I will not change my approach: NorthEast United FC head coach Annese

NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese had a positive outlook of his team and is looking forward to display another good performance with an unchanged approach, as his side squares off against Mumbai City FC in Matchweek 16 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 at the Mumbai Football Arena, in Mumbai, on Thursday.

Since the appointment of the Annese, there has been a significant improvement in the Guwahati-based side's performances. The Highlanders have scored nine goals in six games, picking up one win and one draw in the process. The head coach wants his team to continue on the same track and put their best foot forward despite the threat possessed by their opponents.

"I am happy for the improvement of the team, till now. The guys feel more powerful. They feel more (like) a team, they feel stronger. It is a great opportunity to play against a big club like Mumbai City FC but we need to really focus on ourselves. We know that they are very strong opponents, as was FC Goa, as was ATK Mohun Bagan, as it was with Bengaluru FC because each team almost created good quantity of attacking phases. If you see the last game of ATK Mohun Bagan, against Mumbai City FC, they didn't deserve to lose that match. We hope to repeat the same performance against Mumbai City FC," Annese said in the pre-match press conference.

The Islanders are the only unbeaten team in the Hero ISL 2022-23. Having already qualified for the play-offs, the club is aiming for their second Hero ISL Shield. Despite being at the top, head coach Des Buckingham has been stern on achieving silverware, with the Englisman being present in NorthEast United FC's previous game against FC Goa. The Italian was pleased with the act of his Mumbai City FC counterpart but assured that he won't change his approach.

"I will not change the approach. When you change your approach, it can create confusion among players. I'm so happy that the coach of Mumbai City FC came to see us. We know that in the first 35-40 minutes of the game, Mumbai City FC attack everywhere, they try to press, they make tactical fouls that are aggressive. Kerala Blasters FC despite (a solid defensive unit) conceded 4 goals in 22 minutes against them, we know all this and we respect this. But, we hope to perform well," he added.

NorthEast United FC have been actively involved in the January transfer window. The club acquired the services of two defenders in Alex Saji and Hira Mondal, and also roped in Congolese striker Kule Mbombo, who debuted for the club in the last match. The head coach explained his line of thoughts and elaborated the plans on building a team that is capable to play his kind of football.

"In the last two games, we changed three of our starting 11. With the new players like Mbombo, Alex Saji, Hira Mondal, which is a lot of change, so we can create a new kind of football, we see our defensive line a bit more solid especially in the corner kicks, free kicks. That's what I was asking from the (players). We are working hard to find a way to build our team for the future. Now we are trying to find one good midfielder, one striker and another defender, we try to improve our team game by game," the Italian commented.

Midfielder Pragyan Gogoi also addressed the media as he accompanied the NorthEast United FC head coach in the pre-match press conference.

Gogoi has appeared in 12 matches so far this season for the Highlanders and has one assist to his name. The 23-year-old midfielder has been a started for his side in the last five games, and has provided nine interceptions and 12 clearances for the team. Gogoi expressed that the team was positive after the last match and is looking forward to replicating the same in the upcoming fixture.

"Everyone is motivated after the draw. We wanted to win the match, but I hope it is a positive result for us and we are really focused on the next match. Although it's a very small gap between the matches, we are really focused on what the coach says to do and we'll try to imply on the pitch. We hope we will get a positive result," he concluded.

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