After four long seasons, NorthEast United played their first-ever ISL playoffs under Eelco Schattorie last year. Their dream run finally came to an end when Bengaluru FC got the better of the Highlanders by a 4-2 aggregate score in the playoffs. Thus, the team signed off with a lot of expectations for the next term.
However, today, NorthEast United have again slumped to the bottom, with only 13 points from 17 outings, just like their previous four terms, thereby doubting the Schattorie era as a one-season wonder.
The Highlanders have won only two games this season, against Odisha FC and Hyderabad FC, both before the 6th of November. They are on a thirteen-match winless streak and were hindered by an injury to Ghanian legend Asamoah Gyan. The consecutive disappointments forced the management to sack Robert Jarni, and the team is currently under Khalid Jameel.
The Croatian coach had always been under pressure and things never looked settled under him. Though the team secured eight points from the first four matches, the Highlanders remained bereft of excellence and sustainability in the long run.
With a forgetful season almost done and dusted, it is high time the management start preparations for the upcoming campaign. Now, we look at five things the John Abraham co-owned club can do to come up with an improved performance next season.
#5 Better Indian player recruitment
While NorthEast have a promising set of young players in their roster, they have faced a setback coming to experienced domestic campaigners. Subhasish Roy Choudhary, the oldest Indian player in the side, leads the chart of most saves (55) this season. The club also boasts talented young names like Ninthoi, Lalengmawia, and Lalthathanga.
However, the club have failed to sign a match-winning and experienced Indian player, thereby leading to overdependence on foreign recruits. By the time Asamoah Gyan had been ruled out for the season, the Highlanders had scored nine goals, four coming from the Ghanian.
With Martin Chaves the only attacker who can fill in as a striker, the management had no option but to sign two foreign players, with the likes of Andy Keogh and Simon Lundevall joining the club recently. Federico Gallego's absence due to injury in the first phase of the season also harmed the club's overall performance.
If NorthEast United had a prolific goal-scoring Indian player in addition to Redeem Tlang (3 goals), the side could have racked up a few crucial points. Thus, the club's lazy pre-season backfired as they lacked experience and depth in their Indian personnel.
An Indian player, accustomed to the highs and lows of the league, would be the perfect match for NorthEast United's upcoming campaign.