So near, yet so far for Juan Ferrando but he’s just getting started at ATK Mohun Bagan
Juan Ferrando in very little time in Indian football has made a big impact in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL).
In his first season, he guided a revamped FC Goa side to the semi-finals in Hero ISL and helped the club produce a creditable display in the AFC Champions League where they drew three matches against stronger and more experienced opponents.
His second season on Indian shores was even more challenging as he made a mid-season switch from FC Goa to ATK Mohun Bagan.
The Spaniard had to take over a team completely different from his FC Goa side that he had crafted as per his philosophy. In addition, ATK Mohun Bagan who had spent big before the season had lofty ambitions.
For Ferrando, the need was to adapt quickly to his new team and hit the ground running as the Mariners were struggling at the time and falling behind in their pursuit of their goals.
This transition was even more challenging in a bio-bubble environment but Ferrando didn’t seem to be fazed by any of it.
Slowly he made a rather conservative-minded ATK Mohun Bagan team play his brand of sparkling attacking football. It was a change he was brought in to make after ATK Mohun Bagan had spent a lot on acquiring attacking riches.
But to his credit, he did it while getting the right results on the field. ATK Mohun Bagan could have ill-afforded any slip ups if their pursuit of the semi-final spots and the League Winners’ Shield.
The Mariners went on a 13-match unbeaten streak once the Spaniard took charge. This catapulted them from being in mid-table to being right in the middle of a title challenge.
With a chance to clinch the League Winners’ Shield in the final match of the league phase of the Hero ISL, Ferrando’s men faltered losing 1-0 to an in-form Jamshedpur FC side.
In the semi-finals that followed, ATK Mohun Bagan narrowly lost out to Hyderabad FC despite winning the second leg.
So for a second season in a row, it was a case of so near yet so far for Ferrando, but there is more to his work at both clubs than mere results on paper.
Since Ferrando took charge of the team, only Jamshedpur FC collected more points in Hero ISL than ATK Mohun Bagan.
The team improved defensively as they conceded just 17 goals in 14 matches under the Spaniard as compared to nine goals in the first six matches of the campaign.
Only Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC had better defensive records in that period.
As far as the attack is concerned, only Hyderabad FC and Jamshedpur FC outscored Ferrando’s ATK Mohun Bagan.
The big difference though was that Hyderabad FC and Jamshedpur FC who had better seasons than ATK Mohun Bagan were both in the second seasons under their respective head coaches.
For Mariners to almost match them under Ferrando who took charge of a team that was designed to play in a very different way in mid-season is a fine achievement and bodes well for the future.
With a full pre-season and possibly a few more of his own signings under his belt, ATK Mohun Bagan could be the team to beat next season under Ferrando. They could give a glimpse of it when they begin their AFC Cup campaign later this month.
ATK Mohun Bagan may have had to endure a lot of pain in the present but with Ferrando at the helm, better days surely lie in wait.