ISL 2020-21, ATK Mohun Bagan Preview: Reigning champions recruit smartly to emerge as front-runners for title

With the upcoming season of the Indian Super League just days away, we at Firstpost.com take a look at how defending champions ATK Mohun Bagan stack up.

Aadi Nair November 13, 2020 18:49:25 IST
ISL 2020-21, ATK Mohun Bagan Preview: Reigning champions recruit smartly to emerge as front-runners for title

ATK won the ISL trophy in the 2019-20 season, and they will be looking to recreate that feat this time around. SportzPics

For the most part, Indian Super League has been quite successful. Since its inception in 2013, the league has gone from strength-to-strength, attracting an ever-increasing number of eyeballs to the product it had on offer. But in spite of all its achievements, there was always an asterisk attached to the league's status as the outright top-flight football competition in the country. They had the better TV ratings, the more recognisable names and arguably a higher quality of football, but what they didn't have was the home of Indian football: Kolkata.

Sure, they had ATK, who have performed incredibly well in this tournament, but the most authentic of Indian football's rivalries still eluded them. They didn't have the Kolkata derby. But seven years and six seasons later, all of that is about to change. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are finally in the ISL.

ISL 202021 ATK Mohun Bagan Preview Reigning champions recruit smartly to emerge as frontrunners for title

ATK Mohun Bagan training ahead of the new ISL season. Twitter@atkmohunbaganfc

Most football fans have been buzzing with anticipation upon learning the two titans of the sport's inclusion in the 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League, but arguably, the more exciting addition to the league is that of Mohun Bagan's. After all, they are the reigning I-League champions, and their merger with the reigning ISL champions ATK has fans salivating at the prospect of what this coming season holds for the team.

With the upcoming season of the Indian Super League just days away, we at Firstpost.com take a look at how defending champions ATK Mohun Bagan stack up.

Transfers

The past few months have been really hard on sports in general, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a series of issues that have unsettled even the Liverpool's and the Manchester United's of the world, so it's quite impressive that ATK Mohun Bagan have more or less managed to retain the core of ATK's ISL-winning side. However, that is a bit of a double-edged dagger, of course, since that also paved way for a series of high-profile departures, most coming from the Mohun Bagan camp.

On the incoming front, there have been a string of high-profile arrivals at the club, most notable of which is undoubtedly Sandesh Jhingan, the towering lynchpin of the Indian national team's defence. Jhingan endured a torrid time in his final season at the Kerala Blasters, as an anterior cruciate ligament injury ruled him out for the entirety of the campaign. This move represents a chance for Jhingan to make a fresh start at the age of 27, and he'll be hoping to get his hands on an ISL trophy, an achievement that has eluded him in spite of his indubitable ability as a footballer.

ISL 202021 ATK Mohun Bagan Preview Reigning champions recruit smartly to emerge as frontrunners for title

ATK Mohun Bagan's acquisition of Sandesh Jhingan is one of the most prominent transfers of this season. Twitter@atkmohunbaganfc

He's not the only exciting name to be  added to the roster, with exciting young talents Manvir Singh and Subhasish Bose joining from FC Goa and Mumbai City FC respectively. Manvir has likely been brought on in a bid to provide some off-the-bench support to the established attacking duo of David Williams and Roy Krishna, and his energy and athletic ability could give coach Antonio Habas some excellent problems in team selection if he takes to his new club well. Subhasish, despite being just 25 years old, is a well established first-team quality full-back, having played over 50 matches in the ISL over the last three seasons, and his addition will go a long way towards ensuring that the team can be as watertight as possible at the back. Subhasish also has the ability to play as a left-sided centre-back, and should Habas persist with playing three centrebacks, he could slot in at that position as well.

Oceania proved to be a fertile hunting ground for ATK scouts last season, with both their best signings — Krishna and Williams — having honed their crafts across the leagues in New Zealand and Australia, and it is from this bountiful region of talent that ATK Mohun Bagan have once again procured an exciting new face in the shape of Brad Inman. Inman, an Australian-born Scottish midfielder, has been signed from A-League club Brisbane Roar, and having played at a host of different clubs across the English lower divisions, he should provide some valuable experience in the middle of the pitch.

Alongside the incoming Jhingan in defence will be a familiar face to regular viewers of the ISL, one Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo, otherwise known as Tiri. Tiri has already spent a lot of time at ATK, having played at the club in 2015 and 2016, and he's a good asset for any team to have. Elsewhere, midfielders Sahil Sheikh and Glans Martins are the only players to have survived the systematic culling of Mohun Bagan's squad, with likes of Baba Diawara, Fran Gonzalez and Fran Morante being let go.

Strengths

ATK Mohun Bagan have a lot of strengths heading into this competition. They've recruited very intelligently ahead of the season, and on face value, look like the most well-rounded team in the league. They have good back-up for each and every position in the squad, and with an experienced manager at the helm, their rivals in the league would do well to be wary of them. The attacking partnership of Williams and Krishna also stands out, with few teams having such a well-established goal threat.

ISL 202021 ATK Mohun Bagan Preview Reigning champions recruit smartly to emerge as frontrunners for title

Roy Krishna was a key part of ATK's set up in the previous season, scoring nearly half of their goals. Twitter@atkmohunbaganfc

Weaknesses

Krishna ended up with a joint-best goal tally of 15 goals last season, largely because he was their sole attacking outlet on many occasions. They scored 33 goals in 18 matches across the campaign, 13 less than rivals FC Goa, and this is an area in which ATK will have to improve. They need goals from midfielders and defenders, and if they can provide that, it would make them less of a one-trick pony.

Expectations

I don't envy Antonio Habas one bit for the situation he's in now. ATK are the defending champions, and they have merged with the defending I-League champions. They've also spent a lot of money in the transfer window. Honestly, at this point, anything less than winning the title seems like it would be a letdown. In any case, playoff qualification seems like the bare minimum. Speaking of the playoffs, there's also the small matter of the AFC Cup, a tournament in which Indian teams have consistently underperformed. A decent run in continental competition will also be expected from the side, especially considering the level of talent that is at their disposal.

ATK Mohun Bagan Squad:

Head coach: Antonio Lopez Habas

Goalkeepers: Arindam Bhattacharja, Arsh Shaikh, Aryan Niraj Lamba, Avilash Paul, Dheeraj Singh

Defenders: Tiri, Prabir Das, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose, Sumit Rathi

Midfielders: Boris Singh, Bradden Inman, Cark McHugh, Edu Garcia, Javier Hernandez, Glan Martins, Jayesh Rane, Michael Soosairaj, N Engson Singh, Pronoy Halder, Regin Michael, Sahil Sheikh.

Forwards: David Williams, Manvir Singh, Md Fardin Ali Molla, Roy Krishna.

Click here to read up on everything you need to know ahead of the ISL 2020-21 season.

Click here to read more team previews ahead of the ISL 2020-21 season.

 

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