ATK Mohun Bagan season review: For Juan Ferrando and Co, all's well that ends well
The hysteria at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda hit a crescendo the moment Bengaluru FC midfielder Pablo Perez skied his team’s fifth and final penalty, which resulted in ATK Mohun Bagan being crowned as the champions of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season.
The hysteria at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda hit a crescendo the moment Bengaluru FC midfielder Pablo Perez skied his team’s fifth and final penalty that resulted in ATK Mohun Bagan being crowned as the champions of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season.
The due process behind that penalty, was however, championed by the Mariners’ custodian and Golden Glove winner Vishal Kaith as he made a pivotal save by diving the right way and denying Bruno Silva’s penalty kick. Encapsulating a million emotions and feelings behind the Hero ISL crown, the Green and Maroons exulted a symphony of grit, perseverance, and resolve that they underwent throughout the five months of footballing action.
It was never a dream run for head coach Juan Ferrando, with the team experiencing hard blows and seldom highs in their run-up against Bengaluru FC in the Hero ISL final. However, it was one attribute that glued the whole team together: Ferrando’s fighting mentality.
Pl: 20; W: 10; D: 4; L: 6; GF: 24; GA: 17; Pts: 34
ATK Mohun Bagan started their campaign with a 1-2 home loss against Chennaiyin FC - losing their first-ever game at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan. However, the Kolkata side fought back in their next four games and showed their unyielding resilience on which they built their momentum for the rest of the season.
After having met with injuries to multiple players over the course of the season, the Green and Maroons hit rock bottom, owing to some woeful run of results: one win in six fixtures in the lead up to their penultimate fixture in the league. However, the side reinstilled their never-say-die attitude and put up a massive shift in their final two league fixtures against arch-rivals Kerala Blasters FC and East Bengal FC achieving two terrific victories that earned them a third-place finish in the league table.
A prominent feat of ATK Mohun Bagan was their brilliance on the defensive front, conceding the fewest number of goals (17) in the league stage, second only to Hyderabad FC (16). Additionally, the club kept a staggering 12 clean sheets - nine in the league stage and three more in the playoffs, joint-highest with Hyderabad FC this season. Statistically, the side conceded more than two goals on just one occasion, in their 3-0 loss to FC Goa away from home, being the only club to do so this season.
While they have outgrown themselves in Ferrando’s first full season in-charge, the side still has a few flaws that need to be addressed. Despite the lethal attacking threat of Dimitri Petratos and Hugo Boumous, the side ranked eighth in the number of goals scored (24) in the league stage, faring just above tailenders East Bengal FC, Jamshedpur FC, and NorthEast United FC.
The two were a vital cog in the side’s 28 goals this season, with the two combining for a massive 28 goal contributions - 17 goals and 11 assists thereby highlighting the lack of support from other players. The side failed to score only on seven occasions in the league stage and twice over the two legs in the semi-final against Hyderabad FC. Players such as Manvir Singh, Liston Colaco, Ashique Kuruniyan, Federico Gallego, and Kiyan Nassiri failed to offer support when the duo of Petratos and Boumous were unable to hit the mark.
In simple words, there has not been a single game where ATK Mohun Bagan have scored and either Dimitri Petratos or Hugo Boumous have failed to contribute. The over-reliance on just two players will be an area Ferrando would want to address ahead of next season.
The goalkeeper – who was signed from Chennaiyin FC ahead of the 2022-23 season – has been a standout performer for the Mariners this season. From incredible acrobatic saves to being a clutch performer in penalty shootouts, Kaith has been the backbone of the ATK Mohun Bagan defence. Registering a record-breaking 12 clean sheets in a single Hero ISL season, the Golden Glove Winner has been defiant in guarding the goal and, deservedly so, is the rightful heir of the coveted award.
KAITH-MANIA indeed! 💥👊@vishalkaith01's day just got sweeter as the @atkmohunbaganfc shot-stopper now holds the record for most (1️⃣2️⃣) clean sheets in a single #HeroISL Season! 👊👑#ATKMBHFC #HeroISLPlayoffs #LetsFootball #ATKMohunBagan #HyderabadFC pic.twitter.com/z4MfWTE79G— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 13, 2023
Excelling in his shot-stopping abilities, the 26-year-old is ranked second with respect to the number of saves (67), behind only Bengaluru FC’s Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (71). The custodian also boasts of a staggering 77.9% save rate, having made 67 saves out of the 86 shots he faced on target. Only Hyderabad FC’s Gurmeet Singh has a higher save percentage than Kaith (82%).
Best Young Player
Juan Ferrando is not known for making too many changes to his side, and prefers a rather unchanged starting eleven. Having made all of his 13 appearances from the bench this season, Hnamte has been sparingly yet effectively utilised by the Spaniard. The 19-year-old has been in the thick of things after getting subbed on in all of the playoff ties as well as the final. The defensive midfielder is quick, possesses great positional awareness, and is known for his tackling ability, registering 11 tackles, seven interceptions, six blocks, and one clearance across the 229 minutes he’s played across the season. A player to watch out for in Ferrando’s project at ATK Mohun Bagan.
What do they need for next season?
The greatest attribute of champions is their ability to remould, redevelop, and recast themselves to sustain their calibre at the top.
While the squad faced numerous challenges with respect to several injury concerns that led them to scout players in the winter transfer market, Ferrando needs to add depth to ensure a uniform structure within the squad without looking at the winter transfer window as a solution. Further, the lack of any additional goalscoring threat looms large over the Mariners. The duo of Dimitri Petratos and Hugo Boumous were directly involved in 24 out of the 28 goals scored by ATK Mohun Bagan this season which highlights the dependency of the team on the two players. A long-term solution would be the need of the hour for the Kolkata-based side to establish a consistent team attacking unit.