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ISL 2019: Will Antonio Habas lead ATK back to glory days?

ISL 2019: Will Antonio Habas lead ATK back to glory days?

Abhranil Roy

Published: 4 Oct 2019 12:57 PM GMT

ATK is all set to put the disappointing performances of the last few seasons behind and start afresh. The Kolkata-based outfit, who are jointly the most successful outfit in the cash-surplus Indian Super League along with Chennaiyin FC had put in a sorry show in the last two seasons. In 2017-18, they finished ninth while they could only muster a sixth-place finish in the last campaign. These woeful performances jolted Sanjiv Goenka, the owner into action and he has now bought back familiar faces, hoping that he can inject some life into the franchise.

Setup for upcoming season

ATK, who were initially named Atletico de Kolkata, initially operated with technical cooperation from La Liga giants Atletico de Madrid. However, after the third season, the association with Atleti ended and since then, the performances have nosedived severely. In a bid to arrest the fall, Goenka has reappointed Antonio Habas, the man who gave ATK their first-ever ISL title in the first year of the competition as the side’s manager this year.

Image result for edu garcia atk

Habas was also responsible for taking them to the playoffs in the next season, while former Spanish international goalkeeper Jose Molina was responsible for their successful title triumph in the third season. However, following the departure of Atletico de Madrid, Goenka consciously decided to shift to a different philosophy as the likes of Ashley Westwood, Teddy Sheringham and Steve Coppell were put in charge to bring back the glory days, but to no avail.

Building up to the current season, ATK have made some significant signings which sees them as one of the favourites to make it to the playoffs this year. The likes of Roy Krishna, A-League’s top scorer last season; Dheeraj Singh, one of India’s most promising young goalkeepers; Jobby Justin, the top Indian goalscorer in the I-League last season and Anas Edathodika, one of India’s best defenders in the squad this year, ATK have a squad that is not only talented and dynamic but is also experienced and thus, should be able to cope with the pressure.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Arindam Bhattacharya, Dheeraj Singh, Lara Sharma

Defenders: Agustin Iniguez, Anas Edathodika, Anil Chawan, Ankit Mukherjee, John Johnson, Prabir Das, Pritam Kotal

Midfielders: Carl McHugh, Javier Hernandez, Pronay Haldar, Sehnaj Singh, Edu Garcia, Jayesh Rane, Komal Thatal, Michael Soosairaj,

Forwards: Balwant Singh, David Williams, Jobby Justin, Roy Krishna

Key Players

Carl McHugh

Defence was a major concern for ATK last season and it was no wonder then that it was one of the first areas they addressed in the transfer window. In Carl McHugh, they have someone who is not only a seasoned professional but is also an extremely versatile player capable of leading the defence or midfield. 

The Irishman was a part of the Bradford City team that reached the League Cup final back in 2012-13. Deployed as a centre-back, full-back and a holding midfielder, he will be a key cog in the ATK setup and will most likely be deputized with John Johnson in central defence or with Sehnaj Singh as a defensive screen. The 26-year-old will offer a lot of options to Habas and it will be interesting to see how the former FC Pune City coach utilizes his asset to bring the best out of him.

Roy Krishna

Image result for roy krishna

Arguably ATK’s most impactful signing after Luis Garcia; Roy Krishna could just as well emulate the impact of Garcia in the inaugural season. Captain of the Fiji national team, Krishna won the Golden Boot in the A-League last season as he plundered 18 goals for the Wellington Phoenix.

This campaign, Krishna is easily Habas’s trump card and will be expected to solve ATK’s goal-scoring woes once and for all. Blessed with electric pace and an innate understanding of the game, he can be the target man that Habas prefers in all his teams.

Jobby Justin

Signed from East Bengal under controversial circumstances, Jobby will be tasked with relieving some of the goal-scoring stress from Krishna’s shoulders. With 9 goals in the I-League last year, he caught the eye of every Indian football fan and there is no question that he will have to deliver the goods once again.

Set to probably play as a number 10, much in the role of Fiku Teffeira in 2014, Jobby will be tasked with exploiting the gap between midfield and defence and create space for Roy Krishna. His late runs into the box as well as his exquisite finishing will come handy for Habas as well, who will be hoping Jobby and Krishna strike up a good partnership very soon.


While Antonio Habas knows he has a lot of pressure; he is keen for his squad to not take on any. Speaking to the media in a press conference recently, he prioritized preparation and avoiding injuries as part of the pre-season buildup. He said, "I'm confident they (ATK) will do well. The Indian players with the ISL are more competitive because of our strong bonding with the foreign players. There is always good communication and a good opportunity for Indian players."

However, with the squad that they have ATK must aim for the playoffs at the very minimum. Anything less than that would no doubt be deemed as a failure. ATK will take on Kerala Blasters away at Kochi in the first game of ISL 2019/20. Their first home game will be against FC Hyderabad on the 25th of October.

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