Where do NorthEast United FC go from here? Hero ISL experts have their say

NorthEast United FC have had a nightmare campaign in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), losing each of their first nine matches of the season - the worst run by any club in the league’s history. 

It cost Marco Balbul his job as head coach, as the club parted company with him after the defeat against Odisha FC in Matchweek 9. 

The Highlanders have scored just seven goals in nine matches but have conceded 25 times, leaving them struggling in most matches. The Guwahati-based club have shown their fighting spirit at times during the season. They came close to securing points against Bengaluru FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and Odisha FC but were undone by late goals in each of those matches. 

Vincenzo Annese has been handed over the reins of the club but the Italian began his tenure with a 3-7 loss against Chennaiyin FC. 

The Highlanders are currently 15 points behind the playoff places, and with eleven games left to play, they will need nothing short of a miracle to make it to the knockout stage. Teams have overcome bad starts to their campaigns to make an impact during the business end of the season with Chennaiyin FC side of Hero ISL 2019-20 being the most notable one. Still NorthEast United FC’s task is a lot tougher and Annese faces a massive task to get the club back to its competitive best. 

Hero ISL experts Paul Masefield and Erik Paartalu have their say on NorthEast United FC’s situation, what head coach Annese can achieve and what the future holds for the club. 

Foreign players need to stand up for NEUFC: Paul Masefield 

Despite the defeat, there were definitely some positives to take from that game against Chennaiyin FC. You have to say that they have started to put the ball in the back of the net, but adversely, they have got to make sure that they shore things up at the back. 

I think a lot depends on what Vincenzo Annese does while coaching his team. He only had one day to prepare the team for the game against Chennaiyin FC. So, he has looked at that game and identified some pockets of talent. There are players there that have done the business for them. Some have worked with him before, like Jithin MS and Emil Benny. He knows what they are all about. 

Now it's time for the foreign players to stand up a little bit more. Romain Phillipoteaux blew hot and cold during the game. But when he takes players on, that's another positive because he does cause all sorts of problems. There is Wilmar Jordan upfront, who has to start banging more goals upfront. 

There are some positives to take from the game but it will be very difficult for them to turn this season around. 

NorthEast should look to build a team for the future: Erik Paartalu 

For NorthEast United FC, it's a pretty difficult equation now for them to qualify for the top six.

It will be very interesting to see what approach the new coach and the club have in the next couple of games. Are they already thinking about next season? Do they still believe they can qualify for the top six? 

You could see Vincenzo Annese was trying to get the players to play a certain way, but there was not enough time for him to be with his team and to really change much. They opened up a lot more which is dangerous for NorthEast United FC, and they conceded seven. However, opening up allowed them to play in new areas of the field and get more players forward into the box. Something we've not seen in the past under Marco Balbul. 

Without the threat of relegation this year, the club should look towards building a team for the future, especially with January approaching, the club has to spend. And for the short term, play attractive football but not at the expense of conceding seven goals per game. The new coach needs time, give him that and judge him by the season's end.

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