We’re already into the third week of the Indian Super League (ISL) and although it’s still very early, the table seems to be taking shape. As it stands, ATK Mohun Bagan, NorthEast United and Mumbai City FC occupy the top three positions. This seems like a fair reflection of the performances that we have seen so far based on the way all the teams have played. Let’s take a look at what these three teams have done right that the others have failed at till now.
ATK Mohun Bagan
The current table toppers have been extremely professional in their performances so far. Head coach Antonio Lopez Habas has set his team in such a way that allows them to create dangerous chances even when they don’t have much of the ball. Their counter-attacking efficiency has been epitomized by the goalscoring form of Roy Krishna. With three goals from as many games, the captain has led the way in terms of making the most of the chances that he has got.
The strength of the side lies in the stability that they have in defence and midfield. In Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan, they have two extremely capable and experienced defenders. Pritam Kotal too has been excellent so far and hasn’t put a foot wrong playing in the right centre back position. Then they have Subhasish Bose, who hasn’t let Michael Soosairaj’s absence be a major issue, and Prabir Das. Both of them are tireless workers who need no invitation to move forward but are also capable defenders.
In midfield, Edu Garcia, Javi Hernandes and Pronay Halder have all been solid. The triumvirate possesses the perfect mix of flair and robustness that Habas demands. They do a brilliant job of controlling the tempo and bringing the strikers into play. Besides Roy Krishna, Manvir Singh has also made a good start to the season, further adding to the threat that they possess.
No one would have thought that after the first four matches, NorthEast would stay unbeaten. The new head coach Gerard Nus seems to be getting the best out of his players who are responding well to his instructions. In Khassa Camara, they have arguably the best defensive shield in the league and the Congolese midfielder has shown just why they brought him in with excellent performances in all four games.
They also have a solid defensive partnership brewing between Dylan Fox and Benjamin Lambot. The two complement each other perfectly and have been able to keep most attacks at bay till now except the match against Kerala Blasters. Both Gurjinder Kumar and Ashutosh Mehta have also been extremely dependable. Luis Machado is slowly coming into his own and starting to take on defenders a little more frequently. And with Kwesi Appiah and Idrissa Sylla upfront, they have the perfect setup to play the counter-attacking game.
However, their standout player till now has been Ninthoi Meetei. The 19-year-old has been absolutely electric down the right and creates problems for opposition defenders every time he gets the ball. His propensity to take on defenders and beat them has given confidence to the other attackers to flood the penalty area at every opportunity because they know he will deliver a good cross. He also has 15 tackles, 11 interceptions and 7 blocks till now, underlining the defensive side of his game.
Mumbai City FC
After an initial stumble, Sergio Lobera’s side have been a breath of fresh air. With their slick gameplay and numerous gamechangers in the side, Lobera has been able to tweak his side in every match and still get a positive performance out of the players.
After losing the first match against NorthEast, Mumbai City came back strongly against FC Goa before absolutely smashing SC East Bengal 3-0. The reason for that is their persistence towards playing the way that they want to play. In Mourtada Fall, Hernan Santana, Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumous and Adam Le Fondre, they have a fantastic spine. Add to that the likes of Mandar Rao, Mohamad Rakip and Farukh Chaudhary and you have a squad capable of challenging for the title.
Another youngster who came to the fore in the last match was Bipin Singh. He was relentless down the right and combined beautifully with Boumous and Le Fondre every time he had the opportunity. Considering the fact that they also have Cy Goddard, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Raynier Fernandes and Vikram Pratap Singh yet to feature heavily, there is enough reason for the other teams to be very scared.