Moving on from their Spanish partnership, ATK went for a total shake-up from top to bottom for the fourth edition of the Indian Super League. Rechristened from Atletico de Kolkata to Amar Tomar Kolkata, which literally translates to ‘Mine and Your Kolkata’, the two-time champions, however, failed to replicate their impressive run in the last two editions of the glamourous league.
In the previous edition, they could not make it to the play-offs, finishing sixth in the 10-team league with 24 points from 18 matches in the league stage.
The side had won the league in the first season and then repeated the feat in the third edition. They had also reached the play-offs in the second year.
The back-to-back failures have forced the franchise’s management to bring back Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas, who guided them to victory in the league’s inaugural edition.
Heading into the sixth edition, ATK will be looking forward to not only to improve on their sixth-place finish last year, but also to take home the crown for a record third time.
With this aim in mind, ATK co-owned by former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly have roped in five top-class foreign talents while retaining most of their local players from the last season.
The biggest buy of the season for ATK is Fijian forward Roy Krishna. The striker, who is of Indian origin, finished as the top scorer of the 2018-19 season with his previous club Wellington Phoenix in the Australian A-League, after scoring 19 goals in 27 outings.
The 31-year-old nimble-footed forward played for five years for the A-league outfit and accumulated 122 appearances, scoring an impressive 51 goals and also assisting 26 times. He has also netted 23 goals in 35 appearances for the Fijian national team.
Their other major buy is former East Bengal forward Jobby Justin, who will be making his ISL debut.
Jobby was in excellent form in the I-League last season. The 25-year-old Kerala-born striker was involved in 12 goals (eight goals and four assists), which counts for more than 50 per cent of East Bengal’s total goals (23) scored in the season.
Spaniard Edu Garcia and Australian striker David Williams will also bolster their attack. The other Indians in ATK’s forward line-up are no pretenders either. They have picked up experienced Indian international Balwant Singh, and young prospects H Lalmuankima, Jayesh Rane, and Komal Thatal.
This season, former Chennai City and Jamshedpur FC midfielder Michael Soosairaj will be pulling the strings for them from the middle.
Soosairaj was one of most influential players for Jamshedpur last year, netting four goals for them in the league stage. ATK would pin high hopes on the versatile 24-year-old, who can play in the attacking or holding positions with equal flair.
The eye-catching line-up of midfielders includes Carl McHugh, Pronay Halder, Asish Pradhan, Michael Ragin, Sehnaj Singh, Ragav Gupta, Malsawmzuala, Hitesh Sharma, Gopi Yumnam, Cavin Lobo, Javi Hernandez, and Dario Vidosic.
The club has also snapped up four excellent goalkeepers, including former U-17 World Cup player Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem who played for Kerala Blasters last season. Arindam Bhattacharya, Avilash Paul, and Lara Sharma will be his deputies.
Though ATK flaunt a formidable midfield and a potent striking force, they seemingly lack depth in their backline. Apart from Englishman John Johnson, who plied his trade for Middleborough and Northampton in the English Premier League before joining Bengaluru FC, and Indian international Anas Edathodika, their defence does not have the experience and wherewithal to take them forward in the grueling league.
The other players signed by ATK to protect their backline are Sandeep Singh, Anil Chawan, Arnab Mondal, Agus Garcia, Ranjan Salam, Ricky Lallawmawma, Sena Ralte, Pritam Kotal, Boris Thangjam, Aiborlang Khongjee, Ankit Mukherjee, and Prabir Das.
Habas is one of the most successful managers in the short history of the ISL. The 61-year old Spaniard, who replaced Steve Coppell at the helm, had previously guided ATK to victory in the inaugural season in 2014 and also took the team to the semifinals in 2015.
Habas, who has played as a defender in La Liga for Sevilla, Real Murcia and Burgos CF, has had an extensive coaching career where he coached the Bolivian national team and appeared with them at four Copa America tournaments. He was also associated with the youth sides of Valencia in La Liga.
A vastly experienced coach in Habas
An attack which is a perfect mix of experienced players and fresh talent
An impressive line-up of goalkeepers
Their defence needs to be solidified
Absence of a seasoned playmaker like Manuel Lanzarote
Low team morale following poor run in the previous two editions