ISL- Indian Super League

Indian Super League 2022-23 season review: Northeast United FC

Keshava Verma

March 23 2023

The club finished the season bottom of the table with the lowest-ever points tally in ISL history.

The Northeast of India is very well known for its love for football. In fact some of the brightest talents in Indian football hail from this region. But despite this sheer love and passion for the beautiful game, it is truly unfortunate to witness that the biggest club from the region, which plays in India’s premier football league, is in dire straits and has a standard that stands way below other clubs. 

Northeast United FC, was formed about nine years ago, with the onset of the Hero Indian Super League. At the time of its formation, that club was truly considered a major powerhouse, and a representative of the entire region of the Northeast of India.

But very soon, that esteem and high regard was lost due to the extremely poor results and performances that the club put up every season. In about 9 years of its existence, the Highlanders have suffered the agony of finishing in the bottom half of the points table on a number of occasions.

A nightmarish season

This season being no different than the rest, NorthEast United have once again disappointed their loyal and passionate fans and have finished the season with the lowest-ever wins in an ISL season.

In 20 games, NorthEast have astonishingly won only a solitary game, and drawn two. Their problems dwelled deeper and deeper as the season continued, and NorthEast tried to turn things around by making some key winter transfers, and by assigning Vincenzo Alberto as their head coach for the season.

Such radical changes helped the club to put in some of their better performances in the final few games of the season but didn’t make too big of a difference. The mighty loopholes in the team were clearly visible on the pitch.

NorthEast United FC Fact Sheet

You can see how much of a problem the porous defence and lack of goalscorers were for the Highlanders.

It was a campaign to forget for NEUFC

Top Performers

Wilmar Jordan

Wilmar Jordan Gil can be termed the saviour of NorthEast United FC this season. Ever since joining the club in January, Wilmar was at the very top of his game and alleviated NorthEast’s performances with his mere presence.

Without him, the team looked pretty much clueless and off the mark. In the 11 games that the Colombian played this season, he scored eight goals, including the leaping header against ATK Mohun Bagab, which gave NorthEast their only win of the season.

One of the few bright sparks for NEUFC, Jordan Gil (Credit: ISL Media)

Parthib Gogoi

In such a scrutinizing and tough season for the Highlanders, the emergence of local lad Parthib as a vivid talent on the biggest stage of Indian football was rather the only bright thing that sparked the eyes of the heartbroken NorthEast fans.

After gaining the trust of interim manager Vincenzo Alberto in the second half of the season, Parthib became a regular starter for the club in the final few games and scored some sublime goals, adding to the constant threat he posed on the wings. Parthib finished the season with 3 goals and a single assist and was definitely one of the best players for his club this season.

Parthib Gogoi lines one up from range, quickly becoming his calling card. (Credit: ISL Media)

Arindam Bhattacharya

Arindam was crucial in goal for the Highlanders this season. The player, through his experience and inert abilities, saved the Highlanders from embarrassment on several occasions.

Arindam’s performance cannot be measured in terms of his numbers, as we also need to take into consideration the poor defense that he had to work with throughout the season, and the least we can do is give the 33-year-old the credit he deserves for his efforts.

They underperformer of the season

Romain Philippoteaux

NorthEast United’s star signing Romain Philippoteaux had a pretty underwhelming season. The high expectations and conjecture with which he was brought on to the club pacified with each passing day, as his performances kept getting fainter.

Romain’s disappointing season can be very well justified by his numbers, as the striker scored just two goals in 18 games this season. NorthEast’s head coach Vincenzo, also publicly called out Romain, and said that he wants more attacking output from the Frenchman. 

Romain Phillppoteaux 2022-23 season by numbers

Appearances: 18 (started 16)

Goals: 2

Assists: 2

Goal conversion rate: 11%

Accurate crosses per game: 0.3 (14%)

Shots on target per game: 0.4

Manager’s report card 

Marco Balbul

Marco Balbul was assigned as the head coach of NorthEast United FC, for the 2022-23 season. The former Israel U-21 head coach had a tenure to forget. In the eight games that the Israeli managed before being sacked by the club, the Highlanders won none, giving them the undesired accolade of the worst start ever to a season in ISL. Under his management, NorthEast scored the least number of goals (four) in the league and conceded the most (18). Although the club’s management can also be questioned for this poor tenure for various reasons, one of them being that Marco wasn’t given enough time to work with his team and the signings made by the club were very belated. Nothing can be taken away from Marco’s poor tactics. They were not at all credible and up to mark for such a big league, and the management made the right decision of sacking him midway through the season. 

Vincenzo Alberto Annesse

Following Marco’s departure, the club was indeed in a very very fragile state, and they had to make the tough decision of choosing their interim manager, who could save whatever was left from such a poor season. This quest ended up in NEUFC signing Gokulam Kerala head coach Vicenzo Alberto. Vincenzo, who had enjoyed much success with the I-League club, came in with the objective of resurrecting a team that was low on esteem and had no assured hope. 

Annese directing the play from the touchline (Credit: ISL Media)

Under Vincenzo, Northeast did way better than before and finally seemed to have a plan on and off the pitch. The Highlanders were able to grab their one and only win of the season during Vincenzo’s tenure. But despite such flamboyant efforts, NorthEast failed to meet the standards of the league, and remained unimpressive most of the time. Vincenzo finished the season with one win and two draws in 11 games as the manager, and was shockingly relieved from his duties just days after the culmination of NorthEast’s season.

Top Performances

  • NorthEast United FC 1-0 ATK Mohun Bagan
  • The only win for NEUFC this season

    East Bengal FC 3-3 NorthEast United FC

    NEUFC picked their first points on the road with this high-scoring draw

    NorthEast United FC 2-2 FC Goa

    A spirited performance from the Highlanders to draw with Goa

    Lessons to be learned

    Heartbreak and disparity are part and parcel of the beautiful game. Defeats are imminent, and as a club, nothing more can be done than learning the lessons from those mistakes and moving on to becoming stronger and better. This is exactly what NorthEast United FC also has to do. Their sufferings have elongated way beyond the supporters’ patience, and a revamp soon needs to take place, and some major issues need to be addressed to avoid another such calamity in the coming future.

    Some of these issues such as the sluggish behaviour of management when dealing with managers, the team’s inactivity in the transfer market, and the club’s failed attempts at retaining their star players are probably the biggest reasons why Northeast have been so unimpressive in the past few years. These problems are clearly taking away the intent of success that such a footballing powerhouse of the nation deserves, and we as a community can only expect the management to take concrete steps, for the sake of the club and its loyal fans.

    Fan View

    Vikas Baruah, one of the founding members of the Highlander Brigade, said, “The season was terrible for both fans and everyone else connected to the team. Some of the factors that contributed to the season’s disastrous conclusion included:”

    1. Late player signings.

    2. Insufficient or late preseason preparation.

    3. Failure to keep the top players.

    4. Missing the chance by skipping the Durand Cup.

    5. An unsettled coaching staff.

    A picture of Vikas Baruah

    “To begin preparing for the upcoming season, NEUFC should sign quality players as early as possible, both domestically and internationally, in accordance with the coach’s preferences. This will give foreign players enough time to adjust to their new environment and improve teamwork. Additionally, management would need to believe in the coach and give him the freedom he needs to demonstrate his preferred style of play.”

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