For a team that has often struggled to make it to the business end of the competition, NorthEast United has kicked-off ISL 2020-21 on the right note.
With a win over Mumbai City FC, a come-from-behind draw against Kerala Blasters and a commendable performance against last ISL season’s table-toppers FC Goa, the Gerard Nus-coached side is among the early pacesetters.
Their head coach, however, isn’t reading too much into the performances. “We want to compete. We have started in a good direction. We have to improve a lot,” Gerard Nus said ahead of NorthEast United's next match against East Bengal on Saturday.
“The goal for this season is to be competitive. We have to take one game at a time. We will do everything we can to win. We will analyse the opponents. We put a lot of passion to control the game. Everyone is putting in good energy. We are not here for holidaying in Goa," Nus added.
Unlike most of the teams in the league, who have pulled out all the stops to build a competitive team for the season, NorthEast United have been shrewd in their approach.
Several lesser-known Indian football talents along with reliable foreign faces make up the NorthEast team for the season, leaving it up to Gerard Nus to get the best out of them.
“We have many new faces. We have six foreign players and many Indians who are new. This is a short season. We have established a plan since day one,” Nus explained.
“We have started to bring in tactical ideas. We have a clear idea of how to do things. We know how to defend and how to deal with various situations. If everybody sticks to the plan then the job becomes easier,” Nus reckoned.
While Gerard Nus has done well to line-up a defensively strong side so far, NorthEast have often struggled to take the initiative in the attack, banking on their counter-attacking prowess to score goals.
Going ahead, however, the Spaniard is keen on adding more to his side’s attacking might.
“We are working to create chances from open play and set-pieces. We will not have only one plan. We are focussing on ourselves,” said Nus, who has spent three years as coach in defending Premier League champions Liverpool’s academy in the past.
“We watched them (East Bengal) play and they did not have the results they wanted. But they are going to be difficult and a threat to us. We know how good they are with the ball. They are well organised during set-pieces. We are going to stop them and create chances against them. That's the plan.”