NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese remains positive about the team’s future despite their winless run this season in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) ahead of their clash against ATK Mohun Bagan, in Guwahati, on Saturday.

With 10 games gone, NorthEast United FC are yet to open their account for the season and need to win as many of their remaining 10 games in order to reach the playoffs. Annese, who took over as the club’s new head coach earlier this month, revealed he is pleased with the way his players have been performing in training.

“I believe every coach, especially in India, has a specific job to do. In the last 12-14 days with these guys, I am positive for the future. This game (against ATK Mohun Bagan) will be the result of our job that we have done in these past two weeks. What I want and what the guys have given me is amazing - their commitment, their behaviour. We haven’t had any problems,” Annese said at the pre-match press conference.

Annese has so far managed two games as head coach of NorthEast United FC, but the Highlanders couldn’t produce a positive result in those matches. The Italian called for his team to train hard and change their mentality in order to get better results.

“We need to consistently train hard and start to change the mentality that was there before. The rhythm of the game and training was low. There was no aggression, no possession of the ball, this is not the way I see football,” he said.

In their previous two games under Annese so far, the Highlanders have scored four goals across two games, despite ending up on the losing side. Annese feels the team has improved and adapted to his philosophy better since he took over as head coach.

“For sure, we have improved a lot in this period. The guys especially try to understand my philosophy and work hard. Before, it was a totally different methodology in training. We try to improve our power and physical condition, which was a little bit low and our work ethic. The guys showed a great effort. It’s all about results and convincing them to work hard for the future,” Annese mentioned.

In the reverse fixture, NorthEast United went down fighting against ATK Mohun Bagan, with Subashish Bose’s late winner sealing the three points for the Mariners. ATKMB are currently placed third on the Hero ISL table after 20 points from 10 games. Annese said that his team will be facing one of the best sides in the league.

"ATK Mohun Bagan are one of the best sides (in the Hero ISL) with quality. I’ve faced them (in the AFC Cup) five months before with Gokulam Kerala FC and we defeated them 4-2 in Kolkata,” he said. “They have amazing players, especially their wide players. They attack on the counter. They have recruited some amazing foreign players, the Asian ones too. What I like most about their team is Deepak (Tangri), their midfielder. He is probably everywhere in the middle.

“Their team is set and the head coach (Juan Ferrando) has been here for two years in India. He knows the Hero ISL very well.I faced him twice, once during a friendly game in Goa and (the other) in the AFC Cup. He is a strategic coach. He’s young, but he has a great mind. We will face one of the best teams in the Hero ISL. All teams are good and all of them have a particular strategy, especially this coach likes to retain possession, create chances, and (want the players to) arrive in the box.”

Annese expects his players to put up a good fight against the opposition and said they needed to change their approach of scoring the opening goal. The Italian underlined the importance for his players to change their mentality rather than dealing with the pressure to win games.

“It will be a hard game, but we also have the quality in the field. I trust my players and I hope to get a different approach from them. We don’t need to create the pressure of making the team win, but changing their approach. This is important. We have never scored first in 10 games and it is a mentality problem that we need to resolve. And we hope we can resolve that on Saturday,” he concluded.