ATK Mohun Bagan is a new entity. It’s neither just defending ISL champions ATK and nor erstwhile I-League champions Mohun Bagan. It’s both. The fans have made that amply clear in the build-up to the club’s first-ever campaign.
Mohun Bagan and ATK is a mismatch. One club is over a century old and has been the face of Indian football for several decades while the other is just six years into its journey finding its feet in the landscape.
However, one front where ATK matches up with Mohun Bagan is consistent success on the pitch. Mohun Bagan is India’s most successful club in terms of titles won, while ATK in its short history have developed a winning culture too. The franchise has won three out of the six ISL titles and headed into the merger as champions of the sixth edition of ISL.
Now it’s time for the two clubs to produce the goods as one entity.
In terms of the team, the squad is pretty much ATK’s squad of ISL-6. There have been new additions, some from Bagan’s I-League winning squad but predominantly the franchise have gone with a side that won the ISL title last year. So on that front, it won’t be wrong to refer to ATK Mohun Bagan as defending champions.
What’s changed for 2020-’21
Ins: Subhasish Bose, Tiri, Glan Martins, Sandesh Jhingan, Manvir Singh, Brad Inman, Carl McHugh
Outs: Mandi, Anas Edathodika, John Johnson, Victor Mongil, Debjit Majumder, Anil Chavan, Sehnaj Singh, Balwant Singh, Agus Garcia.
ATK Mohun Bagan haven’t seen too many changes in the transfer window. However, there have been some big arrivals at the club. Indian centre-back Sandesh Jhingan has joined from Kerala Blasters, headlining the transfer activity. His Indian teammate Subhasish Bose has arrived from Mumbai City FC while another national team player Manvir Singh has been signed from FC Goa.
Tiri has returned to Kolkata after a spell in Jamshedpur, while Carl McHugh and Brad Inman are other foreign recruits.
John Johnson is among the major players to leave the club and so are Anas Edathodika, Victor Mongil and Balwant Singh.
ATK Mohun Bagan’s biggest strength is their stability. They have the same coach as last season in Antonio Habas and have retained a large core of the players that helped them win the I-League. ATK Mohun Bagan have a set team and it’s a huge advantage in a season where teams haven’t managed to have a big pre-season. Where so much is going to be unpredictable, familiarity could prove crucial.
Their attack is as strong as last year with Roy Krishna and David Williams retained and Manvir is certainly an upgrade on Balwant. Jhingan and Tiri would add solidity at the back and the rest of the team almost picks itself.
There are few weaknesses in the ATK Mohun Bagan camp but their shortage of numbers in defence is certainly one of the issues. ATK Mohun Bagan have just six registered defenders and in a season where injuries could be a problem due to the lack of proper fitness levels of the players, Habas’ men could be found out on this front.
The other threat comes from off the field where the ATK officials and Mohun Bagan board will have to find a way to work seamlessly. Any boardroom problems could disrupt even a winning side like ATK Mohun Bagan. That will be one to keep an eye on if the start of the season proves rocky.
Coach - Antonio Habas
Habas is the most successful coach in ISL history having won two titles. He has guided his teams to semi-finals in three out of the four seasons that he has managed with all those three campaigns being with ATK.
The Spaniard is a fine tactician and is highly flexible in his approach. With the players at his disposal, ATK Mohun Bagan are likely to be on the front foot on most occasions but Habas has the ability to surprise his opponents and adapt to situations. He is also one of the team’s biggest strengths.
Player to watch out for - Sandesh Jhingan
Jhingan is one of India’s best centre-backs and having spent six years at Kerala Blasters, he has sought new pastures. After being deployed at right back for many games in Kochi, Jhingan will have to be tasked with playing at the heart of ATK defence. His time as a full-back is likely to come in handy in Habas’ three-man defensive system.
Jhingan is a big-time player in Indian football circles and also a leader on the pitch; ATK Mohun Bagan fans will have big expectations from him. His challenge will be to live up to it and if he does that, teams would find breaching the ATK Mohun Bagan defence quite a tough task.
|Arindam Bhattacharja||Tiri||Boris Thangjam||David Williams|
|Arsh Shaikh||Prabir Das||Brad Inman||Roy Krishna|
|Aryan Lamba||Pritam Kotal||Carl McHugh||Manvir Singh|
|Avinash Paul||Sandesh Jhingan||Edu Garcia||Md Fardin Ali Molla|
|Dheeraj Singh||Sumit Rathi||Javier Hernandez|
|Subhasish Bose||Glan Martins|