NorthEast United FC’s new head coach Vincenzo Annese stated his main focus is on the club’s upcoming game against Chennaiyin FC and not their winless streak this Hero Indian Super League (ISL) season ahead of their clash against the two-time Hero ISL champions at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, in Guwahati, on Saturday.

Annese took over as NorthEast United FC’s new head coach on Thursday after the club parted ways with former head coach Marco Balbul, who couldn’t help the team register any points in the ongoing season. The Guwahati-based club stay rooted to the bottom of the table and desperately need some positive results to change their fortunes. 

Annese, who attended the pre-match press conference alongside goalkeeper Mirshad Michu, said the Highlanders are capable of changing the situation they find themselves in and are in full control of it. The Italian head coach further encouraged the club’s supporters to stick beside the team despite their recent results and feed positivity to the players.

Here are the excerpts from Annese:

What are the improvements that you can bring to the club and how do you take it forward from here?

It’s an honour to be a part of NorthEast United FC. It’s a great opportunity for me and I'm happy the club has put their confidence in me. I’m not thinking about the previous eight defeats but Saturday’s result. For us, we must gain a positive result. It will be a complicated game for the opponent and I’m so excited. In the one training session that we did, we showed the way we need to approach the game. It would be a game with goals. I want my team to win the game all the time and I love to take risks. I love to attack every time.

Personally, I am coming after positive results during the previous years with another team (Gokulam Kerala FC) in another league (Hero I-League). I want to motivate all the players, staff and our main supporters. I want them to see positivity in our team and see our team win. This is a step-by-step process, but I know the way that can make the team win. I can be arrogant, maybe I am, but I want the team to win. Each player has some qualities and we need to find those and bring them in the field.

What is your impression of the team and the club?

The players are very motivated, happy and can play with different styles, for sure. We will press going forward and I want my team to press the opponent team for every ball (on Saturday), especially as we play at home and need to get a result. We will do our best, and more to try to change the mentality of the players. Not only our style, but the system and our mentality regarding how we approach the game.

You have coached different clubs and you have experience in the Hero I-League. What is your impression about the Hero ISL?

These are two different leagues. I am very motivated to be part of a Hero ISL club. There are good quality players in the Hero I-League as well as the Hero ISL. The difference between the two leagues, I will communicate more about this. I don’t have much information and I haven’t seen enough with my eyes. But with Gokulam Kerala FC, we defeated ATK Mohun Bagan in the AFC Cup 2022 (group stage).

We need to understand that each game is important in the Hero ISL. All clubs have players who can make a difference in different parts of the field. Not only the foreigners, but also the Indian players and each team has a strategy developed by a coach. We face a strong team on Saturday that is coming after two defeats. They will be hungry to put up the best performance and we will be hungry to score and win the game.

What does the team need to do to beat Chennaiyin FC?

Each team in the Hero ISL is good. I don’t see any weak team. For Saturday, it’s important to change the mentality. We need to be determined (to win) each ball, press hard, and try to score first. We need to create an important impact in the game and change our mindset. The players need to be focused on the team and not just themselves. When you work together, we need to attack and defend together and I want everybody to have a fixed position. We have only one day, but there is no excuse in football. Everybody will see our job and I believe it will be a positive result on Saturday.

You are joining the team in a difficult situation. Can the fans expect something positive?

The fans must support us. I don’t want to see any negative comments. I want the fans to go in the same direction as us. If they want to criticise, it’s all my fault. I want them to attack me, but not the players. We have a strong team and we are able to win, but it depends on us. The fans must keep supporting the players, because it is the players who get the win (for the team).

They need to support the team 100%. I don’t want any negative comments. We need to take responsibility and if something happens, all the responsibility is on the coach. We need to be positive and the win will come. It (the positivity) starts from the supporters. I want some positive messages. We have a team that is capable of doing whatever we want to do. Our situation is in our control and not somebody else.

How do you ensure that the team minimises the individual mistakes?

We need to work on positive aspects. We need to think about positive things and mistakes are part of the game, from my experience. I will give confidence to the players and on Saturday, it will be difficult for Chennaiyin FC. I have confidence for Saturday’s game and we all need to be positive. We want to bring a positive result.

Here are the excerpts from Michu:

The team has not been getting the results it has wished for. How do you approach the games despite defeat after defeat?

This is football and this happens. We need to keep going and we are trying to get out of this state that we are in. We will give our 100% on Saturday and we will work hard for that.

With the new coach coming in, how is the environment in the dressing room?

The coach is motivating the players very well. We are doing everything (in training) and we are ready for Saturday.