Last season, NorthEast United Football Club had a lacklustre season in the Indian Super League. After playing 20 games, NEUFC managed to win only one and lost a staggering 17 matches. These results from The Highlanders meant they finished last on the table. This performance was unacceptable as the 2021-22 season was also a disappointment for NorthEast. But, it could not be compared to last season as the team barely had any positives to take.
However, with the new season approaching, NorthEast United Football Club will look to change what happened to them in the last few seasons. With a new manager at the helm and several new faces in the squad, NEUFC will at least look to make the top four in the 2023-24 season. While doing so will be a difficult challenge, football at its best is a game of unpredictability where every team in the league has an equal chance.
In this article, we will preview the upcoming 2023-24 football season for NorthEast United FC.
Preseason and what’s at stake?
Since manager Juan Pedro Benali has taken control of things at NorthEast United, things seem to have improved for the better. Not only has Benali managed to bring in several players, but there have been advancements in performances. Due to these reasons, it is natural that fans of NorthEast United will hope that the team can escape the horrors of the past few seasons and write the future in a way where the club becomes a major part of Indian Football’s history.
Based on the team’s performance at the Durand Cup, it is safe to say that The Highlanders seem to be on course of doing the same. In what is India’s premier tournament, NorthEast finished second in the group stage and did not lose a single game. Their good performance in the group stages continued in the knockout stages as NEUFC managed to reach the semi-final of the tournament. But, their brilliant run was spoilt by East Bengal FC, who beat the Highlanders on penalties. However, their run at the tournament showed a lot of promise.
Ahead of the upcoming season, NorthEast United made 18 changes to their team from last season. While there is a new manager at the helm, the team has seen several notable players like Bekey Oram, Buanthanglun Samte, Thoi Singhm, Fredy Chawngthansanga, and Shighil Nambrath join the team. However, that’s not all. The Guwahati-based team has also signed other players like Phalguni Singh, Redeem Tlang, Thoi Singh, Michel Zabaco, Nestor Albiach, and Yaser Ahmed.
These signings made by the team show their intent to perform well in the upcoming season. While the signing of these players is a matter of joy for NorthEast United and its fans, the team also saw a lot of departures. Jordan Gil, Emil Benny, Arindam Bhattacharya, Gurjinder Kumar, Imran Khan, Provat Lakra, Alex Saji, and Mashoor Shereef are some players who won’t be donning the NorthEast jersey this season.
INs: Bekey Oram, Yaser Hamed, Dipesh Chauhan, Mohammed Ali Bemammer, Shajan Franklin, Louis Macarton Nickson, Mukul Panwar, Asheer Akhtar, Thoi Singh, Fredy Chawngthansanga, Shighil Nambrath, Nestor Albiach, Soraisham Dinesh Singh, Michel Zabaco, Buanthanglun Samte, Redeem Tlang, Ibson Melo, Phalguni Singh.
OUTs: Emil Benny, Joe Zoherliana, Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha, Mohammed Irshad, Arindam Bhattacharja, Imran Khan, Gurjinder Kumar, Provat Lakra, Mashoor Shereef, Alex Saji, Aaron Evans, Sehnaj Singh, Kule Mbombo, Joseba Beitia, Wilmar Gil, Alisher Kholmurodov, Laldanmawia Ralte
Strengths and Weaknesses
Given how NorthEast United performed in the last few seasons, it is difficult to pinpoint a single strength in the team. However, the biggest positive NEUFC will carry going into the upcoming season is their performance at the Durand Cup. If the team can replicate what they did in the tournament, they could have a serious chance of doing well. Another positive for The Highlanders would be their young and energetic players. Not only this season, but NEUFC can groom their youngsters and make them valuable assets for the future.
Concerning weakness, the one major thing NorthEast United needs to be concerned about is the number of new faces that have joined the team. Whether these players can get along at the biggest stage of Indian Football is something that still needs to be seen. Also, The Highlanders must make sure they don’t carry the disappointments from last season, and they are not intimidated by the prospect of facing tougher teams.
NorthEast United Predicted Starting XI:
One youngster to watch out for
Huidrom Thoi Singh will be relishing his opportunity at precious game time in India’s top-flight league after signing for NEUFC. The youngster won the Golden Ball in the Reliance Foundation Developmental League and is one of the players to keep your eyes on this season.
A versatile attacker, Thoi Singh can operate in a number of positions and is technically very efficient. He could very well break into NorthEast’s starting XI as the season goes on.
Given the prior seasons have been disappointing, this time, NorthEast United has a lot to play for. The club also has shown its intent to do better by making many positive changes to the side. Considering NEUFC’s performance in the Durand Cup and taking into account the changes brought by Juan Benali, it won’t be a surprise to see The Highlanders make the top four in the ISL this year. However, if this is to happen, the club will have to be cautious and not repeat mistakes from the past.
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