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Five challenges for new coach Marco Balbul at NorthEast United

Published at :August 13, 2022 at 11:17 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : Twitter)

Yash Pratap Singh


The former Israel national team assistant has a big task at hand with the Highlanders.

Two-time Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finalists NorthEast United recently confirmed the arrival of former Israel national team assistant coach Marco Balbul. The 55-year-old will take over the hot-seat which was left vacant by Khalid Jamil since the end of last season.

Balbul is an experienced campaigner and knows the game very well. He has an impressive CV of working with high-profile teams and managers in Asia and Europe. The 55-year-old has tasted success both as a player and a manager, but will he be able to turn the fortunes in NorthEast United’s favour?

On that note, we take a look at the challenges Marco Balbul will face as the head coach of NorthEast United FC.

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5. Recruitment of players

With less than two months to go for the Indian Super League to return for its ninth edition, there is not much time left for teams to complete their work behind the scenes. Marco Balbul will have to race against time to put up a strong and competitive squad.

VP Suhair
NorthEast United sold VP Suhair to East Bengal (Courtesy: ISL Media)

And with not many players willing and available to make a switch, things could get worse for the Highlanders. Although they have closed deals with some Indian players there is still a lot of work to do. 

Their habit of completing their tasks at the eleventh hour could backfire once again and lead to disastrous performances on the pitch ,like last season. Moreover, they haven’t made much progress in signing overseas players either. 

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4. Optimum use of resources

NorthEast United are not one of the superior clubs when it comes to unleashing their monetary power. They’ve developed a strategy of ‘smart spending' which is not very smart. So, it’s very likely that they won’t go all out behind any players, Indian or overseas.

Therefore, Marco Balbul will have to make the best out of what is being made available to him. There’s no room for any complaints or excuses because that’s how NorthEast United go about things.

One of the major reasons behind his appointment is the fact that he has the ability to nurture and develop talent, something NEUFC need desperately. He has done it in the past and will be expected to do it now.

3. Being Consistent

Khalid Jamil
Khalid Jamil guided NorthEast United to their highest finish in the league (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Consistency and NorthEast United don’t go hand-in-hand. They’re two different sides of a coin and hardly on the same page. The Highlanders are the most inconsistent team in the history of the league.

In eight seasons, their only major achievement has been qualifying for the playoffs twice, only to crash out in the semi-finals. In the last four seasons, they’ve made it to the semis twice and have finished in the bottom two twice.

If they want to become one of the best clubs in India, it’s high time they get serious about their work and stop running the club just for the sake of it.

They need to find their motive to keep going and it’s now or never. Marco will have to find a solution to their inconsistent performances in every area.

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2. Working for long-term

Every point is interconnected. Long-term projects don't seem to find a way into NorthEast United. They’re a club that lives on the fly and ends up signing under-performing and unwanted players every season.

If you notice the pattern, NorthEast United never invest in long-term projects and are possibly the only ISL club to do so. Following their first successful campaign in 2018-19 when they made it to semis, they let loose the megastars and even head coach Eelco Schattorie.

The story was similar after their second semi-final appearance. They again let-go of their key players, including first-team regulars Apuia and Ashutosh Mehta without bringing in proper replacements.

The same thing has happened this year as well. They’ve released their best Indian performer VP Suhair for a huge transfer fee, but there is no proper replacement in place as yet.

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1. Establishing a philosophy

Marco Balbul is NorthEast United’s 10th coach in eight seasons. The fact itself speaks volumes of how impatient and demanding the club’s management is. Although it's been eight years since they are in the circuit, they still haven’t understood the importance of the process.

Marco Balbul
Marco Balbul is the 10th head coach of NorthEast United (Courtesy: Twitter)

They need to understand the importance of putting a process in place in modern-day football. No manager other than Jamil and Schattorie has managed the Highlanders for 20 games.

So, establishing a philosophy isn’t given much importance at NEUFC. Marco needs to be the change if he wants to change the landscape of NorthEast United in Indian football. He needs to prove his point and develop a clear approach to how they want to go about things.

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