NorthEast United are the only franchise from season one who haven’t made it into the play-offs ever, leave alone winning the championship. Season five of the ISL will see them have yet another coach at the helm of affairs as they hope to break the jinx.
Can they finally make the cut this season and spring a surprise? In this piece, we look at the strengths and weaknesses of this NorthEast United contingent.
Eelco Schattorie, after being brought in midway through last season to assist Avram Grant, has now been asked to take over the team. The former East Bengal coach will have Arthur Papas as his assistant and will be looking to revive NorthEast United's fortunes.
Schattorie is a coach who prefers attacking football, given his Dutch lineage, and often uses the flanks as the outlet during transitions. He is also a stickler for discipline and often formulates multiple strategies for games.
Indian players: Pawan Kumar (GK), Gurmeet Singh, Keegan Pereira, Pawan Kumar (DEF), Provat Lakra, Gurwinder Singh, Seityasen Singh, Nikhil Kadam, Redeem Tlang, Simranjit Singh, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Rupert Nongrum, Girik Khosla, Kivi Zhimomi.
Foreign players: Mato Grgic, Mislav Komorski, Jose David Leudo, Federico Galego, Augustine Okrah, Juan Cruz Mascia, Bartholomew Ogbeche.
The Highlanders completely changed their foreign contingent from last season and signed seven new players. The most notable signing among them is former PSG striker Bartholomew Ogbeche. The Nigerian striker has represented his country 11 times and is a proven goalscorer.
Among the Indian players who have been brought in this season, Nikhil Kadam, who had an impressive season with Mohun Bagan, stands out. Rupert Nongrum from ATK and Kivi Zhimomi from Gokulam Kerala are all promising names. Former East Bengal captain Gurwinder Singh has also been brought in.
Strength & Weakness:
Midfield is NorthEast United’s strongest area. They have signed three foreign players Jose David Leudo, Federico Galego and Augustine Okrah. They also have the likes of Rowllin Borges, Nikhil Kadam and Rupert Nongrum to provide options.
Also, their two central defenders - Grgic and Komorski - are both over six feet tall and that will help them in set-piece situations.
NorthEast’s weakness could be a lack of quality Indian players to complement their foreign contingent. Also, the goalkeepers in the squad do not inspire confidence with the likes of TP Rehenesh error-prone.
Goalkeepers: Gurmeet, Avilash Paul, TP Rehenesh
Defenders: Gurwinder Singh, Keegan Pereira, Reagan Singh, Mato Grgic, Mislav Komorski, Pawan Kumar, Provat Lakra, Robert Lalthlamuana, Simranjeet Singh
Midfielders: Augustine Okrah, Rupert Nongrum, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Redeem Tlang, Nikhil Kadam, Fanai Lalrempuia, Seityasen Singh, Rowllin Borges, Federico Gallego
Strikers: Kivi Zhimomi, Girik Khosla, Juan Cruz Mascia, Bartholomew Ogbeche