deflection and yet the Uruguayan managed to find the Indian international lying near the right-hand post of his goal.
That miss proved costly as Iain Hume equalised from a Javi Lara set piece in the stoppage time. It would have been an easy victory as Atletico had hardly bothered the NEUFC defence. But the erroneous header left Alfaro ruing the missed chance at the end of 90 minutes.
First and foremost the gaffer needs to calm down the young minds and aid them to be on top of their game. Senior players like Didier Zokora, Subrata Paul, should ensure the team spirit is high. The coach has to redefine the positional play of each player. Defending from set pieces has been a real pain for the NEUFC players.
Erroneous passes and giving away possession too easily are the other blunders which affect the side.
Ivorian midfielder Romaric comes with hordes of experience, having played for his nation in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He has shown his calibre time and again, imparting absolute steel in the central midfield position. He needs to be utilised more in formulating the attack of his side. Trying to run through the defence would not help his cause. Once dispossessed, it would be a difficult proposition for Romaric to track back with equal gusto.
Consequently, stitching the build up play should be the primary objective of the central midfielders. Jumping the gun too soon has lead to slip-ups, allowing the opposition to pounce on such silly errors.
It is this lack of coherence which has time and again pinched the team from the northeast severely. Currently languishing near the bottom, they have 11 points from 10 games. Since this ISL has been a close affair, Vingada is optimistic about the top 4 prospects. But there is a lot of work that remains to be done.
More Indian Football news, transfer rumours, analysis and features at Sportskeeda.com