ATK Mohun Bagan season review: So close, yet so far from top honours
Making it to the semi-final was not as daunting a task for the star-studded side, but, the disappointment of not making it further in the Hero ISL 2021-22 would irk ATK Mohun Bagan going forward. The heartbreak doubled with a late slip-up which ended their 15-match unbeaten streak and quashed a League Winners’ Shield triumph for the second consecutive time in a row.
After initial hiccups, the club enforced managerial changes midway through the season, which proved to be a fine move. Heavy investments in the transfer market were also worth it as the Mariners were snowballing towards the ultimate goal by virtue of a tremendous purple patch.
When the moment arrived to fit the last piece of the puzzle, the Kolkata-based club lost their mojo, eventually surrendering to more jubilant teams in the particular season. ATK Mohun Bagan ended the Hero ISL 2021-22 campaign with bitter-sweet memories.
Pl:22, W:11, D:7, L:3
Having started the season with a bang, ATK Mohun Bagan’s style of playing was exposed massively and even exploited to some extent going along. With the fear of being eliminated from the championship race, the club management took swift action.
Juan Ferrando’s arrival instilled freshness in the side, as the gaffer led ATK Mohun Bagan to an unbeaten spree, remaining unhurt for 15 matches in a row, until succumbing to Jamshedpur FC in the final group stage match.
The resilience shown by the squad after a few nervy games at the beginning of the tournament, is something to take note of. Assembling a team full of stars and keeping the show going after a change of hands was the most striking fact of ATK Mohun Bagan’s outing.
At a certain point, the Mariners were impenetrable, as no team found a way to breach their castle. Ferrando had moulded the team as per his beliefs and the players were well adept to the technique, just days after they were following an almost contrasting pattern under a different supervisor.
Dropping crucial points at critical juncture by failing to convert draws into wins has remained the biggest drawback of the Green and Maroon brigade this season. Yes, they have been plagued by injuries in the squad and the Covid-19 outbreak factor, but it was something delt by every team.
With high profile foreigners omnipresent to hog the limelight, it is somewhat encouraging to see an Indian stealing it all. Roped in from Hyderabad FC last season, Liston Colaco had 12 goal contributions (eight goals and four assists) in the Hero ISL 2021-22, which accounted to almost one-third of the total tally. Arguably, he is the most developed Indian player right now, with national coach Igor Stimac also seeing him as a regular prospect for the Blue Tigers.
Best Young Player
Already in the fringes, Kiyan Nassiri was waiting for an opportunity to make his breakthrough and what better occasion than the Kolkata Derby to showcase your talent. A second half hat-trick not only helped the Mariners collect three points, but also made him an overnight sensation. The young striker came close to net a couple of times following the fairy-tale evening, but he did not add to the tally. Kiyan is destined for greater heights in the upcoming season.
What they need next season?
To be honest, there’s no need for major changes in the squad, barring a few minor tweaks. Ferrando will have enough time to work with his wards ahead of the next season and turn the team into an unstoppable force.
However, the lack of creativity in the midfield was visible, and is an area which ATK Mohun Bagan needs to work on. Joni Kauko did a decent job, but the Mariners need Hugo Boumous’ to find his lost touch back, the X-factor which he possesses that stands out from the rest.