NorthEast United FC squad, season preview, prediction | ISL 2019-20
Coach Eelco Schattorie left NorthEast to join the Kerala Blasters, and he made the move down south with his captain Bartholomew Ogbeche for company. With Mato Grgic and Rowllin Borges also having left, to join Mumbai City FC, and talismanic creator Federico Gallego still not recovered fully from that horrendous leg break he suffered in the semifinal second leg at the Kanteerava Stadium, it is safe to say that new coach Robert Jarni has a big task on his hands, to replicate the show from last season.
Jarni, a former head coach of the Croatian U19 team, is NorthEast's seventh manager in just six years, which is a damning indictment of the club's fortunes for a large part of their existence.
They have made some exciting acquisitions though - none more than Ghanaian superstar Asamoah Gyan, who put pen to paper on a one-year deal.
With Jose Leudo and Mislav Komorski extending their respective stays in Guwahati, Jarni will be hoping that the continuity will come from those two.
NorthEast United squad
Gallego has extended his contract, but hasn't been registered for the first phase, with the Uruguayan still in recovery. Borges, Grgic, Ogbeche and Gallego was the core that took NorthEast soaring along with them. So, it is going to be a challenge for Jarni to ensure that he can build such a core again.
Gyan, obviously, is a direct replacement for Ogbeche, but a lot is also expected of their two new South American attackers, Maximiliano Barreiro and Martin Chaves. Greek midfielder Panagiotis Triadis has also extended his stay, having only joined the club in January.
The defence is a concern, with especially the lack of Indian options. Komorski and Dutchman Kai Heerings will start as the two centre-backs, while Reagan Singh and Shouvik Ghosh are expected to start in the full-back positions. But in Provat Lakra, Rakesh Pradhan and Nim Dorjee Tamang, there just aren't enough options to play at the heart of the defence.
Redeem Tlang and Lalthathanga Khawlhring (Puitea), such standout performers under Schattorie last season, have the Indian Arrows stars Ninthoingamba Meetei and Lalengmawia on the wings this season, while Milan Singh has reunited with his old employers.
Full NorthEast United FC Squad
Goalkeepers: Pawan Kumar, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Soram Poirei
Defenders: Mislav Komorski, Kai Heerings, Reagan Singh, Shouvik Ghosh, Provat Lakra, Rakesh Pradhan, Nim Dorjee Tamang, Wayne Vaz, Pawan Kumar
Midfielders: Jose David Leudo, Panagiotis Triadis, Milan Singh, Redeem Tlang, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Nikhil Kadam, Ninthoingamba Meetei, Lalengmawia, Alfred Lalruotsanga, Fanai Lalrempuia
Forwards: Asamoah Gyan, Martin Chaves, Maximiliano Barreiro
With Schattorie having left for Kerala, Robert Jarni was announced as the man to lead NorthEast United this season. The Croatian has had a stint as the head coach of his country's U-19 national team. In his playing days, Jarni was a key figure in the Croatian side that had a fairytale run to a third-place finish in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Jarni hasn’t yet managed outside of Europe, and even though he was touted as a contender to be India's senior men's national team coach before Igor Stimac, he is still very much an unkown quantity.
At this point, it is difficult to see how NorthEast make the playoffs. Gyan is obviously a huge addition to the squad, but given the pace at which other sides in the competition have recruited and strengthened, there is a perception that NorthEast might have been left behind.
With one talismanic manager having left, it is time for Jarni to step up and prove this pre-season prediction wrong.