NorthEast United FC – 2022-2023 Season Preview

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NorthEast United FC have had a tumultuous run ever since their inception. Despite putting the effort to procure good players and coaches they have been unable to secure a footing in the tournament. In the history of their existence, they have only made it to the playoffs twice. Their most recent tryst with the playoffs was when Khalid Jamil was running the show in the 2020-2021 season. Khalid’s guidance guaranteed him the position of Head Coach making him the first permanent Indian Head Coach of an ISL team however their 2021-2022 campaign should best remain forgotten as their stellar performance of the previous season fizzled out and they ended up occupying the tenth position in the league table.

In the 2022-2023 season, Israeli footballer and coach Marco Balbul has been roped in as the Head Coach for the team. They had a short pre-season compared to others. They participated in the Durand Cup but the lack of matches before that put them at a disadvantage compared to the other teams who had more practice playing with each other. They failed to clear the group stages and had to watch on as other ISL teams such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, and others rose to the knockout rounds.

North East United FC
NorthEast United FC

Head Coach

NorthEast United FC have appointed Israeli footballer Marco Balbul as coach ahead of the 2022/2023 football season. Prior to being a coach, he was a professional footballer who played in defence. In his career, he played primarily for Israeli stalwarts Maccabi Haifa and is a five-time winner of the Israeli Premier League. He has over a decade’s worth of experience as a coach. He began his coaching career in Israel and spent a decade there. He was then appointed assistant coach to the Serbian team Partizan Belgrade. He then returned to Israel and worked with his former club Maccabi Haifa.

As a player and as a coach Marco brings with him invaluable experiences that would benefit NorthEast United FC greatly. Marco has his work cut out for him as although being one of the oldest teams it still struggles to find a footing in the League.

NorthEast United FC
Marco Balbul,Head Coach

Foreign Signings

Romain Philippoteaux is one of the latest additions to The Highlander’s roster. He has spent the majority of his playing career in Ligue 1. He brings with him experience in midfield and is sure to leave a mark on the turf. Accompanying him in midfield is Jon Gaztañaga. He has experience playing in the Spanish league and was even part of the La Liga team Real Sociedad.

English player Matt Derbyshire joins the attacking force of the team. He has played for Greek titans, Olympiacos, and back home in England, for Nottingham Forest. He has played for multiple teams all over the world and brings that experience to the table. Joining him in the attack is Nigerian, Sylvester “Sly” Igboun. Prior to this he played in the Premier Liga, the first-tier league in Russia.

The defence sees an addition in the form of Aaron Evans. The Australian, prior to his arrival in India, played in the premier league of Indonesia. He has experience with the climate of South-East Asia and is a tried and tested defender who is sure to bolster the defensive ranks of North East United FC.

NorthEast United FC
Romain Philippoteaux

Indian Signings

North East United FC has signed east Bengal FC goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya. He is a veteran shot-stopper and is expected to lead the younger goalkeepers who have been signed. The rookies are Nikhil Deka and Khoirom Singh who will accompany the experienced goalkeepers, Mirshad and Arindam.

The defense line sees an addition. Odisha FC centreback Gaurav Bora has been signed. Although Gaurav is young, he has been playing in the ISL for a while and has shown himself capable of playing at this level of competition. His youth guided by Marco’s experience can make him a defender worth fearing in this competition.

Emil Benny has been signed to play in the midfield. He used to play in the I-league and along with fellow Gokulam FC Player Jithin MS. He has shown great promise as a player and a competition as fierce as the ISL may be just what is needed to polish a diamond in the rough such as him. Jithin MS is a striker who has shown great promise. The young age of the attackers paired with the experienced defense and coach may be just what was needed for North East United FC to finally enter its name in the history books.

NorthEast United FC
Jithin MS

Top Signings

Romain Philippoteaux, Matt Derbyshire, Jon Gaztanaga, Jithin MS, Aaron Evans.

Strengths

The Highlanders have got a squad of veterans. The top foreign signings of this season have got experience playing in top leagues around the world and bring that experience with them to the club.

NorthEast United FC’s new coach Marco Balbul is an experienced tactician. He has worked with former Chelsea and NEUFC coach Avram Grant, adding to his expertise.

North East United FC has also procured two young players from the I-league that show great potential. Both Jithin and Benny showed promise while playing for I-league outfit Gokulam FC and have been brought in to provide invaluable support to the attacking strength of the team.

Weaknesses

The foreign players’ experience comes at the cost of age which may put them at a disadvantage against players who are younger. Further, the fitness of the veteran players may come into question as the season progresses.

They lack an Indian defender who has proven himself in the league. This lack of experienced defense might prove disastrous if they don’t adapt quickly to the demands of the competition. NorthEast United FC can ill afford to continue their lackluster run if they wish to make it to the top four.

In addition, NorthEast United FC has started their preseason late and in the Durand Cup their performance left much to be desired. The short pre-season as well as their performance in the Durand Cup means their fledgling team has had little time to play cohesively. This puts the inexperienced team on the back foot.

Tentative Playing XI for 2022-2023

NorthEast United FC
NorthEast United FC

Conclusion

A serious attempt at a revamp has been made here at NorthEast United FC. A new coach and players with reputable pedigree and skill have joined the Highlanders. The veterans and rookies alike show great promise. However, there are some issues. The reshuffling of the team and the new coach means that the players have had little time playing together as a team. The necessary amount of practice required to create strategies and teamwork to bring desirable results may not be reached. It would put them in a compromising position. It all depends on the leadership of Marco and his ability to apply his experience as a coach and player to help the club play well in this season.


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