Can ATK reach an all-time high this Hero ISL under Antonio Habas?
ATK FC have been in fine form in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20, and much has to be attributed to their returning head coach, Antonio Lopez Habas. The Spaniard led the Kolkata-based club to the coveted trophy in the inaugural season, beating FC Goa in the semi-finals and Kerala Blasters in the final.
However, after winning a second trophy in 2016 under head coach Jose Molina, (the current Sporting Director of the Spanish National team), ATK fell to a slump in the consecutive seasons, failing to live up to the lofty standards they had set in the preceding seasons. But the return of Habas seems to have rejuvenated the side in all fronts.
Such has been ATK’s impression till now that it seems that the two-time champions will achieve something that they have never done before, not even in the two title-winning seasons, and that is topping the league for the first time since their inception. ATK have already won four of their seven games this season and drawn two, with their only loss coming in the season opener away to Kerala.
After returning to his former club, Habas got down to business, bringing in a string of attacking players to strengthen that area which has been the club’s nemesis in the previous two. In 2018-19, despite having one of the strongest squads, a lack of cohesion between the players meant that the team struggled to create enough goal-scoring opportunities. ATK only managed 18 goals through the season, whereas the current team has already scored 15 with more than half the season remaining to be played. Roy Krishna and David Williams have amassed 10 of these goals while Edu Garcia has scored three.
Not only in the attacking front, but the 62-year-old coach has ensured there remains enough balance on both sides of the pitch. The aim to build a solid backline was evident with the arrival of players like Agustin Garcia, Carl McHugh and Anas Edathodika. While many fans have lauded ATK’s attacking intent, their three-man defence consisting of the above trio has been more than effective. Agustin has 81 clearances from seven matches, with a passing accuracy of 74.41%. Along with this, his 18+ passes per game allows wing-backs Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj to make forward runs without having to worry.
With AFC Champions League 2020-21 positions up for grabs, Habas will hope that his team can keep up these performances throughout the season. ATK will also need to be wary of fatigue and injuries, with Pronay Halder and McHugh unavailable for the next few matches. The gaffer will need to make sure that team has what it takes to stay on top of the league table, with the sixth season almost reaching the midway point. But confidence and expectations are high in the ATK camp, with the fans hoping that the club lifts the trophy for a record third time when the season comes to an end.