Tactical breakdown: How much have Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan changed this season?

Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan set the standards in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) in the 2020-21 campaign that saw them finish in the top two positions in the league table and also contest the final.

The Islanders got the better of the Mariners in each of the three meetings between the two clubs as they ended the season with a League Winners’ Shield and the Hero ISL title double.

But as the two teams meet again for the first time since the final in the Hero ISL 2021-22 campaign, a lot has changed in the two camps.

The biggest change has been at the helm of the defending champions as Des Buckingham has replaced Sergio Lobera as the team’s head coach.

The Mariners have raided their rivals and signed midfielder Hugo Boumous and Amarinder Singh from the Islanders apart from adding the likes of Liston Colaco and Joni Kauko to their squad.

Mumbai City FC have added last season’s golden boot winner Igor Angulo to their ranks along with Cassio Gabriel and Ygor Catatau in attack.

The two teams have had contrasting starts to their respective campaigns with ATK Mohun Bagan maintaining a perfect record with wins over Kerala Blasters FC and SC East Bengal in their opening two matches while Mumbai City FC thumping FC Goa 3-0 in their opening match and then losing 1-3 against Hyderabad FC.

Ahead of the big-ticket meeting between the two sides that could have an impact on the destination of the eventual honours this season, here's a tactical lowdown on the teams this season.

ATK Mohun Bagan

Same system, different style 

The Mariners on paper have lined-up in the same shape as last season but there has been a significant difference in the way they have executed their plans. ATK Mohun Bagan have been a more proactive team who have played a more expansive football this season largely due to the profile of their new signings.

Erik Paartalu’s take: Their shape remains the same but they control the midfield better with Lenny Rodrigues and Deepak Tangri cleaning everything up. And then with Boumous and Kauko almost having free roles, the balance in the final third is more creative.

Paul Masefield’s take: ATK Mohun Bagan are a lot more expansive this season. The signings they have made are all proven. Habas has kept his shape and formation from last season but with the additions are the most exciting team in the league.

Hugo Boumous the playmaker 

The former FC Goa and Mumbai City FC midfielder has been the catalyst to the change in the style of play of the Mariners who are now comfortable in taking the game to the opponents. Unlike last season, when ATK Mohun Bagan waited to hit their opponents on the counter, the Mariners are putting them to the sword from the word go. Last season, Antonio Habas; men scored 75% of their goals in the second half but this season six out of their seven goals have come in the first half.

Erik Paartalu’s take: He is different gravy. When he gets going players can’t get near to him. His link-up play with Krishna is great as he is so good at finding those passes between the lines. He is so consistent with his forward passing that he’s in charge of changing gears for the team. Against SC East Bengal when they were 3-0 up, the other players played some sideways or backward passes but Boumous was always looking to get it forward.

He has also improved his work rate. You can see him now closing down people and you don’t see him strolling around on the pitch.

Paul Masefield’s take: Boumous is one of the missing parts. His ability to run at players and his combination play make him one of the best in the league. Add Krishna’s fantastic form again this season and the experience and quality of Kauko means that this ATK Mohun Bagan side is the team to beat this season.

Colaco’s x-factor

Roy Krishna was always expected to score the goals for ATK Mohun Bagan but so far Colaco has been able to match up to the Fijian in terms of goalscoring, netting two in two matches so far. His pace has given Habas’s men a different dimension in attack.

Erik Paartalu’s take: Colaco’s decision-making has got a lot more maturity in it. He gets himself into positions and doesn't always dribble and take people on. Last season it was the opposite. He has added maturity to his game and his pace really upsets opponents.

Paul Masefield’s take: The pace and width that Colaco gives them means they are very dangerous down both flanks now (as Manvir Singh is on the right).

Mumbai City FC

Ahmed Jahouh unleashed

The biggest void that Mumbai City FC have had to fill in the summer was that of Boumous. They signed Gabriel and Catatau to beef up the attacking options, but it’s Jahouh who has stepped into the role that Boumous played. Unlike a deeper role for him last season, Jahouh is playing in amuch advanced role this season in which he has looked really good.

Erik Paartalu’s take: Jahouh is playing in a much more advanced role. He is playing more passes in the final third. He isn't smashing 60-yard balls and hoping. Apuia is now the natural No 6 that keeps things ticking over. Jahouh scored the other goal and this role really suits him.

Paul Masefield’s take: Mumbai have freed up Jahouh to push further forwards and get involved more. This also means that the pace they play at is quicker as Jahouh isn’t dropping into the back line to pick up the ball all the time and slow the game down.

Mumbai City FC mixing it up

The Islanders under Lobera were a team that dominated the ball and preferred a patient build-up play. Under Buckingham, Mumbai City FC have been mixing it up. While using their passing game to unlock opponents, they have also taken the longer route when needed.

Erik Paartalu’s take: Mumbai City FC are not afraid to go long. Under Buckingham, they aren’t as concerned about keeping the ball as under Lobera when they loved to dominate teams.

Paul Masefield’s take: Mumbai City FC have tweaked their style slightly. The addition of Bheke and Apuia means that they have a solid spine to the team. They play at a quicker pace and are more direct at times.

Des Buckingham’s confidence

The new head coach remained calm after the defeat to Hyderabad FC and it showed that he trusted his methods completely. Aiming to build on Lobera’s legacy, he is not shy of adding his tweaks to the team which makes them a more versatile team.

Erik Paartalu’s take: Buckingham has added positivity. He is not shy of playing that English style at times. He doesn't try to be Lobera. I don't think he's going to fill those shoes but he has his own ideas and methods which he is trying to implement while keeping the strengths of the Lobera side intact.

Paul Masefield’s take: The additions they have made have been very good. It will take a little time for Mumbai City FC to play the way that Des wants but his cool, calm demeanor will have an impact on his team.

I like the quote after the game the other day ‘we didn’t get too carried away when we won, and we won’t get too down losing this one’.It shows that his calmness will come across with his team as the season goes on and his team grows.

The Mariners would be hoping to finally get one over the Islanders as they meet at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the exact venue for last season’s final. As for Mumbai City FC they’d do with a feeling of deja vu against ATK Mohun Bagan. Either way, an exciting contest awaits.

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