The Highlanders have had a troubled season so far in the Indian Super League (ISL).
Vincenzo Annese’s NorthEast United have hit rock bottom. Having lost their nine straight Indian Super League (ISL) games, they’re currently on the worst losing streak any club has experienced in the league’s history. The Highlanders face a tough FC Goa side next, hoping that this nightmare can be over soon.
Unbothered by NorthEast’s disastrous form
But new head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese is hardly bothered about their poor form and is focused on getting them back on track. He said: “Honestly, I don’t think about the games they lost before I arrived. I focus on when I start the training and focus on trying to win the next game. I focus on improving our team with a different approach from the previous coach. In my career, I always work in clubs where they reached something after I took over.
“Even when it comes to the Belize national team, I tried to help them reach their best point. I will take it to step by step in helping the team reach the highest level I can help. I don’t care about people saying we’ve lost the last 9 games. We want to think about the more important things. This is what I want from the players, to not think about the losses but think about what can happen tomorrow. This is a good opportunity for us,” he added.
Thoughts on the FC Goa challenge
When asked about whether he is prioritizing against FC Goa, getting points or producing a better performance from the last few games, Vincenzo Annese explained: “It’s important to improve and to post some positive points. I’ve coached a lot in my life and I’ve meant some amazing coaches who haven’t got any points. We need to get points. I always want to get points from the opponent. I’m not scared about any club, especially in India.
“I respect all the clubs, FC Goa has an amazing team and amazing players. Their style is something everybody knows about in India, and their technique and academy’s progress are impressive. They have amazing qualities in a lot of players, like Phrangki (Buam), and Brandon Fernades who have amazing qualities. Starting from their keeper to the striker and even when it comes to the bench, their quality is so high. But we’ll change our approach in the game, it’ll be a bit different than before. We’ll be a different NorthEast United (under me),” he added.
Transitioning from I-League to ISL
Speaking about his experience of transitioning from the I-League to the ISL and giving thoughts on Goa’s style, the Italian gaffer said, “Well it’s still a process for me. I just came here five days back so I can answer these questions at the end of the season. I learn from myself, I learnt from many other countries and I also learnt from the I-League. Each team, each player is important and even each strategy. FC Goa has an in-built strategy that is trained from the academy level. They like to control the ball, they like a possession-based style and anyone coming from abroad knows that Goa likes this style. We need to respect them because they have amazing players.
“But we’ll approach the game in a different way than the previous coach did. I try to learn every day and analyse every individual, and the other coach because you need to enter fast in the league to get results. We’re working every day and night to improve our performance. We worked well and physically this week, which is a little bit below my standards, but we’ll reach there step by step,” he opined.
Love pressure and losing the first game
The NorthEast United gaffer also insisted that he loves to be under pressure and demands to be put under scrutiny in his new job. He said, “No, I want pressure on me. I like pressure and I don’t want the players to get pressured. I want all the pressure on me. I love this job because of the pressure, I do this job because it’s about 85% being under pressure and the rest is the love I developed from childhood. Even if we start from zero, I’ll have the same pressure in the first game and the last game of the tournament. I enjoy the pressure.”
Reflecting on how he felt to lose his first ISL game by conceding seven goals to Chennaiyin FC, Vincenzo Annese explained, “It wasn’t disappointing but an improvement. Because the club struggled to score goals this season and under me, they scored 3 in one match. The players are mentally a bit upset because conceding seven goals is can give people a lot to criticize us about this but I don’t care. I’m focused on helping us improve our football.
“For me if losing 1-0 is the same as losing 7-0. Every time after losses, I like to learn the feedback from the fans. I like it from everyone, even the journalists who give us stuff like ‘we’re conceding seven goals so this team is going bad’. But it’s not like that. My mentality is totally different from the previous coach’s. It’s not like he was bad, but the mentalities are totally different,” he added.
Difference in quality of ISL teams
The Italian also insists that he doesn’t see a huge difference in his quality between his side with those above them in the ISL table. He claimed, “For me, each team has their own qualities. Chennaiyin was full of quality and defeated us like that. But we are not ATKMB. Not all clubs can be the top club in the ISL. I don’t see major differences between all the clubs in the ISL. Any club can beat anyone. I don’t want to be arrogant, but we are learning more every day about the competition.”
Changes in the NorthEast United squad
Annese also spoke about what changes he wants in his NorthEast United side and the weaknesses he’s noted after being in charge of them for a week. He said, “We need more aggression in our team. We have too many nice games. We need to attack better, I love attacking football. I don’t want to speak arrogantly, but my team scored more than 50 goals in the I-League – maybe more than 38 than the second-place one last season. I love to create spaces to attack in the opponent box.
“We have too many nice guys, I want players who are going to fight for each point. If you are too soft, it’ll be easy for the opposition. If you stay strong and force them into making mistakes, they will make mistakes., If you can, it’ll be hard to win. As I mentioned before, FC Goa has quality in players like Brandon, and (Edu) Bedia and it’s important to ensure we don’t make mistakes against them. No room for lapses, they have very high quality,” he added.
Ratings for the challenge of the job
When asked about how difficult a challenge he rates this job as compared to the other jobs he’s had in his managerial career, Vincenzo Annese said: “It’s always hard. I’m from Italy and one of our best clubs is AC Milan. But for me, that isn’t the best. I always think the club where I’m coaching are the best. I take the club as part of my life and want to believe in their success. I believe in my players and do not complain about them. If anything goes wrong, it’s on me and not the players. Hopefully, this can help us get good results and finish the season strongly,” he finished.
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