NorthEast United made a significant improvement this season with them almost securing a berth in the semi-final playoffs. For a team which finished at the bottom of the table last season and struggled with multiple injuries in the initial half of the current season, their recovery was magnificent and leaves the fans of The Highlanders expecting a lot more from the next edition of the Indian Super League.
The recovery of the team has however been credited to its brilliant and experienced midfield which managed to catch a lot of attention during the league. In fact, if the team from Guwahati were to qualify for the knockout stages, its clinical midfield play would have been the main reason. The team probably lost out due to its bad conversion rate in front of goal, a problem they inherited from last season while its defence went out of shape the moment Farias experimented with his formation.
The most consistent performances for the team came from the centre of the field and for obvious reasons, the most remarkable player of the team in the current season happens to be Spaniard Bruno Herrero Arias.
Arias is a product of Sevilla FC's youth system but unfortunately he could not break into the first team of the club. He has just three appearances for the main team as a substitute while he managed 64 caps for the Sevilla B team. He then joined Real Murcia in the second division and helped them earn the team a promotion into La Liga.
Before coming to India, Arias played for Thai club Buriram United and helped them win the Thai Premier League as well as the Thai FA Cup in 2013.
Bruno made his India debut in last season’s ISL for Delhi Dynamos and was one of the pivotal figures in the campaign for the team from the national capital. For the second season, he was signed by The Highlanders and he did not disappoint the team and its fans.
One of the regular starters of Farias’ squad, the Spaniard made 12 appearances this season, scoring one goal and giving two assists in the process. He was also a powerful presence, competing for evey ball, and putting his opponents under constant pressure.
These numbers however do not exactly reflect the kind of season he had. His performances forthe team went beyond statistics and showed the quality he possesses.
Arias usually played in an anchoring role in midfield and coach Farias gave him the freedom to go forward and contribute in attack, using his ability on the ball well. Arias’ greatest strength lies in his ability to navigate the ball away from the opposition and passing it to the forwards.
He was good both with and without possession. Arias made 42 tackles for the team, the second highest after defender Raju Yumnam and also effected 11 interceptions, the highest in the team. His tackling abilities provided a cushion to the NorthEast United defence, neutralizing threats right in the midfield region.
The midfielder’s exceptional passing abilities were also very crucial and were the reason NorthEast United had great strength in the midfield. He completed 565 passes with a magnificent passing success of 78%.
In the absence of Simao, Bruno took the corner-kicks and curled them beautifully for players in the box to get on the end of. His only goal of the tournament came in the form of a penalty which he took against Mumbai FC when Kamara was brought down inside the box.
A couple of moments from Arias during the season stood out. There was this brilliantly timed assist from him that helped Kamara score against Chennaiyin. The Spaniard was one of the main reasons why NorthEast United managed to beat winners Chennaiyin FC twice this season.
Another instance was when he came very close to scoring against FC Goa when he made a surging run from midfield right before half-time, but failed to finish it off.
It’s his ability to pass, his clinical precision and the fight he has that makes Arias our player of the season for NorthEast United. His game has the Spanish touch, which can be seen from his passing, a sort of Tiki-Taka reminder if you will. What makes him a tough opponent is the aggression that he possesses, which has helped his team.
All in all, it was his play in midfield that made NorthEast United a team worth watching and his consistency and quality almost propelled them into the semi-finals.