ISL 2019-2020: Habas returns to ATK, can the title too?

Coach Antonio Habas, known primarily for his defence-oriented approach, has sought to strike the right balance.

Antonio Habas is widely seen as the primary cause behind the Kolkata franchise’s dominance in the early seasons.   -  Vivek Bendre

Antonio Habas has returned as the head coach of ATK as the two-time champion prepares to reinvent the proficiency it enjoyed in the first three seasons. In that period it lifted the crown twice.

The Hispanic influence of Habas, an appointee from the stable of Spanish giant Atletico Madrid, is seen as the primary cause behind the Kolkata franchise’s dominance in the early seasons.

When Atletico Madrid decided to distance itself after ATK’s second triumph in 2017, the Kolkata team’s fortunes slumped. The team then adopted the English school of coaching — under the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Ashley Westwood and Steve Coppell — without much success, prompting a re-look by the management this season.

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Habas’ return after a gap of three seasons has led to a major overhaul of the team with a new set of imports filling up the ranks of the foreigners. Roy Krishna, the forward from Fiji who became the leading scorer in the A-League while turning out for his previous employer Wellington Phoenix (2018-2019), is the biggest signing for the club this season.

Habas, known primarily for his defence-oriented approach, has sought to strike the right balance. ATK thus, has roped in Krishna’s colleague upfront from Wellington Phoenix, David Williams, seeking to preserve the effectiveness of their partnership.

Edu Garcia, the Spanish winger, has retained his place while another A-League player, Dario Vidosic, has made his way in to strengthen the midfield, which also has the likes of Spaniard Javi Hernandez.

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ATK has also retained the services of Englishman John Johnson, apparently considering his efficiency in deep defence, while bringing in Irishman Carl McHugh and Spaniard Agus Garcia in the back-line.

The Indian component is also balanced as Habas has gone for a mix of youth and experience. In the experience department there are Pritam Kotal, Arnab Mondal, Anas Edathodika, Pronoy Halder, Balwant Singh and Ricky Lallawmawma. The youth brigade has names such as Jobby Justin, Michael Soosairaj, Jayesh Rane, Komal Thatal, Ankit Mukherjee, Salam Ranjan Singh and Boris Singh.

The magic word in football is (to achieve) balance. The idea is to score goals and not concede any. My principal goal is to build a competitive team, which will strike a balance in attack and defence.

— Coach Antonio Habas

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