ISL 2020-21, ATK Mohun Bagan preview: Bringing together the old and the new

ISL 2020: The new collaboration seeks to preserve Mohun Bagan’s classic emblem and colours to continue tradition, but the squad essentially remains that of the ATK side that lifted the ISL crown.

ATK

ATK players celebrate winning their third Indian Super League (ISL) title after beating Chennaiyin FC in the final.   -  Prashant Nakwe

One of the oldest football clubs in Asia with a 131-year glorious history, Mohun Bagan merged with the most successful team in the Indian Super League (ISL), ATK, early this year. The amalgamation saw the coming together of the old and the new in a classic yet modern package combining the I-League and ISL champions into a new entity. The new collaboration seeks to preserve Mohun Bagan’s classic emblem and colours to continue tradition, but the squad essentially remains that of the ATK side that lifted the ISL crown. This helped the new outfit gain millions of supporters who pledge their allegiance to Mohun Bagan, making its quest for excellence more purposeful.

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Strengths

The nucleus of the squad that won the 2019-20 ISL crown – ATK has won all of its three final appearances in six editions of the league so far – has been preserved. Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas, who was the first person to be retained after the team’s triumph in March, has led ATK to two ISL crowns. He knows the pulse of the side and was able to strike the right balance between attack and defence to help his team gain an edge over most of its opponents in the previous season.

Roy Krishna

Roy Krishna was the ISL's joint top scorer last season with 15 goals and played an instrumental role in ATK's title-winning campaign. - ISL Media   -  ISL Media

 

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ATK-Mohun Bagan has one of the best attacking options in Fiji striker Roy Krishna, who showed great form during his ISL debut last season. Krishna scored 15 goals and made six assists as he played an important role in ATK’s wins against prominent opponents. He combines grit and skill in the right measure and remains the true spearhead of the team’s attack. Krishna will resume his successful combination up front with Australian David Williams and the likes of Spaniards Edu Garcia and Javi Hernandez, who did remarkably well last season. This is definitely one of the most composite units of the league.

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Weaknesses

How Habas manages the Indian contingent alongside the foreign players, who definitely form the spine of the team, will be important. The balance between midfield and defence remains crucial as the quality of the Indians may bother Habas. The Spanish head coach is often accused of being defensive at times and that may tell on the side as it bears the expectations of millions of Mohun Bagan fans who now identify with the merged team.

Coach

ATK became the champion under Habas, a former Atletico Madrid youth system coach, in the inaugural year of the ISL. After spending the initial two seasons with ATK, the Spaniard parted ways with the side. But he returned after three seasons in which ATK had forgettable performances under English coaches. Habas has a pragmatic approach as manager and is quite popular with the players.

Habas led ATK to ISL title victories in 2014 and 2019-20 seasons.   -  Special Arrangement

 

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Captain

In a departure from the usual, the ATK-Mohun Bagan head coach has named five captains for the season. Habas has declared that the captain’s armband will be given in rotation to five players who have been picked up for their experience and performance. Four are members of the side that won the 2019-20 title – Fijian striker Krishna, Spanish midfielder Garcia, defender Pritam Kotal and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya. Central defender Sandesh Jhingan is the newcomer on the list.

Sandesh Jhingan

Sandesh Jhingan is the biggest domestic signing of the season for ATK Mohun Bagan. - ISL/SPORTZPICS

 

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Foreign contingent

The bulk of the known faces who scorched the field last season like Krishna, Williams, Garcia, Hernandez and the versatile Irishman Carl McHugh have been retained as Habas sought to preserve the creative zone of the team. Spanish defender Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo, known as Tiri, and Australian midfielder Bradden Inman are the two new entries in the foreign roster.

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Best new signing

Inman, an Australia-born Scottish footballer who spent his initial years in the youth and reserve teams of the Premier League’s Newcastle United impressed last season while playing under Robbie Fowler in the A-League’s Brisbane Roar. The 6’1 midfielder is an interesting addition to the ATK-Mohun Bagan line-up.

Bradden Inman

Bradden Inman plied his trade in the A-League with Brsibane Roar last season.   -  Twitter @atkmohunbaganfc

 

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Best possible formation

Habas successfully used the three-centre-back formation in different variations last season. The Spanish coach will look to keep the liaison between defence and attack at a high level and may opt for the 3-5-2 formation or its variations. Habas may also opt for the time-tested four-defender format depending on the situation. Going by the way the squad has been decided this season, Tiri, Jhingan and Kotal are likely to state most games, while McHugh may come in as a defensive midfielder. Right wing-back Prabir Das and his compatriot on the left, Michael Soosairaj, may been seen overlapping on the flanks while the likes of Hernandes and Garcia play the creative part in the midfield. Habas is not going to tamper with the attack combination of Krishna and Williams, who have been a team since their A-league days with Wellington Phoenix.