NorthEast United FC can change their position on the table: ATKMB head coach Ferrando

ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando is not taking NorthEast United FC lightly despite their recent run of results as the Mariners lock horns with Marco Balbul’s side in matchweek 6 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Thursday.

The Highlanders are in the hunt for their first win of the season and find themselves bottom of the table after five straight defeats. ATK Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, are placed fifth with seven points and have suffered only one defeat so far this season.

However, Ferrando is not reading too much into the opponent’s recent form and the Spaniard called his side to be aggressive against NEUFC, as he attended the official pre-match press conference alongside defender Subhasish Bose ahead of the match.

Here are the excerpts from Ferrando’s pre-match press conference:

What is your view about NorthEast United FC and how they have performed so far?

NorthEast United FC had a good game against Bengaluru FC. Even in their last against Kerala Blasters FC, they had two-three opportunities to change the scoreline. The results don’t give a clear picture of how they have performed on the field. NorthEast United FC have a clear plan in attack and defence. They have had unlucky moments, due to which their results have not been good. For me, they are a dangerous team. They have zero points, but they can change their position. They have a good squad, and good players. And most importantly, they have one plan.

Do you think out-of-form teams can give you a more tough fight than the stronger teams in the league?

It will be an important match against NorthEast United FC because we play at home. It will be difficult, and we know that. For me the most important thing is the mentality. We need to make sure that everybody is ready, focused and relaxed because it’s difficult to travel (from Mumbai) after a game and to come back here (Kolkata). Honestly, you have just one day to prepare the team. For me, the team is ready for Thursday. We have to be aggressive on the field because the three points are important for us. In this case, we will be closer to the top of the table. It’s a difficult match given this situation, but I hope the players are ready because they have been working hard. I’m happy because we play at home and playing in front of the supporters is good for the players.

What is your assessment of the team's performances this season?

The team has been playing well so far. Only that we have not had success in front of goal. When the team is working well, and when you have no success in front of goal, it’s a problem. But, in my point of view, the team has been working with the same level. Now, we have more confidence because we have had good results. I’m very happy for the team except for one match (Chennaiyin FC). It’s normal when you don’t have success in one match.

When the score is not good, your confidence is not so high. After the game against Chennaiyin FC, the team was suffering as we didn’t put up a good performance. For me, it’s more about the mentality than the physical (performance). Now, at this moment, the team is more confident and it is necessary to continue working. This is the moment to be ambitious. You have to be ready to support the team. You need to have the mentality to get three points in every game.

Do you think your Indian players are more comfortable playing in a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 rather than the 3-5-2 formation?

For me, the systems are not important. The systems are just another thing in football. Football is more about the timing and the spaces. If a player knows when is the best moment to find the spaces, for me it’s perfect. Systems are not the most important. If there were success with certain systems, all the coaches would be playing those systems. This is the reason every coach decides different systems. But you can’t have success with one system. The most important thing for me is that the players know when is the best moment to attack the space, control the details, and keep the ball. It is not easy, but they are professionals. They play for this reason.

Will you rest some players from your starting eleven and give a chance to those who have not featured?

For me the most important thing is that everyone is ready to support the team. We will see after the training session. We will decide about the substitutions and what needs to be changed. Even the players on the bench are working very hard. In the end, the result is because everyone is working hard. We have 27 players who are working hard and everyone is working for a place in the line-up. This is the result, but we will see. We have time to decide about the game. But our mentality is three points. It’s not about one player or two players, they (players) need to be ambitious. They need to be aggressive, because it’s an important match for us.

Any injury concerns for your side?

At the moment, no injuries. (Florentin) Pogba is still recovering. Which is the reason we have been protecting him. The rest of the players are ready. Some are tired, but I am happy because everyone is in a good condition.

Have you set any targets for the season?

Our mentality is to be at the top. We want to win all the matches. This is ATK Mohun Bagan. We are a big club. If you finish top of the table, you get to play in the AFC Champions League. This is an amazing competition. When you play in an international competition, it is amazing for the players. It’s amazing for the club. It’s necessary to fight every game, because this is our dream. But it’s necessary to focus on the present. The present is the game against NorthEast United FC. The future, we will see.

Lenny Rodrigues has made an impact whenever he is on the pitch. How will his suspension affect the team?

For me, he is an important player because he has a lot of experience. He helps the team in every match and every training session. He knows about his role and he is ready to support the team. He is an excellent player in our squad. At this moment, I’m upset because he is not in the squad. Lenny supports the team in many moments and he is important for us.

What do you think about your team’s defensive block and how are you preparing for that?

Everyone knows our plan. But for me, one point is that we need the ball. We need to play our football. I don’t like to prepare in a way where we pounce on the opponent’s mistake and score. In my view, this is not football. All the players need to keep the ball, keep calm and try to find the space in the best time, and then attack. This is our plan. With this, you are very close to getting success. If the plan is to be defensive and pounce on the opponent’s mistake, this is not the process. Indian players can grow everyday if they play with the ball.

Here are the excerpts from Subhasish's press conference:

How do you motivate yourself while not performing well or after conceding goals?

We play every match for a win. Our mindset is like that. We go with the plan set by our coach. He discusses the gameplan and suggests us on how to improve during the break. We have many experienced players in our team, they help our junior members. We all want to earn success through collective effort in every match. This mentality helps us to motivate ourselves.

There is only one clean sheet you have in your five matches. What’s wrong with your defense?

We want to keep (a) clean sheet in every match. Personally, as a defender also, but as per our style of play we go all out for attacks. That’s why, sometimes, we have to concede goals. But we have created many chances. Earlier, we couldn’t convert most of the chances, that’s why people thought that we were making mistakes in the defence. But we always go ahead according to the plan set by our coach.

Since the beginning of the season, fans had many grievances with your defence. Now it seems like you have improved a lot. Against Mumbai City FC, defenders took a huge workload. Do you agree that you have really improved a lot?

Fans always want us to win every match without conceding a goal. It’s quite normal. Every member of the team has adapted well now. But only three or four defenders don’t have the responsibility to defend, everybody plays that role as well. We go for attacks together as much as we train together, our bonding becomes stronger and we are getting more positive. Like our first defender is our striker, (the) goalkeeper is (also) our first man in attack. He can generate an attack also. We believe in teamwork and we hope to perform better in coming matches and reach the top spot of the table.

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