ISL 2016 NorthEast United FC Squad: A comprehensive guide
Just like the first two seasons, expectations will be really high from the North Eastern team as they host the Kerala Blasters in the opening game of the Indian Super League (ISL) season 3. Both NorthEast United FC and Kerala Blasters represent two of the most passionate football loving regions of the country, hence making the opening contest of the season a fierce one.
The hosts, however, will face the greater share of the pressure as this is the first time they are opening their campaign at home and honestly, their first two seasons weren’t that great. The team, as of yet has not managed a top-four finish in the league.
One would expect things to be different this season as a new looked NorthEast United takes the ground on 1 October. Here’s a look out into this year’s NorthEast United squad:
Goalkeepers: Rehenesh TP, Subrata Pal, Wellington Gomes (Brazil).
Defenders: Gustavo Lazzaretti (Brazil), Mailson Alves (Brazil), Nirmal Chettri, Reagan Singh, Robin Gurung, Salam Ranjan Singh, Shouvik Ghosh, Wellington Priori (Brazil)
Midfielders: Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast) (Marquee Player), Fabio Neves, Fanai Lalrempuia, Holicharan Narzary, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Katsumi Yusa (Japan), Koffi Christian, N’dri (Ivory Coast), Rowllin Borges, Seityasen Singh
Forwards: Emiliano Alfaro (Uruguay), Lallianzuala Chhangte, Nicholas Velez (Argentina), Sasha Aneff (Uruguay), Sumit Passi
Head Coach: Nelo Vingada
Players retained: Rehenesh TP, Reagan Singh, Seityasen Singh, Nicholas Velez, Holicharan Narzary
Until last season, NorthEast United FC stood out from the rest because of it flamboyant playing style. The team had the distinction of having the youngest squad in the tournament for the first two seasons, and from what it seems, it’s the repeat of the same even this year.
The average age of the squad this season is 26, a drop of 1 year from last season. The North East representation of the team, however, has gone down to just 9 players from the region this season, compared to 12 last season.
The playing philosophy last year, under Cesar Farias, was heavily dictated by the midfielders and attacks were constructed primarily through the wings. Under the new coach, Nelo Vingada, who is dubbed as ‘the professor’, because of vast managerial experience, one would expect things to be a bit different.
But based on Vingada’s team selection, NorthEast United again seems to have a very strong midfield and fans would rightfully hope that the team does not miss out on a finisher like they did last year. He has already made it clear that last season it were the injuries that cost the Highlanders a spot in the semi-final and hence his focus this year would be to have a more balanced squad.
Rehenesh again is retained for the third straight year and with the signing of Subrata Pal, the team has a very strong fort at the post. The team has three Brazilian defenders to guard, while the combination of two Ivory Coast players in the midfield, including Zokora, can prove to be very deadly.
Since the team has retained only five players from last season, it would be a little difficult to predict the formation now. But based on calculations, this is how the primary playing XI should look like.
Please note, Sasha Aneff and Fabio Neves and reported to be injured and are likely to miss the first match against Kerala Blasters.
Players to Look Out For
The striker from Argentina was surely the most popular player from NorthEast United last season. In fact, for Cesar Farias he was the match changing weapon, with the opposition having no reply to his pace and skill. Velez, one of the players to be retained this year, is already the highest goal scorer for the team (5 goals in 14 matches) and from the likes of his social media posts; he is inspired to do even better.
If reports are to be believed, in the pre-season transfer buzz, a host of clubs were interested in signing the flamboyant striker, with FC Pune City leading the race. NorthEast United refused to let go of the striker considering how versatile his abilities are. His runs are the ones to look out for and we hope he scores more this season.
The marquee signing of the club is another to watch out for this season. The former Ivory Coast international, who has the distinction of being the most capped player for his country played the last season with FC Pune City. With the Football League Cup and Copa Del Rey already in his feather, Zokora would be keen to win an ISL title this season.
His inclusion was a larger plan of Nelo Vingada, who wanted a stringer midfield. "Currently, we are focused at creating a strong midfield for the club and Didier Zokora's presence adds to the already formidable midfield," said the Portuguese coach while signing Zakora.
With his experience ranging from Tottenham Hotspur to Sevilla, it would be very exciting to see him play with a young enthusiastic NorthEast United side.
Another key signing this season is that of Japanese stalwart Katsumi Yusa. His addition will be a huge boast for the midfield, particularly with his Indian football experience with Mohun Bagan. He is currently one of the most sound and strategically crucial midfielder in the Indian football arena and thus his combination with Didier Zokora will be interesting to watch.
Watch out for this Indian winger as last year, along with Sanju Pradhan he created a quite a lot of rift for NEUFC. The uniqueness of this player lies in his pace and his ability to create crosses. One of the few players to be retained by the team, he will another player to look out for.
NorthEast United will be buoyed by the home support, yet again, and should finally be able to make it to the top four this season, if things go their way.