Heading into the new Indian Super League season, ATK will be hoping to reclaim their status as a title contender the failures in the previous two editions. The two-time champions will kick off the 2019-20 season on October 20 against Kerala Blasters. The Kolkata-based club had a turbulent 2018-19 campaign, finishing in the sixth spot under Steve Coppell. Having failed during an experimental phase, the outfit has gone back to a tried and tested format, roping in Antonio Lopez Habas, who won them the title during the inaugural edition in 2014, something which former partners Atletico Madrid had tried during the span of their association (2014-17).
Home Ground: Salt Lake Stadium
Highlights Over The Years
2014: The inaugural season was won by ATK, led by Habas and marquee player Luis Garcia. Fikru Teferra was the club’s top scorer with five goals.
2015: In the second edition, the franchise reached till the playoffs, once again under Habas. Iain Hume finished as the side’s top scorer with 11 goals.
2016: Jose Francisco Molina managed ATK in their third ISL season, leading them to the title. Once again, Hume was the outfit’s top scorer with seven goals.
2017-18: Didn’t go past the league stage under Ashley Westwood and Teddy Sheringham. Robbie Keane finished as the team’s top scorer with eight goals.
2018-19: Didn’t go past the league stage under Steve Coppell. Manuel Lanzarote finished as the top scorer with seven goals.
The biggest buy of the season for ATK is Fijian forward Roy Krishna. In Krishna, ATK have found a striker who will lead from the front with responsibility and confidence. His arrival will provide competition to the likes of Ferran Corominas and Sunil Chhetri for the golden boot. With his previous club, Wellington Phoenix, Krishna scored 122 goals in 51 appearances. He also won the 2018-19 Golden Boot, for scoring 18 goals. His time with the club was filled with individual honours.
Other major buys are former Chennai City midfielder Michael Soosairaj and former East Bengal forward Jobby Justin.
Other acquisitions are Agus Garcia (Spain), Carl McHugh (Ireland), David Williams (Australia), Salam Ranjan (India), Javi Hernandez (Spain), Sehnaj Singh (India), Anas Edathodika (India), Dheeraj Moirangthem (India), Michael Regin (India).
Goalkeepers: Dheeraj Singh, Arindam Bhattacharya, Avilash Paul, Lara
Defenders: Sandeep Singh, Anil Chawan, John Johnson, Anas Edathodika, Arnab Mondal, Agus Garcia, Ranjan Salam, Ricky Lallawmawma, Sena Ralte, Pritam Kotal, Boris Thangjam, Aiborlang Khongjee, Ankit Mukherjee, Prabir Das
Midfielders: Carl McHugh, Pronay Halder, Asish Pradhan, Michael Ragin, Sehnaj Singh, Ragav Gupta, Malsawmzuala, Hitesh Sharma, Gopi Yumnam, Cavin Lobo, Javi Hernandez, Dario Vidosic, Michael Soosairaj
Forwards: Roy Krishna, Edu Garcia, H Lalmuankima, Jayesh Rane, Komal Thatal, David Williams, Balwant Singh, Jobby Justin
Head Coach: Antonio Lopez Habas
Recent failures have forced the Kolkata-based outfit to bring back Antonio Habas, who led them to the title in the first ISL season. The former Celta head coach’s arrival could reap benefits for the club, although he did fail in FC Pune City.
His biggest approach is his pragmatic tactical sense. Also, the Spanish possession strategy seeps from his sleeves, coupled with slick passing and strong counter-attacks. With a strong squad this season, Habas could at least reach the playoffs. Anything less than that could see him losing the job.
Strengths And Weaknesses
Unlike last season, the club boasts a fearful attacking lineup, overflowing with the likes of Krishna, Justin and Balwant Singh. We could see plenty of goals. The team also has probably one of the best defenders’ rosters for this season, led by Johnson. Also, the arrival of Anas adds experience and grit to the backline, something which teams usually lack in Indian football. The club also has some good goalkeepers, with former U-17 World Cup player Dheeraj arriving from Kerala Blasters.
During the 2018-19 season, ATK found it very hard to score goals, registering 18 (second-lowest). This could be different this time. The team needs to really focus on the midfield, though. With the departure of Lanzarote, ATK will need a new leader who can create chances and launch counter-attacks. Soosairaj will need to step up for the Kolkata team.
What To Expect
ATK have a good chance of reaching the playoffs this season. The presence of Krishna and Justin brings new dynamism, which they have been missing since the departure of Fikru. Also, Habas’ arrival will see the side shift to a more decisive approach with a focus on possession, and of course the winning mentality. Should reach the play-offs, at least.