ATK take on Mumbai City FC in probably the most important match of the season as they try to stay relevant in the race for the playoffs. However, standing in their way is their own manager Steve Coppell who needs to take a hard look that the humiliating loss against FC Goa to get a result.
Honestly, Coppell is out of his depth now. The veteran has had one of his worst managerial stints with the two-time ISL champions, managing an average of 1.31 points per game. The last time Coppell was this bad was back in the 1990s with Crystal Palace, where he had an average point of 0.82 over two seasons – 96/97 and 97/98. Though it has been only 16 games with ATK, Coppell has done better with Kerala Blasters (1.65 in 17 games), and Jamshedpur FC (1.45 in 20 games) taking charge of a similar number of games.
The competition in ISL has undoubtedly intensified over the last two years and given the above pattern, a 63-year-old Coppell seems to be outpaced now. And it was evident in the match against FC Goa where ATK’s defence, the second best in the league, leaked like a toxic gas that ended up engulfing the whole side. The visitors looked so vulnerable from Goa’s counters that they could hardly push up offensively with the forwards forced to drop back into the midfield to win balls.
However, the problem wasn’t succumbing to Goa’s pressing, which many teams have already been a victim of previously, but Coppell’s helplessness at the face of it. The last 30 minutes of the game saw the ATK players just waiting for it to end and it was at that moment that Coppell’s stint, at least for me, as the ATK manager ended. Coppell was given arguably the most star-studded squad this season and somehow he has managed to make them mediocre which begs the question if the English manager is even capable of winning at all.
The season Coppell had finished second with Kerala Blasters, his club reached 22 points, while he managed 26 points with Jamshedpur FC last season with four more games added to the fixtures. Interestingly, ATK, with 21 points now and two more games to go, could end up in the
Coppell had admitted prior to the Goa match that he had to go “all in”, something he has rarely tried in his career. Hence, it wasn’t surprising to see ATK’s setup entrenched in flaws against Goa. And against Mumbai City FC on Friday, where the stakes would be the highest, Coppell should not repeat the mistakes he made against Goa if not coming up with tweaks in his formations. Though even that might not guarantee ATK results, given their discouraging home
The single biggest mistake Coppell made against FC Goa was to not identify their main threat. Anyone remotely following Goa this season would know the significance the Ahmed Jahouh brings to the Goa setup. It is as if most times, Edu Bedia and Ferran Corominas are just the smoke screen up front for the opponents, only for the Moroccan international to pull strings from the deep. And while ATK fans expected their master tactician to see it, Coppell seemingly chose to ignore the most important piece of Goa’s puzzle.
Jahouh was allowed to enjoy a whopping 84% passing accuracy and create two major chances and although the absence of Pronay Halder, the quintessential piece in ATK’s
The most important player for Mumbai would be Pablo Machado who also comes from the midfield. Even if the likes of Moudou Sougou or Arnold Issoko run at your defence all day long, the vision almost always springs from the Portuguese, and stopping him would mean half the job done.
If there was one team in the league who
Jackichand Singh managed to score in the very first minute of the game and one look at the haphazard ATK defence was an early sign of things to come. The full-backs, Pritam Kotal, and Ricky
As if messing up with the core tactics wasn’t enough, Coppell also managed to get the most important thing wrong – the squad. In the absence of Manuel Lanzarote and Halder, Coppell had decided to bring in Everton Santos in the midfield and Kalu Uche up top.
Playing centre-forward Santos in the midfield alongside Gerson Viera, who
Picking Uche would be ideal against Mumbai though, where the muscular likes of Lucian Goian and Joyner Lourenco could be tackled better. With Halder and Lanzarote coming back to the side, things would be easier for Coppell for sure, but perfecting the other areas would solely be up to him. A Balwant Singh over Hitesh Sharma would be handy against a scrappy Mumbai side, who likes to foul their way to the goal. All in all, with Jamshedpur FC and Mumbai struggling off late, ATK could still hope for a mathematical miracle.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi