At the start of the season, Joao de Deus claimed that the top scorer in this edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) will be from NorthEast United.
“I'm not worried at all that we did not score. I know that at the end of the league, we will have the top goalscorer in the league. I'm not worried at all,” were his words.
And he reiterated this on several occasions. After seven matches, the club has only managed to find the back of the net twice. Such has been their woeful run of form. It isn’t that they haven’t managed to create chances but they have struggled to finish the opportunities.
It isn’t just that their foreign players have been poor in front of goal. The Indians too have failed to make an impression. Seminlen Doungel wasted at least two open chances in the last game against FC Pune City.
Their only win came against fellow strugglers Delhi Dynamos. Of the two goals they scored against The Lions, one was a gift from Albino Gomes.
De Deus also mentioned that Rowllin Borges was the best Indian player in the ISL. “In my opinion, we have the best Indian player and that is Rowllin,” he stated at the start of the season. The former Sporting Clube de Goa midfielder hasn’t been at his best given that he hasn’t fully recovered from an injury he picked up during the pre-season. As a consequence, his performances haven’t been up to the mark.
And it isn’t the goal scoring which is their only concern. They have also leaked in 12 goals – joint second worst after Delhi Dynamos.
The squad clearly lacks balance - whether it is their Indian contingent or the foreigners. You have also got to question the logic behind retaining T.P.Rehenesh, a goalkeeper known to make schoolboy errors on a regular basis.
Add to this, Adilson Goiano parted ways with the club after playing four games with the reason still being guarded as a top secret.
Halicharan Narzary, who is the only India team regular in their squad, was left out of the last match. Nirmal Chettri too was dropped and you could sense that de Deus had indeed lost his dressing room. In the match against Kerala Blasters when his team went down to 10, de Deus opted to substitute Narzary instead of Doungel despite the Indian national team winger being more impressive of the two.
As much as de Deus is culpable for not yielding the best out of his squad, one has to question the mentality of the club management for not doing enough to keep hold of Nelo Vingada in the first place.
The former Persepolis coach attended a few I-League games last season despite his contract not being renewed. NorthEast United waited far too long for a definite answer on how long the ISL would be this season and thus, didn’t offer him a contract. In the meantime, Vingada was offered the role of the Malaysian national team coach which he duly accepted.
Now that de Deus will be officially fired from his duties as the head coach of the club, Vingada is the favourite to take charge. With FC Pune City being on course to qualify for the play-offs, NorthEast United’s struggles have continued this season as well.
The trial and error method at NorthEast United hasn’t paid dividends as the club could officially be the only team to have never made it into the playoffs by the end of the fourth season.
It’s been a case of poor management and squad selection at The Highlanders.